God and Other Minds

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God and Other Minds is the name of a 1967 book[1] by Alvin Plantinga which re-kindled serious philosophical debate on the existence of God in Anglophone philosophical circles[2] by arguing that belief in God was like belief in other minds: although neither could be demonstrated conclusively against a determined sceptic both were fundamentally rational. The philosophical argument has been developed and criticised by Plantinga and others in the succeeding 40 years.

The book God and Other Minds[edit]

God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God was originally published by Cornell University Press in (1967). An edition with a new preface by Plantinga was published in 1990 (ISBN 978-0801497353). The book has the following chapters:

Part I: Natural Theology

  • Ch 1: The Cosmological Argument
  • Ch 2: The Ontological Argument - I
  • Ch 3: The Ontological Argument - II
  • Ch 4: The Teleological Argument

Part II: Natural Atheology

  • Ch 5: The Problem of Evil
  • Ch 6: The Freewill Defense
  • Ch 7: Verificationism and other Atheologica

Part III: God and Other Minds

  • Ch 8: Other Minds and Analogy
  • Ch 9: Alternatives to the Analogical Position
  • Ch 10: God and Analogy

Reaction of notable commentators[edit]

The book has been widely cited[3]

  • Michael A. Slote in The Journal of Philosophy[4] considered that "[t]his book is one of the most important to have appeared in this century on the philosophy of religion, and makes outstanding contributions to our understanding of the problem of other minds as well".

Subsequent development of the argument[edit]

The psychologist Justin L. Barrett suggests that "Believing that other humans have minds arises from many of the same mental tools and environmental information from which belief in gods or God comes...no scientific evidence exists that proves people have minds"[5] and that "although some small number of academics...claim to believe that people do not have minds...they do not socially interact in accordance with such a belief ...[and] such a peculiar belief about minds (whether or not it is true) simply will not spread...a huge number of mental tools all converge on the nonreflective belief in minds"[6]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Hughes, G. E. (1970). "Plantinga on the Rationality of God's Existence (Review of God and Other Minds)". The Philosophical Review. 79 (2): 246–252. doi:10.2307/2183952. JSTOR 2183952. 
  2. ^ see e.g. The Rationality of Theism quoting Quentin Smith "God is not 'dead' in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s". They specifically relate this to Plantinga's God and Other Minds, and cite "the shift from hostility towards theism in Paul Edwards's Encycolepdia of Philosophy (1967) to sympathy towards theism in the more recent Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  3. ^ by at least 65 other books Amazon.com citations of God and Other Minds and many other articles; Google Scholar though seems to have missed many citations
  4. ^ The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 67, No. 2 (Jan. 29, 1970), pp 39-45 doi:10.2307/2024569
  5. ^ Why would anyone believe in God, p 95 ISBN 0-7591-0667-3
  6. ^ Why would anyone believe in God, pp 96-97