Alvin Plantinga

Alvin Plantinga ( Alvin Carl Plantinga, * November 15, 1932 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA ) is an American philosopher with focal points in modal logic, epistemology and philosophy of religion.


In 1958 he received his doctorate at Yale University for Ph. D.. From 1964 to 1982 he was a professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids ( Michigan), since 1982 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend (Indiana). He is criticized for its proximity to the Intelligent Design movement.

Philosophical positions

Plantinga has initially researched in the field of (then very young ) modal logic, since the 1970s, he increasingly concerned with the theory of knowledge, and partly also with the philosophy of mind. The unifying element of all his philosophical positions is that they all aim to justify the belief in God as at least rationally defensible position philosophically.

Modal logic

At the beginning of his philosophical career, Plantinga primarily dealt with modal logic. It is known in particular his attempt to reformulate the ontological argument of Anselm of Canterbury, so that allow the conclusion that the necessity of God's existence by the way. This argument makes use of the concept of metaphysical necessity and uses a system of possible worlds with transitive and symmetric relations requires access (ie, by every possible world of any other possible world is a possible world).

His version of the ontological proof of God is based on two premises: First, there is a possible world in which a being (or at least something ) exists with maximum size and thus maximum perfection. Secondly, can have a maximum size being only if it is omnipotent, all-good and all-knowing in every possible world. Given these assumptions necessarily implies that in every possible world - including in the real ( our ) world - such a being have these properties, and therefore must exist. This creature can now also be called God.

Plantinga admits himself that no one was forced to accept the first premise; a reflection of the term could yield the well, only it is not quite the irrational, the opposite to mine. In contrast, there are also atheistic arguments that recognize Plantinga's conclusion as valid, but close to the same pattern of the falsity of the necessity of God's existence on the impossibility of its existence. The critical examination of the argument of John Leslie Mackie starts with this premise: Given Plantinga's understanding of possibility they would not be compatible with the assertion that there is a possible world without a perfect touch. Since this assertion but also reasonable and consistent and a conclusion follows a self-contradiction in both cases, could rationally neither assertion are held to be true.

Influential is also Plantinga's view of a theodicy with the help of free will. Accordingly, it is logically compatible with the omnipotence and omniscience of God Allgütigkeit that there is evil in the world. As Leibniz worked out, it must be assumed is that we live in the best of all possible worlds. This means that any removal of evil would bring an even greater evil by itself. The free will is now a commodity that could be said of the plausibly, that it would pulled due to the elimination of many evils affected. Also, the existence of natural evil leave at least possibly explained by the fact that these consequences fallen angel and a necessary consequence of their own free will is. Mackie's critique of this defense strategy is that, although they could save the logical possibility of the existence of God, but the actual existence 'll appear highly unlikely.


Since the late 1970s, Plantinga developed his " reformed epistemology ". His basic idea is that belief in God is a "basic proper belief" can be. " Proper basic beliefs" are beliefs which must not be derived from other beliefs and can not be derived from other beliefs. For beliefs such as "2 × 2 = 4", " front of my house one tree stands ", "I had this morning corn flakes for breakfast " can I bring no arguments or evidence, yet these beliefs can be knowledge. You are basal beliefs that are formed of individual modules of our cognitive assets in such an environment. We speak regarding such positions mostly of epistemic fundamentalism.

Even the belief in God forms after Plantinga mostly basal manner. At the sight of some of the night sky can spontaneously form the belief " God created this world." According to Plantinga, it is equally reasonable to trust this part of our cognitive faculties, such as our memory or our logical thinking - assuming there are no compelling arguments that a particular belief is wrong. Since there are no such compelling arguments ( defeater ) for Plantinga in terms of belief in God and in general in relation to the Christian faith, he holds these beliefs rationally justified.

In recent debates " evolutionary argument against naturalism " is also Plantinga's much discussed. He takes it to naturalistic positions who wish without faith in God or an independent non- material forces using evolutionary theory to explain cognitive abilities. From a naturalistic perspective would sometime in the evolutionary process produces opinions within the meaning of propositional attitudes with a particular content: This is a special skeptical challenge is clear. These are made by evolutionary, if they lead to better adaptive behavior. Adaptive behavior was also based on false opinions possible: namely, when the neurophysiological state leads to the desired result, but will not see the content of the opinion as causal cause of behavior, but a may be completely different. Therefore, naturalists could not assume that the bulk of their opinions have real content, so that even their scientific worldview ultimately refute themselves. Theistic positions miss this skeptical problem by reference it as René Descartes that God does not deceive, and our opinions on the whole, are reliable.


Major works

  • The Nature of Necessity. Oxford 1974.
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff: Faith and Rationality. Notre Dame in 1983.
  • Warrant: the current debate. Oxford 1993.
  • Warrant and proper function. Oxford 1993.
  • Warranted Christian Belief. Oxford 2000.

Introductory texts (selection)

  • God, Freedom and Evil. Grand Rapids in 1974.
  • Is belief in God legitimately basal? In: Christopher Hunter ( ed.): Analytical Philosophy of Religion. Schöningh, Paderborn [ua ] 1998, ISBN 3-506-99489-1, pp. 317-330.
  • With Michael Tooley: Knowledge of God. Oxford 2008.
  • God and necessity. In: Joachim Brommand & Guido loop ( Ed.): Proofs of God. From Anselm to Gödel. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-518-29546-5, pp. 453-482.