I'm looking for contemporary philosophers other than those typically labeled as part of the New Atheism movement (i.e., Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor J. Stenger) who have responded to some of Alvin Plantinga's works.

Could you recommend any?

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    Plantinga has put forth many different positions. For which were you seeking counterarguments? Who is the group of "Dawkins et al." anyway, given that Dawkins is not a philosopher?
    – Rex Kerr
    Jul 3, 2012 at 16:18
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    @RexKerr "religious belief as properly basic" mainly. Dawkins et al is the so called "new atheists" group that is composed by mostly non philosophers (Sam Harris, Hitchens and a few others) that have delved into philosophy as aggressively atheistic, attacking religion. I'm looking for more nuanced counterarguments for Plantinga's well reasoned postulates.
    – Vinko Vrsalovic
    Jul 3, 2012 at 19:21
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    Since "Dawkins et al" is an ad hoc group that is used primarily as a means to lump together people for the purposes of dismissing their actual arguments, I would say that either that such modern atheists cannot exist by definition, or else that group contains all atheists except Richard Dawkins.
    – philosodad
    Jul 5, 2012 at 13:27
  • Stephen J. Wykstra, William L. Rowe, Paul Tillich, to name a few... if you had a specific argument to address I could refer to specific papers by these authors.
    – stoicfury
    Jul 5, 2012 at 15:53
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    @stoicfury The specific argument has been explained a couple of times already, any input?
    – Vinko Vrsalovic
    Jul 10, 2012 at 12:11

3 Answers 3


My colleague Colin Allen is a representative of a consistently naturalistic point of view.

Are you looking for people with a specifically atheist response to Plantinga's arguments in particular? If so, which of AP's arguments?

The more specific you can be with your question, the easier it will be to give you a useful answer.

  • I'm mainly looking for counterpoints to "religious belief as properly basic"
    – Vinko Vrsalovic
    Jul 8, 2012 at 7:16

Well, according to Wikipedia, Michael Martin is such a philosopher. Also, the ontological argument in every form has been pretty thoroughly eviscerated by any number of philosophers--atheist and otherwise. I wouldn't restrict myself to just atheists when looking for well reasoned arguments against Plantinga.


There is a sophisticated response to Plantinga's EAAN. Does the EAAN Refute God's Beliefs

Planting argues that the person who accepts naturalism (N) the thesis that there is no God or anything at all like him and evolution (E) has a defeater for her belief that her cognitive faculties are reliable (R). This is because, he argues, the probability of R on N&E is low. His reasoning is, very roughly and briefly, that a belief on materialism(which he takes N to entail) will have neurophysiological properties as well as semantic properties.

Suppose that omniscience entails R (as is no doubt true). It follows from this that R will be necessarily true of God. But everything entails necessary truths, so everything willentail R. Thus, it is impossible for there to be any defeater-deflector for God if propositions entailing R are precluded from acting as defeater-deflectors. But this must be wrong: it is wholly implausible to suppose that God is not capable of having a defeater-deflector. And hence, it appears that we cannot rule out O as a candidate for being a defeater-deflector on account of it entailing R.We can circumvent this issue by noting that it is only in a section). This is because if God is omnipotent, then he is capable of ensuring the reliability of his cognitive faculties. And, as a rational being, he would no doubt seek to do this.So, when confronted with the claim that P(R/D*) is low, God could happily grant it but hold that he has no reason to accept D* he has no reason to think that he did not intervene to ensure that R holds for himself (since he is a rational being and is omnipotent). Of course, this does not commit us to saying that God has actually intervened to ensure that R holds for him; indeed, since his omniscience entails R, we may positively say that he did not intervene to ensureR. But, again, we have set O aside here as a possible defeater-deflector, andhence, he must look for a different candidate. (In other words, if O is inadmis-sible defeater-deflectors, the rejection of D* needs to be considered independent-ly of it.) But there is a serious problem with this reply: God, since he is actually omniscient, actually accepts D*. That is, the fundamental problem with this reply is that it assumes that God does not affirm something that he does, in fact, affirm(namely, D*). So, even if this strategy were to work, God would not, and could not, use it.Another problem with this reply is that one might think that is


for one to ensure R for oneself. Omnipotence does not include the ability to do impossible things;e.g., we can rule out the idea that God designed his own cognitive faculties, for he would need to have them causally prior to his designing them. And, if God can ensureR holds for him, could not the naturalist make a similar suggestion?

Yahweh Circular Reasoning There is an interesting consequence that arises from this section. Suppose God does stave off defeat while the demigod does not. Is there another defeater-deflector that can save the demigod? If the reasoning behindthe original EAAN is correct, it is hard to see how. Without a designing agent, natural selection is the only game in town, and he has thrust back upon the original EAAN. So, if the strategy in this section is right, it seems that to show how it is possible for God to ensure R for himself in a way that is not available to the naturalist. What is it precisely about omnipotence that allows D* to be rejected by God that does not enable a naturalist to reject D?Consider the use of epistemically circular arguments of the sort endorsed by Alston(1986).

Supposing epistemically circular arguments are legitimate, if God can use them, then so can the naturalist.

Omnipotence plays no essential role in the legitimacy of epistemically circular argu-ments. What is needed is a symmetry-breaker such that there is a way for God to ensureR, but not for the naturalist. Saying God used his omnipotence to ensure R is not anymore informative than saying the naturalist used her finite power to ensure R. In both cases, we would like to know how.One potential move on behalf of the EAAN proponent is to say that while we have sufficient access to the ways the naturalist could ensure R, such that we know she cannot ensure R, and so know she cannot escape defeat, we have limited knowledge of God, and he may have ways to ensure R that are unknown to us.

Since God is significantly different from humans, we are not in a position to say what the conditions for warrant are for him. Similarly, the defender of the EAAN could suggest that we are not in a position to say what the conditions for defeat are for God.(Perhaps God knows things innately, in which case he does not come to know things by reasoning through inferences.) Consequently, it could be argued that we should be agnostic about whether our revised version of the EAAN is successful against God; that is, we should be agnostic about whether it provides God with a defeater for R since we do not know the conditions of defeat for God. However, it follows from the same line of reasoning that we also should be agnostic about whether any purported defeater-deflector is, for God, actually a defeater-deflector. For, if we are truly in the dark about the conditions of defeat for God’s knowledge, then by the same token, it seems that we are in the dark about the conditions for defeater-deflectors. Thus, if the medieval theory of analogy undercuts our ability to say that God’s knowledge is defeated, it undercuts our ability to say that it is not defeated, and this means that the puzzle discussed in this paper remains unsolved.


In this article, we have brought forth a puzzle about the EAAN: if it defeats the naturalist’s beliefs, then a very similar line of reasoning appears to defeat God’s beliefs.We have considered four possible solutions to this puzzle, but whether any of the multimately succeed is not an issue the authors can come to agreement on. Thus, the reader may decide for herself whether this puzzle leaves the EAAN in peril, or whether the solutions offered above are viable. Either way, this is a significant worry that all proponents (and opponents) of the EAAN must deal with.

  • You should make it clearer that the bulk of your answer is a direct quote from the linked source. Dec 4, 2022 at 20:12

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