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God and other programs

  • Marie-Louise Friquegnon (a1)

In God and Other Minds, Alvin Plantinga formulated an ingenious defence of the teleological argument for the belief in God, based on alleged similarities to the analogical argument for other minds. I shall state what I take to be Plantinga's central argument and then I shall criticize it on two counts: 1. Even if Plantinga's claims about the similarities between these two famous arguments were sound, they would at most provide rational support for pantheism, but not for the traditional Judaeo-Christian theism that Plantinga attempts to defend; and 2. The similarities alleged by Plantinga do not in fact hold. The analogical inference to other minds is grounded on resemblance between one's own behaviour and the behaviour of others, while the teleological argument for God is grounded on resemblance between human contrivances and the world. If the teleological argument really worked, it would count against rather than being supported by the analogical argument, for it would reduce the world to a soulless machine created and programmed by God, and, by inverse inference, would strongly suggest that God himself is exactly so much of a Mind as J. C. Smart and Hilary Putnam take human minds to be, i.e. a computer program.

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page 83 note 1 Plantinga, A., God and Other Minds (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967), p. 3.

page 83 note 2 Ibid. p. 271.

page 84 note 1 Ibid. p. 258.

page 84 note 2 Ibid. pp. 100–1.

page 85 note 1 Ibid. pp. 247–8.

page 89 note 1 Putnam, H., ‘Minds and Machines’, in Minds and Machines, ed. Anderson, A. R. (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1964): ‘The functional organization (problem solving, thinking) of the human being or machine can be described in terms of the sequences of mental or logical states respectively…’, p. 84.

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Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
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