Sunday, September 16, 2007

Plantinga on the Sensus Divinitatis

"... Plantinga also speaks of the sensus divinitatis as

“a disposition or set of dispositions to form theistic beliefs in various circumstances or stimuli that trigger the working of this sense of divinity.” [v]

Just as perceptual beliefs like “There is a tree” are not based on arguments from more basic beliefs but arise spontaneously in me when I am in the circumstances of a tree’s appearing to be there, so the belief “God exists” arises spontaneously in me when I am in appropriate circumstances, such as moments of guilt, gratitude, or awe at nature’s grandeur, as a result of working of the sensus divinitatis.

Plantinga emphasizes that God’s existence is not inferred from such circumstances–such an argument would be manifestly inadequate--; rather the circumstances form the context in which the sensus divinitatis operates to produce a basic belief in God.

Thus, belief in God is not arbitrary; it is grounded by the appropriate circumstances and so is properly basic. Hence, if such a model of theistic belief is true, the theist whose belief is produced in the described way violates no epistemic duty in believing and so is justified in believing that God exists. (...) "

[v] Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 173.

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