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Plantinga in his University of Notre Dame office, 2004
|Birth:||15 November 1932 (Ann Arbor, Michigan)|
|Notable ideas:||Modal ontological argument, free will defense, proper functionalism|
|Influences:||Thomas Reid, Abraham Kuyper|
Alvin Carl Plantinga (born 15 November 1932 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, of Frisian ancestry) is a contemporary American philosopher known for his work in epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion and support for intelligent design. His current position is John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He is a Calvinist, although is enrolled as a professor at a Catholic University. Like Richard Swinburne, he is a contemporary philosophical apologist for Christianity. He gave the 2004-5 Gifford Lectures at St. Andrews University, titled Science and Religion: Conflict or Concord (to be published).
Plantinga won a scholarship to Harvard University, but left in 1951 to study at Calvin College (Grand Rapids), where William Harry Jellema was teaching philosophy. Following his time at Calvin, Plantinga studied at the University of Michigan from 1954-1955, alongside such future luminaries as William Alston, William Frankena and Nancy Cartwright. He received his doctorate from Yale University (1955-1958). He began teaching at Wayne State University, then spent almost 20 years at Calvin College before moving to the University of Notre Dame.
 Philosophical views
He is best known for:
- A contemporary redeployment of the ontological argument using modal logic. The argument, thanks also to Norman Malcolm and Charles Hartshorne, enjoyed renewed interest in the 20th century.
- His "free will defense" response to J. L. Mackie's logical argument from evil, in which he introduced the concept of transworld depravity.
- His "reformed epistemology" attacks on internalist foundationalism
- His "Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism" (see below), discussed by 12 philosophers in Naturalism Defeated?
In 1993 Plantinga's first two volumes of an epistemological trilogy on the concept of warrant were published. These fueled the discussion about what has to be added to true belief in order to be able to say that we have knowledge. In the first book, Warrant: The Current Debate, Plantinga introduces, analyzes, and criticizes 20th century developments in Anglophone epistemology (Chisholm, BonJour, Alston, Goldman and others). In the second book, Warrant and Proper Function, he introduces the notion of warrant as an alternative to justification and goes deeper into topics like self-knowledge, memories, perception, and probability. In 2000, the third volume, Warranted Christian belief, was published. Plantinga applies his theory of warrant to the question of whether or not specifically Christian theistic belief can enjoy warrant. He argues that this is plausible. Notably, the book does not address whether or not Christian theism is true.
 Evolutionary argument against naturalism
Plantinga is a proponent of intelligent design and serves as a fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design. He has argued that anyone who holds to the truth of both naturalism and evolution is irrational in doing so, an argument that finds much support within the intelligent design movement. His argument relies on establishing that the probability that unguided evolution would have produced reliable cognitive faculties is either low or inscrutable. If so, one who holds both naturalism and evolution acquires a "defeater" for every belief he holds, including the beliefs associated with naturalism and evolution.
 Works by Plantinga
- (ed) Faith and Philosophy, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964.
- (ed) The Ontological Argument, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1965.
- God and Other Minds, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967; rev. ed., 1990. [ISBN 0-8014-9735-3]
- The Nature of Necessity, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974. [ISBN 0-19-824404-5]
- God, Freedom, and Evil, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974. [ISBN 0-04-100040-4]
- Does God Have A Nature? Wisconsin, Marquette University Press, 1980. [ISBN 0-87462-145-3]
- and Nicholas Wolterstorff (eds) Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana & London, 1983. [ISBN 0-268-00964-3]
- Warrant: the Current Debate, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford, 1993. [ISBN 0-19-507861-6]
- Warrant and Proper Function, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford, 1993. [ISBN 0-19-507863-2]
- The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader, James F. Sennett (editor), William. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1998. [ISBN 0-8028-4229-1]
- Warranted Christian Belief, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford, 2000. [ISBN 0-19-513192-4]
- Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality ed. Matthew Davidson, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. [ISBN 0-19-510376-9]
A full bibliography of writings published before 1985 can be found in "Bibliograpy of Alvin Plantinga", James E. Tomberlin and Peter Van Inwagen (eds) Alvin Plantinga, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1985, pp. 399-410.
 Representative assessment
- Ferrer, Francisco S. Conesa, Dios Y el Mal, La Defensa del Teísmo Frente al problema del mal según Alvin Plantinga, Pamplona: University of Navarre Press, forthcoming.
- Beilby, James (ed) Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York & London, 2002.
- Kvanvig, Jonathan (ed), Warrant in Contemporary Epistemology: Essays in Honor of Plantinga's Theory of Knowledge, Savage, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996.
- Claramunt, Enrique R. Moros, Modalidad y esencia: La metaphysica de Alvin Plantinga Pamplona: University of Navarre Press, 1996.
- McLeod, Mark S., Rationality and Theistic Belief: An Essay on Reformed Epistemology (Cornell Studies in the Philosophy of Religion), Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993.
- Linda Zagzebski (ed.), Rational Faith, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993.
- Sennett, James, Modality, Probability, and Rationality: A Critical Examination of Alvin Plantinga's Philosophy, New York: P. Lang, 1992.
- Hoitenga, Dewey, From Plato to Plantinga: an Introduction to Reformed Epistemology, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.
- Parsons, Keith M., God and the Burden of Proof: Plantinga, Swinburne, and the Analytic Defense of Theism, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, 1989.
- Tomberlin, James E., and Peter van Inwagen (eds) Alvin Plantinga, Profiles Volume 5, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Boston & Lancaster, 1985.
 External links
- Alvin Plantinga's home page at the University of Notre Dame
- Virtual Library of Christian Philosophy (largest collection of Plantinga's work on the web).
- Alvin Plantinga: The Analytic Theist
- Alvin Plantinga's spiritual autobiography
- Review of Naturalism Defeated? by John F. Post
- Fitelson and Sober's rebuttal of Plantinga's argument against naturalism [PDF document]