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Knowledge of God (Great Debates in Philosophy) [Hardcover]

Alvin Plantinga , Michael Tooley

Price: 68.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

9 April 2008 0631193634 978-0631193630 1
Is belief in God epistemically justified? That′s the question at the heart of this volume in the Great Debates in Philosophy series, with Alvin Plantinga and Michael Tooley each addressing this fundamental question with distinctive arguments from opposing perspectives. The first half of the book contains each philosopher′s explanation of his particular view; the second half allows them to directly respond to each other′s arguments, in a lively and engaging conversation Offers the reader a one of a kind, interactive discussion Forms part of the acclaimed Great Debates in Philosophy series

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"I would recommend the book to professional philosophers of religion and philosophy graduate students for these significant contributions." (Journal of Religion, 1 October 2010) "The book′s style is very different from other philosophy of religion texts, because it presents the issues within the context of a lively debate, capturing the excitement of philosophical argumentation and epitomizing how philosophy should be practiced." ( American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly , Summer 2010)"Alvin Plantinga and Michael Tooley here debate the question whether God′s existence is known—or, at least, justifiably believed. As expected from two such distinguished philosophers, their discussion has the originality and intellectual weight to repay careful consideration, as much by philosophers of mind and epistemologists as by philosophers of religion." ( Mind , October 2009) "The book illuminates some important issues in philosophical theology. Recommended." ( CHOICE , October 2008) "I found this book strangely compelling … .Plantinga uses an ingenious new version of the Design Argument to demonstrate ′the epistemic probability′ that God exists; Tooley argues that ′the fact of evil′ on our world makes the existence of a benevolent God ′very unlikely.′" ( Church Times , January 2009) "The present volume, by two heavyweight analytical philosophers, is rather different from the usual pattern." ( The Tablet ) "A very fine book, presenting arguments for and against theism and naturalism by two very distinguished philosophers. I strongly recommend it for graduate level courses." ( Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews )


“Knowledge of God is a work of major significance. There is no other debate–style book in the philosophy of religion that packs the intellectual punches thrown by heavy–weights Plantinga and Tooley. Excellent.” –Thomas Senor, University of Arkansasz "A rigorous yet accessible debate on central issues in the philosophy of religion by two leading contributors to the field. When Plantinga and Tooley turn to discuss each other′s views, they shed light not only on these topics but on a whole range of further issues, including minds and materialism, propositional content, evolutionary explanation, and probabilistic reasoning. A first–rate exchange, full of philosophical insight." –Edward Wierenga, University of Rochester

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult, Dense, and Interesting 27 July 2008
By A. Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Knowledge of God" is part of a debate series. It's difficult to locate this book, since, in the series, there is already a book entitled "Atheism and Theism (Great Debates in Philosophy)." The difference is that this book is more focused on the rationality of theism--is it reasonable to believe in God--than the question of God's existence (though the latter obviously informs the former). The book is divided into six sections. Both authors get a 75 page opening statement, a 35 page response, and a final 15 page rejoinder.

Alvin Plantinga defends the rationality of theism. He spends a real brief period presenting his "Reformed Epistemology" that he has developed elsewhere (Warranted Christian Belief, and Faith & Rationality: Reason & Belief in God)--namely that, if theism is true, then it is rational to believe in God because God has provided us with a sensus divinitatis. He then turns the bulk of his essay to critiquing the major opponent of theism--philosophical naturalism. He levels three arguments. First, that naturalism cannot provide an acceptable model of `proper function' and therefore cannot explain what it means to be sick, health, etc. Second, naturalism, construed as materialism regarding human persons, gives one reason to believe that the majority of one's beliefs are false. Finally, naturalism, as materialism again, does not allow for a person to hold beliefs.

Tooley begins by making many important distinctions that many atheologians do not. After many qualifications, he begin with his arguments for theism being unreasonable. First, he argues that the a priori probability of God existing is lower than (or equal to) a third, and, therefore, the default position should be atheism. Then he spends the bulk of his essay devoted to one (16 premised) argument from evil. It is a very complicated and dense one. He focuses on one particular event--the Lisbon earthquake of 1755--and argues that, probably God did not exist at that time. The reason? That earthquake exhibited certain wrong-making properties that are inconsistent with a morally perfect loving God allowing. He then generalizes to other events, using the same rough formulation. (This rough characteristic leaves out many of Tooley's interesting and complicated points.)

There are many things to like about this book. There are some very interesting responses between the authors, and each makes important distinctions and very critical and probing remarks. Tooley's argument from evil highlights (and tries to amend) some of the problems with current formulations of inductive/probabilities accounts of the problems of evil. Despite these virtues, there are some things readers should be warned of. First, much of Plantinga's comments (except for his critique of materialism), he has extensively treated before, and this book is, in many ways, simply a condensed version of things he has said elsewhere. Second, the book is very difficult at times. Although most advanced undergraduates should be able to tackle the majority of the text, this text is most at home in a graduate level setting. General readers ought to think about perhaps passing on this book for a little while until they are more familiar with this particular niche of philosophy. Nevertheless, this is an interesting piece of professional philosophy which highlights how amicable discussions of this sort can be.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance 29 Jan 2014
By PCH - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The top contemporary naturalist is pitted against the top contemporary theist in this brilliant book. Unfortunately, what I think was Plantinga's best argument was discussed the least out of the three he presented. He presents his reformed epistemology and uses it to argue that a naturalist cannot have knowledge due to his inability to account for proper function.

Tooley is a formidable opponent and actually challenges Plantinga a few times. unfortunately, in his response to Plantinga's argument about the inability of a material object to think, he just assumes that it can(which Plantinga points out).

This is a fantastic book(only the probability calculus was boring, the rest was fascinating!) and both philosophers are great!
20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knowledge of God 26 Sep 2008
By Ilars Plume - Published on Amazon.com
An amazing book in which two brilliant scholars discuss the existence of God trying to prove or disprove it on metaphysical grounds. Alvin Plantinga advances his argument that naturalism is false and therefore a sober minded person has to embrace some kind of theism, Michael Tooley argues that it is not necessary because even if naturalism is false (which he believes it is not) the argument from evil is sufficient to prove that belief in God is not justified.

The book is somewhat too technical for a general reader but still stimulating. In my view, it confirms the general rule that there always will be defenders of belief in God and their opponents, who will cross their swords also in a high intellectual level.

Although I am far from being an expert in philosophical metaphysics it is obvious even to a simple man like me that M. Tooley's argumentation at least in one place leads to a serious doubt, not, of course, about the existence of God but rather intentions of the author.

Mr. Tolley gives several, as he says, "excellent reasons" why he thinks there is no such thing as inborn, non-propositional evidence for the existence of God. One of these "excellent reasons" goes this way: "Belief in God declines with level of education, and with immersion in scientific thinking and research." (p.244)

It provokes a question: was the same true in, let's say, 17th century? Of course, not! Why not? Simply because belief in God declines only with such a level of education, which is highly naturalistic, and even then this decline is a temporary phenomenon. A good example of that comes from the former Soviet Union. To believe in God became more popular first just among the Soviet intelligentsia and only then among the rest of the people, as the communist regime started to ease. It happened despite the fact that the intelligentsia was disposed to materialistic and atheistic propaganda more than any other segment of society. In my view, such examples suggest the very opposite of what Mr. Tooley is arguing. They suggest that people really do "intentionally blind themselves to God's existence," and by no means is it "surely, an extraordinary hypothesis" (p.244). To the contrary, it is a commonplace that under severe pressure people, being weak, often intentionally blind themselves and when the pressure eases off they return to the former beliefs. I think this is also the case in contemporary West where more and more intelligent people, including scientists, show their dissatisfaction with naturalism, materialism, and atheism looking for a kind of supernaturalism. Doesn't the very emergence of postmodern thought witness the deep dissatisfaction with naturalism and longing for something more human?
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book (tough read) 5 Mar 2013
By Jorge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this was a very good book in terms of quality writing found by the explanations a reasoning given by the two authors.
13 of 79 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical fancies 26 Mar 2009
By Paul Vjecsner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The two opponents in this book, though on opposite sides of the theistic issue, share the rarified atmosphere of academic philosophy, which appears little in touch with down-to-earth understandings in other areas. This while professional philosophers ironically slavishly accept the latest scientific theories, and unsuitably imitate mathematical symbolism in logic. But they assume the aura of standing on higher ground and having greater insights, although philosophy can be held not to have contributed anything to human knowledge since circa the 18th century of British empiricism.

As an example of how philosophers think to know better can serve their "correction" of language. Thus in this book Plantinga repeatedly uses phrases like (p.7) "I'm being appeared to redly" for a customary "I see red". He likely doesn't do the same in ordinary conversation, and whatever the explanation for such phrases, forgotten is that language, including its meaning, is arbitrary and we choose to use it in the most convenient form.

The other author, Tooley, similarly speaks (pp.215-216) of a "widespread systematic error" like observing: "The grass is very green". He says, "when a scientifically educated person looks at green grass now, the belief that the person acquires...will be something like the belief that [the following part of this quotation can be viewed as replacing the quotation that the grass is green] there is a power in the grass to reflect wavelengths of light of such a sort as to produce experiences with the property of qualitative greenness" (notice that while he considers calling the grass green erroneous, he refers to "green grass" in the explanation). As before, whatever the process by which a color is perceived, it is convenient to call the perceived object to be of the color by which perceived.

All knowledge of external reality in fact depends on its appearance to our senses, and we learn this early in life, without elaboration by science. Individual perceptions of objects differ from actual objects, as in their foreshortening under perspective, the objects themselves becoming mental composites of many perceptions. Often we are forced in everyday life to substantiate our initial interpretations--like of perceptions occurring in dim surroundings--making sure they accord with reality.

The weaknesses of the authors extend beyond corresponding pointless prescriptions for language use. It enters their logic in general, a discipline in which philosophers are expected to be expert. I have been for both authors selecting here cases.

Plantinga goes somewhat on a rampage writing (p.54): "how can belief, content, arise from physical interaction among such material entities as neurons?...It's a little like trying to understand what it would be for the number seven, e.g., to weigh five pounds (or for an elephant to be a proposition)...no neuronal event can as such have a content, can be 'about' something". This is related to the centuries-old topic of interaction between mind and body. And it is absurd to deny interaction, a correlation, between the brain and mental content, since it occurs as obviously as any other interaction, regardless of the extent to which particulars are known. I.e., certain events in the brain are 'about' the mental content.

Tooley, no expert, gives a horrendously long "scientific" list of "design faults" in human bodies, a fault-finding the vogue lately in countering "intelligent design". One complaint (p.112) is: "When people become overweight...[then certain potentially helpful] mechanism[s are not] effective and well designed...The result...is enormous suffering because people are overweight--with much overeating resulting from the fact that food can provide comfort when one is under stress". Is my heart to bleed? We are given, beside our bodies, brains and the power of volition, so as to not only depend on the events in our bodies but also on our actions. Overweight is not unavoidable if one works at it--I was a concentration-camp inmate, and there were no overweight fellow-inmates among us.

The book is of course primarily concerned with the existence of God. Plantinga, arguing for it, offers incomprehensible reasons. He somehow wants to convince us that we can abandon the standard ways by which truth is obtained, the use of thorough-going experience and valid inference, and wander off into the imaginary, he several times adducing unconfirmable evidence like Calvin's "Sensus divinitatis" or Aquinas's "internal instigation of the Holy Spirit" (p.153). "Intelligent-design" arguments by non-philosophers fare much better. And Tooley, arguing against the existence of God, persists with a rigid definition of God as an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being (e.g. p.82), contending it to be the requirement of the major monotheist religions. But a more general concept of a supreme being, referred to as God or Almighty, is expressed by that last designation. Of essential concern is whether there is a like higher power over man, one that possesses whatever further attributes found. This should make the discussed author's insistent attempt to disprove God by evidence of evil irrelevant. A supreme being is as found to be.
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