Alvin Plantinga

Advice to Christian Philosophers

In the paper that follows I write from the perspective of a philosopher, and of course I have detailed knowledge of (at best) only my own field. I am convinced, however, that many other disciplines resemble philosophy with respect to things I say below. (It will be up to the practitioners of those other disciplines to see whether or not I am right.)

First, it isn't just in philosophy that we Christians are heavily influenced by the practice and procedures of our non-Christian peers. (Indeed, given the cantankerousness of philosophers and the rampant disagreement in philosophy it is probably easier to be a maverick there than in most other disciplines.) The same holds for nearly any important contemporary intellectual discipline: history, literary and artistic criticism, musicology, and the sciences, both social and natural. In all of these areas there are ways of proceeding, pervasive assumptions about the nature of the discipline (for example, assumptions about the nature of science and its place in our intellectual economy), assumptions about how the discipline should be carried on and what a valuable or worthwhile contribution is like and so on; we imbibe these assumptions, if not with our mother's milk, at any rate in learning to pursue our disciplines. In all these areas we learn how to pursue our disciplines under the direction and influence of our peers.

Claire Shuttleworth