Alvin Plantinga’s Warrant and Proper Function offers a detailed version of a very widely accepted (and strongly disputed) analysis of knowledge. In this analysis, knowledge, for a person, is not to have evidence of his or her beliefs but rather for these beliefs to have been formed properly, for these beliefs to be the result of a reliable process of belief formation operating in a congenial environment under circumstances in which its operation is aimed at truth (rather than, for example, survival or convenience).
This book is the second of three books that form a trilogy in the theory of knowledge. The other two are Warrant: The Current Debate (1993) and Warranted Christian Belief (1999). Warrant examines in detail the debate concerning the nature of knowledge, asking what exactly it means for a person to know something. Plantinga attempts to analyze the claim “Jane knows that so-and-so is true if and only if . . . ,” where the blank is filled in with a statement of the conditions that must be satisfied. The analysis is intended to be general so that regardless whether what Jane knows is that her shoes are white, that ten is greater than nine, that God exists, that it is wrong to torture for pleasure, or that quantum mechanics has replaced classical Newtonian mechanics, the analysis will fit perfectly. The analysis is intended to cover every actual and every possible case of knowing. Warrant examines various analyses of knowledge and rejects them in favor of Plantinga’s analysis. Warranted Christian Belief discusses the relevance of the analysis offered in Warrant and Proper Function to questions of religious, particularly Christian, belief.