Musings on plausibility structures

An assortment of brief reflections on some ways in which our environments help to form our beliefs


In Bulwarks of Unbelief, Joseph Minich argues that modern life makes unbelief more natural to us than belief in God, because the world doesn't tend to present itself to us as an order made by an intelligent agent, but rather, as inert raw material waiting to have our human agency imposed upon it.

What does it mean for a thing to be real for us? With the “background noise” of technological artifice surrounding us, it means that things present themselves to us for our use and manipulation. In such an environment, the idea that something (or Someone) exists that is not mere material available for our manipulation is inherently implausible. Minich writes:

Against this backdrop, then, what is the initial plausibility of any God (or transcendental reality) who is not suited to our convenience (perhaps even opposed to it) —and who is rather a dense and weighty reality outside of ourselves to whom the only appropriate posture is awe? Even further, what is the plausibility of any God at all-indeed —any fundamental person-like reality that can only be known by a sort of receptive hearing rather than an aggressively projected gaze? [Joseph Minich, Bulwarks of Unbelief, 124–125]

What is important for Minich's argument is that this is not primarily a question about propositions, which we might deliberate about in a rational manner, but about what intuitively feels right to us as modern people, embedded in this technoculture. The world, as we moderns actually experience it, is a world that does not speak to us.