Flashcards in Philosophy of Religion Deck (32):
God as omniscient
Omniscient means ‘all knowing’, however we must remember God is the most perfect possible being, and perhaps it is impossible to know everything. For example, if human beings have free will, then perhaps it is impossible for God to know what they will do in the future. Aquinas argues that God knows everything directly, and not through things such as language or propositions. Others argue that if God doesn't know all true propositions then there is something that God doesn't know.
God as omnipotent
Omnipotent means ‘all powerful’, the power to do anything. But does this include the power to do the logically impossible? Could God make 2+2 = 5?
God as supremely good
There are two ways of understanding supreme goodness. If goodness is just perfection, then saying God is perfectly good is just to say that God is perfectly perfect. The other sense of ‘goodness’ is the moral sense, in this case being supremely good means that God’s will is always in accordance with moral values.
God as eternal or everlasting
If God exists in time, then his existence is everlasting. If he exists out of time, then his existence is eternal. If something brought God into existence, God would be dependent on that thing to exist. If there were something that could end God’s existence, then God is equally dependent on that to continue to exist. If God depends on nothing else, then nothing can bring God into existence or end his existence.
The paradox of the stone
‘Can God create a stone so large that he cannot lift it?’ whether the answer is yes or no, either way there is something God cannot do, meaning he is not omnipotent.
The Euthyphro dilemma
Is morality whatever God wills it to be or is it independent of God? If morality is whatever God wills, then if God wills what is (now) morally wrong, then what is wrong will become right. If morality is independent of what God wills, then God cannot make what is wrong be right. But then, to be good. God’s will must conform to something independent of God. God wills what is morally right because it is right.
Omniscience and immutability
To be immutable is to not change. The idea that God does not change comes from the idea that God is perfect. Norman Kretzmann argues that a being that is omniscient will always know what time it is, and if it knows what time it is then it’s subject to change, therefore if its subject to change then it isn't perfect.
Omniscience and free will
If God knows what action I will perform before I choose to perform it, then I cannot have chosen to do otherwise than I did. Therefore the actions are not freely chosen, they are predetermined. An omniscient God who knows beforehand everything that I do isn't compatible with my free will.
The ontological argument
The argument that God, being defined as most great or perfect, must exist, since a God who exists is greater than a God who does not.
Anselm's ontological argument
1. By definition, God is a being greater than which cannot be conceived.
2. This concept is coherent.
3. It is greater to exist in reality than only in the mind.
4. Therefore God must exist.
Descartes ontological argument
1. I have the idea of God.
2. The idea of God is the idea of a supremely perfect being.
3. A supremely perfect being lacks no perfection.
4. Existence is a perfection.
5. Therefore God must exist.
Leibniz's ontological argument
Leibniz thinks that Descartes version of the argument is incomplete as he doesn't comprehend whether or not a being with all perfection is a coherent one. Just because we can use the expression ‘perfect being’ doesn't mean we have a coherent idea responding to it. He argues perfections can be considered as simple and positive, meaning each cannot be defined in terms of anything else and each cannot be a negation of anything else. Each perfection is self-contained so therefore none can be shown to be incompatible with each other, and so all perfections can be collected together into one being. So if a perfect being is possible, existence is a perfection, then the rest of Descartes argument goes through and God’s existence is necessary.
Malcolm's ontological argument
1. Either God exists or does not exist.
2. God cannot come into existence or go out of existence.
3. If God exists, God cannot cease to exist.
4. Therefore, if God exists, God’s existence is necessary.
5. If God does not exist, God cannot come into existence.
6. Therefore, if God does not exist, God’s existence is impossible.
7. Therefore, God’s existence is either necessary or impossible.
8. God’s existence is impossible only if the concept of God is self-contradictory.
9. The concept of God is not self contradictory.
10. Therefore, God’s existence is not impossible.
11. Therefore, from 7+10, God exists necessarily.
Plantinga's ontological argument
Plantinga sets out in establishing the idea of possible worlds. There are possible worlds where you never were born, but there are no possible worlds where squares are round since this is logically impossible. By contrast, necessary truths such as triangles have 3 sides are true in every world as these are necessary truths. Using the same ‘greater to be’ logic, he concludes that a being that exists in all possible universes is greater than one that only exists in some worlds. If we have a coherent concept of God then it follows that there must be some possible world in which he exists - however if we allow his existence in another world, since he is necessary, he must necessarily exist in our world as well.
Gaunilo's issue with the ontological argument
1. I can imagine an island which is the most excellent island.
2. It is greater to exist in reality than merely in the understanding.
3. Therefore, the most excellent island must exist in reality.
For Gaunilo, using an ontological argument to prove the existence of the island is always going to be in doubt until we find evidence for it.
Hume's issue with the ontological argument
1. Nothing that is distinctly conceivable implies a contradiction.
2. Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent.
3. Therefore, there is no being whose non-existence implies a contradiction.
If ‘God does not exist’ is a contradiction, then ‘God exists’ must be analytic. But claims about what exists are synthetic.
Kant's issue with the ontological argument
1. If ‘God does not exist’ is a contradiction, then ‘God exists’ is an analytic truth.
2. If ‘God exists’ is an analytic truth, then existence is part of the concept of God.
3. Existence is not a predicate, something that can be added on to another concept.
4. Therefore, ‘God exists’ is not an analytic truth.
5. Therefore, ‘God does not exist’ is not a contradiction.
6. Therefore, we cannot deduce the existence of God from the concept of God.
7. Therefore, ontological arguments cannot prove that God exists.
If I say ‘the kite is red’, I add the concept of ‘red’ onto the concept of ‘kite’, and can create the new concept of a red kite. But if I say ‘the kite exists’, this adds nothing onto the concept of the kite. The claim that the kite exists is not a a claim about my concept of the kite, but a claim that something exists that corresponds to my concept. So the claim that the kite exists is a synthetic judgement, and therefore it is not contradictory to deny it.
The teleological (design) argument
The argument for the existence of God from the evidence of order, and hence design, in nature.
Paley's teleological argument
1. Anything that has parts organised to serve a purpose is designed.
2. Nature contains things which have parts that are organised to serve a purpose.
3. Therefore, nature contains things which are designed.
4. Design can only be explained in terms of a designer.
5. A designer must be or have a mind and be district from what is designed.
6. Therefore, nature was designed by a mind which is distinct from nature.
7. Therefore, such a mind (God) exists.
Paley argues that if we came across a rock in a field, we wouldn't think much of it - we may think that it has always been there. However, our response to finding a watch lying in a field would be quite different; the parts are perfectly organised to perform a particular function, and if they weren't organised as they are, then the purpose would not be fulfilled. He argues that the property of having parts organised to perform a function is the mark of design. The example of the watch can be compared to that of a human eye - if the lens, muscles and retina and all the other parts that make up a human eye weren’t put together in just the right order, then we would not be able to see. But we can see, and all the parts are put together perfectly to allow sight, Paley argues this indicates that it is designed and so there is a designer.
Swinburne's teleological argument
Swinburne first makes a distinction between spatial and temporal order. Spatial order is the way things are arranged, and temporal order is the way in which one thing follows another. He thinks that design arguments relying on spatial order to prove God’s existence are left vulnerable to Darwin’s theory of evolution.
1. There are some temporal regularities, e.g. related to human actions, that are explained in terms of persons.
2. There are other temporal regularities, e.g. related to the laws of nature, that are similar to those explained in terms of persons.
3. We can, by analogy, explain the regularities relating to the laws of nature in terms of persons.
4. There is no scientific explanation of the laws of nature.
5. (as far as we know, there are only two types of explanation - scientific and personal).
6. Therefore, there is no better explanation of the regularities relating to the laws of nature than the explanation in terms of persons.
7. Therefore, the regularities relating to the laws of nature are produced by a person (a designer).
8. Therefore, a designer exists.
Paley's issue with the teleological argument
1. We ourselves may never have seen a watchmaker at work, nor may we be able to make a watch ourselves. Hence we cannot draw any conclusions from the basis of a world to how that world may have come about.
2. It is possible to observe problems in the functioning watch. In relation to the the universe, the most highlighted problem is evil. These problems undermine Paley’s conclusion of an ‘intelligent, skilful watchmaker’.
3. Some parts may have no apparent purpose. Purposiveness is a an essential criterion for design, and if parts have no purpose then it invalidates the conclusion.
4. Hume considers that the watch might arise out of a ‘possible combination of material forms’ or ‘principle of order’, but he dismisses that the watch might arise merely out of purely random or natural processes. He also rejects the claim that the watch could be explained without a reference to a designer.
Hume's issue with the teleological argument
1. We have no experience of world making. He points out that, to know what has brought something about, we have to have experience of its being brought about. Physical objects can be compared to other physical objects but we cannot compare the experience of our universe to another universe that has been designed, so therefore we have no grounds for concluding that God or anyone else has designed it.
2. Arguments from analogy are weak. They are only reliable when both things have a lot of relevant similarities. In the case of most complex machines, it takes many years of trial and error to produce the final product, so if analogous then this world would be a product of a long line of ‘draft’ universes and may be superseded by a better one in the future. Hume also argues that the universe is more organic than it is mechanical and so it’s more probably to say the universe grew than that it was made.
3. It is possible that the appearance of design occurred through random processes. Also referred to as the Epicurean hypothesis which states, given eternity, a finite amount of particles will eventually form some kind of equilibrium, given enough rolls of the dice as it were.
4. The argument doesn't demonstrate the existence of a perfect being. Taking the idea that ‘like effects have like causes’ you can bring out many absurdities of the comparison Paley makes. Complex machines usually have multiple designers instead of one so the universe was created by many deities not one.
Kant's issue with the teleological argument
The argument from design can only work by analogy, so on the basis of order in nature, we can at best infer there is a designer of nature. We cant draw any conclusions about the designer creating the universe or matter - just as human designers don’t create the matter they work with. Again, we can only say this designer is ‘great’, though we don’t understand how great and can’t form any determinate ideas about this being.
The cosmological argument
An argument for the existence of God which claims that all things in nature depend on something else for their existence (i.e. are contingent), and that the whole cosmos must therefore itself depend on a being which exists independently or necessarily.
Aquinas' five ways (first three) cosmological argument
The argument from motion:
1. Some things in the world are in motion.
2. Whatever is in motion is put into motion by something else, nothing can move itself.
3. If A is put into motion by B, and B is also in motion, then B must have been put into motion by something else again.
4. If this goes on to infinity, then there is no first mover.
5. If there is no first mover, then there is no other mover, and so nothing is in motion.
6. Therefore, there must be a first mover.
7. The first mover is God.
The argument from causation:
1. We find, in the world, causes and effects.
2. Nothing can be the cause of itself.
3. Causes follow in order: the first causes the second which causes the third.
4. If you remove a cause, you remove its effect.
5. Therefore, if there is no first cause, there will be no later causes.
6. Therefore, given that there are causes, there cannot be an infinite regress of causes.
7. Therefore, there must be a first cause, which is not itself caused.
8. God is the first cause.
The argument from contingency:
1. Things in the universe exist contingently.
2. If it is possible for something not to exist, then at some time, it does not exist.
3. If everything exists contingently, then it is possible that at some time, there was nothing in existence.
4. If at some time, nothing was in existence, nothing could begin to exist.
5. Since things did begin to exist, there was never nothing in existence.
6. Therefore, there is something that does not exist contingently, but necessarily.
7. This necessary being is God.
Descartes' cosmological argument
1. If I cause my own existence, I would give myself all perfections.
2. I do not have all perfections.
3. Therefore, I am not the cause of my own existence.
4. A lifespan is composed of independent parts, such that my existing at one time does not entail or cause my existing later.
5. Therefore, some cause is needed to keep me in existence. My existence is not uncaused.
6. I do not have the power to cause my continued existence through time.
7. Therefore, I depend on something else to exist.
8. I am a thinking thing and I have the idea of God.
9. There must be as much reality in the cause as in the effect.
10. Therefore, what caused me must be a thinking thing and have the idea of God.
11. Either what caused me is the cause of its own existence, or its existence is caused by anther cause.
12. If its existence is caused by another cause, then its cause is in turn either the cause of its own existence or its existence is caused by another cause.
13. There cannot be an infinite regress of causes.
14. Therefore, some cause must be the cause of its own existence.
15. What is the cause of its own existence (and so, directly or indirectly, the cause of my existence) is God.
16. Some cause is needed to keep me in existence.
17. There cannot be an infinite regress of causes because what caused me also caused my continued existence in the present.
18. My parents, or any other supposed cause of my existence, do not keep me in existence.
19.The only cause that could keep me in existence is God.
The Kalam argument cosmological argument
1. Of anything that begins to exist, something causes it to exist.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, there is a cause of the existence of the universe.
Hume's issue with the cosmological argument
Hume questioned why believers are happy to assume the first cause is it’s own explanation, if we accept there are some things which exist without explanation, then it is possible that the universe could be one of those things. He also says that the existence of the alleged necessary being can be denied without contradiction, so there for it is not a necessary being at all. We also have never experienced causation as its just a concept we impose on our perception based on past experience. It is fallacious in thinking that because there is some property common to each part of a group, this property must apply to the group as a whole.
Russell's issue with the cosmological argument
Russell maintains that only only propositions, and not beings, can be necessary. He believes there is no being for which it would be self-contradictory to deny, and any claim about existence must be synthetic. He argues that it is true that every member of the human species has a mother, but it is a fallacy to conclude from this that our species as a whole must have a mother. He also disagrees with the claim that every event is depending on preceding event and must have a cause, he gives as an example the discovery of sub-atomic fluctuation which have no inherent cause, undermining the cosmological certainty that everything must have a cause. Finally, Russell rejects the idea that we need an explanation for the universe, the claim that ‘God is the first cause’ is for him a meaningless claim.
The problem of evil
1. If God is supremely good, then he has the desire to eliminate evil.
2. If God is omnipotent, then he is able to eliminate evil.
3. If God is omniscient, then he is aware of evil and how to eliminate it.
4. Therefore, if God exists, and is supremely good, omnipotent and omniscient, then evil does not exist.
5. Evil exists.
6. Therefore, a supremely good, omnipotent and omniscient God does not exist.
The logical problem of evil claims that the mere existence of evil is logically incompatible with the existence of God.
The evidential problem of evil claims that the amount and distribution of evil that exists is good evidence that God does not exist.
Moral evil is morally wrong actions or motives of human beings.
Physical/natural evil refers to suffering causes by natural events and processes.
It can be argued that good can’t exist without evil. By analogy, someone might argue that one colour requires the existence of other colours in order to generate contrast. It can also be argued that the world is better with some evil in it than it could be if there were no evil. For example; sympathy, benevolence and courage all require suffering in order to exist. And the existence of these qualities makes the world a better place.
Plantinga's free will defence issue with the problem of evil
1. A world containing creatures that are significantly free is better than a world containing no free creatures.
2. God can create significantly free creatures.
3. To be significantly free is to be capable of both moral good and moral evil.
4. If significantly free creatures were caused to do only what is right, they would not be free.
5. Therefore, God cannot cause significantly free creatures to do only what is right.
6. Therefore, God can only eliminate the moral evil done by significantly free creatures by eliminating the greater good of significantly free creatures.