Each “folio” should be around 500 words. Read all the resourses before answer.
- Two common arguments for god’s existence are the ontological argument and the cosmological argument. Briefly lay out both arguments. A common criticism of both arguments is that even if we accept that they are good arguments: 1) neither actually proves “god’s” existence (i.e. an invisible conscious humanoid father who is deeply concerned with humans) and 2) neither helps us choose between the various religions. Explain this criticism.
- Lay out the teleological argument for god’s existence. What sorts of things would advocates of this argument use as evidence of “design” in our world? One common criticism of the teleological argument is that while it may, at best, be an argument for a designer, the argument does not seem to help support any particular religion. Why not? Indeed, the argument seems to point away from some of the more common religions like Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Explain why.
- How does Darwin respond to the teleological argument? Lay out his theory of evolution (use information from the series “The Cosmos”) and explain how his theory attempts to explain away the appearance of design. What sorts of things could we look at as evidence to help us decide between the two theories?
- Freud believes that the development from animism to religion to scientific thought parallels both the psychological development of a human being as well as a human’s libidinal development. Explain both these parallels. What, if anything, does this comparison prompt him to say about the respectability of religious belief in the modern era?
- One argument against God’s existence is the Problem of Evil. Lay out this argument and explain why the 3 claims in the triad are inconsistent. A common theodicy is that God uses evil (or human suffering) as a way to make us better or to test us. Lay out this theodicy and show why it (according to the video episode) fails to get us out of the problem of evil.
- Two films you watched—The Invention of Lying and Kumare seem to suggest that religion may not be about what it appears to be about—that perhaps religion serves some very important psychological and social functions. Giving examples from both these movies, what might some of these functions be?
Resources: (I will give you the book link later.)
Arguments For God’s Existence:
A. The Ontological Argument: Anselm of Canterbury, “The Ontological Argument” Pages 30-31
Ontological arguments are arguments, for the conclusion that God exists, from premises which are supposed to derive from some source other than observation of the world—e.g., from reason alone. In other words, ontological arguments are arguments from nothing but analytic, a priori and necessary premises to the conclusion that God exists.
The first, and best-known, ontological argument was proposed by St. Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th. century C.E. In his Proslogion, St. Anselm claims to derive the existence of God from the concept of a being than which no greater can be conceived. St. Anselm reasoned that, if such a being fails to exist, then a greater being—namely, a being than which no greater can be conceived, and which exists—can be conceived. But this would be absurd: nothing can be greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived. So a being than which no greater can be conceived—i.e., God—exists.
B. The Cosmological Argument: Thomas Aquinas, “The Five Ways”
Read Thomas Aquinas, “The Five Ways” pages 45-46
The cosmological argument is less a particular argument than an argument type. It uses a general pattern of argumentation (logos) that makes an inference from particular alleged facts about the universe (cosmos) to the existence of a unique being, generally identified with or referred to as God. Among these initial facts are that particular beings or events in the universe are causally dependent or contingent, that the universe (as the totality of contingent things) is contingent in that it could have been other than it is, that the Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact possibly has an explanation, or that the universe came into being. From these facts philosophers infer deductively, inductively, or abductively by inference to the best explanation that a first or sustaining cause, a necessary being, an unmoved mover, or a personal being (God) exists that caused and/or sustains the universe. The cosmological argument is part of classical natural theology, whose goal is to provide evidence for the claim that God exists.
On the one hand, the argument arises from human curiosity as to why there is something rather than nothing or than something else. It invokes a concern for some full, complete, ultimate, or best explanation of what exists contingently. On the other hand, it raises intrinsically important philosophical questions about contingency and necessity, causation and explanation, part/whole relationships (mereology), infinity, sets, the nature of time, and the nature and origin of the universe. In what follows we will first sketch out a very brief history of the argument, note the two basic types of deductive cosmological arguments, and then provide a careful analysis of examples of each: first, two arguments from contingency, one based on a relatively strong version of the principle of sufficient reason and one based on a weak version of that principle; and second, an argument from the alleged fact that the universe had a beginning and the impossibility of an infinite temporal regress of causes. In the end we will consider an inductive version of the cosmological argument and what it is to be a necessary belief.
C. The Teleological Argument:
Read Darwin’s Theory here:
Some phenomena within nature exhibit such exquisiteness of structure, function or interconnectedness that many people have found it natural—if not inescapable—to see a deliberative and directive mind behind those phenomena. The mind in question, being prior to nature itself, is typically taken to be supernatural. Philosophically inclined thinkers have both historically and at present labored to shape the relevant intuition into a more formal, logically rigorous inference. The resultant theistic arguments, in their various logical forms, share a focus on plan, purpose, intention and design, and are thus classified as teleological arguments (or, frequently, as arguments from or to design).
Although enjoying some prominent defenders over the centuries, such arguments have also attracted serious criticisms from a number of major historical and contemporary thinkers. Both critics and advocates are found not only among philosophers, but come from scientific and other disciplines as well.
Arguments against God’s Existence:
A. The Problem of Evil: David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part X, Pages 84-89
B. Freud’s Challenge: Chap 3 of Totem and Taboo PDF (Links to an external site.)
Read the discussion questions before watching the movies