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PHL 201 Problems of Philosophy. March 25 th Chapter Five, ‘God’. Overview. Faith that God exists vs. Justified Belief that God exists The concept of God The Ontological Argument The First-Cause Argument The Argument from Design The Evidence of Miracles The Utility of Belief in God

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Phl 201 problems of philosophy

PHL 201 Problems of Philosophy

March 25th

Chapter Five, ‘God’


Overview
Overview

  • Faith that God exists vs. Justified Belief that God exists

  • The concept of God

  • The Ontological Argument

  • The First-Cause Argument

  • The Argument from Design

  • The Evidence of Miracles

  • The Utility of Belief in God

  • The Problem of Evil


Faith that god exists vs justified belief that god exists
Faith that God exists vs. Justified Belief that God exists

  • Should religious claims (e.g. “There is a God”) be assessed in terms of truth and falsehood?

  • Can we find some reason to believe that God exists?

  • Fideism: The view that religious belief is based on faith, not on reason


The concept of god
The Concept of God

  • Different cultures and religions offer quite different conceptions of God or Gods

  • The conception that interests Blackburn is shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

  • God’s principal attributes (perfections) are:

    -Omnipotence (all-powerful)

    -Omniscience (all-knowing)

    - Goodness (all-good)


The ontological argument
The Ontological Argument

  • In his Meditations, Descartes offers several arguments for the existence of God

  • TheTrademarkArgument

  • A version of The Ontological Argument:

  • All perfections are properties of the Supreme Being.

  • Existence is a perfection.

    Therefore,

  • The Supreme Being has existence – i.e. God exists.


The ontological argument1
The Ontological Argument

  • A version of Descartes’ argument was offered by an earlier philosopher/theologian, St. Anselm (1033-1109). The argument has 2 parts.

    Part 1:

  • The concept of God (the being with ALL perfections) is understood.

  • Whatever is understood exists in our minds.

    Therefore,

  • God exists in our minds.


Part 2:

  • Suppose God exists only in our minds, and not in reality.

  • Then we can conceive of a being greater than God – one that really exists.

  • But “God” is defined as “that being than which nothing greater can be conceived”.

  • So, no greater being can be conceived.

  • But this contradicts our supposition (4) that God exists only in our minds.

    Therefore,

  • Our supposition that God exists only in our minds is false – i.e. God exists outside of our minds.


Is this a sound argument?

Some things to wonder about:

  • Is “existence” really a predicate?

  • Is existence a perfection?

  • Does the argument allow us to prove too much?

    - The Proof that Dreamboat exists (Think, p.156)

  • Does it make sense to compare things that exist in reality with things that exist in the mind? (Think, pp. 157-158)


The first cause argument
The First-Cause Argument

  • There are now things changing and causing change.

  • Something causes change only if it is caused to change by something else.

  • If something causes change only if it is caused to change by something else, then its causal chain is infinitely long.

  • But no causal chain is infinitely long.

    Therefore,

  • There is something that causes change, but is not caused to change by something else – i.e. there is a first-cause and it is God.


Is this a sound argument?

Some things to wonder about:

  • Why can’t there be an infinitely long series of causes and effects?

  • Why think that the first-cause, if there was one, must still exist?

  • Why think that the first-cause, if there was one, is God?

  • If God requires no cause in order to change or cause change, then why not just stop with the physical world?


The argument from design
The Argument from Design

Based on an analogy: The universe, as an ordered structure, resembles (or is analogous to) a mechanism (e.g. a watch)

  • The universe is like a mechanism.

  • Like effects have like causes.

  • The cause of a mechanism is an intelligent being.

    Therefore, probably

  • The cause of the universe is an intelligent being.

  • This cause is God (“The Wise Architect”)


Is this a cogent argument?

Some things to wonder about:

  • Is the analogy a good one?

  • Why think that the designer, if there was one, must still exist?

  • Why think that the designer, if there was one, is God?

  • Are there other hypotheses that would explain the existence of order in the universe?


The evidence of miracles
The Evidence of Miracles

  • Some people report having witnessed or experienced miracles.

  • Miracles, if they exist, are violations of natural regularities and natural laws.

  • If miracles occur, then probably there is a God.

    Therefore,

  • There is some evidence (i.e. the testimony of those who report miracles) that probably there is a God.


Is this a cogent argument?

David Hume’s Objection:

  • Suppose Jones offers a report, R, that a miracle occurred.

  • R is, of course, very improbable (because miracles are very improbable).

    Considering the following 2 possibilities, we should reject the one that is least probable:

    (a) Jones reports R, but R did not actually happen.

    (b) Jones reports R, and R actually occurred.

    But, clearly, the least likely of these options is the (b). So we should believe (a). (see Think, pp. 179-180)


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