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metaphysics unit

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julie kelso

on 17 March 2016

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Transcript of metaphysics unit

Is there a rational basis
for believing in God?

Cosmological Argument
Teleological Argument
Anselm's proof
God is that than which no greater can be conceived.
Imagine God existed only in the mind.
Then we could imagine that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in reality, which would be greater than it existing only in the mind.
But no greater being can be conceived than that that which no greater can be conceived!
It is absurd to suppose that God exists only in the mind, as it is self-contradictory.
Therefore God must exist in reality.
Anselm's argument is an example of Reductio ad absurdum
Objections to Anselm's argument
Gaunilo's perfect island
Gaunilo thought the logic of Anselm's argument was flawed.
He said if it's possible to define God into existence then we should also be able to prove the existence of the perfect island (an island than which no greater can be conceived).
Kant - existence is not a predicate
Kant said that existence is not a property that we can ascribe to objects, as it does not add anything to the concept of any object.
In technical terms, existence is not a predicate.
Kant attacked Anselm's view that it is greater for anything to exist in reality than it is for it to exist only in the mind: if the concept of an object that exists in reality is no different from the concept of the object existing only in the mind, then Anselm's argument fails because the reductio ad absurdum cannot be established.
...although an island is a finite thing there is no limit to the things that could make an island great - we could add palm trees, beaches and waterfalls indefinitely. This suggests that there could in fact be no such thing as an island than which no greater can be conceived! So why should we think we can conceive of God, that than which no greater (of anything) can be conceived?
Anselm's conception of 'greatness'
In Anselm's day, 'greatness' had nothing to do with how good something was. Instead, it referred to how 'real' a thing was, or to its 'degree of existence'.
Anything that exists in the mind is obviously not as real as something that exists in reality!
So is Anselm saying anything interesting when he tells us that than which no greater (= more real) can be conceived must exist in reality?
Isn't it a bit like saying that a bachelor is unmarried?
To use philosophical language, this is a TAUTOLOGY.
Everything in the order of efficient causes (that is, in the universe) has a cause.
The order of efficient causes must itself have a cause.
If the causes were infinite then no effects would exist.
Therefore there must be a first cause.
The first cause is called God.
Aquinas's Second Way
Leibniz's Argument from Sufficient Reason
The Kalam Argument
The basic premise of all versions of the cosmological argument is that everything in the universe has a cause.
Everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore the universe has a cause of its existence.
Since no scientific explanation can account for the origin of the universe, its cause must be personal.
Paley's Watchmaker
The physical make-up of matter in our universe is the only one that can sustain life as we know it.
Other arrangements of matter are conceivable.
So some explanation is needed why our actual combination of matter exists rather than a different one.
The very best explanation of this is that our universe, with the particular arrangement of matter that it has, was created out of nothing by a single being who is omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, eternal, and interested in sentient life and that he ̳'fine-tuned‘ those constants in a way which would lead to the evolution of such systems.
The being as described above is what people mean by ̳God.
Hence there is good evidence that God exists.
Schlesinger's Best Explanation Argument
Supporters of Anselm might say that, as that than which nothing of ANY kind can be conceived, God is totally different from an island. There are logical limits to God's greatness which prevent us running up against the problem of infinite improvement. These limits are part of our understanding of concepts such as 'omniscient', 'omnipotent' and 'omnibenevolent'.
Ontological Argument
This form of a priori argument moves from the definition of God to the existence of God.
Objections to the Cosmological Argument
Fallacy of Composition
The fact that the parts of the universe have causes does not entail that the universe as a whole has a cause.
This would be like saying that because the bricks in the wall are small, the wall itself must be small.
What is true of the parts is not necessarily true of the whole.
This objection was made by Bertrand Russell, who said that the universe is "just there, and that's all".
An explanation of the parts...
According to Hume, if we have an explanation of the parts then an explanation of the whole is totally unnecessary.
He said that our concept of causation comes from the observation of the constant conjunction of particular things that we experience.
However, the universe as a whole can never be the object of our experience, so we have no reason to think that it must have a cause.
Hume said, "Did I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable should you afterwards ask me what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the parts".
This doesn't explain why there is something rather than nothing.
It doesn't explain why the parts are arranged in the ways that they are.
It doesn't explain why the universe is made up of these parts rather than others.
Everything has an explanation (this is the Principle of Sufficient Reason), so the entire series of contingent things requires an explanation.
The explanation of the entire series cannot be a member of the series since then it would explain itself and no contingent thing is self-explanatory.
Thus the explanation of the entire series of contingent things must not be itself a contingent thing.
Instead, it must be something necessary.
Any necessary being is God.
Therefore God exists.
Couldn't the Big Bang be the first cause?
Kant - it collapses into Ontological Argument
The Cosmological Argument concludes that the universe was caused to exist by a necessary being.
But the only thing that would count as a necessary being is one whose non-existence yields a contradiction.
That can only be said of a being that is understood to be that than which nothing greater (= more real) can be conceived - the concept that is at the heart of the Ontological Argument.
So the Cosmological Argument, according to Kant, actually rests on the Ontological Argument.
If the Ontological Argument fails (as he thinks it does), then so must the Cosmological Argument.
Even more problems...
What caused God?
Is the first cause really all that people have in mind when they talk about God?
Even if it's successful, does the Cosmological Argument actually establish anything interesting?
Teleological Arguments are sometimes called Arguments from Design. They are empirical arguments that try to prove that God exists on the basis of apparent design in nature and the universe.
Paley says that anyone who found a watch on the ground would know just by looking at it that it had been designed by an intelligent designer. How? Because it is very complex and it has a clear purpose.
He thinks there is just the same evidence that the human eye was designed to facilitate vision.
Therefore, he says, the human eye - like the watch - must have been designed by an intelligent designer.
The only designer intelligent enough is God.
Therefore, God exists.
This is an ARGUMENT FROM ANALOGY. In the respects in which the eye is like the watch, what is true of the watch is true of the eye.
Objections to Paley's Argument
Darwin's Theory of Evolution explains the apparent design in objects like the human eye without appealing to an intelligent designer.
A more philosophical problem is highlighted by Hume:
In general, when we infer like causes from like effects, we do so because we have experienced similar causes.
For example, we may infer that a house has a designer because we know through experience that other houses have designers.
However, we have no experience of other universes.
Therefore, according to Hume, we have no basis for concluding that the universe must have been designed.
Problem of like causes...
If the initial explosion of the Big Bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in 1060, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible.
One designer?
Hume argued that even though we might be persuaded that “the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence”, we have no grounds for concluding that there must be a single designer.
Which designer?
Hume argued that even though we might be persuaded that “the cause or causes of order in the universe probably bear some remote analogy to human intelligence”, we have no grounds for concluding that there must be a single designer.
(but think about how serious they are)
Intelligent designer?
Hume also pointed out that not all 'designs' in nature are effective. The female quoll, for example, gives birth to a litter of around 17 babies yet she has only 6 nipples. It is inevitable that more than half of her babies will die. If quolls have been designed this way then the design is rather inefficient. Surely an intelligent designer could have done a better job?
Calculations show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in 1040, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.
Cosmic Fine-Tuning - Anthropic Principle
An actual infinity is impossible
Some modern philosophers reject the idea that there could be an infinite chain of causes on the basis of maths.
It has been shown that it is logically impossible for there to be an actually infinite series.
Two paradoxes illustrate this:
1. Achilles and the tortoise
2. Hilbert's Hotel
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