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Print Save Cite Email Share. Consider first the philosophical project of articulating theism and then the philosophy of divine attributes. Terms applied both to God and to any aspect of the world have been classified as either univocal sharing the same sense , equivocal used in different senses , or analogical. There is a range of accounts of analogous predication, but the most common—and the one assumed here—is that terms are used analogously when their use in different cases John limps and the argument limps is based on what is believed to be a resemblance. It seems clear that many terms used to describe God in theistic traditions are used analogously, as when God is referred to as a father, shepherd, or fountain.
More difficult to classify are descriptions of God as good, personal, knowing, omnipresent, and creative. Heated philosophical and theological disputes centre on unpacking the meaning of such descriptions, disputes that are often carried out with the use of thought experiments. In thought experiments, hypothetical cases are described—cases that may or may not represent the way things are. In these descriptions, terms normally used in one context are employed in expanded settings. Thus, in thinking of God as omniscient, one might begin with a non-controversial case of a person knowing that a proposition is true, taking note of what it means for someone to possess that knowledge and of the ways in which the knowledge is secured.
A theistic thought experiment would seek to extend our understanding of knowledge as we think of it in our own case, working toward the conception of a maximum or supreme intellectual excellence befitting the religious believers' understanding of God. Various degrees of refinement would then be in order, as one speculates not only about the extent of a maximum set of propositions known but also about how these might be known. That is, in attributing omniscience to God, would one thereby claim God knows all truths in a way that is analogous to the way we come to know truths about the world?
Too close an analogy would produce a peculiar picture of God relying upon, for example, induction, sensory evidence, or the testimony of others. Here a medieval distinction comes into play between the res significata what is asserted—for instance, that God knows X and modus significandi the mode or manner in which what is signified is realized or brought about—for instance, how God knows X.
We might have a good grasp of what is meant by the claim that a being is omniscient while having little idea of how a being might be so. Thought experiments aimed at giving some sense to the Divine attribute of omniscience have been advanced by drawing attention to the way we know some things immediately bodily positions, feelings and intentions , and then by extending this, coaxing us into conceiving a being that knows all things about itself and the cosmos immediately see Beaty and Zagzebski for a constructive view, and Blumenfeld in Morris ed. Philosophers are now more cautious about drawing such inferences as we are increasingly aware of how some features of an imagined state of affairs might be misconceived or overlooked.
Even so, it has been argued that if a state of affairs appears to one to be possible after careful reflection, checking it against one's background knowledge in other areas, then there is at least some warrant in judging the state of affairs to be a bona fide possibility Sorensen ; see also Taliaferro and Gendler and Hawthorne Work on the divine attributes has been vast. To generate a portrait of the literature on divine attributes, consider the issues that arise in reflection on omniscience, eternity, and goodness.
Imagine there is a God who knows the future free action of human beings. If God does know you will freely do some act X , then it is true that you will indeed do X. But if you are free, would you not be free to avoid doing X? Given that it is foreknown you will do X , it appears you would not be free to refrain from the act. Initially this paradox seems easy to dispel. If God knows about your free action, then God knows that you will freely do something and that you could have refrained from it.
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God's foreknowing the act does not make it necessary. After all, it is necessarily the case that if I know you are reading this entry right now, then it follows that you are reading this entry, but your reading this entry may still be seen as a contingent state of affairs.
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But the problem is not so easily diffused, however, because if God does infallibly know that some state of affairs obtains then it cannot be that the state of affairs does not obtain. Think of what is sometimes called the necessity of the past. Once a state of affairs has obtained, it is unalterably or necessarily the case that it did occur. If the future is known precisely and comprehensively, isn't the future like the past, necessarily or unalterably the case?
If the problem is put in first-person terms and one imagines God foreknows you will freely turn to a different entry in this Encyclopedia moreover, God knows with unsurpassable precision when you will do so, which entry you will select and what you will think about it , then an easy resolution of the paradox seems elusive. To highlight the nature of this problem imagine God tells you what you will freely do in the next hour. Under such conditions, is it still intelligible to believe you have the ability to do otherwise if it is known by God as well as yourself what you will indeed elect to do?
Self-foreknowledge, then, produces an additional related problem because the psychology of choice seems to require prior ignorance about what we will choose. Various replies to the freedom-foreknowledge debate have been given. Some adopt compatibilism, affirming the compatibility of free will and determinism, and conclude that foreknowledge is no more threatening to freedom than determinism.
While some prominent philosophical theists in the past have taken this route most dramatically Jonathan Edwards in the eighteenth century , this seems to be the minority position in philosophy of religion today exceptions include Paul Helm and Lynne Baker. A second position adheres to the libertarian outlook, which insists that freedom involves a radical, indeterminist exercise of power, and concludes that God cannot know future free action.
What prevents such philosophers from denying that God is omniscient is that they contend there are no truths about future free actions, or that while there are truths about the future, God freely decides not to know them in order to preserve free choice. On the first view, prior to someone's doing a free action, there is no fact of the matter that he or she will do a given act. This is in keeping with a traditional, but controversial, interpretation of Aristotle's philosophy of time and truth. Aristotle may have thought it was neither true nor false prior to a given sea battle whether a given side would win it.
Some theists, such as Richard Swinburne, adopt this line today, holding that the future cannot be known. If it cannot be known for metaphysical reasons, then omniscience can be analyzed as knowing all that it is possible to know. That God cannot know future free action is no more of a mark against God's being omniscient than God's inability to make square circles is a mark against God's being omnipotent.
Other philosophers deny the original paradox. They insist that God's foreknowledge is compatible with libertarian freedom and seek to resolve the quandary by claiming that God is not bound in time God does not so much foreknow the future as God knows what for us is the future from an eternal viewpoint and by arguing that the unique vantage point of an omniscient God prevents any impingement on freedom.
God can simply know the future without this having to be grounded on an established, determinate future. But this only works if there is no necessity of eternity analogous to the necessity of the past. Why think that we have any more control over God's timeless belief than over God's past belief? If not, then there is an exactly parallel dilemma of timeless knowledge.
For outstanding current analysis of freedom and foreknowledge, see the work of Linda Zagzebski. Could there be a being that is outside time? In the great monotheistic traditions, God is thought of as without any kind of beginning or end. God will never, indeed, can never, cease to be. Some philosophical theists hold that God's temporality is very much like ours in the sense that there is a before, during, and an after for God, or a past, present, and future for God. This view is sometimes referred to as the thesis that God is everlasting.
This is sometimes called the view that God is eternal as opposed to everlasting. Why adopt the more radical stance? One reason, already noted, is that if God is not temporally bound, there may be a resolution to the earlier problem of reconciling freedom and foreknowledge. As Augustine put it: If God is outside time, there may also be a secure foundation explaining God's immutability changelessness , incorruptibility, and immortality.
Furthermore, there may be an opportunity to use God's standing outside of time to launch an argument that God is the creator of time. Those affirming God to be unbounded by temporal sequences face several puzzles which I note without trying to settle. If God is somehow at or in all times, is God simultaneously at or in each? If so, there is the following problem. If God is simultaneous with the event of Rome burning in , and also simultaneous with your reading this entry, then it seems that Rome must be burning at the same time you are reading this entry.
This problem was advanced by Nelson Pike; Stump and Kretzmann have replied that the simultaneity involved in God's eternal knowledge is not transitive. A different problem arises with respect to eternity and omniscience. If God is outside of time, can God know what time it is now?
Arguably, there is a fact of the matter that it is now, say, midnight on 1 July A God outside of time might know that at midnight on 1 July certain things occur, but could God know when it is now that time? The problem is that the more emphasis we place on the claim that God's supreme existence is independent of time, the more we seem to jeopardize taking seriously time as we know it. Finally, while the great monotheistic traditions provide a portrait of the Divine as supremely different from the creation, there is also an insistence on God's proximity or immanence.
For some theists, describing God as a person or person-like God loves, acts, knows is not to equivocate. But it is not clear that an eternal God could be personal. For recent work on God's relation to time, see work by Katherin Rogers Rogers , All known world religions address the nature of good and evil and commend ways of achieving human well-being, whether this be thought of in terms of salvation, liberation, deliverance, enlightenment, tranquility, or an egoless state of Nirvana. Some religions construe the Divine as in some respect beyond our human notions of good and evil.
In some forms of Hinduism, for example, Brahman has been extolled as possessing a sort of moral transcendence, and some Christian theologians and philosophers have likewise insisted that God is only a moral agent in a highly qualified sense, if at all Davies To call God good is, for them, very different from calling a human being good. Here I note only some of the ways in which philosophers have articulated what it means to call God good. In treating the matter, there has been a tendency either to explain God's goodness in terms of standards that are not God's creation and thus, in some measure, independent of God's will, or in terms of God's will and the standards God has created.
The latter view has been termed theistic voluntarism. A common version of theistic voluntarism is the claim that for something to be good or right simply means that it is willed by God and for something to be evil or wrong means that it is forbidden by God. Theistic voluntarists face several difficulties: Indeed, many people make what they take to be objective moral judgments without making any reference to God. If they are using moral language intelligibly, how could it be that the very meaning of such moral language should be analyzed in terms of Divine volitions?
New work in the philosophy of language may be of use to theistic voluntarists. Also at issue is the worry that if voluntarism is accepted, the theist has threatened the normative objectivity of moral judgments. Could God make it the case that moral judgments were turned upside down? For example, could God make cruelty good? Arguably, the moral universe is not so malleable. In reply, some voluntarists have sought to understand the stability of the moral laws in light of God's immutably fixed, necessary nature.
By understanding God's goodness in terms of God's being as opposed to God's will alone , we come close to the non-voluntarist stand. Aquinas and others hold that God is essentially good in virtue of God's very being. All such positions are non-voluntarist in so far as they do not claim that what it means for something to be good is that God wills it to be so. The goodness of God may be articulated in various ways, either by arguing that God's perfection requires God being good as an agent or by arguing that God's goodness can be articulated in terms of other Divine attributes such as those outlined above.
For example, because knowledge is in itself good, omniscience is a supreme good. God has also been considered good in so far as God has created and conserves in existence a good cosmos. Debates over the problem of evil if God is indeed omnipotent and perfectly good, why is there evil? The debate over the problem of evil is taken up in section 4. The choice between voluntarism and seeing God's very being as good is rarely strict. Some theists who oppose a full-scale voluntarism allow for partial voluntarist elements.
According to one such moderate stance, while God cannot make cruelty good, God can make some actions morally required or morally forbidden which otherwise would be morally neutral. Arguments for this have been based on the thesis that the cosmos and all its contents are God's creation. According to some theories of property, an agent making something good gains entitlements over the property.
Theories spelling out why and how the cosmos belongs to God have been prominent in all three monotheistic traditions. Plato defended the notion, as did Aquinas and Locke. See Brody for a defense. A new development in theorizing about God's goodness has been advanced in Zagzebski Zagzebski contends that being an exemplary virtuous person consists in having good motives. Motives have an internal, affective or emotive structure.
The ultimate grounding of what makes human motives good is if they are in accord with the motives of God. Zagzebski's theory is perhaps the most ambitious virtue theory in print, offering an account of human virtues of God. Not all theists resonate with her bold claim that God is a person who has emotions, but many allow that at least in some analogical sense God may be see as personal and having affective states.
One other effort worth noting to link judgments of good and evil with judgments about God relies upon the ideal observer theory of ethics. According to this theory, moral judgments can be analyzed in terms of how an ideal observer would judge matters. To say an act is right entails a commitment to holding that if there were an ideal observer, it would approve of the act; to claim an act is wrong entails the thesis that if there were an ideal observer, it would disapprove of it.
The theory receives some support from the fact that most moral disputes can be analyzed in terms of different parties challenging each other to be impartial, to get their empirical facts straight, and to be more sensitive—for example, by realizing what it feels like to be disadvantaged. The theory has formidable critics and defenders. If true, it does not follow that there is an ideal observer, but if it is true and moral judgments are coherent, then the idea of an ideal observer is coherent.
Given certain conceptions of God in the three great monotheistic traditions, God fits the ideal observer description and more besides, of course. Should an ideal observer theory be cogent, a theist would have some reason for claiming that atheists committed to normative, ethical judgments are also committed to the idea of a God or a God-like being.
For a defense of a theistic form of the ideal observer theory, see Taliaferro ; for criticism see Anderson, In some introductory philosophy textbooks and anthologies, the arguments for God's existence are presented as ostensible proofs which are then shown to be fallible. For example, an argument from the apparent order and purposive nature of the cosmos will be criticized on the grounds that, at best, the argument would establish there is a purposive, designing intelligence at work in the cosmos.
This falls far short of establishing that there is a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent, and so on. But two comments need to be made: Second, few philosophers today advance a single argument as a proof. Customarily, a design argument might be advanced alongside an argument from religious experience, and the other arguments to be considered below. True to Hempel's advice cited earlier about comprehensive inquiry, it is increasingly common to see philosophies—scientific naturalism or theism—advanced with cumulative arguments, a whole range of considerations, and not with a supposed knock-down, single proof.
One reason why the case for and against major, comprehensive philosophies are mostly cumulative is because of discontent in what is often called foundationalism. In one classical form of foundationalism, one secures first and foremost a basis of beliefs which one may see to be true with certainty. The base may be cast as indubitable or infallible. One then slowly builds up the justification for one's other, more extensive beliefs about oneself and the world. Many but not all philosophers now see justification as more complex and interwoven; the proper object of philosophical inquiry is overall coherence, not a series of distinguishable building operations beginning with a foundation.
One way of carrying out philosophy of religion along non-foundationalist lines has been to build a case for the comparative rationality of a religious view of the world. It has been argued that the intellectual integrity of a religious world view can be secured if it can be shown to be no less rational than the available alternatives.
It need only achieve intellectual parity. John Hick and others emphasize the integrity of religious ways of seeing the world that are holistic, internally coherent, and open to criticism along various external lines see Hick , On the latter front, if a religious way of conceiving the world is at complete odds with contemporary science, that would count as grounds for revising the religious outlook.
The case for religion need not, however, be scientific or even analogous to science. If Hick is right, religious ways of seeing the world are not incompatible with science, but complementary. Independent of Hick but in the same spirit, Plantinga has proposed that belief in God's existence may be taken as properly basic and fully warranted without having to be justified in relation to standard arguments for God from design, miracles, and so on. Plantinga argues that the tendency to believe in God follows natural tendencies of the human mind. This stance comprises what is commonly referred to as Reformed Epistemology because of its connection to the work of the Reformed theologian John Calvin — who maintained that we have a sense of God sensus divinitatis leading us to see God in the world around us.
Plantinga has thereby couched the question of justification within the larger arena of metaphysics. By advancing an intricate, comprehensive picture of how beliefs can be warranted when they function as God designed them, he has provided what some believe to be a combined metaphysical and epistemic case for the rationality of religious convictions see Beilby ed.
Who has the burden of proof in a debate between a theist and an atheist? Antony Flew thinks it is the theist. By his lights, the theist and atheist can agree on a whole base line of truths such as the findings of the physical sciences. The question then becomes, Why go any further? Flew wields a version of Ockham's razor, arguing that if one has no reason to go further, one has reason not to go further.
As it happens, Flew has subsequently claimed that there are good reasons for going beyond the natural world, and he is currently a theist; see Flew His challenge has been met on various fronts, with some critics claiming that Flew's burden of proof argument is wedded to an outmoded foundationalism, that any burden of proof is shared equally by atheists and theists, or that the theist has an array of arguments to help shoulder a greater burden of proof. The position of fideism is a further option. Fideism is the view that religious belief does not require evidence and that religious faith is self-vindicating.
Karl Barth — advocated a fideistic philosophy. For a critical assessment of fideism, see Moser , chapter 2. Hick and Plantinga need not be considered fideists because of the high role each gives to experience, coherence, and reflection. To sketch some of the main lines of argument in this literature, consider the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments, arguments from the problem of evil, and the argument over the cognitive status of religious experience. There is a host of arguments under this title; all of them are based principally on conceptual, a priori grounds which do not involve a posteriori empirical investigation.
If a version of the argument works, then it can be deployed using only the concept of God and some modal principles of inference, that is, principles concerning possibility and necessity. The argument need not resist all empirical support, however, as I shall indicate. The focus of the argument is the thesis that, if there is a God, then God's existence is necessary.
God's existence is not contingent—God is not the sort of being that just happens to exist. That this is a plausible picture of what is meant by God may be shown by appealing to the way God is conceived in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. This would involve some a posteriori , empirical research into the way God is thought of in these traditions. Alternatively, a defender of the ontological argument might hope to convince others that the concept of God is the concept of a being that exists necessarily by beginning with the idea of a maximally excellent being.
If there were a maximally excellent being what would it be like? It has been argued that among its array of great-making qualities omniscience and omnipotence would be necessary existence. The ontological argument goes back to St. The principle can be illustrated in the case of propositions.
That six is the smallest perfect number that number which is equal to the sum of its divisors including one but not including itself does not seem to be the sort of thing that might just happen to be true. Rather, either it is necessarily true or necessarily false. If the latter, it is not possible, if the former, it is possible. If one knows that it is possible that six is the smallest perfect number then one has good reason to believe that. Do we have reason to think it is possible that God exists necessarily? In support of this, one can also appeal to a posteriori matters, noting the extant religious traditions that uphold such a notion.
The fact that the concept of God as a necessarily existing reality seems to be coherently conceived widely across time and cultures is some evidence that the concept is coherent it is possible there is a God , for God's existence has plausibility, thus can also contribute to believing it is possible God exists.
There is an old philosophical precept that from the fact that something exists, it follows that it is possible ab esse ad posse valet consequentia. A related principle is that evidence that something exists is evidence that it is possible that such a thing exists. There does not appear to be anything amiss in their thinking of God as necessarily existing; if the belief that God exists is incoherent this is not obvious.
Indeed, a number of atheists think God might exist, but conclude God does not. If we are successful in establishing the possibility that God necessarily exists, the conclusion follows that it is necessarily the case that God exists. There have been hundreds of objections and replies to this argument. Perhaps the most ambitious objection is that the argument can be used with one minor alteration to argue that God cannot exist. Assume all the argument above is correct, but also that it is possible that God does not exist.
Atheists can point out that many theists who believe there is a God at least allow for the bare possibility that they could be wrong and there is no God. If it is possible that there is no God, then it would necessarily follow that there is no God. Replies to this objection emphasize the difficulty of conceiving of the non-existence of God. The battle over whether God is necessary or impossible is often fought over the coherence of the various divine attributes discussed in section 3.
If you think these attributes are compossible, involve no contradictions, and violate no known metaphysical truths, then you may well have good grounds for concluding that God is possible and therefore necessary. However, if you see a contradiction, say, in describing a being who is at once omniscient and omnipotent, you may well have good grounds for concluding that God's existence is impossible. Another objection is that it makes no sense to think of a being existing necessarily; propositions may be necessarily true or false, but objects cannot be necessary or contingent.
Some philosophers reply that it makes no less sense to think of an individual God existing necessarily than it does to think of propositions being necessarily true. A further objection is that the ontological argument cannot get off the ground because of the question-begging nature of its premise that if there is a God, then God exists necessarily. Does admitting this premise concede that there is some individual thing such that if it exists, it exists necessarily?
Replies have claimed that the argument only requires one to consider an ostensible state of affairs, without having to concede initially whether the state of affairs is possible or impossible. To consider what is involved in positing the existence of God is no more hazardous than considering what is involved in positing the existence of unicorns. One can entertain the existence of unicorns and their necessary features that necessarily if there were unicorns, there would exist single-horned beasts without believing that there are unicorns.
Finally, consider the objection that, if successful in providing reasons to believe that God exists, the ontological argument could be used to establish the existence of a whole array of other items, like perfect islands. Replies to this sort of objection have typically questioned whether it makes sense to think of an island a physical thing as existing necessarily or as having maximal excellence on a par with God.
Does the imagined island have excellences like omniscience, omnipotence a power which would include the power to make indefinitely many islands , and so on? Classical, alternative versions of the ontological argument are propounded by Anselm, Spinoza, and Descartes, with current versions by Alvin Plantinga, Charles Hartshorne, Norman Malcolm, and C.
Dore; classical critics include Gaunilo and Kant, and current critics are many, including William Rowe, J. The latest book-length treatment of the ontological argument is a vigorous defense: Rethinking the Ontological Argument by Daniel Dombrowski Arguments in this vein are more firmly planted in empirical, a posteriori reflection, but some versions employ a priori reasons as well.
There are various versions. Some argue that the cosmos had an initial cause outside it, a First Cause in time. Others argue that the cosmos has a necessary, sustaining cause from instant to instant. The two versions are not mutually exclusive, for it is possible both that the cosmos had a First Cause and that it currently has a sustaining cause. The cosmological argument relies on the intelligibility of the notion of something which is not itself caused to exist by anything else.
This could be either the all-out necessity of supreme pre-eminence across all possible worlds used in versions of the ontological argument, or a more local, limited notion of a being that is uncaused in the actual world. If successful, the argument would provide reason for thinking there is at least one such being of extraordinary power responsible for the existence of the cosmos. At best, it may not justify a full picture of the God of religion a First Cause would be powerful, but not necessarily omnipotent , but it would nonetheless challenge naturalistic alternatives and bring one closer to theism.
Both versions of the argument ask us to consider the cosmos in its present state.
Philosophy of Religion
Is the world as we know it something that necessarily exists? At least with respect to ourselves, the planet, the solar system and the galaxy, it appears not. With respect to these items in the cosmos, it makes sense to ask why they exist rather than not. In relation to scientific accounts of the natural world, such enquiries into causes make abundant sense and are perhaps even essential presuppositions of the natural sciences. Some proponents of the argument contend that we know a priori that if something exists there is a reason for its existence. So, why does the cosmos exist?
If we explain the contingent existence of the cosmos or states of the cosmos only in terms of other contingent things earlier states of the cosmos, say , then a full cosmic explanation will never be attained. At this point the two versions of the argument divide. Arguments to a First Cause in time contend that a continuous temporal regress from one contingent existence to another would never account for the existence of the cosmos, and they conclude that it is more reasonable to accept there was a First Cause than to accept either a regress or the claim that the cosmos just came into being from nothing.
Arguments to a sustaining cause of the cosmos claim that explanations of why something exists now cannot be adequate without assuming a present, contemporaneous sustaining cause. The arguments have been based on the denial of all actual infinities or on the acceptance of some infinities for instance, the coherence of supposing there to be infinitely many stars combined with the rejection of an infinite regress of explanations solely involving contingent states of affairs.
The latter has been described as a vicious regress as opposed to one that is benign. There are plausible examples of vicious infinite regresses that do not generate explanations: This would not explain how I got the book. Alternatively, imagine a mirror with light reflected in it. Would the presence of light be successfully explained if one claimed that the light was a reflection of light from another mirror, and the light in that mirror came from yet another mirror, and so on to infinity?
Consider a final case. You ask its meaning and are given another word which is unintelligible to you, and so on, forming an infinite regress.
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Would you ever know the meaning of the first term? The force of these cases is to show how similar they are to the regress of contingent explanations. Versions of the argument that reject all actual infinities face the embarrassment of explaining what is to be made of the First Cause, especially since it might have some features that are actually infinite. In reply, Craig and others have contended that they have no objection to potential infinities although the First Cause will never cease to be, it will never become an actual infinity. They further accept that prior to the creation, the First Cause was not in time, a position relying on the theory that time is relational rather than absolute.
The current scientific popularity of the relational view may offer support to defenders of the argument. It has been objected that both versions of the cosmological argument set out an inflated picture of what explanations are reasonable. Why should the cosmos as a whole need an explanation? If everything in the cosmos can be explained, albeit through infinite, regressive accounts, what is left to explain?
One may reply either by denying that infinite regresses actually do satisfactorily explain, or by charging that the failure to seek an explanation for the whole is arbitrary. If there are accounts for things in the cosmos, why not for the whole? The argument is not built on the fallacy of treating every whole as having all the properties of its parts. But if everything in the cosmos is contingent, it seems just as reasonable to believe that the whole cosmos is contingent as it is to believe that if everything in the cosmos were invisible, the cosmos as a whole would be invisible.
Another objection is that rather than explaining the contingent cosmos, the cosmological argument introduces a mysterious entity of which we can make very little philosophical or scientific sense. How can positing at least one First Cause provide a better account of the cosmos than simply concluding that the cosmos lacks an ultimate account? In the end, the theist seems bound to admit that why the First Cause created at all was a contingent matter.
If, on the contrary, the theist has to claim that the First Cause had to do what it did, would not the cosmos be necessary rather than contingent? Some theists come close to concluding that it was indeed essential that God created the cosmos. If God is supremely good, there had to be some overflowing of goodness in the form of a cosmos see Kretzmann and Stump in Morris , on the ideas of Dionysius the Areopagite; see Rowe for arguments that God is not free.
But theists typically reserve some role for the freedom of God and thus seek to retain the idea that the cosmos is contingent. Defenders of the cosmological argument still contend that its account of the cosmos has a comprehensive simplicity lacking in alternative views. God's choices may be contingent, but not God's existence and the Divine choice of creating the cosmos can be understood to be profoundly simple in its supreme, overriding endeavor, namely to create something good.
Swinburne has argued that accounting for natural laws in terms of God's will provides for a simple, overarching framework within which to comprehend the order and purposive character of the cosmos see also Foster At this point we move from the cosmological to the teleological arguments.
4. The Ricardian Law of Association
These arguments focus on characteristics of the cosmos that seem to reflect the design or intentionality of God or, more modestly, of one or more powerful, intelligent God-like agents. Part of the argument may be formulated as providing evidence that the cosmos is the sort of reality that would be produced by an intelligent being, and then arguing that positing this source is more reasonable than agnosticism or denying it. As in the case of the cosmological argument, the defender of the teleological argument may want to claim only to be giving us some reason for thinking there is a God.
Note the way the various arguments might then be brought to bear on each other. If successful, the teleological argument may provide some reason for thinking that the First Cause of the cosmological argument is purposive, while the ontological argument provides some reason for thinking that it makes sense to posit a being that has Divine attributes and necessarily exists. Behind all of them an argument from religious experience may provide some initial reasons to seek further support for a religious conception of the cosmos and to question the adequacy of naturalism.
One version of the teleological argument will depend on the intelligibility of purposive explanation. In our own human case it appears that intentional, purposive explanations are legitimate and can truly account for the nature and occurrence of events. In thinking about an explanation for the ultimate character of the cosmos, is it more likely for the cosmos to be accounted for in terms of a powerful, intelligent agent or in terms of a naturalistic scheme of final laws with no intelligence behind them?
Theists employing the teleological argument will draw attention to the order and stability of the cosmos, the emergence of vegetative and animal life, the existence of consciousness, morality, rational agents and the like, in an effort to identify what might plausibly be seen as purposively explicable features of the cosmos. Naturalistic explanations, whether in biology or physics, are then cast as being comparatively local in application when held up against the broader schema of a theistic metaphysics.
Darwinian accounts of biological evolution will not necessarily assist us in thinking through why there are either any such laws or any organisms to begin with. Arguments supporting and opposing the teleological argument will then resemble arguments about the cosmological argument, with the negative side contending that there is no need to move beyond a naturalistic account, and the positive side aiming to establish that failing to go beyond naturalism is unreasonable.
In assessing the teleological argument, we can begin with the objection from uniqueness. We cannot compare our cosmos with others to determine which have been designed and which have not. If we could, then we might be able to find support for the argument. If we could compare our cosmos with those we knew to be designed and if the comparison were closer than with those we knew not to be designed, then the argument might be plausible.
Without such comparisons, however, the argument fails. Replies to this line of attack have contended that were we to insist that inferences in unique cases were out of order, then we would have to rule out otherwise perfectly respectable scientific accounts of the origin of the cosmos. Besides, while it is not possible to compare the layout of different cosmic histories, it is in principle possible to envisage worlds that seem chaotic, random, or based on laws that cripple the emergence of life.
Now we can envisage an intelligent being creating such worlds, but, through considering their features, we can articulate some marks of purposive design to help us judge whether the cosmos was designed rather than created at random. Some critics appeal to the possibility that the cosmos has an infinite history to bolster and re-introduce the uniqueness objection. Given infinite time and chance, it seems likely that something like our world will come into existence, with all its appearance of design.
If so, why should we take it to be so shocking that our world has its apparent design, and why should explaining the world require positing one or more intelligent designers? Replies repeat the earlier move of insisting that if the objection were to be decisive, then many seemingly respectable accounts would also have to fall by the wayside. It is often conceded that the teleological argument does not demonstrate that one or more designers are required; it seeks rather to establish that positing such purposive intelligence is reasonable and preferable to naturalism.
It is rejected by J. Mackie, Michael Martin, Nicholas Everitt, and others. One feature of the teleological argument currently receiving increased attention focuses on epistemology. It has been contended that if we do rely on our cognitive faculties, it is reasonable to believe that these are not brought about by naturalistic forces—forces that are entirely driven by chance or are the outcome of processes not formed by an overriding intelligence. An illustration may help to understand the argument. Imagine coming across what appears to be a sign reporting some information about your current altitude some rocks in a configuration giving you your current location and precise height above sea-level in meters.
Some theists argue that it would not be reasonable, and that trusting our cognitive faculties requires us to accept that they were formed by an overarching, good, creative agent. This rekindles Descartes' point about relying on the goodness of God to ensure that our cognitive faculties are in good working order.
Objections to this argument center on naturalistic explanations, especially those friendly to evolution. In evolutionary epistemology, one tries to account for the reliability of cognitive faculties in terms of trial and error leading to survival. A rejoinder by theists is that survival alone is not necessarily linked to true beliefs. It could, in principle, be false beliefs that enhance survival. In fact, some atheists think that believing in God has been crucial to people's survival, though the belief is radically false.
Martin and Mackie, among others, object to the epistemic teleological argument; Plantinga, Richard Creel and Richard Taylor defend it. Two recent developments in teleological argumentation have involved the intelligent design hypothesis and fine tuning arguments. The first is an argument that there are orders of biological complexity emerging in evolution that are highly unlikely if accounted for by random mutation and natural selection or any other means in the absence of a purposive, intentional force Behe Debate on the intelligent design ID proposal includes questions of whether it is properly scientific, about the biochemistry involved, and whether if the ID hypothesis is superior to non-ID accounts the ID hypothesis can inform us about the nature of the intelligent, designing forces.
While the ID hypothesis has been defended as an allegedly scientific account—it is not based on an appeal to Genesis as Creationism is —many scientists argue that ID is not a scientific theory because it is neither testable nor falsifiable. Some also argue that ID goes beyond the available evidence and that it systematically underestimates the ability of non-intelligent, natural causes plus chance to account for the relevant biological complexity. Critics like Kenneth Miller contend that Behe does not take into sufficient account the adaptive value of very minor changes in evolution such as the sensitivity to light found in algae and bacteria that gradually lead to complex organs such as the eye Miller Fine tuning arguments contend that the existence of our cosmos with its suns, planets, life, et al.
Even minor changes to the nuclear weak force would not have allowed for stars, nor would stars have endured if the ratio of electromagnetism to gravity had been different. A more sustained objection against virtually all versions of the teleological argument takes issue with the assumption that the cosmos is good or that it is the sort of thing that would be brought about by an intelligent, completely benevolent being.
This leads us directly to the next central concern of the philosophy of God. If there is a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and completely good, why is there evil? The problem of evil is the most widely considered objection to theism in both western and eastern philosophy. There are two general versions of the problem: The deductive problem is currently less commonly debated because it is widely acknowledged that a thoroughly good being might allow or inflict some harm under certain morally compelling conditions such as causing a child pain when removing a splinter.
More intense debate concerns the likelihood or even possibility that there is a completely good God given the vast amount of evil in the cosmos. Why should there be so much gratuitous, apparently pointless evil? In the face of the problem of evil, some philosophers and theologians deny that God is all-powerful and all-knowing. John Stuart Mill took this line, and panentheist theologians today also question the traditional treatments of Divine power.
According to panentheism, God is immanent in the world, suffering with the oppressed and working to bring good out of evil, although in spite of God's efforts, evil will invariably mar the created order. Another response is to think of God as being very different from a moral agent. Brian Davies and others have contended that what it means for God to be good is different from what it means for an agent to be morally good Davies A more desperate strategy is to deny the existence of evil, but it is difficult to reconcile traditional monotheism with moral skepticism.
Also, insofar as we believe there to be a God worthy of worship and a fitting object of human love, the appeal to moral skepticism will carry little weight. The idea that evil is a privation or twisting of the good may have some currency in thinking through the problem of evil, but it is difficult to see how it alone could go very far to vindicate belief in God's goodness. Searing pain and endless suffering seem altogether real even if they are analyzed as being philosophically parasitic on something valuable.
The three great monotheistic traditions, with their ample insistence on the reality of evil, offer little reason to try to defuse the problem of evil by this route. Indeed, classical Judaism, Christianity and Islam are so committed to the existence of evil that a reason to reject evil would be a reason to reject these religious traditions. What would be the point of the Judaic teaching about the Exodus God liberating the people of Israel from slavery , or the Christian teaching about the incarnation Christ revealing God as love and releasing a Divine power that will, in the end, conquer death , or the Islamic teaching of Mohammed the holy prophet of Allah who is all-just and all-merciful if slavery, hate, death, and injustice did not exist?
In part, the magnitude of the difficulty one takes the problem of evil to pose for theism will depend upon one's commitments in other areas of philosophy, especially ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. If in ethics you hold that there should be no preventable suffering for any reason, regardless of the cause or consequence, then the problem of evil will conflict with your acceptance of traditional theism. Debate has largely centered on the legitimacy of adopting some middle position: Could there be reasons why God would permit cosmic ills?
If we do not know what those reasons might be, are we in a position to conclude that there are none or that there could not be any? Exploring different possibilities will be shaped by one's metaphysics. For example, if you do not believe there is free will, then you will not be moved by any appeal to the positive value of free will and its role in bringing about good as offsetting its role in bringing about evil. Theistic responses to the problem of evil distinguish between a defense and a theodicy.
A defense seeks to establish that rational belief that God exists is still possible when the defense is employed against the logical version of the problem of evil and that the existence of evil does not make it improbable that God exists when used against the probabilistic version. Some have adopted the defense strategy while arguing that we are in a position to have rational belief in the existence of evil and in a completely good God who hates this evil, even though we may be unable to see how these two beliefs are compatible.
A theodicy is more ambitious and is typically part of a broader project, arguing that it is reasonable to believe that God exists on the basis of the good as well as the evident evil of the cosmos. In a theodicy, the project is not to account for each and every evil, but to provide an overarching framework within which to understand at least roughly how the evil that occurs is part of some overall good—for instance, the overcoming of evil is itself a great good.
In practice, a defense and a theodicy often appeal to similar factors, the first and foremost being what many call the Greater Good Defense. In the Greater Good Defense, it is contended that evil can be understood as either a necessary accompaniment to bringing about greater goods or an integral part of these goods. Thus, in a version often called the Free Will Defense, it is proposed that free creatures who are able to care for each other and whose welfare depends on each other's freely chosen action constitute a good. For this good to be realized, it is argued, there must be the bona fide possibility of persons harming each other.
The free will defense is sometimes used narrowly only to cover evil that occurs as a result, direct or indirect, of human action. But it has been speculatively extended by those proposing a defense rather than a theodicy to cover other evils which might be brought about by supernatural agents other than God. According to the Greater Good case, evil provides an opportunity to realize great values, such as the virtues of courage and the pursuit of justice.
Reichenbach , Tennant , Swinburne , and van Inwagen have also underscored the good of a stable world of natural laws in which animals and humans learn about the cosmos and develop autonomously, independent of the certainty that God exists. Some atheists accord value to the good of living in a world without God, and these views have been used by theists to back up the claim that God might have had reason to create a cosmos in which Divine existence is not overwhelmingly obvious to us. If God's existence were overwhelmingly obvious, then motivations to virtue might be clouded by self-interest and by the bare fear of offending an omnipotent being.
Further, there may even be some good to acting virtuously even if circumstances guarantee a tragic outcome. John Hick so argued and has developed what he construes to be an Irenaean approach to the problem of evil named after St. Irenaeus of the second century. On this approach, it is deemed good that humanity develops the life of virtue gradually, evolving to a life of grace, maturity, and love. This contrasts with a theodicy associated with St. Augustine, according to which God made us perfect and then allowed us to fall into perdition, only to be redeemed later by Christ.
Hick thinks the Augustinian model fails whereas the Irenaean one is credible. Some have based an argument from the problem of evil on the charge that this is not the best possible world. If there were a supreme, maximally excellent God, surely God would bring about the best possible creation. Because this is not the best possible creation, there is no supreme, maximally excellent God. Following Adams , many now reply that the whole notion of a best possible world, like the highest possible number, is incoherent. For any world that can be imagined with such and such happiness, goodness, virtue and so on, a higher one can be imagined.
If the notion of a best possible world is incoherent, would this count against belief that there could be a supreme, maximally excellent being?
Causal Determinism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
It has been argued on the contrary that Divine excellences admit of upper limits or maxima that are not quantifiable in a serial fashion for example, Divine omnipotence involves being able to do anything logically or metaphysically possible, but does not require actually doing the greatest number of acts or a series of acts of which there can be no more. Those concerned with the problem of evil clash over the question of how one assesses the likelihood of Divine existence.
Someone who reports seeing no point to the existence of evil or no justification for God to allow it seems to imply that if there were a point they would see it. Note the difference between seeing no point and not seeing a point. In the cosmic case, is it clear that if there were a reason justifying the existence of evil, we would see it? William Rowe thinks some plausible understanding of God's justificatory reason for allowing the evil should be detectable, but that there are cases of evil that are altogether gratuitous.
Defenders like William Hasker and Stephen Wykstra reply that these cases are not decisive counter-examples to the claim that there is a good God. These philosophers hold that we can recognize evil and grasp our duty to do all in our power to prevent or alleviate it. But we should not take our failure to see what reason God might have for allowing evil to count as grounds for thinking that there is no reason. This later move has led to a position commonly called skeptical theism.
Michael Bergmann, Michael Rea, and others have argued that we have good reason to be skeptical about whether we can assess whether ostensibly gratuitous evils may or may not be permitted by an all good God Bergmann ; Bergmann and Rea ; for criticism see Almeida and Oppy Some portraits of an afterlife seem to have little bearing on our response to the magnitude of evil here and now.
Does it help to understand why God allows evil if all victims will receive happiness later? But it is difficult to treat the possibility of an afterlife as entirely irrelevant. Is death the annihilation of persons or an event involving a transfiguration to a higher state? If you do not think that it matters whether persons continue to exist after death, then such speculation is of little consequence.
But suppose that the afterlife is understood as being morally intertwined with this life, with opportunity for moral and spiritual reformation, transfiguration of the wicked, rejuvenation and occasions for new life, perhaps even reconciliation and communion between oppressors seeking forgiveness and their victims.
Then these considerations might help to defend against arguments based on the existence of evil. Insofar as one cannot rule out the possibility of an afterlife morally tied to our life, one cannot rule out the possibility that God brings some good out of cosmic ills. The most recent work on the afterlife in philosophy of religion has focused on the compatibility of an individual afterlife with some forms of physicalism. Arguably, a dualist treatment of human persons is more promising. If you are not metaphysically identical with your body, then perhaps the annihilation of your body is not the annihilation of you.
Today, a range of philosophers have argued that even if physicalism is true, an afterlife is still possible Peter van Inwagen, Lynne Baker, Trenton Merricks, Kevin Cocoran. The import of this work for the problem of evil is that the possible redemptive value of an afterlife should not be ruled out without argument if one assumes physicalism to be true. For an extraordinary, rich resource on the relevant literature, see The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology , ed. Perhaps the justification most widely offered for religious belief concerns the occurrence of religious experience or the cumulative weight of testimony of those claiming to have had religious experiences.
Putting the latter case in theistic terms, the argument appeals to the fact that many people have testified that they have felt God's presence. Does such testimony provide evidence that God exists? That it is not or that its evidential force is trivial is argued by Michael Martin, J.
In an effort to stimulate further investigation, I shall briefly sketch some of the moves and countermoves in the debate. Religious experience cannot be experience of God for experience is only sensory and if God is non-physical, God cannot be sensed. The thesis that experience is only sensory can be challenged. Testimony to have experienced God is only testimony that one thinks one has experienced God; it is only testimony of a conviction, not evidence. The literature on religious experience testifies to the existence of experience of some Divine being on the basis of which the subject comes to think the experience is of God.
If read charitably, the testimony is not testimony to a conviction, but to experiences that form the grounds for the conviction. See Bagger for a vigorous articulation of this objection, and note the reply by Kai-man Kwam Because religious experience is unique, how could one ever determine whether it is reliable? We simply lack the ability to examine the object of religious experience in order to test whether the reported experiences are indeed reliable.
As we learned from Descartes, all our experiences of external objects face a problem of uniqueness. It is possible in principle that all our senses are mistaken and we do not have the public, embodied life we think we lead.