Philosophy of religion - Wikipedia
If there is a God who is always open to personal relationship with each human . Thus even though in philosophy of religion the problem of divine hiddenness. The key philosophical issue regarding the problem of faith and reason is to work . There is no relation between the evils of human life and a divine guidance of. Soul: Soul, in religion and philosophy, the immaterial aspect or essence of a the soul is further defined as that part of the individual which partakes of divinity and. developed a variety of theories as to its nature, its relationship to the body, .
Reason is often very foolish: But by its reflections on the nature of words and our use of language, it can help us to grasp our own spiritual impotence. Luther thus rejected the doctrine of analogy, developed by Aquinas and others, as an example of the false power of reason. In his Heidelberg Disputation Luther claims that a theologian must look only "on the visible rearward parts of God as seen in suffering and the cross. Thus faith is primarily an act of trust in God's grace.
Luther thus stresses the gratuitousness of salvation. In a traditional sense, Roman Catholics generally held that faith is meritorious, and thus that salvation involves good works. Protestant reformers like Luther, on the other hand, held that indeed faith is pure gift. He thus tended to make the hitherto Catholic emphasis on works look voluntaristic. Like Luther, John Calvin appealed to the radical necessity of grace for salvation.
This was embodied in his doctrine of election. But unlike Luther, Calvin gave a more measured response to the power of human reason to illuminate faith. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, he argued that the human mind possesses, by natural instinct, an "awareness of divinity.
Even idolatry can contain as aspect of this. So religion is not merely arbitrary superstition. And yet, the law of creation makes necessary that we direct every thought and action to this goal of knowing God. Despite this fundamental divine orientation, Calvin denied that a believer could build up a firm faith in Scripture through argument and disputation.
He appealed instead to the testimony of Spirit embodied gained through a life of religious piety. Only through this testimony is certainty about one's beliefs obtained.
We attain a conviction without reasons, but only through "nothing other than what each believer experiences within himself--though my words fall far beneath a just explanation of the matter. Calvin is thus an incompatibilist of the transrational type: But he expanded the power of reason to grasp firmly the preambles of faith. In his Meditations, he claimed to have provided what amounted to be the most certain proofs of God possible.
God becomes explicated by means of the foundation of subjective self-certainty. His proofs hinged upon his conviction that God cannot be a deceiver. Little room is left for faith. Descartes's thinking prepared Gottfried Leibniz to develop his doctrine of sufficient reason. Leibniz first argued that all truths are reducible to identities. From this it follows that a complete or perfect concept of an individual substance involves all its predicates, whether past, present, or future.
From this he constructed his principle of sufficient reason: He uses this not only to provide a rigorous cosmological proof for God's existence from the fact of motion, but also to defend the cogency of both the ontological argument and the argument from design. In his Theodicy Leibniz responded to Pierre Bayle, a French philosophe, who gave a skeptical critique of rationalism and support of fideism.
First, Leibniz held that all truths are complementary, and cannot be mutually inconsistent. He argued that there are two general types of truth: God can dispense only with the latter laws, such as the law of our mortality. A doctrine of faith can never violate something of the first type; but it can be in tension with truths of the second sort. Thus though no article of faith can be self-contradictory, reason may not be able to fully comprehend it.
Mysteries, such as that of the Trinity, are simply "above reason. We must weigh these decisions by taking into account the existence and nature of God and the universal harmony by which the world is providentially created and ordered.
Leibniz insisted that one must respect the differences among the three distinct functions of reason: However, one sees vestiges of the first two as well, since an inquiry into truths of faith employs proofs of the infinite whose strength or weakness the reasoner can comprehend. Baruch Spinozaa Dutch philosopher, brought a distinctly Jewish perspective to his rigorously rationalistic analysis of faith.
Noticing that religious persons showed no particular penchant to virtuous life, he decided to read the Scriptures afresh without any presuppositions.
He found that Old Testament prophecy, for example, concerned not speculative but primarily practical matters. Obedience to God was one. He took this to entail that whatever remains effective in religion applies only to moral matters.
He then claimed that the Scriptures do not conflict with natural reason, leaving it free reign. No revelation is needed for morality. Moreover, he was led to claim that though the various religions have very different doctrines, they are very similar to one another in their moral pronouncements. Instead he focused on the way that we should act given this ambiguity. He argued that since the negative consequences of believing are few diminution of the passions, some pious actions but the gain of believing is infinite eternal lifeit is more rational to believe than to disbelieve in God's existence.
This assumes, of course, both that God would not grant eternal life to a non-believer and that sincerity in one's belief in God is not a requirement for salvation. As such, Pascal introduced an original form of rational voluntarism into the analysis of faith. Empiricism John Locke lived at a time when the traditional medieval view of a unified body of articulate wisdom no longer seemed plausible. Yet he still held to the basic medieval idea that faith is assent to specific propositions on the basis of God's authority.
Yet unlike Aquinas, he argued that faith is not a state between knowledge and opinion, but a form of opinion doxa. But he developed a kind of apology for Christianity: His aim was to demonstrate the "reasonableness of Christianity. Faith cannot convince us of what contradicts, or is contrary, to our knowledge. We cannot assent to a revealed proposition if it be contradictory to our clear intuitive knowledge. But propositions of faith are, nonetheless, understood to be "above reason.
The truth of original revelation cannot be contrary to reason. But traditional revelation is even more dependent on reason, since if an original revelation is to be communicated, it cannot be understood unless those who receive it have already received a correlate idea through sensation or reflection and understood the empirical signs through which it is communicated.
For Locke, reason justifies beliefs, and assigns them varying degrees of probability based on the power of the evidence. But faith requires the even less certain evidence of the testimony of others.
In the final analysis, faith's assent is made not by a deduction from reason, but by the "credit of the proposer, as coming from God, in some extraordinary way of communication. Locke also developed a version of natural theology. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding he claims that the complex ideas we have of God are made of up ideas of reflection.
For example, we take the ideas of existence, duration, pleasure, happiness, knowledge, and power and "enlarge every one of these with our idea of Infinity; and so putting them together, make our complex idea of God.
David Humelike Locke, rejected rationalism, but developed a more radical kind of empiricism than Locke had. He argued that concrete experience is "our only guide in reasoning concerning matters of fact. He supported this conclusion on two grounds. First, natural theology requires certain inferences from everyday experience.
A comparative-philosophical perspective on divine hiddenness in the Hebrew Bible
The argument from design infers that we can infer a single designer from our experience of the world. Though Hume agrees that we have experiences of the world as an artifact, he claims that we cannot make any probable inference from this fact to quality, power, or number of the artisans. Second, Hume argues that miracles are not only often unreliable grounds as evidence for belief, but in fact are apriori impossible.
A miracle by definition is a transgression of a law of nature, and yet by their very nature these laws admit of no exceptions. Thus we cannot even call it a law of nature that has been violated. He concludes that reason and experience fail to establish divine infinity, God's moral attributes, or any specification of the ongoing relationship between the Deity and man.
But rather than concluding that his stance towards religious beliefs was one of atheism or even a mere Deism, Hume argued that he was a genuine Theist. He believed that we have a genuine natural sentiment by which we long for heaven. The one who is aware of the inability of reason to affirm these truths in fact is the person who can grasp revealed truth with the greatest avidity.
German Idealism Immanuel Kant was heavily influenced by Descartes's anthropomorphism and Spinoza 's and Jean Jacques Rousseau 's restriction of the scope of religion to ethical matters. Moreover, he wanted a view that was consistent with Newton's discoveries about the strict natural laws that govern the empirical world.
To accomplish this, he steered the scope of reason away from metaphysical, natural, and religious speculation altogether. Kant's claim that theoretical reason was unable to grasp truths about God effectively continued the contraction of the authority of scienta in matters of faith that had been occurring since the late medieval period.
He rejected, then, the timeless and spaceless God of revelation characteristic of the Augustinian tradition as beyond human ken. This is most evident in his critique of the cosmological proof for the existence of God in The Critique of Pure Reason. This move left Kant immune from the threat of unresolvable paradoxes. Nonetheless he did allow the concept of God as well as the ideas of immortality and the soul to become not a constitutive but a regulative ideal of reason.
God's existence remains a necessary postulate specifically for the moral law. God functions as the sources for the summum bonum. Only God can guarantee an ideal conformity of virtue and happiness, which is required to fulfill the principle that "ought implies can. Rational faith involves reliance neither upon God's word nor the person of Christ, but only upon the recognition of God as the source of how we subjectively realize our duties.
God is cause of our moral purposes as rational beings in nature. Yet faith is "free belief": Like Spinoza, Kant makes all theology moral theology. Since faith transcends the world of experience, it is neither doubtful nor merely probable. Thus Kant's view of faith is complex: He provided a religion grounded without revelation or grace.
It ushered in new immanentism in rational views of belief. Hegel, at the peak of German Idealismtook up Kant's immanentism but moved it in a more radical direction. He claimed that in Kant, "philosophy has made itself the handmaid of a faith once more" though one not externally imposed but autonomously constituted. Hegel approved of the way Kant helped to modify the Enlightenment's dogmatic emphasis on the empirical world, particularly as evidenced in the way Locke turned philosophy into empirical psychology.
But though Kant held to an "idealism of the finite," Hegel thought that Kant did not extend his idealism far enough. Kant's regulative view of reason was doomed to regard faith and knowledge as irrevocably opposed. Hegel argued that a further development of idealism shows have faith and knowledge are related and synthesized in the Absolute. Hegel reinterpreted the traditional proofs for God's existence, rejected by Kant, as authentic expressions of the need of finite spirit to elevate itself to oneness with God.
In religion this attempt to identify with God is accomplished through feeling. Feelings are, however, subject to conflict and opposition. But they are not merely subjective. The content of God enters feeling such that the feeling derives its determination from this content.
Thus faith, implanted in one's heart, can be defended by the testimony of the indwelling spirit of truth. Hegel's thoroughgoing rationalism ultimate yields a form of panentheism in which all finite beings, though distinct from natural necessity, have no existence independent from it. Thus faith is merely an expression of a finitude comprehensible only from the rational perspective of the infinite.
Faith is merely a moment in our transition to absolute knowledge. The Nineteenth Century Physics and astronomy were the primary scientific concerns for theologians in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the sciences of geology, sociology, psychology, and biology became more pronounced. Kant's understanding of God as a postulate of practical reason - and his dismissal of metaphysical and empirical support for religion -- soon led to the idea that God could be a mere projection of practical feeling or psychological impulse.
Such an idea echoed Hobbes's claim that religion arises from fear and superstition. Sigmund Freud claimed, for example, that religious beliefs were the result of the projection of a protective father figure onto our life situations. Although such claims about projection seem immune from falsification, the Freudian could count such an attempt to falsify itself simply as rationalization: The nineteenth century biological development most significant for theology was Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.
It explained all human development on the basis simply of progressive adaptation or organisms to their physical environment. No reference to a mind or rational will was required to explain any human endeavor. Darwin himself once had believed in God and the immortality of the soul.
But later he found that these could not count as evidence for the existence of God. He ended up an agnostic. On the one hand he felt compelled to affirm a First Cause of such an immense and wonderful universe and to reject blind chance or necessity, but on the other hand he remained skeptical of the capacities of humans "developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals.
Not all nineteenth century scientific thinking, however, yielded skeptical conclusions. He concluded that the cultic practices of religion have the non-illusory quality of producing measurable good consequences in their adherents.
Moreover, he theorized that the fundamental categories of thought, and even of science, have religious origins. Almost all the great social institutions were born of religion.
He was lead to claim that "the idea of society is the soul of religion": In the context of these various scientific developments, philosophical arguments about faith and reason developed in several remarkable directions in the nineteenth century. Romanticism Friedrich Schleiermacher was a liberal theologian who was quite interested in problems of biblical interpretation.
He claimed that religion constituted its own sphere of experience, unrelated to scientific knowledge. Thus religious meaning is independent of scientific fact.
His Romantic fideism would have a profound influence on Kierkegaard. Socialism Karl Marx is well known as an atheist who had strong criticisms of all religious practice.
Much of his critique of religion had been derived from Ludwig Feuerbach, who claimed that God is merely a psychological projection meant to compensate for the suffering people feel. Rejecting wholesale the validity of such wishful thinking, Marx claimed not only that all sufferings are the result of economic class struggle but that they could be alleviated by means of a Communist revolution that would eliminate economic classes altogether.
Moreover, Marx claimed that religion was a fundamental obstacle to such a revolution, since it was an "opiate" that kept the masses quiescent. Religious beliefs thus arise from a cognitive malfunction: He came up with an unequivocal view of faith and reason much like Tertullian's strong incompatibilism. If Kant argued for religion within the limits of reason alone, Kierkegaard called for reason with the limits of religion alone.
Faith requires a leap. All arguments that reason derives for a proof of God are in fact viciously circular: Hegel tried to claim that faith could be elevated to the status of objective certainty. Seeking such certainly, moreover, Kierkegaard considered a trap: The radical trust of faith is the highest virtue one can reach. Kierkegaard claimed that all essential knowledge intrinsically relates to an existing individual.
The aesthetic is the life that seeks pleasure. The ethical is that which stresses the fulfillment of duties. Neither of these attains to the true individuality of human existence.
But in the ethico-religious sphere, truth emerges in the authenticity of the relationship between a person and the object of his attention. With authenticity, the importance is on the "how," not the "what," of knowledge. It attains to a subjective truth, in which the sincerity and intensity of the commitment is key. This authenticity is equivalent to faith understood as "an objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness. Kierkegaard makes a similarly paradoxical claim in holding that "nothing historical can become infinitely certain for me except the fact of my own existence which again cannot become infinitely certain for any other individual, who has infinite certainty only of his own existence and this is not something historical.
Faith involves a submission of the intellect. It is not only hostile to but also completely beyond the grasp of reason. Though he never read Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche came up with remarkable parallels to his thought.
Both stressed the centrality of the individual, a certain disdain for public life, and a hatred of personal weakness and anonymity. They also both attacked certain hypocrisies in Christendom and the overstated praise for reason in Kant and Hegel.PHILOSOPHY - Religion: Reason And Faith [HD]
But Nietzsche had no part of Kierkegaard's new Christian individual, and instead defended the aesthetic life disdained by Kierkegaard against both morality and Christianity. So he critique religion not from Kierkegaard's epistemological perspective, but from a highly original moral perspective.
Nietzsche claimed that religion breeds hostility to life, understood broadly as will to power. Religion produces two types of character: In The Joyful Wisdom Nietzsche proclaims that God as a protector of the weak, though once alive, is now dead, and that we have rightly killed him. Now, instead, he claims that we instead need to grasp the will to power that is part of all things and guides them to their full development completely within the natural world.
For humans Nietzsche casts the will to power as a force of artistic and creative energy. Catholic Apologists Roman Catholics traditionally claimed that the task of reason was to make faith intelligible. In the later part of the nineteenth century, John Cardinal Newman worked to defend the power of reason against those intellectuals of his day who challenged its efficacy in matters of faith.
Though maintaining the importance of reason in matters of faith, he reduces its ability to arrive at absolute certainties. In his Grammar of Assent, Newman argued that one assents to God on the basis of one's experience and principles. And one can do this by means of a kind of rational demonstration.
And yet this demonstration is not actually reproducible by others; each of us has a unique domain of experience and expertise. Some are just given the capacity and opportunities to make this assent to what is demonstrated others are not.
Drawing for Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Newman argues that "a special preparation of mind is required for each separate department of inquiry and discussion.
He claims that Locke, for example, overlooked how human nature actually works, imposing instead his own idea of how the mind is to act on the basis of deduction from evidence. If Locke would have looked more closely at experience, he would have noticed that much of our reasoning is tacit and informal.
It cannot usually be reconstructed for a set of premises. Rather it is the accumulation of probabilities, independent of each other, arising out of the circumstances of the particular case.
No specific consideration usually suffices to generate the required conclusion, but taken together, they may converge upon it. This is usually what is called a moral proof for belief in a proposition. In fact, we are justified in holding the beliefs even after we have forgotten what the warrant was. This probabilistic approach to religious assent continued in the later thinking of Basil Mitchell.
Pragmatists held that all beliefs must be tested, and those that failed to garner sufficient practical value ought to be discarded. In his Will to Believe, James was a strong critic of W.
Clifford, like Hume, had argued that acting on beliefs or convictions alone, unsupported by evidence, was pure folly. He likened such acting to that of an irresponsible shipowner who allows an untrustworthy ship to be ready to set sail, merely thinking it safe, and then gives "benevolent wishes" for those who would set sail in it. Clifford concluded that we have a duty to act only on well founded beliefs.
If we have no grounds for belief, we must suspend judgment. This provided the basis for an ethics of belief quite different than Newman's. Clifford's evidentialism inspired subsequent philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Michael Scriven. James argued, pace Clifford, that life would be severely impoverished if we acted only on completely well founded beliefs. Like Newman, James held that belief admits of a wide spectrum of commitment: The feelings that attach to a belief are significant.
He defended the need we have, at times, to allow our "passional tendencies" to influence our judgments. Thus, like Pascal, he took up a voluntarist argument for religious belief, though one not dependent solely upon a wager. There are times, admittedly few, when we must act on our beliefs passionately held but without sufficient supporting evidence. These rare situations must be both momentous, once in a lifetime opportunities, and forced, such that the situation offers the agent only two options: Religious beliefs often take on both of these characteristics.
Pascal had realized the forced aspect of Christian belief, regarding salvation: God would not save the disbeliever. As a result, religion James claimed that a religious belief could be a genuine hypothesis for a person to adopt.
James does, however, also give some evidential support for this choice to believe. We have faith in many things in life -- in molecules, conversation of energy, democracy, and so forth -- that are based on evidence of their usefulness for us.
But even in these cases "Our faith is faith in some one else's faith. Nonetheless, James believed that while philosophers like Descartes and Clifford, not wanting to ever be dupes, focused primarily on the need to avoid error, even to the point of letting truth take its chance, he as an empiricist must hold that the pursuit of truth is paramount and the avoidance of error is secondary.
His position entailed that that dupery in the face of hope is better than dupery in the face of fear. In "The Sentiment of Rationality" James concludes that faith is "belief in something concerning which doubt is still theoretically possible; and as the test of belief is willingness to act, one may say that faith is the readiness to act in a cause the prosperous issue of which is not certified to us in advance.
Faith is oriented towards action: The Twentieth Century Darwins's scientific thesis of natural selection and Freud's projective views of God continued to have a profound impact on many aspects of the philosophy of religion in the twentieth century. In fact the interplay between faith and reason began to be cast, in many cases, simply as the conflict between science and religion.
Not all scientific discoveries were used to invoke greater skepticism about the validity of religious claims, however. For example, in the late twentieth century some physicists endorsed what came to be called the anthropic principle. The principle derives from the claim of some physicists that a number of factors in the early universe had to coordinate in a highly statistically improbable way to produce a universe capable of sustaining advanced life forms.
Among the factors are the mass of the universe and the strengths of the four basic forces electromagnetism, gravitation, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. It is difficult to explain this fine tuning.
Many who adhere to the anthropic principle, such as Holmes Rolston, John Leslie, and Stephen Hawking, argue that it demands some kind of extra-natural explanation. Some think it suggests possibilities for a new design argument for God's existence. However, one can hold the anthropic principle and still deny that it has religious implications. It is possible to argue that it indicates not a single creator creating a single universe, but indeed many universes, either contemporaneous with our own or in succession to it.
The twentieth century witnessed numerous attempts to reconcile religious belief with new strands of philosophical thinking and with new theories in science. Logical Positivism and Its Critics Many philosophers of religion in the twentieth century took up a new appreciation for the scope and power of religious language.
This was prompted to a large extent by the emphasis on conceptual clarity that dominated much Western philosophy, particularly early in the century.
This emphasis on conceptual clarity was evidenced especially in logical positivism. Ayer and Antony Flew, for example, argued that all metaphysical language fails to meet a standard of logical coherence and is thus meaningless.
Metaphysical claims are not in principle falsifiable. As such, their claims are neither true nor false. They make no verifiable reference to the world. Religious language shares these characteristics with metaphysical language. Flew emphasized that religious believers generally cannot even state the conditions under which they would give up their faith claims. Since their claims then are unfalsifiable, they are not objects for rational determination.
One response by compatibilists to these arguments of logical positivists was to claim that religious beliefs, though meaningless in the verificational sense, are nonetheless important in providing the believer with moral motivations and self-understanding.
This is an anti-realist understanding of faith. An example of this approach is found in R. Responding to Flew, he admitted that religious faith consists of a set of unfalsifiable assumptions, which he termed "bliks. Basil Mitchell responded to Flew's claim that religious beliefs cannot be falsified. Mitchell argued that although rational and scientific considerations can and ought at times to prompt revisions of one's religious belief, no one can give a general determination of exactly at what point a set of evidence ought to count decisively against a faith claim.
It is up to each believer to decide when this occurs. To underscore this claim, Mitchell claimed that the rationality of religious beliefs ought to be determined not foundationally, as deductions from rational first principles, but collectively from the gathering of various types of evidence into a pattern.
Nonetheless, he realized that this accumulation of evidence, as the basis for a new kind of natural theology, might not be strong enough to counter the skeptic.
In the spirit of Newman, Mitchell concluded by defending a highly refined cumulative probabilism in religious belief. Another reaction against logical positivism stemmed from Ludwig Wittgenstein. In his "Lectures on Religious Belief," he argued that there is something unique about the linguistic framework of religious believers. Their language makes little sense to outsiders. Thus one has to share in their form of life in order to understand the way the various concepts function in their language games.
The various language games form a kind of "family resemblance. From Wittgenstein's perspective, science and religion are just two different types of language games. This demand to take on an internal perspective in order to assess religious beliefs commits Wittgenstein to a form of incompatibilism between faith and reason.
Interpreters of Wittgenstein, like Norman Malcolm, claimed that although this entails that religious beliefs are essentially groundless, so are countless other everyday beliefs, such as in the permanence of our objects of perception, in the uniformity of nature, and even in our knowledge of our own intentions. Wittgenstein, like Kierkegaard, claimed that proofs for God's existence have little to do with actual belief in God.
He did think that life itself could "educate" us about God's existence. In Culture and Value he claims that sufferings can have a great impact on one's beliefs. Experiences, thoughts--life can force this concept on us. Phillips also holds the view that religion has its own unique criteria for acceptable belief.
John Hickin Faith and Knowledge, modifies the Wittgensteinian idea of forms of life to analyze faith claims in a novel manner. Hick claimed that this could shed light upon the epistemological fides analysis of faith. From such an analysis follows the non-epistemological thinking fiducia that guides actual practice.
Taking up the epistemological analysis, Hick first criticizes the voluntarisms of Pascal and James as "remote from the state of mind of such men as the great prophets. Hick argues instead for the importance of rational certainty in faith.
He posits that there are as many types of grounds for rational certainty as there are kinds of objects of knowledge. He claims that religious beliefs share several crucial features with any empirical claim: Nonetheless, Hick realizes that there are important ways in which sense beliefs and religious beliefs are distinct: In fact, it may in fact be rational for a person who has not had experiences that compel belief to withhold belief in God.
From these similarities and differences between faith claims and claims of reason, Hick concludes that religious faith is the noninferential and unprovable basic interpretation either of a moral or religious "situational significance" in human experience. Faith is not the result of logical reasoning, but rather a profession that God "as a living being" has entered into the believer's experience.
This act of faith situates itself in the person's material and social environment. Religious faith interprets reality in terms of the divine presence within the believer's human experience. Although the person of faith may be unable to prove or explain this divine presence, his or her religious belief still acquire the status of knowledge similar to that of scientific and moral claims. Thus even if one could prove God's existence, this fact alone would be a form of knowledge neither necessary nor sufficient for one's faith.
It would at best only force a notional assent. Believers live by not by confirmed hypotheses, but by an intense, coercive, indubitable experience of the divine. Sallie McFague, in Models of God, argues that religious thinking requires a rethinking of the ways in which religious language employs metaphor.
Religious language is for the most part neither propositional nor assertoric. Rather, it functions not to render strict definitions, but to give accounts. To say, for example, "God is mother," is neither to define God as a mother nor to assert an identity between them, but rather to suggest that we consider what we do not know how to talk about--relating to God - through the metaphor of a mother. Moreover, no single metaphor can function as the sole way of expressing any aspect of a religious belief.
Philosophical Theology Many Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians in the twentieth century responded to the criticisms of religious belief, leveled by atheistic existentialists, naturalistsand linguistic positivists, by forging a new understanding of Christian revelation.
Karl Barth, a Reformed Protestant, provided a startlingly new model of the relation between faith and reason. He rejected Schleiermacher's view that the actualization of one's religious motivation leads to some sort of established union between man and God.
Barth argued instead that revelation is aimed at a believer who must receive it before it is a revelation. This means that one cannot understand a revelation without already, in a sense, believing it. God's revelation of Himself, His very communication of that self, is not distinct from Himself. Moreover, Barth claimed that God's revelation has its reality and truth wholly and in every respect, both ontically and noetically, within itself.
Revelation cannot be made true by anything else. The fullness of the "original self-existent being of God's Word" reposes and lives in revelation. This renders the belief in an important way immune from both critical rational scrutiny and the reach of arguments from analogy. Barth held, however, that relative to the believer, God remains "totally other" totaliter aliter. Our selfhood stands in contradiction to the divine nature. Religion is, in fact, "unbelief": This was a consistent conclusion of his dialectical method: Barth was thus an incompatibilist who held that the ground of faith lies beyond reason.
Yet he urged that a believer is nonetheless always to seek knowledge and that religious beliefs have marked consequences for daily life. Karl Rahner, arguably the most influential Catholic theologian of the twentieth century, was profoundly influenced by Barth's dialectical method.
But Rahner argued that God's mystical self-revelation of Himself to us through an act of grace is not predestined for a few but extends to all persons: It lies beyond proof or demonstration. Thus all persons, living in this prior and often unthematized state of God's gift, are "anonymous Christians. Rahner held thus that previous religions embodied a various forms of knowledge of God and thus were lawful religions.
But now God has revealed his fullness to humans through the Christian Incarnation and word. This explicit self-realization is the culmination of the history of the previously anonymous Christianity.
Christianity now understands itself as an absolute religion intended for all. This claim itself is basic for its understanding of itself. Rahner's claim about the gratuitous gifts of grace in all humans reaches beyond a natural theology. Nonetheless one form of evidence to which he appeals for its rational justification is the stipulation that humans, social by nature, cannot achieve a relationship to God "in an absolutely private interior reality. Rahner thus emphasized the importance of culture as a medium in which religious faith becomes understood.
He thus forged a new kind of compatibilism between faith and rationality. Neo-Existentialism Paul Tillich, a German Protestant theologian, developed a highly original form of Christian apologetics. In his Systematic Theology, he laid out a original method, called correlation, that explains the contents of the Christian faith through existential questions and theological answers in mutual interdependence. Existential questions arise from our experiences of transitoriness, finitude, and the threat of nonbeing.
In this context, faith is what emerges as our thinking about our "ultimate concern. Secular culture provides numerous media, such as poetry, drama, and novels, in which these questions are engendered. In turn, the Christian message provides unique answers to these questions that emerge from our human existence.
Tillich realized that such an existentialist method - with its high degree of correlation between faith and everyday experience and thus between the human and the divine -- would evoke protest from thinkers like Barth. Steven Cahn approaches a Christian existentialism from less sociological and a more psychological angle than Tillich.
Cahn agrees with Kierkegaard's claim that most believers in fact care little about proofs for the existence of God. Neither naturalist nor supernaturalist religion depend upon philosophical proofs for God's existence. It is impossible to prove definitely the testimony of another's supposedly self-validating experience. One is always justified in entertaining either philosophical doubts concerning the logical possibility of such an experience or practical doubts as to whether the person has undergone it.
Moreover, these proofs, even if true, would furnish the believer with no moral code. Cahn concludes that one must undergo a self-validating experience personal experience in which one senses the presence of God. All moral imperatives derive from learning the will of God. One may, however, join others in a communal effort to forge a moral code.
Neo-Darwinism The Darwinistic thinking of the nineteenth century continued to have a strong impact of philosophy of religion. Richard Dawkins in his Blind Watchmaker, uses the same theory of natural selection to construct an argument against the cogency of religious faith.
He argues that the theory of evolution by gradual but cumulative natural selection is the only theory that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity in the world. He admits that this organized complexity is highly improbable, yet the best explanation for it is still a Darwinian worldview. Dawkins even claims that Darwin effectively solved the mystery of our own existence.
Since religions remain firm in their conviction that God guides all biological and human development, Dawkins concludes that religion and science are in fact doomed rivals. They make incompatible claims. He resolves the conflict in favor of science. Contemporary Reactions Against Naturalism and Neo-Darwinism Contemporary philosophers of religion respond to the criticisms of naturalists, like Dawkins, from several angles.
Alvin Plantinga thinks that natural selection demonstrates only the function of species survival, not the production of true beliefs in individuals. Yet he rejects traditional Lockean evidentialism, the view that a belief needs adequate evidence as a criterion for its justification. Essays in Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion. Ancient philosophy of religion wrestled with the credibility of monotheism and polytheism in opposition to skepticism and very primitive naturalistic schemes.
For example, Plato argued that the view that God is singularly good should be preferred to the portrait of the gods that was articulated in Greek poetic tradition, according to which there are many gods, often imperfect and subject to vice and ignorance.
The emergence and development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on a global scale secured the centrality of theism for philosophical enquiry, but the relevance of a philosophical exploration of theism is not limited to those interested in these religions and the cultures in which they flourish. While theism has generally flourished in religious traditions amid religious practices, one may be a theist without adopting any religion whatever, and one may find theistic elements however piecemeal in Confucianism, Hinduism, some versions of Mahayana Buddhism, as well as in the religions of some smaller scale societies.
The debate over theism also has currency for secular humanism and religious forms of atheism as in Theravada Buddhist philosophy.
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 senseequivocal used in different sensesor 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 intentionsand 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. 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.
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. 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 itthen 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 centurythis 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. 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 changelessnessincorruptibility, 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 inand 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 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 alonewe 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, 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 Moserchapter 2. Hick and Plantinga need not be considered fideists because of the high role each gives to experience, coherence, and reflection. Table 1 lists some key theistic arguments, along with some of the leading advocates.
Rowe partial advocate Design D. Swinburne Values—Moral Experience P. Wynn Argument from Consciousness R. Swinburne Religious Experience W. Taylor Wager Arguments J. Theistic Arguments 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.
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 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 Godfor 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 islandsand 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 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 omnipotentbut 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.
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, saythen 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. 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.
Philosophy of Religion specialists
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 Morrison 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.
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?