Aquinas, Anselm, Paley and Kant all famous philosophers, have proven that god exists; yet people still question God’s existence.
As Anselm said, “We are like students who, unable to solve a mathematical problem, are given the answer to it and then discover they can reason out why that answer is correct.” For thousands of years, philosophers have given evidence proving the existence of God. The evidence at hand should prevail but some philosophers beg to differ. In this paper, I will try to go over and give the best arguments to both sides, but in the end, like I, all non-believers will believe.
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I will start off by discussing the evidence and opinions of Saint Anselm. St. Anselm was one of the greatest thinkers of the Middle Ages and became known for being an “ontological arguer.” An ontological argument is an argument, for the conclusion that God exists, from premises, which are supposed to derive from some source “other than the observation of the world.” Anselm proposed the first and most popular of these arguments in the 11th century AD. These famous arguments are recorded in his Proslogion. He expresses his opinions on the existence of God and says no greater being can be conceived than God himself.
He argues that nothing can be greater than a being “than which no greater can be conceived.” While his theories are not the easiest to believe, philosophers are still fascinated with his work and give him the most amount of respect. What amazes philosophers the most about Anselm is his ability to combine the roles of a saint, ecclesiastical leader, and major philosopher. Anselm’s famous Proslogion mentions that the idea of the perfect being cannot be separated “from its existence.” To put it in a simple fashion, the first version of his argument says the following three main points:
1)“The term God describes the greatest conceivable being.”
2)“ Existence, in reality, is greater than mere existence in the understanding.”
3)“Therefore, God must exist in reality, not just in the understanding.”
Here’s an example of the ideas Anselm provides which may make it easier to understand.
Major Premise: The extra mental EXISTENCE of X is a greater perfection than the IDEA of X.
Minor Premise: God is a ‘something than which nothing greater can be thought”.
Conclusion: God must exist.
There is a weakness to this argument. Like I mentioned before, I will show both sides and arguments to all of the proving arguments giving.
Weakness: the very idea of a being doesn’t necessarily prove the existence of that being. Anselm is proceeding from his mind to what exists outside his mind. The thought of X in a sense causes X to exist outside my mind.
Anselm was one of many philosophers to give his thoughts and ideas on the existence of God.
Moving on to another philosopher named Immanuel Kant. He shared the same belief as Anselm, (that is the belief that God exists) but had a very different reason for his arguments. Kant uses ontological, cosmological, and teleological proof to reject Anselm’s proof of God’s existence. In the ontological argument, Kant says that the idea that God is made to have the “predicate of existence” is made to be included in the idea of a “perfect being.” The cosmological argument deals more with the experience itself- Kant says “the principle of causality has no meaning and no criterion for its application save only in the sensible world.”
The teleological argument says that we cannot use theoretical principles to demonstrate the existence of God. I agree with how Kant went about explaining his argument. I also think that people that don’t believe might understand the existence of God a little better because of it too. Kant went to great lengths to show that God cannot be dealt effectively with theoretical reason and if this is true, some other idea must be considered as the source of God. Kant was a very intelligent man and had a critical argument in the case of the existence of God. Though his evidence at times was somewhat different, both Kant and Anselm believed in the existence of God.
The next philosopher I will use to prove my point will be William Paley. “The marks of design are too strong to be got over. The design must have had a designer. That designer must have been a person. That person is GOD.” This quote is a brief thought of how Paley felt. Living organisms, Paley argued, are even more complicated than watches, “in a degree which exceeds all computation.” “How else to account for the often amazing adaptations of animals and plants? Only an intelligent designer could have created them, just as only an intelligent watchmaker can make a watch.” Paley had other arguments to prove his point. For example, order.
Major Premise: Wherever there is ORDER there must be an INTELLECTUAL EFFICIENT CAUSE.
Minor Premise: There is ORDER IN THE UNIVERSE.
Conclusion: There must exist a SUPERHUMAN (above the human) INTELLECT that is responsible for this awesome display of COSMIC ORDER. This being is GOD. Paley’s design theory is valid and I think worthy of being accepted into the argument of the existence of God. I think Paley’s reasons that the complexity of the universe necessitates a superhuman creator and that the existence of this being (God) can be deduced from a ‘design’ seen in all living creatures are skeptical in some ways. It is sort of a technicality on the Earth, meaning that his ideas are a lot of assumptions. Nevertheless, his views were widely held and unchallenged until Darwin came along.
The last but not even close to being the least philosopher I will use in my case is Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas’ major work for the existence of God was his five proofs. “Instead of beginning with innate ideas of perfection, Aquinas rested all five of his proofs on the ideas derived from a rational understanding of the ordinary objects that we experience with our senses. The chief characteristic of all sense objects is that their existence requires a cause.”
This cause that Aquinas talks about first, leads to his “analysis of sense objects, second, the notion that the existence of these objects requires a finite series of causes and ultimately a First Cause, or God.” Aquinas’s first proof was the “proof from motion”. This covers the area where Aquinas believes that “nothing can be transformed from a state of potentiality by something that is also in a mere state of potentiality.” An example would be the domino. Picture a particular domino, it has the potential to be moved but it can only move by something actually moving.
This example is where Aquinas draws his conclusion. The key point that makes this proof so valid is the concept that “if we are to account for motion, we cannot do so by going back in an infinite regress. If we must say about each mover in this series, is that it, in turn, was moved by a prior mover, we would never discover the source of motion because every mover would then be only potentially in motion. Even if such a series went back infinitely, each one would still be the only potential, and from that, no actual motion could ever emerge.
The fact is, however, that there is motion. There must therefore be a mover which is able to move things but which does not itself have to be moved, and this, says Aquinas, everyone understands to be God.” Aquinas makes two good points in this proof. One, he “does not limit his concept of motion to things such as dominoes, that is, to locomotion.” Two, he states clearly that the first mover is pure actuality.
Moving on to Aquinas’s second proof, “Proof from Efficient Cause”. The main point to this proof, short and simple is that “nothing can be prior to itself: hence events demand a prior cause.” An example would be parents have to have their own parents. This sums up to mean that God is the first efficient cause and is to everyone. Also that “we would proceed to infinity among causes, since, as we have said, every being which is not the act of existing alone has a cause of existence. Evidently, then, an intelligence is form and act existing, and it has its act of existing from the First Being which is simply the act of existing. This is the First Cause, God…” The third proof of Aquinas is “the Proof from Degrees of Perfection”.
This proof talks about humans and he concludes in this proof that “there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection: and this we call God.” The main point was that God is a supreme being and causes people’s perfection, goodness and is above all.
The fourth and Fifth proofs, “the Proof from Necessary versus Possible Being and “the Proof from the Order of the Universe” both prove the existence of God but will not be discussed. “The two major characteristics of these five proofs are (1) their foundation in sense experience and (2) their reliance on the notion of causality.” These five ways of Aquinas are truly remarkable and are totally valid in almost every situation.
Now that I have discussed all four philosophers and their arguments, I will next bring a small argument against the existence of God. David Hume was a philosopher widely regarded as a notorious enemy of religion. Here is Hume’s argument in a small, but concise way:
a.Only that which we experience on the sense level is true, ie we can only be certain of our own sensations. The argument for the existence of God is based on the principle of cause-effect. And since we cannot experience these principles of cause-effect, one must be skeptical of the argument since it has no foundation.
b.Evil in the world:
If God exists and it is evil in the world then God INTENDS THE EVIL, GOD IS SADISTIC or MALEVOLENT; or if God exists and God doesn’t do anything to prevent or stop evil, GOD IS EITHER INDIFFERENT OR INCAPABLE OF PREVENTING/STOPPING EVIL.
I feel that even though Hume’s argument makes sense and is valid, the evidence that the other philosophers show overpowers his. I will accept other arguments against the existence of God. But until I hear arguments that make more sense than the evil of the world, I am going to stick with believing.
In conclusion to all of the arguments mentioned, I feel that all were valid, believable, understandable and able for people to relate to. Hopefully, most of the questions that non-believers have were answered. The intent of this paper was to show in great detail, the existence of God. I think the four philosophers chosen, given enough evidence for anyone to change their mind. I wanted to give both sides of the argument in the fairest matter. Yes, there was some bias in this paper because I do believe in God but I did try to show the weak parts of the arguments. I also gave Hume’s argument, which by many makes complete sense and is their argument against the existence of God. Finally, the arguments for both sides make sense.
There is no doubt about that. I will say that in doing the research and learning more about the topic, I have changed a little. I still believe in God but Kant really made an impact on me. I think we all can believe in God but on a level that this Earth’s rules cannot prove. I am glad I got to look at this topic a little bit closer and in doing so, proved my point that God exists.
Bourke, Vernon J. The Pocket Aquinas. New York: Washington Press, 1960.
Halsall, Paul. Anselm on God’s Existence
(Jan 1996), 7 December 2000.
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/a/anselm.htm.
6 December 2000.
Stumpf, Samuel. Elements of Philosophy. 3rd ed. New York: Vanderbilt University, 1993
William Paley. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/paley.html, 7 December
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