Sunday, October 26, 2008

Arguments against theism from evil / badness

This last week we have been discussing arguments against God's existence from evil. The assigned readings (and OPS assignments) include Hick, Nagel and Swinburne, but we haven't talked about the details of what they have to say. This "Tale of 12 Officers" has also been distributed in class and we read it Friday:

The arguments discussed so far include the following:

The WEAK ARGUMENT from Evil:

1. If God exists, then there would be no evil whatsover, nothing bad at all, not one instance of pain, suffering, injustice, wrongdoing, etc, ever.
2. But there is some evil, some things bad, some instances of pain, suffering, injustice, wrongdoing, etc.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.

While (2) is certainly true, this argument is weak because premise (1) seems highly doubtful: an all-knowing, all good-being, all powerful being could (easily) have good reason for allowing some evil or badness. For example, some kinds of personal growth and development seem to depend on overcoming challenges and obstacles, working through struggles that are or involve feelings that are bad when considered in themselves. Also, perhaps an fairly regularly ordered world would have to result in, at least, an occasional stubbed toe and whatnot. (We also wound up thinking about whether accepting (1) would lead you to think that you should plug into The Experience Machine.)

This Weak Argument is sometimes called The Logical Argument from Evil, which attempts to show that God and the existence of any evil or badness are logically incompatible. Almost nobody finds this argument to have any strength any more, if anyone ever did.

This leads us to The More Challenging Argument, also sometimes call The Evidential Argument from Evil because it claims that the existence of certain kinds of evils provide evidence that there is not a God (or perhaps that certain kinds of evils are logically incompatible with God's existence, not just the fact that there is some evil of some kind):

4. If there is a God, then there is no evil that is unjustified or pointless or gratuitous, i.e., badness, pain, suffering, etc. that does not serve a greater good and for which this good could not have been brought about without that particular evil.
5. But there are some unjustified or pointless or gratuitous evils, i.e., badness, pain, suffering, etc. that do not serve a greater good and/or for which this good could have been brought about without that particular evil. (e.g., Holocaust, slavery, Middle Passage, child rape, torture, etc.)
6. Therefore, there is not a God.

Theists tend to accept premise (4). They accept it because they see what an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing being would seem to have to do: any being having these attributes would seem to be subject to certain kinds of obligations, imposed by his own nature and abilities.

The challenge then is premise (5). At this point our main concern is trying to figure out what sort of evidence can be given for it, what can be given against it and what sort of replies could be given to each initial case.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Study Guide

Study guide.

In class exam, Friday, October 17, 2008.

You will be asked to provide answers to a select few of these questions and prompts.

  1. Basic concepts of arguments and logic: what is an argument? What is it for an argument to be valid? What is it for an argument to be sound?
  2. What is Clifford’s (and Stair’s) thesis about what we, intellectually, ought to believe or when we are within our “logical rights” in believing something? Are they correct? Why or why not?
  3. What is the basic, traditional monotheistic conception of God?
  4. God and Goodness: what is it for a being or person to be (morally) good? Explain the two options Rachels (and Plato) present. Which option is preferable when thinking about God? Why?
  5. God's Omnipotence: what is it for a being to be omnipotent? Arguably there are things an omnipotent being cannot do: what are these things? Can an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy he cannot lift it? Explain Mavrodes response to the question. Is he right? Why or why not?
  6. Related to omnipotence and other divine attributes:
    1. What is it for something to be possible, a claim that’s possibly true or a possibly existing being? Explain the different sense of possibility and impossibility: logically possible, physically possible, etc.
    2. What is it for something to be necessary, a necessary truth or necessary existence? Explain the different sense of possibility and impossibility: logically possible, physically possible, etc.
  7. Foreknowledge and free will: Present an argument for the view that God’s foreknowledge (what is this?) and human free will are incompatible (explain what it is for two things to be incompatible). Is this argument sound? Explain at least two responses for why it is not sound. Evaluate those responses.
  8. Can God change? Present some of the arguments given to think that God cannot change. Evaluate those arguments. (Hasker)
  9. Minas argues that God could not forgive. What are here arguments? Is she correct?
  10. Rachels argues that being a moral agent and someone who worships God are incompatible. What are his reasons? Is he correct? Explain.
  11. Cosmological arguments: what are Aquinas’s Five Ways of proving God’s existence? Explain the possible objections to, at least, the arguments from motion and efficient cause. These were raised by Hick.
  12. Cosmological arguments: Taylor suggests the Principle of Sufficient Reason. What is this principle? What is his argument from the Principle of Sufficient Reason to the conclusion that God exists? Is his argument sound?
  13. Design / teleological arguments: Present a version of the argument from design either as an argument from analogy or as an inference to the best explanation. Present these arguments’ possible weaknesses or prominent reasons to doubt that these arguments provide adequate support for their conclusions.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It seems to me like this version of Hume is a killer. Try to get what you can out of it, to find a comprehensible section or so. But make sure you read pp. 329-331 on teleological arguments.

A far more accessible version of Hume's text is available here; this version is actually a pleasure to read:

Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

See also
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Design Arguments for the Existence of God
Design arguments are empirical arguments for God�s existence. These arguments typically, though not always, proceed by identifying various empirical features of the world that constitute evidence of intelligent design and inferring God�s existence as the best explanation for these features. Since the concepts of design and purpose are closely related, design arguments are also known as �teleological arguments,� which incorporates �telos,� the Greek word for �goal� or �purpose.� Design arguments, then, typically consist of (1) a premise that asserts that the material universe exhibits some empirical property F; (2) a premise (or sub-argument) that asserts (or concludes) that F is persuasive evidence of intelligent design or purpose; and (3) a premise (or sub-argument) that asserts (or concludes) that the best or most probable explanation for the fact that the material universe exhibits F is that there exists an intelligent designer who intentionally brought it about that the material universe exists and exhibits F. There are a number of classic and contemporary versions of the argument: (1) Aquinas�s �fifth way�; (2) the argument from simple analogy; (3) Paley�s watchmaker argument; (4) the argument from guided evolution; (5) the argument from irreducible biochemical complexity; (6) the argument from biological information; and (7) the fine-tuning argument.

Table of Contents (Clicking on the links below will take you to those parts of this article)
1. The Classical Versions of the Design Argument
a. Scriptural Roots and Aquinas's Fifth Way
b. The Argument from Simple Analogy
c. Paley's Watchmaker Argument
d. Guided Evolution
2. Contemporary Versions of the Design Argument
a. The Argument from Irreducible Biochemical Complexity
b. The Argument from Biological Information
c. The Fine-Tuning Arguments
i. The Argument from Suspicious Improbability
ii. The Confirmatory Argument
3. The Scientifically Legitimate Uses of Design Inferences
4. References and Further Reading

Monday, October 6, 2008

Exam, this week, next week

As mentioned in class, we should have an exam. And it should be Friday Oct 17 in class.
I will post a study guide with questions later tonight, but the topics are everything we have covered which includes basic concepts of arguments, questions and puzzles about the concept of God and divine attributes, and the 3 main arguments for God's existence.

For Wednesday we discuss Hume's objections to the design argument. The reading is long and challenging! OPS writing assignment due.

For Friday October 10, 10-10:50am we will meet at Hope Hall -- between Tech Towers -- Room 209 for a guest lecture from Dr. Larry Blumer. He will discuss the theory of evolution. BE THERE AND BE THERE ON TIME!

For next Monday and Wednesday we will discuss the versions of the ontological argument. Readings in Cahn. More details soon.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Monday, Wednesday

For Monday, Paley on the design / teleological argument in Cahn. OPS due.

For Wednesday, Hume on the design argument / teleological in Cahn. Note: this selection is long and a bit more challenging. Need to read ahead and re-read!

For Friday, we should have a guest speaker from the biology department who will give an overview of evolutionary theory. Here is some of what he's been asked to address:
  • Briefly, what's a theory? What's a scientific theory?
  • What data, phenomena or observations does the (or a) theory of evolution attempt to explain?
  • What are competing theories or hypotheses that attempt to explain this data or phenomena?
  • What's the (or a) evolutionary theory? How does it explain?
  • Is there anything that evolutionary theory has a difficult time explaining?
  • Should we accept evolutionary theory? Why is it better than rivals? How does one decide these things?
  • Any comments on confusions and misunderstandings behind the common claim, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact" would be appreciated.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Cosmological Argument

First published Tue Jul 13, 2004; substantive revision Thu Sep 11, 2008

The cosmological argument is less a particular argument than an argument type. It uses a general pattern of argumentation (logos) that makes an inference from certain alleged facts about the world (cosmos) to the existence of a unique being, generally identified with or referred to as God. Among these initial facts are that the world came into being, that the world is contingent in that it could have been other than it is, or that certain beings or events in the world are causally dependent or contingent. From these facts philosophers infer either deductively or inductively that a first cause, a necessary being, an unmoved mover, or a personal being (God) exists. The cosmological argument is part of classical natural theology, whose goal has been to provide some evidence for the claim that God exists.

On the one hand, the argument arises from human curiosity as to why there is something rather than nothing. It invokes a concern for some complete, ultimate, or best explanation of what exists contingently. On the other hand, it raises intrinsically important philosophical questions about contingency and necessity, causation and explanation, part/whole relationships (mereology), infinity, sets, and the nature and origin of the universe. In what follows we will first sketch out a very brief history of the argument, note the two fundamental types of deductive cosmological arguments, and then provide a careful analysis of each, first the argument from contingency, then the argument from the impossibility of an infinite temporal regress of causes. In the end we will consider an inductive version of the cosmological argument.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Aquinas's 5 Ways

St. Thomas Aquinas:
The Existence of God can be proved in five ways.
Argument Analysis of the Five Ways © 2004 Theodore Gracyk

[The arguments can be simplified but just using the bolded premises; other premises are often sub-arguments for some of these premises]

The First Way: Argument from Motion

  1. Some things are in motion.

  2. Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion.

  3. Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion.

  4. Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another).

  5. Therefore nothing can move itself.

  6. Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else.

  7. The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum.

  8. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

The Second Way: Argument from Efficient Causes

  1. We perceive a series of efficient causes of things in the world.

  2. Nothing exists prior to itself.

  3. Therefore nothing is the efficient cause of itself.

  4. If a previous efficient cause does not exist, neither does the thing that results.

  5. Therefore if the first thing in a series does not exist, nothing in the series exists.

  6. The series of efficient causes cannot extend ad infinitum into the past, for then there would be no things existing now.

  7. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

The Third Way: Argument from Possibility and Necessity (Reductio argument)

  1. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, that come into being and go out of being i.e., contingent beings.

  2. Assume (for the sake of argument) that every being is a contingent being.

  3. For each contingent being, there is a time it does not exist.

  4. Therefore it is impossible for these always to exist.[If a being exists contingently, then it does not exist necessarily]

  5. Therefore there could have been a time when no things existed.

  6. Therefore at that time there would have been nothing to bring the currently existing contingent beings into existence.

  7. Therefore, nothing would be in existence now.

  8. We have reached an absurd result from assuming that every being is a contingent being.

  9. Therefore not every being is a contingent being.

  10. Therefore some being exists of its own necessity, and does not receive its existence from another being, but rather causes them. This all men speak of as God.

The Fourth Way: Argument from Gradation of Being

  1. There is a gradation to be found in things: some are better or worse than others.

  2. Predications of degree require reference to the “uttermost” case (e.g., a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest).

  3. The maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus.

  4. Therefore 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 Fifth Way: Argument from Design

  1. We see that natural bodies work toward some goal, and do not do so by chance.

  2. Most natural things lack knowledge.

  3. But as an arrow reaches its target because it is directed by an archer, what lacks intelligence achieves goals by being directed by something intelligence.

  4. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

Summary of objections: