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Intro to Philosophy Phil 110
Lecture 4: 1-19
Daniel Kelly
I. Mechanics
A. Near Future
1. Today
a. Paley, Natural Theology
b. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (2,5,9)
c. Dennett, Show Me the Science
2. Next week
a. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (10)
b. Mackie, Free Will and the Problem of Evil
c. Pascal, Pensées : Notes on Religion and Other Subjects
d. Saka, Pascal’s Wager About God
i. Like all the readings for this course, these can be
downloaded from the course website, which, if you’ve
found these lecture notes, you’ve found
B. Down the road a bit:
1. First Papers Due: In class, Tuesday 2/7
2. First Outlines Due: by the end of the first chapter on Philosophy of
Religion, which will be around Tuesday 2/7
3. Mark your calendars, we will not meet on these days:
a. Thursday February 2nd
b. Thursday March 2nd (Central APA)
c. Thursday March 9th (UC Irvine)
d. Week of March 13-17 Spring Break (woo!)
e. Thursday March 23rd (Purdue Sustainability Workshop)
f. Thursday April 6th (Duke)
New Chapter: Philosophy of Religion
I. Some Preliminaries
II. The Cosmological Argument
III. The Ontological Argument
A. Preliminaries
1. St. Anselm Fun Facts
2. Proving the “right” God
3. Some important concepts used in the Ontological Argument
a. Possibility: as we’re going to interpret it, in Anselm’s
argument, “possible” means logically possible
b. Existing in thought vs. existing in reality
c. Perfections: Those properties which make an entity that has
them greater or better
d. Reductio ad absurdum arguments
i. This is a particular form of argument often used in
math and logic
ii. These arguments prove their conclusion by
A. Assuming the opposite of what they want to
B. Deriving, or showing how that assumption,
together with some other true premises,
logically leads to an something absurd, like a
C. Concluding the initial (opposite) assumption
is false
iii. For this class, we’re going to formulate the
Ontological argument as a reductio ad absurdum
B. The Ontological Argument (in full detail)
1. (Reductio assumption) God does not exist in reality
2. (Premise) God exists in the understanding
3. (Premise) Existence in reality is a perfection
4. (Premise) The existence of God in reality is possible (not a
5. (conjoining 1&2) God exists in the understanding, but not reality
6. (follows from 3) If something exists only in the understanding, but it
is possible for the object to exist in reality as well, then it is possible
for that object to be greater than it is
7. (from 4,5,6) It is possible for God to be greater than he is.
8. It is possible for [A BEING GREATER THAN WHICH IS NOT
POSSIBLE] to be greater than it is
9. Step 8 clearly expresses a contradiction (is absurd)
10. The initial reductio assumption is false
11. Therefore, God does exist in reality
C. Comments
1. Obviously, this is a very complicated line of reasoning, it’s probably
the most complex argument we’ll look at
2. I’ve made all of these steps as explicit as I can – it’s a lot to keep
track of, but you can follow each step of the reasoning (as opposed
to Anselm’s text, which goes by it all a lot quicker, no?)
3. Intuitively, you might think of the gist or basic idea behind this
argument in terms of a short and dirty version:
a. Simply from the existence and nature of the concept of GOD
b. It must follow that God himself exists in reality
c. Analogously:
i. Just like from the concept of a TRIANGLE, it must
follow that triangles have exactly 3 closed sides
ii. Or from the concept of a BACHELOR it must
follow that bachelors are unmarried
4. Compare how the fool said in this heart what cannot be thought:
a. This triangle has 5 sides
b. This bachelor has a wife
c. Colorless green ideas sleep furiously
d. God doesn’t exist in reality
D. What’s wrong with the Ontological argument?
1. Reasons to think there is something wrong
a. The argument strikes many as involving a trick with words, a
linguistic shell game
b. Others tout this same feature as a virtue of the argument,
rather than a disadvantage
i. It is based purely on ideas, concepts, abstractions
ii. Does not attempt to establish the existence of God
starting from or by appeal to merely contingent facts
about the world
c. Guanilo’s Response to the Ontological Argument:
i. The same form of argument can be used to prove the
existence in reality of the perfect mountain (mountain
more perfect than which is not possible)
ii. This, of course, is patently absurd
iii. So there must be something wrong with the Ontological
argument, if the form of reasoning can be used to
prove the existence in reality of the perfect anything
d. This won’t be completely satisfying or convincing unless we
can pinpoint the location of the error in reasoning
i. Where is it?
ii. Is the argument valid but unsound?
A. If so, there must be a false premise
B. But then which one is it?
iii. Is the argument invalid?
A. Which step in the reasoning is incorrect, then?
B. The way we’ve spelled it out, it looks fairly
2. Current state of debate
a. Philosophers have been debating this for 1000 years
i. The argument strikes many as somehow dodgy
ii. But it has proven very difficult to clearly state why
b. Even today there is no single widely accepted diagnosis of
what is wrong with it or where the mistake is
c. Indeed, some philosophers think nothing is wrong with it!
d. Also note how, if the Ontological Argument is correct, then
i. Contrary to what they claim, atheists can not
coherently conceive of God not existing
ii. This point can be plugged back into the debate over
our 2nd version of the Cosmological Argument
IV. The Teleological Argument (Argument from Design)
A. William Paley (1743-1805)
1. British philosopher and Christian
2. Most famous for this, but wrote many textbooks
3. Was a bit of a public intellectual, famous lecturer in his day
B. Definition: “teleological”
1. From teleology –study of design or purpose in natural phenomena
2. Telos is greek for “goal”
C. Two more types of arguments (like reductio ad absurdum)
1. Argument by analogy: if 2 things have some properties in common,
they will likely also have other properties in common, to
i. X has properties A & B
ii. Y has property A
iii. Therefore Y probably has properties B as well
A. Paul likes Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven
B. Melissa likes Bach and Brahms
C. Melissa probably likes Beethoven, too
b. These are common in everyday reasoning
c. Often used for rhetorical purposes
d. Beware sloppy analogies!
i. Hitler had a funny little mustache and was evil
ii. Joe has a funny little mustache
iii. Joe is probably evil, too
2. Argument or Inference to the best explanation – sometimes called
hypothetical deductive arguments
a. Very common in both everyday reasoning and science
b. Best explanation for the retrograde motion of the planets,
ocean tides, why this piece of chalk falls when I drop it
(Newton’s theory of gravity)
c. Best explanation of my missing Chinese Leftovers
i. Space aliens stole them for experiments
ii. Spontaneous disintegration
iii. Vast global conspiracy
iv. Drunken roommate ate them
d. What “best” amounts to can be complicated, and we’ll talk
more about that more in the next chapter, but some key
elements are that an explanation
i. Fits with the known evidence,
ii. Is simple
A. Doesn’t posit the existence of more entities
that required
B. This is one version of Ockham’s Razor:
1. “entities should not be multiplied
beyond necessity”
2. All other things being equal, a simpler
explanation is better
iii. Is consistent with what else we know – sometimes
called “consilient”
D. The Argument
1. Premise 1:Pattern, order, and superb design are present everywhere
in the biological world; well-designed organisms that are highly
adapted to their environments and tasks are everywhere in biological
a. These organisms & systems serve their purpose very well
b. Examples abound
i. The eye
ii. Reproductive organs and instincts
iii. Bees pollinating flowers (example of symbiosis)
iv. The functioning of our immune system
c. This premise is about biological nature
i. Not ‘order’ like beautiful lattice structure of crystals
ii. Paley contrasts biological design with a stone
2. Premise 2: The only, and thus best explanation for the existence of a
well-designed, well-ordered seemingly purposeful system is the
hypothesis that an intelligent mind did the designing
a. Paley supports this premise w/ his argument from analogy:
the watch on the heath
i. It is complex, well-designed, and appears to have a
purpose (to keep time)
ii. The best explanation for that design is that it was
designed by an intelligent mind
b. Analogy from the watch to biological nature:
i. The systems in bio nature are also complex and welldesigned and appear to have purposes
ii. So by analogy this is because they were also designed
by an intelligent designer
c. In fact, claims Paley
i. The design we find in biological nature is of a much
higher order than that we find in even the most
complex human made artifacts
ii. Therefore, the designer of those biological entities
and systems must be much more intelligent than
human beings
3. Conclusion: the superb design in nature must be the product of a
vastly intelligent mind/designer – and that is God