Saturday, 14 December 2013

Teleological Argument Essays

a.)    Give an account of the design argument from Aquinas and Paley [25]

The design argument, otherwise known as the Teleological Argument (from the Greek word ‘telos’ meaning ‘end’), attempts to prove the existence of God by observing the complexity and purpose of nature. Cicero once posed the question: ‘What could be more clear or obvious when we look up to the sky and contemplate the heavens, than that there is some divinity or superior intelligence.’ Early forms of the argument were put forward by the Ancient Greek philosophers and the Stoics, and were expanded and revisited much later. It was particularly popular during the Enlightenment, and supported Newton’s suggestion that the universe follows mathematical principles. It was also appealing for deists (people who believe in a transcendent God) because they believe God’s only role was that of a designer.

The argument was formulated by St Thomas Aquinas, a 13th Century Italian Theologian, in his work Summa Theologica. It is evident from Aquinas’ Fifth Way (The Argument from Design) that he was strongly influenced by Aristotle, the Ancient Greek philosopher. Indeed Aristotle’s teleological views of nature including the idea of a Final Cause (purpose) are apparent in Aquinas’ writing, and he linked these ideas with the Classical Theistic God. It is a Design Qua Purpose argument (in that it seeks to show that the universe has purpose), uses inductive logic (which is concerned with probability), and a posteriori knowledge (knowledge from experience).

Aquinas begins his argument by saying: ‘The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world.’ Here he is clearly stating that his argument is a posteriori, and that it will be based on the natural order of our universe. He then goes on to say that things that ‘lack knowledge, such as natural objects, act for a purpose’. When he refers to natural objects Aquinas means anything in nature, including human beings and animals. He says that all things act ‘in the same way to obtain the best result’, and this is the first premise of his Teleological Argument.

Aquinas then comes on to his second premise, and he states that ‘they achieve their end by design and not by chance’. He is suggesting that nature works towards a goal not by itself, but because it has been designed that way, and because it has a specific purpose, or end as he calls it. He declares that nature would not work towards a purpose ‘unless it were directed by a being with knowledge and intelligence’, and this is the crux of his argument. His use of the term ‘intelligent being’ means a being that knows its purpose or end. He then makes use of an analogy of an archer, which makes it more relatable for the reader. He states that the world is guided by an intelligent being ‘just as an arrow is directed by an archer’. Finally, Aquinas concludes that this intelligent being is God, and therefore that the Christian God exists as a designer.

William Paley revisited Aquinas’ Teleological Argument almost six centuries later in his book Natural Theology. Paley’s argument (also Design Qua Purpose) is not dissimilar from Aquinas’ Fifth Way, and indeed Paley also uses inductive logic and a posteriori knowledge.

We immediately know that Paley’s argument features an analogy because it starts: ‘In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone.’ He goes on to say that it is not impossible for that rock to have been in the same place for all eternity, but that one could not say the same regarding a watch. He writes: ‘I should hardly think of the answer which I had given before…’ Paley says this because ‘when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose’. The watch, therefore, has a purpose (or design), which is to tell the time, and this is the first premise of Paley’s argument.

Paley puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that the watch (i.e. the universe) is shaped in such a way that it works perfectly. He states that ‘if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner’ then they would not move and achieve their purpose, and in this way he is elucidating the first premise. Paley’s second premise is that all complex things, such as watches, or indeed the universe, must have been designed – this is why the watch could not have been in the same spot forever. He concludes, therefore, that the universe, just like the watch, must have been designed, and that God is the designer.

Many scholars claim that Paley, in writing his argument, is simply explaining and making better sense of Aquinas’ fifth way, and this is because they are very similar indeed. Both are Design Qua Purpose arguments, both use inductive and analogous logic, and both use our experience (a posteriori) of the world to come to a conclusion about God – this is an example of Natural Theology. They also both conclude in the same way – that God designed our universe. However, Aquinas seems to focus more on the Regularity of Succession, emphasising the fact that nature is ‘directed’ like an arrow, whereas Paley makes more use of the purpose argument and the idea that all the parts of the universe are ‘put together’ to achieve an unknown end. Finally, Paley’s argument is focused more on the analogy, rather than the natural world.

b.)    ‘Hume’s comments about design in the universe destroy Paley’s arguments’ Discuss. [10]

Hume’s comments about design in the universe, which can be found in his work Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (written before Paley reformulated Aquinas’ Teleological Argument), destroy Paley’s arguments because they single out the particular weaknesses of the design argument.

Hume first rejects the use of analogous and inductive logic. He points out that analogy is limited in strength: just because a house needs a builder, this does not mean the universe needs one, and this idea is very similar to the Fallacy of Composition. He writes that nothing in the universe can be compared to the universe as a whole, and that any analogy given (such as the watch) is insignificant. Philo, the character who expresses Hume’s opinion, states that our experience is ‘so imperfect in itself and so limited both in extent and duration.’ Hume claims that we cannot draw metaphysical conclusions from our physical experience; here, Hume is criticising the leap in logic. He goes on to ask: ‘Have worlds ever been formed under your eye?’

Early supporters of the Teleological Argument would still question the design and complexity of parts of the universe, if not the whole universe itself. Paley referred to things such as the human eye, a natural object, as an example of intricate design and purpose; they questioned who made the eye, and indeed who made the whole human body. Supporters claimed that Paley was not just comparing a watch to the universe, but that he was questioning how the individual parts of nature were so complex; they believed that Hume missed the point of the analogy. Some would also argue that the analogy was only Paley’s method of explaining himself, and that it was not the basis of his argument.

However, Hume pre-empted this response and explained that any animal that didn’t have such complex design and adaptation would not survive. He said that the only reason the world is so efficient is because anything inefficient would lose out in the fight for survival. In Hume’s dialogue, Philo announces: ‘I would fain ask how an animal could subsist unless its parts were so adjusted?’ He believed that animal adaption cannot be used to prove that animals are designed by an intelligent designer. For example, if humans had no eyes, they could not see and so it is likely that they would have been preyed on, and therefore would be extinct. Darwin backed this up with his theory outlined in The Origin of Species, in which he said that the world’s complexity could be explained by evolution and natural selection.

Hume draws on the ideas of the Epicurean Hypothesis. Epicurus, an Ancient Greek philosopher, famously stated that matter tends to move to order from disorder, and therefore that we could get an ordered world in which to live in, out of chaos in the past. Hume states that matter and energy (which, Einstein proved, are everlasting) could have been arranged at random at first, and that chance and time led things into order. He also stated that because matter is everlasting, in an infinity number of combinations our world would be created by chance alone. This would then explain design in the universe and destroy Paley’s arguments.

A number of Theologians rejected the idea that the universe was created simply by chance. F.R. Tennant presented the Anthropic Principle as a rejection of Hume’s criticism. He claimed that there were far too many Anthropic Coincidences that had to be fulfilled for the universe to be created, and that all the evidence pointed to an intelligent being. Amongst others, Brandon Carter claimed our universe showed clear evidence of what he called ‘fine-tuning’, and indeed both Carter and Swinburne said that God was the more probable cause. Swinburne believed that God was the ‘simplest’ and therefore best explanation for the world.

Richard Dawkins, the modern face of atheism, responded to Swinburne in a typically vehement manner, labelling him as nothing but a professor at Oxford who knew nothing of Biology. He said that Swinburne knew nothing of the natural world and so should not tell people what the most reasonable explanation is. He believed Swinburne to be nothing but an ignorant academic of Philosophy – how should he have known where the universe comes from? What entitled him to say God is the best reason, when he knew none of the other possibilities?

Hume’s last main criticism of the Teleological Argument questioned why God was necessarily the answer. He said that there could be a wide variety of causes for the universe, saying that philosophers should be different from the ‘precipitate march of the vulgar’. He believes that philosophers shouldn’t just conclude that God is the answer, and in stead they ought to investigate further.  He then elucidates this point, suggesting that there could be a number of designers (as there is with a ship, and this is the analogy he uses). He then explains the possibility of an ‘infant deity’ who created our planet through trial and error, meaning that we could be part of one of many botch-job universes - this is known as The Many Worlds Hypothesis. Some philosophers, including J.S Mill, claimed that the universe (which features suffering) suggests either a sadistic God, or a limited God – i.e. not the Christian God.

However, many philosophers would rule this criticism out as it goes against Ockham’s razor, the belief that the simplest explanation is likely to be correct. Ockham explained that one ought not to ‘multiply entities beyond necessity’, and therefore Ockham would say that God is the most likely explanation. Paley also rejected this criticism claiming that the issue is not centred on the characteristics of the designer(s), but rather the universe’s design. Hume is not saying that there is no God, but rather that it may not be the Christian God – that is why Paley rejects it.

Nonetheless, this still means that Paley’s argument is flawed – Paley rules out any other possibilities, and he makes an inductive leap, concluding the existence of the Classical God of Theism. He should not just ignore the prospect of multiple designers, and there is no evidence to suggest the ‘unity of the deity’. Furthermore, many philosophers would claim that Ockham’s razor is flawed: just because it is ‘likely’, this does not necessarily mean it is true. Again, this is making an inductive leap, and does not look at all of the possibilities. Kant said that the conclusion of the argument, because of its inductive nature, is not apodeictically certain, meaning that there is no proof.
Hume’s criticisms of the Design Argument destroy Paley’s case when backed up by the points of other philosophers, such as Mill and Dawkins. 

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