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A Philosophical Approach To Finding God

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The question of God's existence has been debated through the history of man, with every philosopher from Socrates to Immanuel Kant weighing in on the debate. So great has this topic become that numerous proofs have been invented and utilized to prove or disprove God's existence. Yet no answer still has been reached, leaving me to wonder if any answer at all is possible. So I will try in this paper to see if it is possible to philosophically prove God's existence.

Before I start the paper there are a few points that must be established. First is a clear definition of Philosophy of Religion, which is the area of philosophy that applies philosophical methods to study a wide variety of religious issues including the existence of God. The use of the philosophical method makes Philosophy of Religion distinct from theology, which is the study of God and any type of issues that relate to the divine. Now there are two types of theology, Revealed and Natural Theology. Revealed Theology claims that our knowledge of God comes through special revelations such as the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the Koran. Saint Thomas Aquinas indicates that Revealed Theology provides what he calls "Saving Knowledge", which is knowledge that will result in our salvation. Now Natural Theology is our knowledge of God that one ascertains through natural reasoning, or reasoning that is unaided by special revelations. Saint Thomas noted that this type of reasoning can provide knowledge of God's nature, or even prove his existence, but can never result in the person attaining salvation for as he states, even demons know that God exists. A note must be made before we press on; as one might notice Natural Theology is akin to philosophy of religion in the sense that both use human reasoning in their attempts to explain the divine. The main difference between them of course is the range of the topics considered.

Ontological Argument

The Ontological Argument, which argues from a definition of God's being to his existence, is the first type of argument we are going to examine. Since this argument was founded by Saint Anslem, we will be examining his writings. Saint Anslem starts by defining God as an all-perfect being, or rather as a being containing all conceivable perfections. Now if in addition of possessing all conceivable perfections this being did not possess existence, it would then be considered less perfect from a being that does exist. Since by definition God is all-perfect, and a being that does not exist is less perfect than one that did, it must be deemed that God exists. As one can see, Anslem explains God's existence just by utilizing our concept of God as an all-perfect being. Simply put, the definition of God guarantees his existence just as the definition of a triangle guarantees that all triangles have three sides. This argument is a hard one to follow due to the fact that it utilizes Reductio Ad Abusdum form. This is when you support your conclusion by showing that the negation of the said conclusion will lead to a logical paradox.

Numerous Philosophers, Immanuel Kant being one, have refuted Saint Anslems assertion. Kant's main objection is that the argument rests on the idea that existence is a quality or property. He asserts that the word "exist" has a different meaning from property-words such as "green", or "pleased". He then goes on to state that only characteristics or qualities can clarify or describe a concept, and since existence is neither it cannot be utilized in the argument. Kant then points out that the concept of God existing cannot be derived from the definition of him being all perfect, just as the concept of a leprechaun or unicorn's existence cannot be derived from it's definition.

Another problem with the Ontological Argument is the belief that existence is a real predicate. A predicate is something that adds some type of description to a subject. To say that something exists is to merely state that there is something in our reality that correlates with the description we have. It answers the question of "Is there any", but not the one "What is it". It can also be pointed out that if the Ontological Argument was valid then one could prove the existence of a perfect singer, perfect scientist, or any other perfect beings. This alone should make it clear that there is something drastically wrong with this argument. Lastly this final note must be made, the Ontological may prove God's existence but the question of his nature is never dealt with.

Teleological Argument

The next type of argument is called the Teleological Argument, or the argument from design. This argument starts by saying that the universe exhibits some type of purpose or order, and draws the conclusion that a supreme, intelligent being, must be responsible for this order. One of the most popular supporters of this argument goes under the name of William Paley. Paley starts by examining a watch, marveling on how all it's pieces from the hand to its sprockets move in Harmony. Each of these pieces has a specific purpose, the hand tells the time, the sprockets move the gears, and so on. This watch, or as Paley calls it "a well adjusted machine", would not demonstrate it's purpose of telling time if one of it's components were slightly perturbed. This precision, in Paley's eyes, show that there must be a watchmaker who created the watch for the purpose of telling time. He believes that it is just not possible for the watch to have been created by chance. It indicates that it is irrelevant whether anyone knows the maker of the watch, or actually witnessed its creation. He defends this by pointing out how we know that an eyepiece exists even though the vast majority of people do not know how, or who created it.

Paley next declares that it would not invalidate his conclusion if the watch sometimes went astray or was seldom right. The purpose of the machine would still be evident, and that it is not relevant for the machine to be perfect to prove that it has a creator. He concludes the watch analogy with the assumption, that no intelligent person would assume that the pieces of the watch were just a random combination of nature. The next concept Paley addresses is the idea of the watch being able to reproduce itself. Just because it can do this does not eliminate the fact that there must be a designer to establish the first in the line. We know that the watch has a designer because it demonstrates an end, a sort of purpose. Therefore there must be some artificer who understood its mechanism and designed its use. Paley in his final analysis compares the complexities of the human body to the watch to demonstrate

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