25 Modern Theology

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Transcript 25 Modern Theology

Modern Theology
René Descartes
Argument from Thought
Where do we get our concept of God?
It’s the concept of something perfect
We never experience perfection
So, the concept of God can’t come from
• So, the concept of God is innate
• It must come from something perfect
• So, God must exist
Descartes’s Premise
• “Now it is manifest by the natural light
that there must at least be as much
reality in the efficient and total cause as
in its effect. For, pray, whence can the
effect derive its reality, if not from its
cause? And in what way can this cause
communicate this reality to it, unless it
possessed it in itself?”
Descartes’s Premise
• “And from this it follows, not only that
something cannot proceed from
nothing, but likewise that what is more
perfect -- that is to say, which has more
reality within itself -- cannot proceed
from the less perfect.”
Descartes’s Argument
• The cause of the idea of X must have at least
as much reality as X
– We get the idea of fire from fire
– We get the idea of red from red things
• The cause of our idea of God must have at
least as much reality as God
• Only God has as much reality as God
• So, our idea of God must come from God
Descartes’s Ontological Argument
• God has all perfections
• Existence is a perfection
• So, God has existence
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
• Does God exist?
• Place your bet
• Total uncertainty—
no data
• What should you
Pascal’s Wager
• “Let us weigh the gain and the loss
in wagering that God is. Let us
estimate these two chances. If you
gain, you gain all; if you lose, you
lose nothing. Wager, then, without
hesitation that He is.”
Pascal’s Wager
You believe
You don’t believe
• God
• No God
• A bet on God can’t lose; a bet against God
can’t win
Kant’s Moral Argument
• We can’t prove
God’s existence
• But we can’t live
and act except by
assuming that God
Kant’s Moral Argument
• Bad things happen to good people;
the wicked prosper
• Why, then, be good?
Kant’s Moral Argument
It’s rational to be moral only if it’s rewarded
That doesn’t happen in this life
It must happen in another life
So, there must be an afterlife, and a just
Leibniz (1646-1716)
• Principle of Sufficient Reason: “Nothing
happens without a sufficient reason.”
• So the universe— the series of contingent
causes— must have a sufficient reason for its
• Something which is its own sufficient reason for
existing: God
Leibniz’s Argument
• The world of efficient causes:
• . . . <— c <— b <— a
Sufficient Reason
• By the principle of sufficient reason,
everything exists for a reason, including the
entire series of contingent causes
• Take the entire history of the universe, finite
or infinite, and ask why it exists
• Why is there something rather than nothing?
• Why is this particular history actual?
• There must be a sufficient reason for the
entire universe. And that is God
Material v. Spiritual
• The sufficient reason for everything cannot be
the universe itself, or anything material, since
matter is indifferent to existence or
• It must be something outside the realm of the
material, temporal world that explains the
existence of everything else
• There must be something spiritual that explains
the existence of everything, spiritual and
• And that can only be God
Three Kinds of Evil
• Metaphysical evil: the evil of anything in
comparison with God, who is the most
valuable being
• Moral evil: evil done intentionally by human
beings or other moral agents
• Natural evil: evil in the universe for which no
moral agent (other than perhaps God, the
Creator) is responsible—for example,
disease, old age, and death
Best of All Possible Worlds
• God is the omnipotent Creator of
• God is omnibenevolent, or all-loving
• So, this, the universe that God has
created, is the best of all possible
Metaphysical Evil
• There is metaphysical evil just in there being a
universe at all
• Thus God’s omnipotence and omnibenevolence
are compatible with metaphysical evil
• God, being omnibenevolent, would create a
universe just to let creatures have their day in
the sun
• Thus metaphysical evil is not just compatible
with an all-loving God; it is explained by God’s
Moral Evil
• Moral evil brought about by agents other than
God results from free will
• Free will is itself something good
• Free-will theodicy: freedom is a valuable attribute
of a creature
• God does something good in creating beings who
are free
• Thus given a God who is omnibenevolent and the
assumption that it is likely some with free will will
sin, then moral evil is to be expected, too
Natural Evil
• The main problem is natural evil—
disease, old age, and death
• Leibniz contends that the universe is so
complex, and its parts are so
interdependent, that changing its
structure to eliminate these natural evils
would result in something even worse
James Branch Cabell
• “The optimist
proclaims we live in
the best of all possible
worlds; and the
pessimist fears this is
Candide (1759)
• Voltaire mocks Leibniz’s view as
Candide and his Leibnizian friend, Dr.
Pangloss, witness the Seven Years’
War, the Lisbon earthquake, and other
Pangloss’s Theodicy
• Poor Vision: “It is demonstrable that
things cannot be otherwise than as they
are; for as all things have been created
for some end, they must necessarily be
created for the best end. Observe, for
instance, the nose is formed for
spectacles; therefore we wear
Pangloss’s Theodicy
• Venereal Disease: “... it was a thing
unavoidable, a necessary ingredient in the
best of worlds; for if Columbus had not caught
in an island in America this disease, which
contaminates the source of generation, and
frequently impedes propagation itself, and is
evidently opposed to the great end of nature,
we should have had neither chocolate nor
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
Aquinas’s Design Argument
• All bodies obey natural laws
• All bodies obeying natural laws act toward an
• Therefore, all bodies act toward an end
(Including those that lack awareness)
Aquinas’s Design Argument
• Things lacking awareness act toward a
goal only under the direction of someone
aware and intelligent
• Therefore, all things lacking awareness
act under the direction of someone aware
and intelligent: God
Aquinas’s Design Argument
• All things lacking awareness act under the
direction of someone aware and intelligent
• The universe as a whole lacks awareness
• Therefore, the universe as a whole acts under the
direction of someone aware and intelligentnamely, God
William Paley (1743-1805)
William Paley
• Suppose you find a watch
– Intricate
– Successful
• You’d infer that it had an intelligent maker
• Similarly, you find the universe
– Intricate
– Successful
• You should infer it had an intelligent maker,
David Hume (1711-1776)
Hume’s Criticisms
• Analogy isn’t strong
• Universe may be self-organizing
• Why machine, rather than animal or
Hume’s Criticisms
• Taking analogy seriously:
– God not infinite
– God not perfect
• Difficulties in nature
• Can’t compare to other universes
• Maybe earlier, botched universes
• Maybe made by committee
Hume’s Skepticism
• Variability: Many hypotheses are
• Undecidability: We have no evidence
that would let us select the most
• So, we cannot establish God’s