Existence Of God Essay, Research Paper
Existence of God or the Lack There of
Philosophers and theologians have always searched a way to prove the existence or non-existence of God. Many of these philosophers have made valid points for their views on the subject. Philosophers such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, Decartes, and John Locke argued for the existence of God while others, such as Rowe and Hume, searched for ways to disprove the arguments that these philosophers stated.
Saint Thomas Aquinas had five ways in which he proved the existence of God. The first of which dealt with proving the existence of God through the idea of motion. By studying the works of Aristotle he concluded that an object in motion must be put into motion by another object or force. Therefore he stated that there must be an ?unmoved mover? (God) who initially put things into motion:
?When it is said that something moves itself, the same being is considered as both moving and moved. When, however, it is said that something is moved by another, one thing is considered as a mover and another thing as being moved. Now it is clear that when something moves another, the fact that it is moving another does not mean that it is the first mover. Whence to say that something moves another does not exclude the fact that it itself may be moved by another and have from this other the fact that it is a mover. So, in like manner, when something moves itself, this does not exclude the fact that it may be moved by another and have from this other the power to move itself.(Being and God, pp.235)?
The second way that St. Thomas proved the existence of God was through causation of existence. In this proof he says that no object creates itself so therefore something must have created it. There then must have been an ?uncaused first cause? (God) that started the chain of existence.
St. Thomas?s third way of proving the existence of God was through proving the existence of contingent and necessary objects. A Contingent being is an object that depends on the existence of a necessary being for its existence. Therefore a necessary being must exist to support the existence of the contingent beings. This necessary being is what we have come to know as God.
The argument from degrees and perfection, St. Thomas?s fourth way of proving the existence of God, states in order for something to appear as beautiful, there must be another one of these things to compare it to that is less beautiful then the next. St. Thomas then stated for any given quality, such as beauty or knowledge, there must be a perfect standard by which all these qualities are measured. All these perfections are contained in God.
St. Thomas?s fifth way of proving the existence of God was through the argument from intelligent design. In this proof St. Thomas states that common sense tells us that the universe was created by an intelligent designer, God. All physical laws and the order of nature and life were designed and ordered by God, the intelligent designer.
Decartes said, ?we exist and we have the idea of a most perfect being; and, as we are ourselves imperfect, that the idea is not produced by us-it must therefore have a cause. (Decartes & Spinoza, pp.74)? By saying this Decartes brings about the idea of innate ideas to prove the existence of God. He is saying that because we have an idea of a perfect being it must have been put in our minds for a purpose and therefore God exists.
Decartes then went on to give the example of the mountain without a valley. He stated that since he could not conceive of a mountain without a valley there must be no such thing. In regard to this he said that he would not be able to conceive of a God that did not exist therefore God must exist.
Spinoza tried to prove the existence of God in Proposition 5 when he says that the existence of God is known simply by the consideration of his nature. He states that ?the conception of God involves the necessary existence of God?. He uses the example of a triangle to demonstrate that it must or must not exist, and that the reasons for its existence or non-existence must be either in the nature of the thing in question or something external to it. Existence is part of the nature of substance, and it therefore has no internal causes to existence. Spinoza also states that the ability to exist is power and therefore God must exist because otherwise finite beings would have more power than infinite beings (Decartes and Spinoza, pp.167-169)
Anselm went by proving the existence of God by first defining God as ?that than which none greater can be conceived?. He proved it using Modus Tollens in this structure:
1. God is the greatest possible being.
2. If God did not exist, then being greater than God would be possible.
3. Suppose God does not exist.
4. Then a being greater than God is possible.
5. That is, it is possible for there to be a being greater than the greatest possible being.
6. But this is not possible.
7. The assumption made at step 3 must therefore be false.
8. It follows immediately that God exists.
Many people objected to this way of proving the existence of God, especially atheists, because they said that it can be used to prove the existence of all perfect things. Gaunilo offered a counter argument that proved this objection:
1. A Perfect island is by definition the greatest possible island.
2. An island that fails to exist in the actual world (while existing in other possible worlds) is less perfect that exists in all possible worlds.
3. So, a Perfect island exists necessarily.
Since nobody believes that there are such things as perfect islands then Anselm?s argument would not seem to work.
Pascal said that there is no real harm in the belief of a God whether he exists or not. This is true because if God does exist and you believe in him than you have eternal rewards and if he doesn?t exist than you have only wasted a portion of your life believing in it. However, if God does exist and you do not believe in God you will have eternal punishment and yet if he doesn?t exist you will have gained no reward and received no punishment. This is a good way to look at believing in the existence of God, in my opinion, because it shows that no real harm can come out of believing in a God.
?If the God does not exist it would of course be impossible to prove it; and if he does exist it would be a folly to attempt it(Intro to Philosophy: Kierkegaard, pp.342)?. I would like to open up this next section of this paper with that quote in order to show that I am not necessarily trying to prove that there is no God but just to show that the proofs dealing with the existence of God are nonsense. How can the above philosophers actually believe that they could prove the existence of God through reason when this topic is far beyond the reasoning of the human mind?
As Kiekegaard later stated, he would not go about trying to prove that a rock exists but rather prove that a thing that exists is a rock. This makes perfect sense for this argument because there is no real thing that they can prove is God. No one really knows who, or what, God really is and therefore you cannot point at it and tell all that it is God.
Immanuel Kant, when preaching against the ontological argument for the existence of God, stated that you should not logically try to prove the existence of God. That is impossible. Instead you should say that if such a God were to exist he would have these certain characteristics. He also gives an example of an apple. He says that when describing an apple you do not say that it is red, round, tasty, and it exists because you know that it does. Kant did in fact believe in the existence of God but he felt that it was not something that you can prove but rather something that you know. That is why he said that you cannot use it as one of the characteristics. You must say that if it does exist than it would have certain things that would be true about it.