Philosophy

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Philosophy 101

Final Paper: Answer to five Questions on Castell and Borchert’s Introduction to Modern Philosophy, 4th ed. (Pearson-Macmillan, 1983).

Question #1: Why does Hume think that the “design” in nature cannot prove God’s existence?
Answer: One of the most common reasons why people say they believe in God is that the universe seems to have been intentionally designed. Hume observes that while we may perceive two events that seem to occur in conjunction, there is no way for us to know the nature of their connection. Hume argues that an orderly universe does not necessarily prove the existence of God. Those who hold the opposing view claim that God is the creator of the universe and the source of the order and purpose we observe in it, which resemble the order and purpose we ourselves create. Therefore, God, as creator of the universe, must possess intelligence similar, though superior, to ours. Hume explains that for this argument to hold up, it must be true that order and purpose appear only as a direct result of design. He points out that we can observe order in many mindless processes, such as generation and vegetation. Hume further argues that even if we accept that the universe has a design, we cannot know anything about the designer. God could be morally ambiguous, unintelligent, or even mortal. The design argument does not prove the existence of God in the way we conceive him: all-knowing, all-powerful, and entirely beneficent. The existence of evil, Hume holds, proves that if God exists, God cannot fit these criteria. The presence of evil suggests God is either all-powerful but not completely good or he is well-meaning but unable to destroy evil, and so not all-powerful. He had three main arguments against the design argument. Firstly he argued that order is not proof of design. We see order in many situations but only in a minority do we know it is caused by an agent. Secondly we consider one thing the cause of another when we have observed that the effect follows the cause with regularity. If we could observe lots of universes, and notice that the ones governed by order are designed by God, then we could infer that this one, being ordered, is probably also designed by God; but we can’t. This universe is the only one we know about, so we cannot appeal to any regularity. His third argument is that when we deduce a cause from an effect, all we know about the cause is what the effect indicates. If the universe has indeed been created by God, this shows that God possesses the amount of power, intelligence and benevolence revealed in the universe but no more. He criticized theologians for assuming that they knew more about God than the design argument could establish; perhaps the universe was made by a committee of designers, or was a poor experiment in universe-making by an inferior god, or was created by a god who has lost interest in it and allows it to continue regardless of its condition until it breaks up with age.

Philosophy 101

Question #2: According to Paley, how should we determine what is morally right?
Answer: William Paley’s Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, first published in 1785, played a seminal role in the dissemination of utilitarianism in England. Paley believes that right actions are right just because God approves of them and wrong actions are wrong just because God disapproves of them Then, God is a legislator of morality; he decides what’s right or wrong in the same way in which the state decides what’s legal and what’s illegal. One might argue that the presence of a God who will punish and reward us in the afterlife on the basis of our deeds is a necessary component of moral motivation. Ethics is the science that teaches men their duty and the reasons for it. The moral rightfulness of an action consists in its being in accordance with the will of God. It is my duty to follow the will of God. However, to explain the nature of duty, one must consider that of...
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