Introduction to Philosophy
April 23. 2013
The Existence of God The existence of God has been questioned, pondered, sought out and studied for hundreds, no, thousands of years since the beginning of time. “Does God exist?” “What do certain philosophers have to say about the existence of God?” “What do Christianity and Atheism have to say?” “What about those who say they have experienced God?” “If He does exist, what is He like?” “Why does He allow bad things to happen?” “Why does He not make Himself visible to us?” “What about those who say they have experienced God?” “Can the existence of God be proven?” These are only a small handful of questions that have been asked by many different people. To undoubtedly prove, or, even disprove, the existence of God would ultimately change almost every religion in some small way or another. But, is it possible?
Thomas Aquinas, a well-known Italian Dominican priest, philosopher and theologian, believed that God exists. “[He] wanted us to reason our way to God”, to proving or believing His existence (Class Notes). In fact, he had five arguments for the existence of God. The first is known as the “Argument from Motion”: “Our senses prove that some things are in motion. Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion. Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion. Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentially in the same respect. Therefore, nothing can move itself. Therefore, each thing in motion is moved by something else. The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum. Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.” (Gracyk) The problem with this argument is that it commits the fallacy of begging the question. In other words, the conclusion appears in the premises (Class Notes). The second is known as the “Cosmological Argument”: “There are things that are caused. Nothing can be the cause of itself. An infinite regress of causes is impossible. Therefore, there must be an uncaused first cause. The word ‘God’ means uncaused first cause. Therefore, God exists” (Class Notes). There are two problems with this argument: 1) the word “God” means more than uncaused first cause. It also means infinitely many other things such as perfectly loving, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, etc. Aquinas fails to address these descriptions in his argument. 2) How do we know an infinite regress of causes is impossible? (Class Notes) A supporter of Aquinas, known as William Craig, argues for Aquinas’ third premise in the “Cosmological Argument”. It is known as “Hilbert’s Hotel” and goes like this, “Assume an actual infinite is possible. It would be possible to build a hotel with infinitely many rooms. It would also be possible for all the rooms to be full. Suppose twenty people check out of the hotel. Now there are twenty fewer people in the hotel. However, infinity minus twenty is still infinity, so there is the same number of people in the hotel. Premises five and six contradict each other. Therefore, an actual infinite is impossible.” (Class Notes)
The third is called “Argument from Possibility and Necessity”, a reductio argument: “We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, that come into being and go out of being i.e., contingent beings. Assume that every being is a contingent being. For each contingent being, there is a time it does not exist. Therefore, it is impossible for these always to exist. Therefore, there could have been a time when no things existed. Therefore, at that time there would have been nothing to bring the currently existing contingent beings into existence. Therefore, nothing would be in existence now. We have reached an absurd result from assuming that every being is a contingent being. Therefore, not every being is a contingent being. Therefore, some being exists of its...