PHL 105Y Midterm Test Review – Philosophers and Their Philosophy
RELIGION AND BELIEF
FOR & AGAISNT EXISTENCE OF GOD
Saint Anselm (15-17) – Ontological Argument
•The person who has said to himself there is no God, is able to understand the concept or definition of
God, once he thinks about this concept or definition, he will have to realize that God actually exists.
•God = the being greater than which nothing can be thought.
•Existing in mind vs. actually existing. (I.e., the painter has the picture in mind then executed it)
•A being which exists in both mind and actuality is greater than a being which exists only in the mind.
Gaunilo (against Anselm)
•He tries to show that if Anselm’s argument works, we’d also be able to prove the real existence of a
maximally wonderful island. But that’s crazy. So there must be something wrong with Anselm’s
•The Fool can reply that this thing is said already to exist in the mind only in the sense that I
understand what is said.
Richard Taylor (25-31) – Cosmological Argument
•Principle of sufficient reason according to Taylor there is an explanation for the existence of anything
(anything that exists).
•The world exists, so the world’s got to have a cause.
•Cause could be internal/external.
•Some truths depend on something else is called contingent (sorts of things that could have gone either
•Other truths depend only upon themselves, true by their natures is called necessary (could not have
been otherwise, maybe either true/false).
•Only necessary thing can be self-caused (internally).
•God exists, creates the world, world is not self-caused (externally-caused), God is external cause of
world. God is creator of the world. God is self-caused.
William Paley (to Taylor) (31-34) – Argument from Design/Teleological Argument
•Not like Taylor who demands explanation for ‘anything at all’, Paley focused on needs to explain
existence of ‘certain special sorts of things’.
•Rock vs. watch, rock is unexplained; watch demands explanation special for it has many parts.
Several parts are framed and put together “for a purpose”.
There must have existed at some place or some time or other a maker or makers who formed it.
•Something can show evidence of being designed even if it’s imperfect.
•Where there is a law, there is a lawgiver; laws don’t make things on their own.
Ernest Nagel (against Taylor, Anselm, Paley; with Kant) (34-39) – Does God Exist?
•Every event must have a cause.
•The chain of causes can’t go on back infinitely.
•So there must be a first cause (=God).
•Nagel objected to Taylor with the ‘self caused world’. Thinks that something about character of world
made it seem not sort of thing that could be self caused or exists as result of its own nature.
•On ontological argument, Nagel’s view is that existence is not an ordinary predicate, and cannot be
part of the characterization or definition of anything.
•Nagel sees the Argument from Design as focusing in particular on the existence of living beings.
Living beings don’t seem to come into being in the way that watches do – parents don’t create their
offspring by designing them on a workbench.
Nagel argues that Darwin’s theory of chance variation and natural selection would in any event
provide a better explanation of the characteristics of living things.
•On Moral Argument, belief in God is morally necessary by Kant. Kant’s argument might be appealing
if we have already brought into the nature of human morality.
•On Spiritual experience, acknowledges that many people have religious belief because of personal
experiences of spiritual character. Nagel brought against religion with the argument from evil, which is
not possible to reconcile the existence of a benevolent and all-powerful God with existences of pain &
suffering in the world.
John Hick (39-44) – The Problem of Evil
•2 kinds of evil: moral evil (human wickedness), non-moral evil(suffering, pain. Either mental or
physical, as result of natural causes).
•Hick argues that the possibility of moral evil is needed for human freedom.
•God could have made creatures that never did anything bad, but they would not be free.
•Being with a free will relation to God , must be possible to make choices against will of God, choose evil.
•God couldn’t create a free being guaranteed not to choose evil.
•Moral evil: something is a person only if it can choose to do wrong, a world in which it is possible to do
wrong is better than one without that option, if God exists she/he created the best possible world. God
would create a world with moral evil.
•Non-moral evil: God couldn’t have made everything as comfortable as possible for us. Christians don’t
think the world would have a great moral purpose if it was comfort paradise; we have to struggle in
order to develop spiritually. For the purpose of ‘soul making’. Possible when there’s non-moral evil.
GROUNDS FOR BELIEF
Blaise Pascal (48-49) – The Wager
•If there is a God, he is infinitely beyond our comprehension, since, being indivisible and without limits,
he bears no relation to us. We are therefore incapable of knowing either what he is or whether he is.
That being so, who would dare to attempt an answer to that question. Certainly not we, who bear no
relation to him,.
•Pascal does NOT think we can give a successful rational proof of the existence of God.
•It is rational to believe that God exists
It’s in the self-interest of the unbeliever to become a believer in God. Belief in God is rationally expected
to pay off for you.
•It’s impossible to choose based on reasons (proofs or evidence).
•One option (call it A) superdominates another (call it B) if all the outcomes associated with A are better
than the outcomes associated with B.
•One option (call it A) dominates another (call it B) if the sum expected value (probability times payoff)
associated with A is higher than the expected value associated with B.
•If there’s even a tiny chance that God exists, believing is the rational thing to do. Believing carries a
chance of infinite reward, and a chance of some wasted time; failing to believe carries a chance of
infinite punishment. If you multiply even the smallest number by infinity, you get infinity: the
expected value of belief in God is infinite.