Theory of family resemblances
'I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than "family resemblances"; for the
various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes, gait, temperament, etc.
etc. overlap and criss-cross in the same way.- And I shall say: "games" form a family.'
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
Very often our words and concepts lack definition in the strict classical sense.
Anthropological history of religion
- Hunter gatherer
o Polytheistic, disorganized, divorced from morality, no connection to ‘the meaning of life’
o Shamanistic, political, divorced from morality, ‘high-God’
- Axial Age
o Monotheistic, priestly, political, connected to morality, connected to ‘the meaning of life’
o Karl Jaspers (800-200 BCE)
o China, Greece, India, Mesopotamia, Palestine
o Monotheism, morality, answering questions to the meaning of life, eschatology
1. The Abrahamic Religions
The monotheistic religions have in common:
- Belief in a single nonmaterial God, creator and manager of the universe
- Omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, benevolent
- Ultimate explanation
- Moral law
The ontological argument
Founded by Anselm of Canterbury
Argument has 2 meaning
o Verbal disagreement
o Reasoned support by given ideas
Ontological: “having to do with being” or “having to do with existence” “onto” comes from the present particle
of the Greek verb “to be”
o Premise 1: God; a being of which none greater can exist
o Premise 2: All other things equal, a being that exists is greater than one that does not exist
o Therefore, God exists (definition of God commits you to believing)
o - A thing which exists in our minds exists in intellectu;
o - A thing that exists in reality exists in re
o - in intellectu and in re: UC tower
o - in intellectu and not in re: Santa Claus
o - not in intellectu but in re: a mountain on the dark side of the moon
o -not in intellectu or in re: a new UCC built in 2025
o Clearly God exists in intellectu *Guanilos objection; Anslems reply to Guanilo*
The Cosmological Argument
Having to do with the study of the world or universe
“Kosmos” world or universe
o Argument from change:
o Whatever is moved, is moved by another
o This cannot go to infinity
o Therefore, there is a first mover
THE ARGUMENT 2:
o The argument from causation
o Things have efficient causes
o Nothing can be the cause of itself
o The chain of causes cannot go back to infinity
o Therefore, there is a first cause
THE ARGUMENT 3:
o Argument from contingency
o If everything that exists, exists contingently, there will have been a time at which nothing existed
o If that were so nothing could have come to exist, and nothing would exist now
o But things do exist now
o Therefore, some things must exist not contingently but necessarily
o Argument from degrees of excellence
o ‘more’ and ‘less’ requires a ‘most’ and ‘least’
o We acknowledge more and less good, more and less truly being, more and less perfect
o Therefore, there is a best (most good), a most truly being, a most perfect thing
o If the universe is spatially infinite, then for anything you identify as the biggest thing in it there will
always be something bigger
o The argument from harmony
o Natural bodies act for an end, including natural bodies which lack knowledge or intelligence
o Non-intelligent natural bodies which act for an end must have their action directed by a being endowed
with knowledge and intelligence
o Therefore, an intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end
The problem with this theory:
o Could one argue that the 5 ways taken together, even if they work as arguments, do not prove the
existence of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic God?
Ex: they prove the existence of a first mover, a first efficient cause, a necessary existence, a best
and most perfect being, and an ordering intelligence, but could these 5 be different Gods?
The Kalam Argument
The word Kalam is an Arabic word meaning, roughly, speech or discourse
THE ARGUMENT: o Whatever beings to exist has a cause of its existence
o The universe began to exist
o Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence
Defense of the first premise: nothing can just pop into existence.
No creation ex nihilo (out of nothing)
Everything that happens has to have a cause
III. Defense of the second premise:
If the universe had no beginning, then its age would be infinite, actually infinite
Potentially infinite- we have an element with a few rules but we haven’t done it all yet
Actually infinite- one in which all the steps have already been taken
Actually infinite series are impossible ∆ the universe had a beginning
Actual vs. potential infinities
o A potentially infinite series is like the natural number series: 1,2,3,4… and you just keep going forever
An actually infinite series would be one in which you have already taken a infinite number of steps
a) the impossibility of an actually infinite number of things
(Hilbert's hotel etc.)
Suppose a hotel with an infinite number of rooms is full: no vacancy
A traveler comes along, looking for lodging
The traveler can be accommodated.
o Occupant of room #1 moves to room #2
o Occupant of room #2 moves to room #3
o And so on and so forth till infinity
Therefore, the universe had a beginning
c) confirmation from the Big Bang theory
Craig also draws in the big bang theory as supporting evidence that the universe had a beginning
Craig also goes on to argue that the cause of the universes existence has to be personal intelligence
IV. Objections to this argument
a) Why cannot something just pop into existence?
The logic of infinite series
The paradoxes we looked at have in common that they disobey “Euclid’s Axiom”:
“If equals are added to equals, the results are equals; if equals are subtracted from equals, the results is
Would the impossibility of an infinite series rule out an eternal God?
If the universe can’t be infinitely old, then surely God can’t be infinitely old either!
You’d need to do some pretty fancy footwork about time and eternity to get around this one.
The argument from design
First Pass: Aquinas' Fifth Way
Natural bodies act for an end, including natural bodies which lack knowledge or intelligence
Non-intelligent natural bodies, which act for an end must have their action directed by a being endowed with
knowledge and intelligence
Therefore, an intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end
Question about the Fifth Way: Is it really true that acting for an end or purpose requires knowledge and intelligence?
Second Pass: Paley's Watch (1743-1805)
Analogy: the watch. There must be an intelligent designer behind the watch. The parts all work together
1. A watch is an elaborate mechanism whose parts serve certain ends
2.we infer that the watch was made by an intelligent watch maker
3. The universe is also an elaborate mechanism whose parts serve certain ends
4. Therefore, by analogy, we should infer that the universe was made by an intelligent universe maker (God)
Three Criticisms of Paley:
a)David Hume's criticism: unintelligent design (1711-1776)
Not all things are intelligently designed. There are lots of examples of things that could have
been designed better (human eye and octopus eye)
b) argument by analogy
Because two things resemble each other in one respect, they must relate in other respectcs as
But argument by analogy is unreliable (=fallacious)
Leaves are complex cellulose structures.
Leaves grow on trees.
Money bills are also complex cellulose structures.
Therefore money grows on trees.
Are there any points of disanalogy between the watch and universe?
Well…the watch has an overarching purpose, namely to tell the time, but it is not clear that the
universe has an overarching purpose!
c) natural selection
The theory of natural selection shows how, in principle, a complex functionally structured
organism could evolve from very simple beginnings.
Thus we no longer need to postulate God, the 'intelligent designer' to explain how such
organisms come to be.
Note: Darwin's theory does not prove that God does not exist.
It only shows that the argument from design is not compelling.
3. Third Pass: Fine tuning
- Lets allow that evolution can explain the development of much of the complexity we see in the world
The fact that we have a universe in which life (as we know it) is possible depends upon some extremely
improbable 'fine-tuning' of the fundamental constants of physics.
The series of unlikely coincidences (in the fine-tuning of the constants) makes the universe look like a 'put-up
Perhaps, even if no intelligence is guiding evolution, still an intelligent choice was needed to get a universe
where life is possible at all. That intelligence would be God.
A life-permitting universe is so extremely unlikely, that it just can't be an accident!
o There has got to be some sort of intelligent purpose behind it
o What if you won the lottery with odds 1 In 40,000,000. Would you be forced to think there must be
a power working for you? Answer: any universe is improbable
The Argument from miracles
Miracles, which are the disruptions of the ordinary course of nature, are clear proofs of the existence of a
Types and examples of miracles
- Motion of inanimate objects
- Theological miracles: bleeding wafers, crying statues, etc
- Glossalia (speaking in tongues.. babble nonsense, having fits, being able to speak another language)
St Andre Bessette
Difficulties with this argument
a) Hume’s empirical argument: Reliability of miracle reports
…..That is it always more rational to disbelieve then to believe
There is not to be found in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned
good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted
integrity as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation…;
and at the same time, attesting facts, performed in such a public manner, and in so celebrated a part of the
world, as to render the detection unavoidable….
Human predilection for surprise and wonder; human credulity overcomes reason:
Therefore, it is always more probable that testimony is false than that a law of nature has been violated.
Easier to disbelieve miracles than to believe
If this was true in Hume’s time, is it still true?
1. The immediacy and reliability of information now
2. Though there is still much credulity in the world, broad a skeptical attitude has made gains
3. Miracles could occur among peoples that are not ‘ ignorant an barbarous’
4. If a miracle is evidence for theism, it need not be read as evidence for a particular version of theism
b) Would miracles be evidence for the existence of the Abrahamic God, or against the existence of the Abrahmic
Miracles are understood to be violations of laws of nature, disruptions in the normal order to the universe
The orderliness of nature is supposed to be one bit of evidence in favour of God ( argument from deisgn)
You cant then go on to say that disorder is evidence in favour of God
Moreover, o If miracles are rare events, it seems as though God isn’t trying very hard to convince people of
o And if they (the miracles) are common then the world is really disorderly
The Argument from evil
a) omnipotent – God is all-powerful, that is, able to do all things; or at least things that are logically possible
b) omniscient – God knows all things, or at least all things that can be known
c) benevolent – God is good, and benevolent to human beings, and indeed to his creation; lover
Epicurus' version of the argument from evil
Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is
impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it,
why is there evil in the world?
o If an all-powerful and perfectly good god exists, then evil does not.
o There is evil in the world.
o Therefore, an all-powerful and perfectly good god does not exist.
Theodicy: an attempt to show why and how the presence of evil in the world is compatible with the existence of
o Divine retribution
Direct justice- the pain and suffering that people encounter is simply God’s retribution for the
evil that they themselves have done
Many punished who are not guilty
Overall optimism- things will work out in the grand plan of things, which is beyond our
knowledge. Maybe more goods than evils, injustice in afterlife
o Free will defence
The evil in the world is introduced by the operation of human free will.
The suffering of the innocent beings (animals and babies)
Moral evils: arises from the exercises of free will (murder, theft)
Natural evil: (diseases and forest fires)
Perhaps, some evils are necessary for a better world in general, or that the suffering of
members is better for the world
o Soul Making
Gods benevolence consists not in giving free and easy rides, but in providing context in which
souls can grow, requires challenges
We wouldn’t like a world in which everything was perfect
An argument for the rationality of religious belief
Pascal thought the arguments for the existence for God were not compelling.
And also that the arguments against the existence for God were not compelling.
No conclusive evidence for or against the existence
Pascal's fundamental vision: in a situation of insurmountable uncertainty the best we can do is think about
probabilities and make a rational best guess. o is it more rational to believe in God (and behave accordingly )
o or not to believe in God (and behave accordingly)
I believe G G is true WIN BIG
I believe G G is false little loss
I don't believe G G is true LOSE BIG
I don't believe G G is false little win
The big win and big loss are for eternity, the little win and little loss are just for the span of your lifetime +- 70
Result: the only way to avoid the big loss, and to have a chance at the big win, is to believe G; it's the rational thing
This does not prove that God exists; but it seems to prove that, in a situation of insurmountable ignorance about
whether God exists, it is rational to believe that he does.
What would God think of people who believe in him just because of a bet?
is there something fishy about the outcomes? if there is no eternity, is a 70-year win or loss really a little win or loss?
It is true that 70 years is nothing compared to eternity, but if 70 years is all you have, then you lose all
those years (to piety!) YOU LOSE EVERYTHING
I believe G G is true WIN BIG
I believe G G is false little loss (100% LOSS)
I don't believe G G is true LOSE BIG
I don't believe G G is false little win (100% WIN)
Arguments for theism – the belief that one deity exists
There are two PRO arguments
o The moral argument: the only way good and bad in morality can be objective is if they are given by the
will of the God
o The argument from the religious experience- some people have very intense religious experiences
(mystical experiences), which are, it seems, to be self-validating
There are two other pro arguments
o Ontological Argument
o -(Pascal’s Wager)
o -Four Ways
o -Design Argument
o -First mover, first cause, contingencies
o -Aquinas, Paley, Fine Tuning
The Moral argument – the only way good and bad in morality can be objective is if they are given by the will of
The argument from the Religious Experience – Some people have very intense religious experiences (mystical
experiences), which are, it seems, to be self-validating There are two for arguments
o -Divine Hiddenness
o -Cognitive Science of religion
o -Moral evil
o -Natural evil
Divine Hiddenness (John Schellenburg – Halifax… not dead)
o -This is really new player in a very old field
o The Abrahamic God is thought of as omnipotent and as loving, and desiring to have a loving relationship
with every individual human being
o Such a God would NOT make it difficult for humans to figure out is (s)he exists!
o Hard to figure out, Therefore, no such God exists
Cognitive Science of Religion (Pascal Boyer – anthropologist at a university… not dead)
o -It seems that many people feel an invisible presence; a conscious force that accompanies them. This
seems to point the existence of God or gods.
o -Dogs think any things that move are alive due to their Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD)
o -Mechanism to detect the presence of agents. Think of how costly it might be for an animals to fail to
detect the presence of an agent
A problem with this picture:
o We would have to explain why theism is not absolutely universal in homo sapiens
o We’ve had 2500 years of the Axial Age religion; we probably have another 4 billion years until the sun
becomes a red giant… So we are only 25 40-millionths of the way through humankind
o So religion is in its ABSOLUTE INFANCY
o -So of course, religion will change over time
Father of modern philosophy
o Descartes project was to pull down the “edifice of knowledge”
o “Cleaning the Augean stables” Greek myth that Hercules had to clean out the stable full of crap.
o Hercules, the hero had to do labours in the day (crap – they have never been cleaned out)
o 7 labours – what he did: realized there was a stream nearby, diverted the stream to flow through the
stables and clean them out for him.