The Arguments for (G)od’s Existence Not So Commonly Mentioned

There are many philosophical arguments for the existence of God – like a lot. There are some arguments conveniently categorized for the readied inquirer: cosmological arguments, moral arguments, nomal arguments, teleological arguments, ontological arguments, transcendental arguments, arguments from miracles, cumulative case arguments for the Resurrection,  and so on.

Although there may be some obscurely known arguments throughout the history of religious thought, they nonetheless fall under the schema of this categorization. Investigations into ultimate reality or Being can take many forms through experience or what can be known prior to or independent of experience.

This is essentially a list of those obscure arguments which are not often discussed in popular presentations on the existence of God. It’s not really that these arguments are really anymore convincing or persuasive than what’s being presented today, in my opinion, but they are hidden gems for sure. Insight may however be the grounds for persuasion.

I. Immanuel Kant’s Ontological Argument

The best way to approach the religious philosophy of Immanuel Kant is to have a good understanding of the epistemological/metaphysical project he set out on. To express this briefly, Kant brings a certain understanding to analytic and synthetic judgements as well as a priori and a posteriori judgements. This distinction led him to ask several questions:

  1. How are synthetic judgements in mathematics possible?
  2. How are synthetic a priori judgements in physics possible?
  3. How are synthetic a priori judgements in metaphysics possible?

The first question is answered in the Transcendental Aesthetic of his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), the second question is answered in his Transcendental Analytic, and the third is answered in the Transcendental Dialectic (TD). Kant essentially argues in TD that by the nature of reason the categories – which are necessary conditions for knowledge – extend beyond that which they are immediately given in space and time, hence, they are posited with the responsibility to prose possible solutions to metaphysical questions.

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A Dialogue on Belief in God

*Two friends Henry and William are both philosophy students. Henry is primarily studying theology and William is wanting pursue a career in teaching philosophy. The two discuss belief in God*

William: I’m not sure if atheism has much going for it. However, I think the converse is true with theism; the evidence simply isn’t there. Maybe you and I can agree on an ultimate reality, but I can’t name it, I can’t call it God, and I can’t find any rational support for it.

Henry: Do you think you and I could agree on an “ultimate” reality?

William: Probably. I’d say so.

Henry: Well, let’s say that there are two realities: reality A and reality B. Let’s better say that these are not “ultimate” realities but realities without “restrictions.” In other words, these realities have no limitations to their being. However, insofar as they are different realities, one must have properties which the other one lacks. Therefore, one reality has some properties that the other one lacks. Therefore, one reality is restricted, while the other is unrestricted.

William: Okay, so after all that we agree: there is an unrestricted reality – which you might say is God – and a restricted reality – you might say “our reality.” What would come next?

Henry: Well, what would this unrestricted reality look like?

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Thinking About God After the Arguments

Precisely the question should arise once we’ve established arguments for the existence of God on what sorts of names or predicates can be attributed to God. In other words, we’ve so far satisfied our intellectual curiosity about divine existence and now must kind of pursue a divine science which helps us understand our Creator-created distinction.

Thomas Aquinas contended that metaphysics is a philosophical science whose main subject or area of study is “being as being.” In doing so, he was aligning himself with the similar definition Aristotle applied in his Metaphysics. In Aristotle’s Metaphysics, written close to a thousand years before Aquinas, Aristotle doesn’t necessarily use this word by name but in book IV of the Metaphysics he says that “there is a science which investigates being as being and the attributes which belong to this in virtue of its own nature.” [1]

However, there is a kind of distinction that emerges from here in book IV to the understanding of metaphysics in book VI where metaphysics now steps in with a more specific interest: immaterial entity or the divine. Aquinas to my understanding took this second understanding – called “first philosophy” or “divine science” – and considered it virtually the same with the first understanding.

However, what made Aquinas unique was his denial – so to speak – that God was the subject of metaphysics. Aquinas and Aristotle agree that the metaphysician should concern himself with knowledge of first principles and the causes of that subject. However, God cannot be the subject of metaphysics because He can only be known indirectly as the cause of what does fall under being as being.

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A Dialogue on The Cosmological Argument

*Two friends Jacob and Mark are having a conversation about God. Jacob is a Christian while Mark is an agnostic. Mark is curious about Jacob’s views of the world. 

Mark: God is not something known by reason. God is just like Santa Claus; too fantastic a story made for simple-minded children! Have you seen any evidence of a God anywhere, at any times, at all?

Jacob: Let’s be honest before we start: you and I differ on what is seen. This will ring true in even the simplest of subjective examples: our preference of ice cream, the aesthetic of colors and paintings and so on. However, is it the case that this kind of “seeing” is the case in religion?

Mark: Obviously not, because if we could see it, we would believe it.

Jacob: On principle, you believe what is seen?

Mark: Yes.

Jacob: How does belief differ from knowledge?

Mark: You can believe something to be true, although it might be the case otherwise. Knowledge however lacks this “might otherwise.” If you know something, you just know it.

Jacob: What sorts of things do we know?

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The God of the Philosophers and the God of Christianity

Let’s consider a historical instance. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274?) in his almost insurmountable work Summa Theologiae (specifically for our purposes the third article of the First Part), offers five arguments or “Five Ways” which demonstrate God exists. The first three arguments are a kind of varying cosmological argument, which look to some phenomena in the world which requires an explanation either in a (i) First “Uncaused” Cause or (ii) metaphysically necessary Being. The fourth argument is a kind of moral argument, which looks at the degrees of perfection or the grades of things in the world to a Most Perfect Cause. The fifth argument is a kind of teleological argument which attempts to argue that intelligent beings act towards an end.

In each argument, we have a picture of God that are probably best taken collectively when considered together. Let’s suppose we took this “collective photo” and ran with an analogy of professional photography. We’ve snapped our shot; we take the photo home and attempt to develop our negative by submerging the material in a stop bath, turn the lights off, let the negative dry for so many hours, and so on. Amidst all of our efforts and painstaking care, will the photo develop to show a picture of the God of Christianity?

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Theism and Morality: Some Replies and Questions about the Moral Argument

Let’s make an argument based on several observations. Let’s say that these observations are rational and broad. For example, we can tell the difference between a good and a “lesser good.” Maybe there are some instances when two goods are not so easily distinguished. Let’s suppose instead that there are two situations: one involving a clear good and one involving a clear evil.

By “clear” I mean to say that there is no ambiguity in a thing’s being good and a thing’s being evil. This is evidenced by the fact that we have differentiated them in the first place. Moreover, this differentiating of “goods” is real. Let’s say two things about moral behavior. This first is a  primary question to be asked: (i) Is the moral behavior appropriate? Is it the right thing to do? The second is more nomic or as principle: (ii) an action is morally good if the person’s intentions are good.

Consider four different possibilities (Ronald Nash 1999):

  1. A deed that is a right act and a morally good action.
  2. A deed that is a right act and a morally bad action.
  3. A deed that is a wrong act and a morally good action.
  4. A deed that is a wrong act and a morally bad action.

Someone under (1) could under a good motive want to give money to a charity. Someone under (2) could preform a right action but was brought about by a bad motive; I save someone from dying because I want to gain fame or glory, etc. Someone under (3) has pure motives but is nonetheless preforming a morally wrong act; I wish to bestow a gift on someone which inadvertently hurts them in the process, etc. Someone under (4) would preform a morally wrong act with bad intentions; telling a lie to hurt someone’s feelings, etc.

Now ask this question: Which of these would be the most preferable course of action? I suspect you might say (1). But then suppose I were to ask you to select the next best kind of behavior; which would you pick and why?

Let’s suppose that this differentiating of goods entailed that there is a hierarchy of goods. This is because more or less goods can only be known by comparison to what is “most good.” This is like saying that we cannot know something falls short of that standard unless the standard is known. Now suppose this premise:

  • (a) The maximum of a kind is the cause of the rest of that kind.

If there is a standard of Good, then all other instances of comparison are merely participations in the Good. Nothing is intrinsically good in itself; a thing is only good in so far as it shares in the nature of the Good. Therefore, given the truth of (a), the following is true:

  • (b) There exists a Most Perfect Cause (by whom the standard owes its being).

This little argument has started with the basic and rational observation that goods can be graded. If one follows this path of reasoning long enough, the conclusion follows that “there exists a Most Perfect Cause,” because the Good must be grounded in an unchanging and personal foundation. The Most Perfect Cause could not be changing and finite, all the while accounting for objective moral facts. The Most Perfect Cause also could not be impersonal, like a mere concept or number, since these don’t cause anything.

Objection. This argument supposes that there is a “better.” Is it not the case that any qualification as one thing being “better” than another is purely subjective? Aren’t the gradation of goods bound by opinions and personal perspectives?

Reply. This objection demonstrates the point further. Was it better that you raised this criticism as opposed to not mentioning it all? It seems that you chose one of the other, considering one would serve some “better” purpose than the other.

Objection. There may be some objective moral facts but these are only “apparently” objective and not actually real. Morality is absolute in an unqualified way.

Reply. Think for a moment about the definition of justice. Justice can be defined as the basic Aristotelian notion “situations where people receive their due.” Let’s understand distributive justice on the other hand as receiving some good or burden apportioned to human persons. For example, a woman dies and legally disperses her estate, enheritances and etc. to the rightful heirs among her family. Hence, distributive justice typically occurs when equals are treated equally and unequals or treated unequally. However, according to one philosopher: “This knowledge won’t get us very far until we discover some moral principle that will tell us the relevant respects on which equal and unequal treatment would be based (R. Nash 1999).”

 

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A Philosophy of Wine

I would suspect that when one drinks wine he must have a little bit to think about it. He spends a few dollars at the grocery store and might not think much. In fact, he may take the wine home with any to little intention of thinking at all. All this seems normal. Yet I confess that my pet peeve is just that normality (or routine) doesn’t, or at the very least shouldn’t, escape scrutiny.

Scrutiny? No one is upset at this poor sap at the local supermarket. Wine, however, necessarily invites one before a table (usually with company) and sparks the marriage of its various aesthetic features: pairing the beverage with a complimented meal (e.g., Pinot Noir and rotisserie chicken), intellectual or existential conversation, the experience of the wine’s chemical/sensational characteristics (tannins, descriptors, etc). This of course isn’t usually the case of how one drinks wine.

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