Philosophical discussion of arguments for God’s existence appeared to become reduced significantly in the environment in which logical positivism prevails. However, the resurgence of the interest toward the ontological and cosmological arguments since the 1960s prompted new ideas and perceptions. The ontological side of the discussion has been mainly associated with Anselm’s assertion that God, by definition, is the greatest being possible. Discussions of cosmological arguments have been primarily focused on the ideas put forth by Aquinas and Craig as related to the existence of a cause for the observable world. Both statements, ontological and cosmological, are concerned with showing that God’s existence stems from the logical analysis of the universe. While the cosmological argument shows that God exists because of the proven fact that the world itself exists, the ontological argument demonstrates the presence of the higher power by logically analyzing the notion and conception of God. This paper aims to provide arguments for God’s existence from both points of view, thus suggesting that the deity exists because there must be an initial cause for everything in the world.
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Aquinas’ Five Ways
The argument put forth by Thomas Aquinas for God’s existence is one of the most prominent. His Five Ways, the view from motion, the argument from efficient causes, the argument from possibility and necessity, the argument from the gradation of being, and the argument from design, are grounded on the Aristotelian anthology and employ the infinite regression argument (De La Torre, 2016). Notably, the philosopher did not have an initial intention to prove that God exists but instead proposed the Five Ways as an initial stage, which was used as a framework for future work. The first argument from motion, or the unmoved mover, suggests that, since there is motion in the world and people experience it, it can be seen that there must have been the first mover that gave start to everything else (De La Torre, 2016). Aquinas suggested that whatever phenomena are in motion, their motion must have been started by something or someone, thus concluding that there must have been an unmoved mover, a deity.
The second argument from efficient causes, or the first cause, initiated the idea that something couldn’t cause the existence of itself because it would have to exist before causing itself. Therefore, it was impossible for an unlimited number of causes to exist since they would result in an ongoing regress. Therefore, the argument entails that there should have been the initial cause, which itself is uncaused. The third argument from possibility and necessity, or necessary being, suggests that all things are contingent, therefore, it is possible for them not to exist (De La Torre, 2016). Aquinas put forth the argument that if all things have the possibility of not existing, there should have been a time when there was nothing at all. Because things exist at this moment, there should be a being with a necessary existence that is regarded as God because it had to exist for other things to come into the world.
The fourth argument from degree, or the argument from the gradation of being, considers the presence of various goodness levels, or degrees. Aquinas proposed a belief that the phenomena that are considered good must have a connection to the gradation of good, which is the highest possible rank or degree. Thus, there should be the highest possible goodness that initiated all goodness in the world, which one can call God. The final argument, the teleological, or the argument from design, implies that the things that have no intelligence are ordered to have a purpose. The philosopher argued that the unintelligent objects in the world could not be ordered until the intelligent being had ordered them. Therefore, there should have been an intelligent creator to move things to their ends, which can be called God. Overall, the Five Ways proposed by Aquinas imply the existence of causation and contingency. The philosopher connects the general truths about natural phenomena and proceeds to argue that there must have been a source for all the phenomena that exist. Therefore, his arguments are based on logic rather than belief, which makes his approach more convincing.
St. Anselm’s Argument
The other side of the perspective is the ontological argument for God’s existence, and the approach taken by St. Anselm is the most prominent. The theological philosopher claimed to derive God’s presence from the concept of “a being than which no greater can be conceived” (Oppy, 2019, para. 2). Anselm argued that in case if there is no such being, there must be even a more incredible being, such than which no greater can be imagined. However, such a claim would be absurd because there could be nothing more excellent than a being on which no greater can be imagined. Therefore, the being that which no greater can be imagined, referred to as God, exists (Oppy, 2019). This perception of the presence of a Deity used to be greatly described among ancient Greek philosophers as well as early writers of Christianity.
According to Anselm, even the ‘fool’ could understand God as a concept, and such an understanding itself suggests that the greatest ever exists in mind (Oppy, 2019). The idea must either exist only in people’s minds, or both in mind and reality. If its existence is only in one’s mind, then a greater being can be conceived. Therefore, if people “can conceive of a being than which nothing more extraordinary can be conceived, it must exist in reality” (Oppy, 2019, para. 10). Beginning from the emergence of the idea of God in the mind of people, Anselm proceeds with arguing that the Creator exists, making a direct connection between perception and reality.
There has been widespread criticism of arguments that support God’s existence. For instance, Kant offered criticism of the proof that God exists from the standpoint of logic. The philosopher argued that the notion of ‘God’ itself signifies both the idea of a Deity and Deity itself. He further concluded that proof is an equivocation that is grounded on the ambiguous meaning of the notion of God (Grier, 2018). The philosopher challenged the assumptions of the existence of perfection and the most outstanding thing than which nothing greater can be conceived because it has nothing substantial to offer to the essence of a being. Since existence is not a dependent process, then it is not necessarily the truth that the greatest possible being in the world exists.
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To conclude, both cosmological and ontological arguments view the existence of God from the logical perspective instead of the stance of belief and dogma, thus making them more convincing. The intention of the philosophers who argued in support of God’s existence was to show that the orthodoxly-conceived notions are somewhat obscure and illogical, thus aiming to lay out a framework of connections that would explain the existence of a Higher Power. The arguments are left to the judgment of others who may take a leap of faith and embrace the belief or disregard the arguments by adhering to the arguments presented by the critics.
De La Torre, M. (2016). In defense of the fourth way and its metaphysics. Doctoral Thesis, Australian Catholic University. Web.
Grier, M. (2018). Kant’s critique of metaphysics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.
Oppy, G. (2019). Ontological arguments. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.