The cosmological argument

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A2 Philosophy
Revision Book
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Religion
Table of Contents
Arguments for the existence of God
3
Reason and Faith
6
Miracles
10
Making sense of religion
13
Revision Tips
17
Exam Tips
18
Arguments for the
existence of God
CONTENTS
The cosmological argument.................................................................................................................................... 4
Cause .................................................................................................................................................................. 4
Contingent .......................................................................................................................................................... 4
Swinburne ........................................................................................................................................................... 4
Religious Experience ............................................................................................................................................... 4
The Argument ..................................................................................................................................................... 4
William James ..................................................................................................................................................... 5
Objections? ......................................................................................................................................................... 5
The experience of other Religions ...................................................................................................................... 5
Freud ................................................................................................................................................................... 5
SUMMARY .............................................................................................................................................................. 5
THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
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The cosmological argument tries to answer the question ‘Why does something exist rather
than nothing?’
The arguments from cause and contingent existence try to deduce that God exists
CAUSE
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The Kalam argument claims that:
o Everything that begins to exist has a cause
o The universe began to exist
o The only way to avoid an infinite regression of causes is to say that something exists
that did not begin to exist
o This is called God
Hume objects we cannot know that everything that begins to exist has a cause
Russell objects that we can’t apply this principle to the universe itself
Infinite regression is possible so we can’t infer that God exists
CONTINGENT
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The argument from contingent existence claims that:
o The existence of anything that exists contingently has an explanation
o An infinite regress of explanations is not an explanation for why anything exists at all
o We can deduce that some non-contingent being exists
o This is called God
We can objet, with Russell, that there is no explanation of the universe as a whole
Matter/energy exists non-contingently so we can’t infer that God exists
o No loss of energy or matter
o However Big Bang and evidence of it suggests that matter was created
SWINBURNE
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Swinburne argues that God’s existence is the best explanation and hence inductive
Although the cosmological argument fails as a deductive proof of God’s existence, the best
explanation for the existence of the universe is the existence of God
However showing that it is the best explanation is difficult.
RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
THE ARGUMENT
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The argument from religious experience claims that in (genuine) religious experience, people
are directly aware of God.
This claim is supported by 2 considerations:
o Religious experiences exhibit great similarity in certain core aspects
o
They are similar to perceptual experiences, which we usually trust unless we have
reason to doubt them
WILLIAM JAMES
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James argues that Religious Experiences are an immediate sense of the reality of the unseen
(often blocking out everything else from the person’s mind)
He argues that we should evaluate religious experiences in relation to the life and attitudes
of the person more generally
o The religious attitude understands human beings as needing connection to a
spiritual world which can provide feelings of love, peace and safety
Religious experiences are of something ‘more’ – in the first instance a transformative
spiritual dimension
OBJECTIONS?
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Philosophers have objected that religious experience is not like perception
o It is much rarer
o It has little detail
o We can’t check our experiences for intersubjective agreement
This doesn’t necessarily show that religious experience is not veridical!
o Though it does question whether we should automatically trust it
THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHER RELIGIONS
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Religions make different claims about God, but this doesn’t show that religious experience
isn’t experience of God.
o People can experience the same thing but interpret it differently
FREUD
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Freud argues that religious experiences are hallucinations caused by a very deep wish for
security and meaning in an uncertain world
Because of this we cannot tell whether they also contain some truth
We cannot therefore use them to argue for the existence of God
SUMMARY
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The cosmological argument and argument from religious experience usually assume that the
word ‘God’ refers to a being that exists independently of human beings, and that belief in
the existence of God can be supported by rational arguments
A number of interpretations of religious belief, and of the relation between reason and faith,
reject these assumptions.
o Some argue that talk of God is talk of important aspects of human life
o Some argue that religious faith cannot be established by argument
Reason and Faith
CONTENTS
Faith as a special Kind of Congitive Staet ............................................................................................................... 7
Aquinas ............................................................................................................................................................... 7
Plantinga ............................................................................................................................................................. 7
Faith as an attitude or commitment ....................................................................................................................... 7
William James ..................................................................................................................................................... 7
Kierkegaard ......................................................................................................................................................... 7
Is faith unreasonable? ........................................................................................................................................ 8
Objection? .......................................................................................................................................................... 8
Is it rational to choose to believe in God? .............................................................................................................. 8
Pascal’s Wager: The Argumenet ......................................................................................................................... 8
Objection ............................................................................................................................................................ 9
Counter-argument? ................................................................................................................................................ 9
FAITH AS A SPECIAL KIND OF CONGITIVE STAET
AQUINAS
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Aquinas argues that reason can infer God’s existence and some of God’s attributes
However, much about God’s nature can be known only through revelation
Faith is a matter of believing what someone you trust tells you.
Faith in God’s revelation is voluntary
PLANTINGA
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Plantinga argues that religious beliefs are ‘basic’, not inferred from other beliefs we have
Traditional examples of basic beliefs include:
o Self evident beliefs
o Those based on what is evident to the senses
Plantinga argues that the claim that these are the only basic beliefs is self defeating
o i.e. the claim is neither self evident nor based on evident to the senses so fallacy to
claim this are the only basic beliefs.
Reformed theologians argue that the existence of God is apparent to the belief in nature or
in religious experience and cannot be inferred by rational argument
We can question whether religious belief is properly basic or simply unjustified
Plantinga argues that perceptual beliefs are properly basic because:
o they are caused by the circumstances in which they formed
o and are a product of proper functioning
o Religious beliefs may be properly basic for the same reasons
To explain why so many people ‘malfunction’ Plantinga appeals to original sin.
o Faith (proper functioning) is a gift and a matter of divine grace
o This gift corrects the malfunction
As such, faith remains a form of reason (cognition), just as perception does.
FAITH AS AN ATTITUDE OR COMMITMENT
WILLIAM JAMES
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James argues that it is reasonable to decide what to believe when faced with a genuine
option
o That is forced and momentous choice betweens claims that are live
o A choice that is not settled by intellectual enquiry
We can object that religious faith is not a genuine option because it is not force or
momentous
KIERKEGAARD
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He argues that faith is distinct from ‘objective’ belief in involving a passionate commitment.
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Faith requires a ‘leap’ in the face of uncertainty
Faith is incomprehensible to reason, but it is not rejected by reason
o If it were we would not be able to believe by making a decision
IS FAITH UNREASONABLE?
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Both James and Kierkegaard argue that faith is not unreasonable.
However we need independent consideration to suggest that we should believe in God
OBJECTION?
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We can object that few religious believers think there is no reason to believe in God, but
appeal to arguments
But then consistency requires us to believe in God only if the evidence is sufficient.
IS IT RATIONAL TO CHOOSE TO BELIEVE IN GOD?
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Pascal argues that because reason cannot prove the existence or non-existence of God, we
should decide what to believe by the possible benefits of our beliefs.
PASCAL’S WAGER: THE ARGUMENET
1. ‘God is, or He is not.’ But to which side shall you incline? Reason can decide nothing here...
Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least.
2. You have 2 things to lose (the true and the good) and 2 things to stake (your reason/will and
knowledge/happiness) and your nature has 2 things to shun (error and misery)
3. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than other, since you must of
necessity choose...
4. But your happiness? Let s weight the gain and the loss in wagering that God is...
5. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose you lose nothing...
(I must wager, but I may perhaps wager too much?)
6. There is an equal risk of ain and of loss, if you had only to gain 2 lives instead of one, you
might still wager. But if there were 3 lives to gain... you would be imprudent, when you are
forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of
loss and gain.
7. But there is an eternity of life and happiness... there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy
life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is
finite...
8. Wherever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain...
you must give all..
God exists
God does not exist
Wager for God
Infinite gain
Finite loss
Wager against God
Finite or infinite loss
Finite gain
OBJECTION
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We can object that the decision matrix is set up wrongly
o We don’t know that belief in God, if God exists, will produce an infinite gain
We don’t know which God to believe in
We aren’t rationally required to hold beliefs that maximise potential benefit
It is immoral to form beliefs about God in this way
We cannot directly influence what we believe by what we want
o Beliefs aim at the truth, and are responsive to evidence
COUNTER-ARGUMENT?
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Pascal argues that we should act in a way that will lead to belief in God. This can be
voluntary
o He argues that it provides experiences that justify that belief.
Miracles
CONTENTS
The role and significiance of Miracle Stories in Religions ..................................................................................... 11
Miracles and the competing truth claims of different religions ........................................................................... 11
Hume’s objection .............................................................................................................................................. 11
Religious pluralism ............................................................................................................................................ 11
What do we mean by miracles? ........................................................................................................................... 11
Defintions ......................................................................................................................................................... 11
Objections over definitions - 1.......................................................................................................................... 11
Objections over definitions - 2.......................................................................................................................... 12
Objections over definitions - 3.......................................................................................................................... 12
Swinburne and ‘non-Repeatable exceptions’ ................................................................................................... 12
Sceptical arguments regarding the occurrence of miracles ................................................................................. 12
THE ROLE AND SIGNIFICIANCE OF MIRACLE STORIES IN RELIGIONS
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Many religious scriptures talk not of ‘miracles’ but of ‘wonders’ and ‘signs’.
The 3 main roles of miracle stories are to:
o Function as signs of God’s activity, plan and nature
o To support the development of religious faith
o To support belief in revelation through scriptures
o These are the main but not exclusive roles miracles play in religions.
There is little agreement on the significance of miracles stories, even within one religion.
o The stories form part of popular faith
o Many religious thinkers realised that they could not provide evidence for religious
claims
o A number of religious founders warned against seeking miracles
Miracle stories nevertheless, indicate the religions understanding of God’s activity, purpose
and character.
MIRACLES AND THE COMPETING TRUTH CLAIMS OF DIFFERENT RELIGIONS
HUME’S OBJECTION
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Hume argues that each religion claims that its miracles indicate that it is the true religion
o Since not all religions can be true- we should not believe any miracle stories
An alternative response is to think that miracles stories do not support truth claims
RELIGIOUS PLURALISM
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In a weak sense is compatible with believing that all other religions are false
o However their miracle stories may include some people to be open minded on
whether they are true.
Stronger forms of religious pluralism allow that truth can be found in more than one religion
o If miracle stories support truth claims, they could support religious pluralism.
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY MIRACLES?
DEFINTIONS
1. An event that has religious significance
2. An even caused by God
3. An event that violates (or otherwise is not in accordance with) the laws of nature, caused by
God
OBJECTIONS OVER DEFINITIONS - 1
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To say that a miracle is an event of religious significance does not capture the exceptional
nature of miracles
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It also makes whether an event counts as a miracle subjective
OBJECTIONS OVER DEFINITIONS - 2
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To say that a miracles is an event caused by God, without indicating that the event breaks
the laws of nature, fits with a pre-rationalist understanding of the world
We should add that the event is astonishing and points to ‘the mystery of being’ (Tillich)
OBJECTIONS OVER DEFINITIONS - 3
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The most common philosophical definition of miracles is events caused by God and not in
accordance with the laws of nature
Some philosophers claim that a miracles is a violation of the laws of nature.
o But a law is true and general, so if an even is a violation of it, the law is not genuine
o Therefore no event can be a genuine violation of a law of nature
Another definition claims that the laws of nature apply only to natural events, while the
events that are caused by God are not natural events
o Miracles, then, are not in accordance with the laws of nature (they are not physically
possible)
o But they are not violations of the laws of nature
SWINBURNE AND ‘NON-REPEATABLE EXCEPTIONS’
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Swinburne argues that miracles are genuine violations, non-repeatable exceptions, to laws
of nature
He argues that laws are only regularities
If the event is non-repeatable, the law remains a true description of natural regularities.
SCEPTICAL ARGUMENTS REGARDING THE OCCURRENCE OF MIRACLES
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Theologians have objected to miracles on the grounds that:
o The idea of God intervening specifically undermines the idea of God’s activity
throughout nature
o It sharpens the problem of evil
o It suggest that people cannot recognise moral and religious truth
Hume argues that we never have good reason to believe on the basis of testimony that a
miracle occurred.
o Experience always provides overwhelming evidence that the miracle didn’t occur
o So it is probable that the testimony is false
It the testimony is very well supported and the event has ‘analogies;’ with our experience,
then we should believe an unexpected event has occurred and look for its natural cause.
o To believe there is a non-natural cause of the event is never supported by
experience, since we never have experience of non-natural causes
We can object that under certain conditions, it is possible to have good enough evidence to
believe an event not in accordance with the laws of nature has occurred.
Making sense of
religion
CONTENTS
Religious language and Verificationism ................................................................................................................ 14
Logical positivism/Verification Principle ........................................................................................................... 14
Objections to logical positivism ........................................................................................................................ 14
Falsification principle ........................................................................................................................................ 14
Objection: What is the aim of religious language? ........................................................................................... 14
Religion as a ‘form of life’ ..................................................................................................................................... 14
Wittgenstein and Language Games .................................................................................................................. 14
D. Z. Phillips and Objections ............................................................................................................................. 15
What is meant by ‘religion’? Can social science ‘explain away’ religion? ............................................................ 15
Religion and the social sciences’ Intellectual Approaches ................................................................................ 15
Social Function and the importance of emotion .............................................................................................. 15
Durkheim .......................................................................................................................................................... 15
Beyond social function – the problem of meaning ........................................................................................... 15
Does social science ‘explain away’ religion? ..................................................................................................... 16
RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE AND VERIFICATIONISM
LOGICAL POSITIVISM/VERIFICATION PRINCIPLE
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The principle of verification claims that only statesmen that are analytic or
empirically verifable are meaningful
Ayer argues that ‘God exists’ is neither and therefore meaningless
OBJECTIONS TO LOGICAL POSITIVISM
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Hick argues that experiences after death could prove the existence of God
o Eschatological verification and the parable of the Gardner
The verification principle is self defeating
o It is neither analytically true nor empirically verifiable
o By its own standard it is meaningless
o Therefore it cannot show religious language to be meaningless
FALSIFICATION PRINCIPLE
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Flew argues that ‘God exists’ is meaningless because it is unfalsifiable
OBJECTION: WHAT IS THE AIM OF RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE?
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We can object that religious language takes its meaning from attempting to make sense of
experience in general
o Even though it cannot be verified or falsified by sense experience
Some philosophers argue that religious language is not factual at all but expresses the
believer’s attitudes and commitments towards life
We can object that this is too reductionist!
o There is more to religious belief than adopting a particular way of life
o Beliefs are often cited to justified the choice of a way of life
RELIGION AS A ‘FORM OF LIFE’
WITTGENSTEIN AND LANGUAGE GAMES
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Wittgenstein argues that the meaning of language relates to how it is used.
Different uses of language – language games – are governed by different rules, given their
depth grammar
Language games are grounded on forms of life, cultural practices that express and develop
natural human reactions and activities.
Wittgenstein argues that religious faith is part of a distinctive language game (or form of life)
Language games have their own standards of meaning and justification
o Religious faith is not empirical or fact stating, so it is wrong to assess it by empirical
or philosophical reasoning
D. Z. PHILLIPS AND OBJECTIONS
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Philosophers have objected that this cuts religious faith off from the rest of life too severely
Phillips replies that faith still needs to ‘make sense’ of our experiences
o But this does not mean that our experiences justify or refute religious beliefs.
However many religious believes think their faith is partly empirical and that right belief
(rather than right way of living) matters
WHAT IS MEANT BY ‘RELIGION’? CAN SOCIAL SCIENCE ‘EXPLAIN AWAY’
RELIGION?
RELIGION AND THE SOCIAL SCIENCES’ INTELLECTUAL APPROACHES
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We cannot define religion as belief in a supreme deity or life after death as this would
exclude some religions
However social science has provided more sophisticated definitions that my cover all
religions.
Taylor argued that religious belief (belief in spirit beings) arose from attempting to explain
psychological phenomena
Muller argued that religion arises from attempting to explain natural events.
We can object that both views are too ‘intellectual’
o i.e. understanding religion as irrational superstition
SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE IMPORTANCE OF EMOTION
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Pareto and Durkheim argued that e must take account n of the non-cognitive and social
functions of religion.
Malinowski argued that religion, like magic, attempts to resolve anxiety in important
situations in which the outcome is uncertain or out of your control
o It contains emotions that could undermine the group
We can object that religion does not reduce anxiety as much as Malinowski argued.
DURKHEIM
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Durkheim argued that religion is marked by a division of what is sacred from what is not
(profane), and that all religions involve a ‘moral community’ united by their ‘faith’
The origin of religion is ‘totenism’
o As the totem represents both society (the clan), and god, society has defied itself
We can object that this is too simple and does not take account of the cognitive elements of
religion.
BEYOND SOCIAL FUNCTION – THE PROBLEM OF MEANING
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Weber argued that to explain religious beliefs we must refer to people’s attempts to think
about the problems religion addresses – ‘the problem of meaning’.
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Geertz notes that the problem of meaning arises on 3 forms based on limits to our abilities:
o To understand
o To suffer
o To gain moral insight
Parsons argued for four elements of religion:
o Beliefs (including moral beliefs, about the supernatural or sacred)
o A system of scared symbols, objects acts and people
o A set of religious activities that don’t have a practical goal
o A group united by these share beliefs
Geertz argued that the problem of meaning, interpreting experiences is not the basis of
religion
o We must first accept some religious authority which transforms our dispositions and
experience
DOES SOCIAL SCIENCE ‘EXPLAIN AWAY’ RELIGION?
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Weber, Parsons and Geertz all maintain that social science cannot show that religion is false
(or true)
Religious meanings cannot be explained in terms of social functions
o The sociological account is not reductive
It does support the view that religious belief is not based on rational arguments.
Revision Tips
R1. Learn the arguments. Who said what? What terms and concepts did they use? How did they
defend their positions
R2. Practice applying your knowledge by answering questions about it. The best questions to
practise with are past exam questions, but you can also make up questions for yourself.
R3. Revise those aspects of the issue that are hard to understand. Practice arguing that they can
be understood in more than one way, and why they should be understood to have the
meaning you give to them.
R4. Prepare examples beforehand rather than trying to invent them in the exam. If you use your
own that’s great – you will get extra marks if they are good. But they must be short and
they must make them the right point!
R5. Spend time identifying the main claims and arguments involve in each issue you have
studied, putting arguments in your own words and stating clearly what the conclusion is
and what the premises are. Point out or show how the reasoning is supposed to work
R6. Think reflectively about the arguments and issue. Practice arguing for and against a
particular view. Think about the place and importance of the arguments for the issue as
a whole.
R7. Think about how your judgements on the various arguments you have studied add up. Do
they lead to one conclusion, one point of view being right? Or do you think arguments
for and against one position are closely balanced?
R8. Create structured outlines or web-diagrams for particular issues. Try to cover all the main
points.
R9. Practice writing timed answers. Use your notes and then practice without them
Exam Tips
E1. Read through both questions before starting your answer. This will help you to decide which
question you can answer best overall.
E2. Before starting your answer, read the question again very closely. Take note of every word.
E3. Before you start your answer it can be worth writing out your outline or web-diagram first.
This can help remind you of the key points you want to make and the order in which
you want to make them
E4. Keep your examples short and make sure they support the point you want to make. Always
explain how they support your point.
E5. Four rules of thumb
a. Don’t use a technical term, like ‘the greatest happiness principle’ or the
‘cosmological argument’, without saying what it means.
b. Describe a theory before evaluating it (If you have described it in answer to a
previous part you don’t need to describe it again)
c. Keep related ideas together. If you have a thought later on, add a footnote indicated
where in the answer you want it to be read.
d. Don’t state the conclusion to an argument before you’ve discussed the argument,
especially if you are going to present objections to that conclusion. You can say what
the argument hopes to show, but don’t state it as a conclusion.
E6. Make sure your discussion is not
just reporting a sequence of points
of view, but presents objections and
replies and tries to reach a
particular conclusion.
E7. Leave time to check your answer at the end. You may want to add a helpful sentence here or
there
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