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An actual midterm paper submitted by me on Philosophy Core Studies 03/26/03
The Eternal Dilemma Regarding God’s Existence
Humanity has always been puzzled by the eternal dilemma regarding God’s existence. Does God really exist or doesn’t he? And with this crucial question came along endless other ones such as: “If God really exist then why does he allow so much misery on Earth?” Or why is he so cruel when he is supposed to be omnipotent and omnipresent? Why is God putting humanity under so much grief, trials and hardships, when all he has to do is look back in history and realize that humans have suffered enough to merit his mercy and blessing? All the above questions have haunted for years the mind of the believers and non-believers alike and some of the most brilliant minds of human race – a few well known philosophers – have tried to answer the dilemma once and for all and put our tormented souls at easy. The scope of this essay is to examine two different views on the existence of God and the arguments that three sharp and deep thinkers such as St. Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell have put forward to support their respective thesis.
Saint Thomas Aquinas who lived in the 13-th century and was the most authoritative Scholastic philosopher, in his major work Summa Theologica ponders upon God’s existence. He puts forth a few objections about God’s existence and then tries to refute those objections by using scriptures upon which the catholic faith is built. Aquinas first objection rests on the fact that when the word God is used, it usually means “something infinitely good.” But since there are many bad things happening in the world, it seems logical that God does not exist. His second objection has to do with the supposition that every thing that has happened from the beginning of the time has had a well accounted cause, assuming that “nature can be taken as the original cause of natural things, and human reason and will can be taken as the original cause of purposeful acts.” Based on these, there is “no need to say that God exist.” Aquinas rejects these objections by quoting God in the book of Exodus “I am who am.”
He also presents five ways to prove his belief that God does exist. The first way derives from the fact that for something in the world to change, it is needed something else to cause that change. The original cause of the very first change could not have been anything else other than God. The second way “derives from the nature of efficient causation.” Aquinas states the obvious that we know “that efficient causes come in series.” The series of efficient causes cannot go back to infinity so if we try to find out a first efficient cause, we can come up only with God. The third way has to do with possibility and necessity. In our world there are things that can exist or fail to exist. Since there must have been a time when everything had failed to exist, then it must have been God who made it happen for other things to exist. The fourth explores the gradations of things. Some things “are better, truer or more noble than others.” And since there must have been a cause for better and truer things coming to existence, it must have been only God. And the fifth way “derives from facts about the governance of the world.” Things always act for a purpose and that purpose is towards getting better on purpose, not by chance. Aquinas underlines two important arguments through his reasoning: the first being that God is so great that he also allows bad things to happen, and second we should trace the origin of everything to God and that alone proves his existence.
Aquinas also uses the argument of faith to prove his theory. He argues that “faith is more certain than science and other intellectual virtues.” When people first received the word, meaning the Holy Gospel, they received it not as a word of men, but through their faith as the word of God, because “nothing is more certain than the word of God.” Also Aquinas observes that “wisdom, science and understanding may be taken in two ways;” first as intellectual virtues and second as gifts of the Creator. The conclusion that he reaches is “that faith is more certain absolutely” because matter of faith are above human intellect.
I. Kant is more or less of the same opinion when he states that: “To the world there belongs something that, either as a part of it or as its cause, is an absolutely necessary being.” Kant proves his thesis with the argument that for things to have happened, for the alternations to the world, there must have a supreme condition that begun the series of changes. Kant also presents an antithesis in which the “supreme being” does not exist, neither outside the world, nor inside it. It is interesting to note than he makes compelling arguments for both cases, sometimes confusing the reader in determining if he was a believer or a non-believer in the existence of God.
A philosopher that explains clearly why he does not believe in God’s existence is Bertrand Russell in Why I Am Not a Theist. He takes on the argument of the Catholic Church and disputes the fact that God’s existence is a simple matter of faith. Russell disregards completely the First Cause because he realized when he was about eighteen the fallacy surrounding it. There is no reason in his mind that the world could not have come to be without a cause, that it should not always have existed. Also that the world had a beginning after all. He also puts forth the Natural-Law Argument under which humanity has discovered and interpreted different laws of nature that explain a lot of phenomena without coming from design, meaning that God is not necessary the law-maker, which brought Russell to the Argument from Design. He is incredulous to the fact that the world where we all live in, is the best that “omnipotence and omniscience” have been able to produce. Then he goes on with the Moral Arguments for Deity where he argues against Kant and his nineteenth century views that there wouldn’t be right and wrong unless God existed. Russell argues that people when deciding what’s right or wrong should also know the distinction between them and should pose the question that the difference between them is God’s fault or no. He reaches the conclusion that if right and wrong do not matter as much, then the statement that God is good or not, should not be important at all. In the end Russell brings forward the Argument for the Remedying of Injustice and argues that people should be concerned with our world where there is plenty of injustice and not with heaven and hell. Russell thinks that most people believe in God because they have taught so since their infancy and if there is a feeling of relief and safety from this myth, then everybody is free to believe that there is “a big brother” who will look over the believers and relieve their fears and anxiety.
Both sides make some sound arguments. Aquinas bases his reasoning on the scriptures and tries to explain everything with the gospel, thus forcing the arguments because it is not bullet proof. Let’s not forget that the Bible was written by men, and the apostles who told the stories were ordinary humans, not to mention mere mortals. Kant is more sophisticated in his reasoning, but still he is not entirely convincing into explaining for sure the existence of a higher authority that created and run the world. Russell is the more logical philosopher and considering the history of humanity, its lessons and catastrophes, its trials and tribulations, one can admit that the argument of God’s nonexistence holds more weight. One can also add a lot of questions to Russell’s moral arguments: Where was God when the crusades happened and thousands were slaughtered for his name? Where was God when his son Jesus was being crucified? Why did God allow Holocaust, or the famine in Ireland and the starvation of millions in Africa? Why didn’t God stop the massacres in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, Chechnya, Kurdistan, or the tragedy of September 11-th? Why is there AIDS in the world today, poverty, inequality and injustice? How come there isn’t peace and prosperity? And one can go on and on.
If God really exists, he must work in mysterious ways. On the other hand the beliefs, the myths and the mysteries that surround his existence or ours for that matters, have always played an important role not only in the history of mankind, but also have occupied a great part of philosophers minds and time. For as long as there would be unexplained events, for as long as there would be tragedies and supernatural things that could not be explained easily, there would also be a blind faith and superstition about the existence of a supreme being. For as long as humans would feel powerless in confronting the adversity of life, there would be a faint hope that would materialize itself in prayers and false belief that there must be someone out there who’s watching over us and making sure that the everything would be all right, that good would triumph over evil and that the glory of mankind would continue to shine on.
Join Date: 10 2002
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DaNYer, а с каких пор изложение истории философии рассматривается как литературное произведение?
Как "midterm paper", написанное по всем правилам "introduction-body-conclusion" это конечно хорошо Если тебя на самом деле интересует вопрос существования бога, ты бы мог развить эту идею и написать свои собственные суждения, что представляли бы намного больший интерес для нас читателей. По сути дела, ты бы мог спокойно выкинут историческую часть (которую можно найти в любой энциклопедии), и оставить только последние строчки.