Throughout time there has always been debate over whether or not there is God, and philosophers have been avid participants in this debate. From ancient Greece to modern times there have always been philosophers who seek to prove the existence of God; from Plato, to Aquinas, to Kant, this is an issue that is continually addressed through the ages. Whether or not there is a God is very significant to the world because it provides a deeper reason behind the cogs that form the universe, and implies that there is more to the world than simply the material things that can be physically experienced.
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The existence of a God is also crucial to religions all around the globe, so the possibility to prove that there is a God outside of the context of the religions’ various texts is invaluable when it comes to debating in a secular forum. For all these reasons it must be asked if God exists, and if so, how can it be proven through the lens of philosophy?
Firstly, there is proving the existence of God cosmologically, that is through viewing the cosmos and nature. Plato addresses it this way in his Laws in book ten. Plato states, In the first place, the earth and the sun and the stars and the universe, and the fair order of the senses, and the division of them into years and months, furnish proofs of [the god’s] existence (Hick 72). This shows his belief that there must be some outside source that created the world in such and orderly way. He also addresses the fact that there must be some source for movement in the universe as it is not possible for movement to exist without something initially causing it. He believes that this initial cause is a God (Hick 72). Additionally, Plato says, Then there’s the fact that all Greeks and barbarians believe the gods exist (Plato 281). This once again shows that there must be something that created the world so that everyone shares this innate belief.
The other philosopher who deals with the existence of God cosmologically is Thomas Aquinas. He addresses it in his Five Ways. The first way is the argument from motion, which states that there must be some unmoved mover that began all the motion in the universe (Theological thought 25). The second is that of cause, based on the idea that to take away the cause is to take away the effect (Theological thought 26). This argument posits that God is the uncaused causer who is at the beginning of the continual chain of cause and effect and who has was not caused by something else but rather has simply always existed (Theological thought 26). Way three is that there must be something that has always existed that put everything else into existence. The fourth way the argument of the highest degree, meaning that there must be something that is the maximum against which everything else can be based (Theological thought 26). The last way is that of the final goal, which states that there must be something that is guiding the world towards an end goal (Theological thought 27). Aquinas states, Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end (Theological thought 27). Through these Five Ways, Aquinas explains the various reason that there must be a God due to the way in which the world functions.
However, the cosmological arguments are not above reproach. Many have questioned whether or not the physical world even exists. If this world does not exist as we perceive it to exist, how can views about the existence of a God be based upon it? Additionally, even if this world does exist, can it be determined that the world exists as we perceive it? It is impossible to empirically determine whether or not the world’s nature is physical, and thus no concrete conclusions can be based upon a world that we cannot even prove. The cosmological arguments assume that the senses can be trusted, but it has been shown that senses can lie meaning this is not something on which arguments can be firmly founded. Thus, although the cosmological arguments are logical and clear, it is impossible to use it as undeniable proof for the existence of God.
The next way in which philosophers have tried to prove the existence of God is ontologically. This method is based purely on reason, without any other outside information, such as how the world or its inhabitants function. Anselm is specifically well known for his ontological argument. It is based on the idea that the definition of God is that, than which nothing great can be conceived (Anselm 8). This means that the greatest, most powerful, and awesome thing that can be thought of is God. He then continues by positing that that which is thought of in a state of existence is inherently better than that which is thought not to exist (Anselm 8). Based on this concept, because God is the greatest thing that can be conceived and that which is conceived to exists is greater than that which is conceived not to exist, it follows that God must exist (Anselm 9). Thus God is theoretically proved without bringing into account any spiritual revelations or texts, or even using any physical evidence such as that which is used in the cosmological arguments.
Nonetheless, this argument is by no means flawless or fully accepted by the world, or even philosophers. The definition for God is simply not widely agreed upon and is completely arbitrary, without any basis in fact. Without the definition being secure, it becomes exceedingly difficult to place any weight on Anselm’s argument. Due to the entire argument hinging solely on the definition that God is the greatest thing that can be conceived, if the definition is not stable, the entire argument completely falls apart. Additionally, because this argument is based completely on reason it must asked if human thought is even a source that can be trusted. All human thought can not be determined to definitively be true or false, thus it cannot be viewed as infallible. Without empirical evidence, this argument can never be proven.
The last category is that of the moral arguments for the existence of God. C. S. Lewis forms his argument for the existence of God based on human morality and its consistency. He states that there is a consistent sense of morality that is present in every culture across the globe. Every human knows that there is a specific way they should act and treat others, but every human does not follows these unofficial universal moral guidelines (Lewis 16). This overarching innate feeling, which he calls the Law of Human Nature, leads to Lewis stating that it must come from some higher power, as he says, The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong, must be something above and beyond the actual facts (Lewis 21). Lewis believes that this is A real law which we did not invent and which we know we ought to obey (Lewis 21). In order for this concept to have so thoroughly inundated out reality, it must have been place into the minds of humanity by a higher power who desires the world to behave in a certain way (Lewis 29). There is something out there, which Lewis assumes is a God that desires humanity to understand that there is good and evil in the world and that there is a right and wrong way for people to act as they live their lives. This leads to the idea that there must be something that is directing and controlling the universe, and especially humanity, to an end goal, a god of some sort, although what type of god that is is not something that can be determined simply by examining the nature and presence of human morality and its origin. Lewis is clear that he does not believe that this argument can actually lead to a specific God, such as that of Christianity, but rather simply the general idea that there is some sort of divine power (Lewis 25).
Kant also approached the existence of God via morality, but from a slightly different angle. He posits that the consistent morality of pure reason stems from a supposition that God exists (Hick 138). Kant believes that there must be an author to the intelligence and will that humanity possesses and thus states that God is the author that is the cause of nature by intelligence and will (Hick 139). Kant also discusses that there must be a cause for happiness existing in the world, and he once again states that this happiness must come from a higher power which he believes is God (Hick 138). This belief that happiness comes from God is tied to the supposition that happiness is when everything is going according to highest moral goal. In Kant’s opinion this moral goal must exist and must come from a higher power for it to truly exist, and thus he posits that there must be a God.
With all the prevalence and consistency of morality however, it is still possible that the morality that is found in human culture is still simply a social construct. With all humanity stemming from a few original humans, it is possible that morality was created and then simply passed down. Thus the differences can be explained morality, as there are differences in how cultures approach problems such as murder and how they define the specifics of what is right and wrong. The consistency of morality is impossible to prove, thus making it impossible to prove that God exists based simply on the morality that we find across the globe. Without being able to go back in time and see the original humans, humanity cannot prove whether or nor morality was created and implemented by humans or by God.
With all the historical background of this issue of the existence of God, it is not surprising that the results are still inconclusive. It has yet to be proven from a philosophical standpoint whether or not their is a God, and the surface of that nature of said hypothetical God has in no way been begun to be understood by using only reason and the natural world. For every argument that agrees with the existence of God, there is an argument that posits that the exact opposite is true. The fact that God cannot be proven via philosophy means that all religions that believe is some sort of a God are forced to use their own divine revelations or texts in order to try to prove their God’s existence. The world is left to wonder the if their is truly meaning behind the way the world is formed and the way that humanity acts, or if it is all simply a mysterious and lucky accident that there is even a world at all.
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