• Created by: amyylanc
  • Created on: 21-04-19 19:21


- Plato was a pupil of Socrates, who was renowned for making people question their most basic assumptions

- Plato continued to question what was actually real, and by doing so, developed his theory of knowledge

- he proposed that the world around us was nothing but an illusion created by our senses, which have been decieved by appearances and give us an unrealistic idea of the real world (eg. beauty is understood through the senses, but means something different to everybody)

- Plato believed that the only way to acquire true knowledge was through the use of our minds, which enable us to carry out rational thought

- this rationality allows us to enter the realm of true reality, at the heart of which, is Plato's theory of the Forms

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- Plato believed that behind every concept or object that we encounter in the visible world around us, there is an unseen reality, which is its corresponding Form

- the Forms are ideal versions of the earthly examples of the concepts and objects, which are called 'particulars'

- the Forms exist in their own right in the world of Forms (eg. the Form of beauty exists independently from our personal ideas of beauty and beautiful things)

- for Plato, the Forms are the the source of all knowledge, and are the goal of a philosopher in their search for the truth

- they are endlessly more real than their 'particulars', which only appear to us to exist and are simply reflections of the Forms

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- Plato believed that the only reason why we can recognise things in the real world is because of the resemblance they bear to the Forms (eg. although trees come in different colours and sizes, we can recognise them as trees as they share something with the Form of a tree)

- we may question how we can be aware of the Forms if they are beyond our senses, to which Plato says that everybody has an immortal soul which had access to the Forms before it was joined to a human body, giving us an innate understanding of them which can be accessed through rational thought

- the Forms are all connected to one another in a fixed order of importance, the most important of which being the Form of the Good

- this Form is central to the existence of the universe, by giving rise to all knowledge and enabling us to recognise other forms, so the highest task of a philosopher is to gain knowledge of the Good

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- some may accept that there is some degree of logic to Plato's theory, as we can see examples of it in everyday life (eg. we see peoples' appearances but their personalities, which aren't visible, are the more fundamental part of themselves)

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- if everything that exists in our world has a corresponding Form, this would mean that unpleasant things, such as diseases and violence, would also have a Form, and as the nature of the Forms means that this would be the epitome of such a thing and therefore greatly worse than the earthly version, which contradicts with Plato's claim that the world of Forms is perfect

- Plato's argument that the Forms are more real than their corresponding reflections in the visible world has also been criticised, as many would argue that something can't be more or less real than something else, either something is real or it isn't, and many would say that something that exists physically is more real than something that doesn't

- fundamentally, Plato's theory can be criticised as there's no evidence that the Forms even exist, which, according to Plato, is because they don't exist physically, but many following a scientific approach to such a theory may think it lacks sufficient evidence

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- Plato describes a group of prisoners who have spent their entire lives chained up in a cave

- they all face the rear wall of the cave and cannot turn around, so all they can see are shadows cast upon the wall by a fire which burns behind them 

- behind the prisoners is a low wall, behind which a group of peope are holding up puppets, which form the shadows on the cave wall, however the prisoners think they are real because they know no different

- if one of the prisoners was able to escape his chains, he would be able to see the world for what it really is for the first time, and become used to the amazing clarity of real objects, finally realising the truth

- he would no longer care for the false existence he used to know

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- if he went back to the cave, none of the prisoners would believe him

- they would also see how he was now less adapted to living in the cave as he had become used to life outside, and so would put a stop to him preaching about the real world in an attempt to protect other prisoners from becoming less adapted too

- this analogy is meant to highlight the difference between the appearance of the world, represented by the cave, and reality, represented by the outside world:

  • the prisoners represent ordinary people who haven't discovered truth
  • the shadow play represents the illusion created by our senses
  • the cave represents the visible world, where the shadows seem falsely real
  • the journey out of the cave represents the philosopher's discovery of true knowledge
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- Plato's ideas can be interpreted as having some validity as we can see how illusions sometimes get the better of us (eg. overlooking someone's bad personality if they're attractive)

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- Plato speaks very generally when claiming that the entire world is an illusion, and that therefore we should dedicate our entire existence to the theory of Forms, so the analogy has no validity is the Forms cannot be proven, as then there is nothing to suggest that there is a world beyond the visible world

- he also assumes that nobody who had discovered the Form of the Good (true knowledge) would ever wish to return to the visible world, however this may be untrue as we may want to teach others about our learning, or enjoy the pleasures that the senses can bring us, even if it is just an illusion

- furthermore, the analogy doesn't highlight the difference between the world of Forms and the visible world, as, in the analogy, both the Form of the Good (sun) and the false appearances (fire in cave) are the same type of thing as they are both fires, so there is no help through the analogy in understanding how the world of Forms is different

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- Aristotle is an empiricist, so to Aristotle, we learn about reality through observation of the physical world

- therefore, even if anything other than this physical world exists, we would have no way of knowing about it

- according to Aristotle’s metaphysics, intelligibility is present in every being and in everything, in opposition to Plato’s philosophy of a separation of appearances and ideas, which Aristotle claimed removes any intelligibility and meaning to the world

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- Aristotle explained the movement from potential to actual in terms of the causes that act on all things, and believed that there were four such causes:

  • the material cause, which is the materials out of which an object is made (eg. a table may be made of wood)
  • the efficient cause, which is the way in which an object is created (eg. the table may be made by carpentry)
  • the formal cause, which is the expression, idea or plan that led to the creation of an object (eg. the table may be created through a designer’s plan, and instructions they make for others to follow when making the table)
  • the final cause, which is the aim for which an object is created (eg. the table may have the purpose of being dined upon)
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- Aristotle believed that there must be some kind of Prime Mover or Unmoved Mover to account for the fact that everything in the physical world is constantly changing

- he didn’t think that it were possible to have an endless chain of cause and effect

- according to Aristotle, the Prime Mover is the first of all substances and depends on nothing else for its existence, as its existence is necessary

- as it has a necessary existence, it must therefore also be eternal

- it causes things to change by attraction, as everything in the universe is attracted to its perfection

- the Prime Mover has no potential for change, but instead is pure actuality

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- as it is unchangeable and immune to corruption, it must be fundamentally good

- as it is incapable of being acted upon, it must be immaterial

- to Aristotle, it is transcendent and the ultimate telos for everything, making it the final cause of the universe

- he concludes that the Prime Mover must be a ‘supreme object of desire’, and therefore the best thing that there could possibly be

- additionally, the Prime Mover must have the very best life and characteristics, which leads us to draw parallels between the being as described by Aristotle, and the God of classical theism

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- to Aristotle, there was a common cause of all substance, which was responsible for the beginning of everything

- Aristotle developed an argument which suggested that the common source was an eternal substance, which existed eternally:

  • there must be something which is immune to change, decay or death, otherwise the whole world would be subject to change, decay and death
  • it can be observed that not everything is subject to these things (eg. time)
  • things such as time can only be so if there’s something in it that isn’t subject to change, decay or death
  • therefore, we can conclude that there must be an eternal substance that is immune to change, decay and death
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- Aristotle suggests that if there is a potential eternal substance, then an eternal world is possible, and for this to be necessary, there must be an actual eternal substance behind it acting as its efficient cause

- this idea is interesting as it opposes Plato’s idea of the eternal forms, as these could not be an efficient cause due to the fact that they’re merely inert ideas

- in his text, ‘Metaphysics, Book 12’, Aristotle suggests that the eternal substance is the prime mover, ‘that moves without being itself moved’ 

- to prove how such an entity can be responsible for starting all processes and yet be immune to change itself, he concluded that the prime mover must be a ‘supreme object of desire’, meaning that it’s the best thing that could exist, with the very best life and characteristics

- this way, clear parallels can be drawn between such a being, and God

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- Aristotle is accredited with paving the way for later philosophers through his ideas about cause and effect in the universe

- his use of a mixture of reason and sense to gain knowledge could be seen as the best way of learning about the world, as it’s generally the way in which we learn things growing up

- as his theory is teleological and made up of studies of the natural world, it cannot be fully rejected

- may appear stronger than Plato’s theory of forms as evidence of his thought can be seen in the real world around us

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- Aristotle’s writing sometimes lacks clarity, partly because there are only fragments of it

- he very quickly dismisses Plato’s belief in another world beyond this one, and 

- it can be said that Aristotle’s thought depends too heavily on sense experience, and as experiences vary from person to person, this makes it less valid and dependable

- thinkers such as Russel and Dawkins oppose the idea that the universe has a telos, and maintain that it just exists without explanation or purpose, seen in the quote ‘the universe is just here and that’s all’ – Bertrand Russel

- Aristotle only provides a possible explanation for the universe, leaving his theory with an uncertain conclusion

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- Plato was a dualist, and therefore believed that the soul and body were two distinctly separate substances

- in his text, 'The Republic', Plato wrote that the soul belonged to a higher reality than the body

- he thought that the soul was an immortal substance in the realm of ideas; a view which comes from his theory of Forms

- for Plato, a person's true identity lies within their soul

- the soul is a human's way of grasping the spiritual realm of ideas, and is not physical matter

- the physical world is the world in which the body exists and through which we recieve impressions from our senses, but is not where our soul resides

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- the soul is immaterial and able to comprehend eternal truths beyond the world

- the soul wishes to enter the realm of heavenly ideas and understand them, whilst the body simply wants to be involved with worldly ideas and experiencing through the senses

- the aim of the soul is to break free of the chains of matter and flee to the realm of ideas, where it will be free to spend eternity in contemplation of the true, the beautiful, and the good

- a thinking being can survive without the physical body, as the soul continues even after the physical body dies

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- Aristotle was partly materialist, and didn't believe in the immortality of the soul

- he considered the soul to be the part of the body that gave it life, and determines the particular type of a living organism (eg. humans have human souls)

- to Aristotle, soul and body are inseperable, and so when a person dies, the soul ceases to exist

-  the soul develops a person's skills, character and temprament in life, but cannot survive death

- this would appear to be a materialistic view, but Aristotle believed that the body and soul were two separate things, just that they are in unity

- human beings have a soul which is capable of having an intellectual life, by reflecting on feelings and sensations, which allows us to know eternal truths

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- a dualist approach to mind and body would argue that it is the mind that determines our personality and the body is a temporary outer shell for the real self

- the body is contingent, and it's therefore inevitable that is will decay, however the mind is associated with higher realities such as truth, goodness and justice, and is therefore immortal

- if a man's life is spent in contemplation of his higher realities, his soul will enter eternity after the death of his mortal body

- this belief is called the immortality of the soul

- substance dualist is the view that the mind and body are two distinct substances with different properties

- property dualism is the view that there is only one kind of substance, but it can have both physical and mental properties  

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- Descartes was a dualist, and put all feelings and sensations that we can't locate physically down to the mind

- his conclusion was that 'I think therefore I am', which shows that the mind is distinct from the body, even though the two interact

- the mind and the brain are not the same, and the mental reality is not empirical

- Descartes' understanding of dualism rested on certain ideas, including:

  • the mind is a non-corporeal substance, distinct from material or the body
  • every substance has a  property or character (eg. the property of mind is consciousness, whilst the property of material is length, breadth or depth)
  • the body has a material form, which can be described in the form of extensional features such as its size, shape, position or movement
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- Cartesian dualism can be summarised as follows:

  • the mind is the place in which all feelings, sensations and thoughts are known only to the person experiencing them
  • the body performs all physical activities, which are observable to all
  • the mind and body interact with eachother as the mind can cause events to occur in the body and the body can cause events to occur in the mind
  • the mind and body are, however, separate

- 'our soul is of a nature entirely independent of the body' Descartes in 'Discourse on the Method'

- Descartes concluded that, as our identity comes from our ability to think and reason, it was highly plausible that we could survive as the same person in an infinite state, without our bodies

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- Descartes believed that the mind is 'I', which makes us who we are

- therefore, although we can dramatically change our physical appearance, our minds make us recognisable the same person as before

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- materialism is the theory that our minds are inseperable from our bodies

- it rejects the idea that there is a separate part to the human body known as the 'soul', and so when the body dies, so does the entire person

- materialists hold the view that an action is the result of a chain of chemical events, and that everything can be put down to science (eg. music is just a set of vibrations in the air, a person is just a brain attatched to a body)

- therefore, what we percieve as being an emotional response, such as love, is no more than a psychochemical reaction in our brain

- therefore, there is no distinction between body and soul

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- emergent materialism is the view that new properties emerge from physical matter as it becomes more complex, and that as a result, the mind and body are different but not two distinct substances, which was the belief of John Stuart Mill

- reductive materialism is the view that the mind is not distinct from the body, but identical with it

- to a reductive materialist, mental events are just chemical reactions in the brain, so there is no need for an external soul

- for this reason, reductive materialists do not belive in an afterlife

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- Gilbert Ryle was a materialist, and argued that the concept of the soul, which he described as the 'ghost in the machine', was a category mistake (implying that it was a misuse of language)

- he said that by referring to the 'soul', we are speaking of the mind and body as different phenomena, as if the soul was something independent to the body

- he disputed this belief, and said that the soul to which people refer is actually just the way in which a person acts with others and fits into the world

- the soul was not something seperate and distinct for Ryle

- 'a purchaser may say that he bought a left-hand glove and a right-hand glove, but not that he had bought a left-hand glove a right-hand glove and a pair of gloves' - Ryle, 'The Concept of the Mind'

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- Aquinas was arguably a proponent of dualism, and believed that the soul operates independently of the body 

- Aquinas said that only things which are divisible into parts can decay, and as the soul can't be divided up, it can't decay, so therefore lives on after physical death of the body

- he also believed that, when the body dies, the soul retains the individual identity of the body to which it was attached

- 'now that the soul is what makes our body live' - Aquinas, 'Summa Theologica'

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- Plato was a dualist, and believed that the soul and body were two separate substances, which interact temporarily

- in his text, 'The Republic', he argued that the soul belonged to a level of reality higher than the body, which made the soul immortal

- this view is derived from his theory of the Forms, in which ideas are not physical things, but belong to a spiritual reality, which is even more real than the material realm

- for Plato, a person's identity lies within their soul, and enables them to grasp the realm of ideas

- the aim of the soul is to break free of the chains of matter and to flee to the realm of ideas, where it can spend eternity contemplating the truth

- it can survive without the body, as the soul is the thinking aspect of a person

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- Hick was a materialist, and believed that the body and soul are one

- he does, however, propose that, if the exact replica of somebody appeared after their death, somebody could exist after death

- this replica would be identified as being the same person as the deceased, and therefore, according to Hick, would be the same person

- as he argues that God is all-powerful, it would be no problem for God to replicate the exact person of the dead

- such a replica would be complete with all of the individual's memories and characteristics from their previous existence, so although death destroys us, Hick believes we are re-created by God in another place

- therefore, Hick believes we can live on after death, but not independently to the soul

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- Richard Dawkins absolutely rejects any concept of an immortal soul, and is a proponents of biological, reductive materialism

- 'life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information' - Dawkins, 'River Out of Eden'

- for Dawkins, there is no pre-existent soul, and argues that such a belief results from human inability to accept that evil and suffering have no purpose

- Dawkins believes that human individuality is explained by our genes working together as a unit, and that, through evolution, consciousness has developed in humans so that they are able to chose behaviours which are more likely to lead to the survival of their genes through reproduction

- he believes in 'memes', which are aspects of human consciousness that can live on after death, through the imitation of certain memes by other humans

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- in Aquinas’ Five Ways for the existence of God, the Teleological Argument forms the fifth way

- Aquinas was a proponent of design qua regularity, and stated that everything works to some purpose or other, and as inanimate objects have no rationality of their own, they must be directed to their purpose by some external power

- he noted that the way in which ‘natural bodies’ act in a regular fashion to accomplish their end provides the evidence for the existence of an intelligent being, which must be God

- he uses the analogy of an archer and arrow to demonstrate his argument, in which the inanimate arrow is guided to its telos by an intelligent thinker

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- William Paley put forward the most famous form of the Teleological argument in his text ‘Natural Theology’ in 1802

- the first part of Paley’s argument was design qua purpose (design in relation to the universe’s apparent purpose), which he put forward in the form of the watchmaker analogy:

  • if we came across a watch, we would conclude that the parts were put together through intelligent design in order for it to fulfil its purpose, and not that all the mechanisms coincidentally came together
  • similarly, we can look at the world and infer that there is intelligent design due to the way in which things fit together for a purpose
  • he used the example of an eye to demonstrate natural complex design, and said that the many parts of the eye which co-operate in order to allow us to see is much too complex to be coincidental, and would require a designer
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- the second part of Paley’s argument was design qua regularity (design in relation to order and regularity)

- he used evidence from astronomy and Newton’s laws of motion and gravity to prove design in the universe

- he noted that different planets in the solar system all obeyed the same universal laws, which he believed could not have come about by chance

- he therefore concluded that an external agent must have imposed order on the universe, and this agent must be God

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- Aquinas distinguished that there were two different routes that an individual could take to God; through revalation, but also through human reasoning

- Aquinas didn't accept that the statement that 'God exists' is self-evident, and thought that it required real-life demonstration to prove it

- in his text, 'Summa Theologica', Aquinas developed Five Ways to prove the existence of God, which he called 'demonstratio' for the existence of God

- the first three of his Five Ways form the cosmological argument:

  • motion or change
  • cause
  • contingency
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- the First Way is motion:

  • according to Aquinas, an object only moved when an external force was applied to it, and as there cannot be an infinite regress of causers of this force, there must have been a 'prime mover' which began the movement in everything without being moved itself, and Aquinas argued that this is God

- the Second Way is cause:

  • Aquinas observed tha nothing can be the cause of itself, as that means it would have had to exist before it existed, which is impossible, so he said there must have been an initial, uncaused cause, which was God

- the Third Way is contingency:

  • based on the fact that things come into existence and later cease to exist, Aquinas considered the possibility of infinite time, and that if time was infinite, there must have been a time when nothing existed, as things on earth come into and go out of existence, so there must have been a necessary being before everything else, which brought everything else into existence, whom Aquinas believed to be God
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- the teleological argument is an 'a posteriori' argument, based upon the Greek concept of 'telos', meaning 'end' or 'purpose'

- it builds upon external evidence that we can see in the world, of the apparent order, regularity and purpose of the natural world, to conclude that such features must require a designer, and that such a designer must be God

- 'with such signs of forethought in the design of living creatures, can you doubt they are the work of choice or design?' - Socrates

- the argument assumes that there is order and design in the universe (eg. the changing seasons, the adaption of living things to their environments)

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- cosmological arguments derive from the conclusion that God exists as an 'a posteriori' premise, as it's based on evidence which can be seen in the world and the universe

- the cosmological argument is based on the belief that there is a first cause behind the existence of the universe (cosmos)

- the basic cosmological argument is based on the ideas of contingency, and the states of existence

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- Leibniz accepted the cosmological argument as he believed that there must be a  'sufficient reason' for the universe to exist

- 'if you suppose the world eternal, you will suppose nothing but a succession of states and will not find in any of them a sufficient reason' - Leibniz, 'Theodicy'

- Leibniz rejected the idea of infinite regress and an infinite universe, as he didn't believe this provided a satisfactory explanation for its existence

- he instead accepted that God was the first, uncaused cause, from which everything else in existence came about and therefore depends upon

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- the Anthropic Principle is a recent development of the teleological argument, which claims that the cosmos is constructed for the development of intelligent life

- it claims that, if there had been even a minute change in the composition of Earth, then intelligent life, or any life form at all may not have developed

- the design argument denies any claim that there were a chain of coincidences that triggered the evolution of human life, but that the best explanation for intelligent beings is the existence of a designer, which is God

- F R Tennant developed the Anthropic Principle in his text ‘Philosophical Theology’ in 1930, in which he claimed that there were three types of natural evidence in the world to suggest a divine designer:

  • the fact that the world can be analysed in a rational manner
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- David Hume was a major opponent of the Teleological Argument, as seen in his text ‘Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’ in 1779

- he questioned why we must conclude that the universe had to have a beginning

- he also claimed that, even if it were possible to acquire concrete evidence of order and purpose in the universe, there would be no way to link it to the God of classical theism

- the design could have been the work of several gods, or an apprentice god that then moved on to create improved worlds

- Hume has certain reasons for opposing the teleological argument:

- human’s don’t have sufficient knowledge and experience of the creation of the world to conclude that it came about as a result of only one designer

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- to try and discuss the design of the universe in human terms wasn’t an acceptable analogy because God transcends human understanding, and in mechanical examples (eg. the watch), these items have come about as a result of many men, suggesting that many gods may all be creators

- instead of likening the universe to a man-made object, it makes more sense to liken it to a vegetable that grows and behaves of its own accord

- Hume uses his ‘Epicurean Hypothesis’, based on the views of Greek philosopher Epicurus, to argue that, at the time of creation, the universe consisted of particles in random motion, which was initially chaotic, but developed into an ordered system

- the universe is eternal, and therefore, over many many years, it’s inevitable that random particles will come together to form a stable universe, without the need for a designer

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- Darwin’s text ‘The Origin of Species’ caused many people to claim that a belief in God was not contingent with new scientific discoveries, nor was it necessary to explain the way in which the natural world had developed

- recently, zoologist Richard Dawkins has written many books in which he supports Darwin’s theory of evolution, and uses this as reasoning to reject God

- he argues that natural selection suggests design, and has therefore led to the mistaken belief that there is an all-powerful designer, however he rejects this idea, and argues that variations in the world were caused by random mistakes in the DNA of living things

- in his text ‘The Selfish Gene’, Dawkins argues that gene-molecules of DNA are the fundamental units (replicators) of natural selection 

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- he claims that organisms are no more than the vehicles for these replicators, and that the success of different variations is based upon their ability to build successful vehicles

- Dawkins considers families or social groups to be nothing more than the environment that is created to ensure the survival of the genes

- Dawkins takes a Darwinian view of society, and thereby develops the concept of ‘memes’, a term which he developed to refer to ideas that are inherited through our culture, which also operate on the basis of natural selection

- it is for this reason, he claims, that we have a concept and appreciation of beauty, as traditionally more ‘beautiful’ organisms find it easier to appeal to a mate and therefore continue the species, so it’s simply part of the survival mechanism

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- 'a priori' and 'a posteriori' refer to how, or on what basis, a proposition might be known

a proposition is knowable 'a priori' if it is knowable independently of experience, while a proposition knowable 'a posteriori' is knowable on the basis of experience

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- a proposition is analytic if the predicate concept of the proposition is contained within the subject concept (eg. the claim that all bachelors are unmarried is analytic because the concept of being unmarried is included within the concept of a bachelor)

- for this reason, analytic propositions are often linked to 'a priori' propositions

 in synthetic propositions, the predicate concept amplifies or adds to the subject concept (eg. the claim that the sun is approximately 93 million miles from the earth is synthetic because the concept of being located a certain distance from the earth goes beyond or adds to the concept of the sun itself)

- for this reason, synthetic propositions are often linked to 'a posteriori' propositions

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- Anselm defined God as 'that than which nothing greater can be concieved', in his text 'Proslogion 2'

- according to Anselm, even an atheist has a definition of God in their mind, so God exists in the mind

- as nothing greater than him can exist, he must therefore also exist in reality, as anything which exists in reality is greater than something which exists purely in the mind

- 'if you are not this very thing (the greatest thing that can be concieved), something can be concieved greater than you, which cannot be done' - Anselm, 'Proslogion 2'

- the idea of a paradise island is used as an analogy for this, as we can picture the ideal tropical island in our minds, but it would be better if it existed in reality

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- thus, Anselm has tried to prove God's existence, but he hasn't yet proved that this is the God of Classical Theism, so he does this by demonstrating that God's existence is necessary

- he does this by suggesting that there's no possibility of God not existing, by saying that we need to know more than that he simply exists in our minds and in reality, but that we do already know this:

  • it can be concieved that something exists that cannot be thought not to exist
  • God must be such a thing is he is 'that than which nothing greater can be concieved'
  • this is because, something which can be thought not to exist is inferior to something that cannot
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- Renee Descartes developed Anselm's argument, by defining God as a 'supremely perfect being'

- he argued that we can conclude that God exists because existence is a predicate of a perfect being, so in order for God to fit the features of the God of classical theism, he must exists to avoid being self-contradictory

- he proposed that trying to imagine God without the predicate of existence would be illogical (eg. like trying to imagine a triangle with only two sides)

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- Gaunilo of Martmoutier was an opponent of Anselm

- Guanilo said that the flaws in Anselm's argument could be highlighted if we replace God with an island

- he said that if someone were to describe you the most perfect island, then claim that it must exist because of its perfection and your ability to imagine it, you would be a fool to believe this

- with this, Gaunilo criticises the way by which Anselm moves from his definition of God, to claiming that this proves God's existence

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- we can criticise Gaunilo's criticism however, as Anselm never likens God to Guanilo's island example, and as God is nothing like an island, the critique has limited relevance

- also, Guanilo's use of the island is also flawed as Plantinga points out that they have no intrinsic maximum and can always be bettered (eg. by adding another beach), so the island can never be the most perfect one imaginable

- the argument only works for God, according to Anselm, as God exists necessarily whilst the island would exist contingently

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- Aquinas said that God cannot be demonstrated through an 'a priori' argument, as it's not self-evident that God is 'that than which nothing greater can be thought'

- people have different ideas of God, and some even concieve that God doesn't exist, thereby showing that the human mind can't properly comprehend God

- Aquinas believed that Anselm's argument only served to show the diverse concepts of God that people hold, and that many people do have an understanding of God, yet this isn't sufficient to show that there is an existent reality to this belief

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- Kant opposed Descartes' version of the argument, by criticising his claim that denying God's existence is like denying that triangles have three sides

- in his text, 'Critique of Pure Reason', he criticised the ontological argument

- he argued that existence is not a predicate of something

- a predicate is, instead, a descriptor or characteristic

- existence is not a characteristic of something, as, by knowing that something exists, we know nothing more about its character, and only that the thing exists

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- Bertrand Russel was a twentieth century philosopher

- he criticised Anselm's use of the word 'exist'

- existence cannot be a predicate, as, if it were, it would lead to a syllogism, such as:

  • bears exist
  • winnie the pooh is a bear
  • therefore, winnie the pooh exists
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- religious experience is a non-empirical occurence, that may be percieved as supernatural

- such an experience can be spontaneuous, or come about as a result of intensive training and self-discipline

- recipients of a religious experience usually say that it has drawn them into a deeper knowledge or awareness of God

- the experience itself isn't a substitute for the divine, but simply a vehicle which draws people closer to the divine

- genuine religious experiences are very often encouraging, and don't seem to condemn the individual, but encourage them to live a better life

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- the term 'mysticism' refers to a deep connection with God, where God is beyond the boundaries of reason and knowledge

- it conveys that all religions share a common sense of the divine, just expressed in different ways

- mystical experiences can be difficult to express in everyday language

- according to mysticism, God is known not through reason, but through intuition and the soul

- these experiences often come about through prayer and contemplation, and can involve visions or hearing supernatural things

- in his text 'Mysticism: A study and an Anthology', F C Happold proposes that science cannot be our soul source of certain knowledge about reality, and that mystical experience is also crucial

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- conversion experiences involve an individual abandoning an old way of life and adopting a new one, as a result of an inner experience that they have

- conversion experiences can be dramatic, or more gradual

- in his text 'Our Experience of God', H D Lewis describes a common pattern among conversion experiences:

  • the individual is dissatisfied with their current lifestyle or system of ideas
  • they search for answers through scripture or attending church
  • there is a climatic point of crisis, whereby the individual feels the presence of God, either through a vision or voices
  • what follows is a sense of peace, an altered mindset, and a keeness to tell others of your experience
  • in the long-term, the person's general direction in life may change
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- conversion experiences have been the subject of many psychological studies

- William James claims that, through conversion experiences, something which has long been on the edge of someone's consciousness comes to the centre, and religion becomes their prime focus

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- corporate religious experiences occur when several people all share the same religious experience at the same time

- for some, these have more evidential force as there are more witnesses to the experience

- others believe that people can be carried along by others' emotions and the hysteria of the event, and so they aren't very evidentially valid

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- near-death experiences are observed by people whose hearts have stopped beating or who have been comatose

- across all of these experiences, there is a common feeling of an 'out-of-body' sensation, feeling a loving presence, a sense of great peace washing over somebody, and the sensation of travelling through a tunnel towards a bright light

- some people strongly believe that this is evidence of life after death, whilst others argue that there is a more scientific explanation for the phenomenon

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- William James is the most renowned commentator on religious experience

- he was an American doctor, and not a theologian, however he had a deep interest in philosophy and also psychology

- in 1902, he wrote a text on the topic of religious experience, known as 'The Varieties of Religious Experience'

- James makes a distinction between existential judgements and value judgements, and argues that spiritual judgements can also be seen as value judgements as they involve our personal interpretation

- such a distinction is essential when discussing religious experience, as the existential judgement is determining what exactly happened, whilst the value judgement allows us to consider what this means

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- although the general view at the time was that religious experiences occured as a result of a faulty mind, James argued that 'religion and neurosis' were totally compatible, and thereby seeked to explore a scientific approach to religious experience

- he took a pragmatic approach and seeked the answer to his view on religious experience through the experiences of other people

- in his lecture, 'The Reality of the Unseen', he collected the testimonies of many people who were certain they had experienced religious experiences, and defended their credibility, saying 'these feelings of reality... are as convincing to those who have them as any direct sensible experiences can be'

- through his observation of the testimonies of religious experience proponents, James argued that religious experience carries a degree of value, as it produces real-life results, such as a new enthusiasm for life, and a sense of greater peace

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- Rudolf Otto was a German Lutheran theologian

- in 1917, he published his text 'The Idea of the Holy', which set out to explore the nature of the divine as encountered through religious experiences

- he believed that experience of the divine was funamental to religious belief

- he argued that the divine was 'mysterium tremendum et fascinans' (an awe-inspiring, facinating mystery)

- he proposed the idea of numinuous religious experience, which is an awareness of human nothingness when faced with a powerful divine being, and said that it is different to any other experience we may encounter

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- Otto believed that within religious experiences, there were certain common features of the divine presence encountered:

  • a quality of mystery, leading to an awareness of the individual that God can never be fully understood
  • a quality of utmost importance 
  • a quality that is simultaneously attractive and yet dangerous
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- through religious experience, Swinburne concludes that 'on our total evidence, theism is more probable than not'

- in his text 'The Existence of God', Swinburne places great significance on a cumulative approach to proving the existence of God, using religious experience along with the teleological and cosmological arguments

- Swinburne defines religious experience as 'an experience which seems... to the subject to be an experience of God or of some other supernatural thing'

- this is important as many people have rejected religious experiences which involve an angel or messenger, but according to Swinburne, these are valid as they involve something supernatural

- Swinburne's argument then takes the form of the Principle of Credulity and the Principle of Testimony

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- the Principle of Credulity is that 'if it seems to a subject that X is present, then probably X is present; what one seems to percieve probably is so'

this means that, we should trust in our own experiences unless we have sufficient reason not to do so, and so if we percieve that we are experiencing God, we should believe that we are experiencing God

- this principle rebukes the need for empirical evidence in proving religious experiences, and criticises scepticism of such experiences

- the Principle of Testimony is that 'we usually believe to have occured what other people tell us that they percieved occuring', and appeals to the idea that people generally tell the truth, so we should be prepared to believe them unless we have reason not to

- the argument is a cumulative approach as it considers both principles

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- one example of mystical experience is that of Teresa of Avila, who, in 1554, had an intense religious experience whilst in front of an image of the wounded Christ in the chapel of her convent

- she claims feeling that Christ 'was within me, or that I was totally engulfed by him', and had a succession of such experiences, which eventually led to her reforming the Carmelite life so that the nuns dedicated themselves totally to prayer and repentance

- a Biblical example of mystical experience is that of Isiah in the Temple, wherein he 'saw' God and was overwhelmed by his contact with the divine

- after his experience, Isiah became a prophet to spread his new-found understanding of God

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- a key example of conversion experience is that of Nicky Cruz, who, after being a member of a notorious Mau Maus gang, converted to Christianity through the guidance of Wilkerson, who told him that 'Jesus loved him and would never stop loving him'

- a Biblical example of conversion experience is that of St Paul on the road to Damascus, who persecuted Christians following the 'New Way', before he was met by a blindingly bright light and the voice of Jesus which asked him 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'

- after this, Saul was left without sight for three days before spending around two years in the desert, where he then had more visions, like those of St John

- his experience, converted him from being a persecutor of Christians to spreading the gospel of Jesus for the rest of his days, and influencing much of the teaching of the New Testament

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-  a key example of a corporate religious experience can be seen through the Toronto Blessing, which began in January 1994 at Toronto Airport Vineyard Church, wherein people thought that the Holy Spirit was visiting the congregation

- pastor Randy Clark noted how he got 'drunk' in the Sprit and would be laughing and dancing uncontrollably

- the unusual acts of the people affected, such as growling, shaking and even temporary paralysis, were said to be the symptoms of the Holy Sprit entering their bodies

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- a key example of a near-death religious experience is that of Robin Michelle Halberdier, who, when born prematurely and with a membrane disease, she remembers the experience of seeing a brilliant bright light

- she says that 'there was a standing figure in the light, shaped like a normal human being, but with no distinct facial features', which made her feel 'very protected and safe and loved'

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- many people are more likely to believe in something if they have experience of it

- in his text 'Treatise on Religious Affections', Jonathan Edwards says that 'the degree in which our experience is productive in practice shows the degree in which our evidence is spiritual and divine', meaning that our experiences of God are the best possible evidence that we have for his existence

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- Ludwig Feuerbach was a proponent of the understanding of religious experience as a psychological effect, and argued that God was an invention of the human mind

- he argued that the ideas of religion are produced by men who are 'alienated' or  dissatisfied in their practical lives, and therefore need to believe in a religion

- to Feuerbach, people transfer all of their highest ideals and hopes onto their made-up idea of God, so religious experience is in fact not a divine experience, but the work of the mind in allowing people to see what they wish to see

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- Sigmund Freud also argued for the existence of religious experience as a psychological effect, saying that people are totally material, and that religion was no more than a psychological obsession

- he thought that the subconscious layers of the mind can lead people into thinking that there is a God, but this is an 'infantile neurosis', wherein people cannot cope with being adults so they make up an imaginary parent figure

- therefore, religious experience is essentially an illusion, which occurs when our subconscious mind takes over the imagination, and requires pschological treatment according to Freud

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- neurophysiology is the study of the brain and central nervous system

- neurophysiological studies have been done on religious experience, and suggest that such an experience could have a natural cause

- in the 1980s, Michael Persinger invented 'Persinger's helmet', which induces feelings similar to those of a religious experience

- this can be used as evidence to suggest that religious experiences can be induced, and are therefore nothing supernatural or to do with the divine

- in the case of near-death experiences, studies have shown that such sensations can be induced artificially using endorphins, which may suggest that there's no link between such experiences and God

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- natural evil is said to be that which causes suffering but doesn’t come from any human wrongdoing, but may be linked to the Fall (eg. diseases, natural disasters)

- moral evil is said to be that which causes suffering as a result of human sin (eg. murder)

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- the argument of the inconsistent triad, says that three certain beliefs cannot be held at the same time, without contradicting each other:

  • That evil exists
  • That God is omnipotent
  • That God is omnibenevolent

- the logical formulation of the problem assumes that a God with the traits that are given to it through monotheistic theology, wouldn’t allow any evil or suffering in the world

- the logical problem of evil is a priori deductive, because, as long as we know the premises to be true (that evil exists and that an all-loving, all-knowing & all-powerful God would always stop evil) then, through reasoning alone, we can deduce the conclusion that there is no God, or that whatever being God is, it is not the God of classical theism

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- as an evidential problem, the problem uses a posteriori inductive reasoning, meaning that if the premises are true, the conclusion (that God doesn’t exist) doesn’t necessarily follow, but is merely a probable conclusion

- it says that the existence of so much evil and suffering in the world opposes the belief that the God of classical theism, who is said to be all-good and all-loving, exists

- John Stuart Mill argued that, the extent of evil and suffering in the world suggests that there isn’t a Good God, and if the Earth has a creator, it is a malevolent creator

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Augustine’s basic theodicy about the problem of evil is as follows:

  • God is perfect, and made a world free of flaws
  • He cannot be blamed for creating evil, since evil isn’t a substance, but a deprivation of good
  • Evil derives from angels and humans who turn away from God
  • The possibility of evil in a created world is necessary, as only God himself can be unchangeably perfect, and other created things are susceptible to change
  • Everybody has inherent evil, as we were all seminally present in Adam, and therefore deserves to be punished
  • Natural evil is an appropriate punishment and came about because humans destroyed the natural order on Earth, so God is justified in allowing suffering and evil to continue
  • The fact that God saves some through Christ, demonstrates his mercy
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- Augustine built upon the assumption that God is omnibenevolent and created a world totally free of defects

- he emphasises the Genesis I teaching that ‘All God has made pleased him’

- this demonstrates that God did not create evil and cannot be held responsible for it as it is ‘not a substance’, but a ‘privation of good’

- Augustine used the example of blindness, which is not an entity in itself, but the lack of sight

- if evil can’t be traced back to God, Augustine argues that it derives from the free will exercised by humans and angels

- free will had been abused by humans and angels, who chose to turn away from the supreme good (God), and aspire towards lesser goods

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- this can be seen in the Fall, where Adam and Eve’s desire for power overcame them, leading to them being tempted by Satan to eat the forbidden fruit

- through his explanation of the origin of evil, Aquinas explained that all evil is a consequence of human sin

- natural evil originates from the loss of order within nature following the first instance of sin on Earth, which destroyed the natural order

- since then, humans were condemned to suffer, through experiences such as pain and death, and distancing from God

- in this defected environment, moral evil flourished and spread

- Augustine made the point that all people deserve to suffer because all humans were present ‘in the loins of Adam’, and therefore guilty as they inherit his guilt for disobeying God

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- critics support the claim that evil cannot be called a substance, but rather ‘a gap between what there is and what there ought to be’ – Brian Davies

- therefore, we can agree with Augustine’s view that God is not to blame for creating evil, and that any argument that blamed evil on God would have to be that God should’ve created more than he did, which is weak as it lacks precision or detail of what he should’ve created

- Augustine’s argument that evil is the result of human free will can be supported, as by giving humans genuine free will, this absolutely entails the possibility of moral evil

- Alvin Plantinga argues that, although humans sometimes freely follow good, if God had designed them so that they always chose good, they wouldn’t be truly free

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- Augustine’s theodicy also manages to successfully link the existence of natural evil to the introduction of moral evil to the world, by saying it’s a punishment for this

- because of its close reliance on the Biblical story of creation from Genesis III, the theodicy appeals to Christians who accept the authority of the Bible as the word of God

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- It can, however, be argued that Augustine’s theodicy has:

  • Logical errors
  • Scientific errors
  • Moral errors

- a logical issue with the argument was recognised by F.E.D Schleiermacher, who said that there was a contradiction in the belief that something had caused a perfectly created world to go wrong, as this would mean that evil created itself out of nothing

- if evil is seen as a deprivation, or something else, it is still a real feature of the world which can be seen through the suffering that it produces, meaning that it must be attributed to God, as everything else on Earth is

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- Augustine’s reliance on the abuse of free will also poses a logical issue to his theodicy

- Its difficult to understand how, in a perfect world with no knowledge of the concept of evil, that freedom could’ve led to people choosing to disobey God

- the fact that God’ creations chose to turn away from him seems to suggest that there is an innate comprehension of evil, which could have only derived from God

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- there are also scientific oppositions to Augustine’s theodicy, which stem from his reliance on creation and the Fall in Genesis, which many may deem is weak as there is much evidence that evolution played a funadamental role in 'creating' the world

- the other issue with this is that Augustine assumes that each human being was seminally present in Adam, which is a theory immediately rebuked on biological grounds, meaning that we can’t be held accountable for Adam’s sins

- therefore, evil and suffering can’t be excused as a punishment for our inherent sin, as we don’t appear to have any

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Iranaeus’ basic theodicy about the problem of evil is as follows:

  • God’s aim when he created the world was to make humans flawless, in his likeness
  • genuine human perfection cannot be ready-made by God, but must develop through free will
  • since God had to give us free will, he had to give us the potential to disobey him
  • if humans were made ready-perfected, there would be no such possibility and therefore no such potential for evil, however humans wouldn’t have free will 
  • therefore, the natural order had to be designed with the possibility of causing harm, humans had to be imperfect, and God had to distance himself from his creation
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  • humans abused their freedom to disobey God, which caused suffering
  • God cannot compromise our freedom by removing evil, so has to sit back and let evil continue
  • eventually, evil and suffering will be overcome, and everyone will develop into God’s likeness and live in glory in Heaven, which Irenaeus believes justifies temporary suffering
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- Hick accepts Iraneus's theodicy that God created evil to allow humans to develop themselves, and proposes that goodness which comes from free will is infinitely more valuable than ready-made goodness

- if we had been pre-disposed to love God, then we would have simply been automatons and our love for him would have been valueless, as we'd have no other choice

- Vardy also supports Iraneus, and uses an analogy to support his argument:

  • a king falls in love with a peasant girl
  • he has the power to force the girl to marry him, but instead choses to win her over genuinely, since her forced love of him wouldn't be genuine

- in the same way, God had to allow humans to love him as their own personal choice, so he could ensure their love was genuine

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- accepting this aspect of the theodicy means that we naturally accept others, such as the fact that we were created imperfect, we were distanced from God, and the world could not be a paradise:

  • we had to be created imperfect, so that we had the freedom to disobey God and could therefore decide against such temptations to develop ourselves
  • we were created at a distance from God, known as the epistemic distance, so that we could decide whether or not we follow his laws, without being overwhelmed by his expectations
  • if the world was a paradise, and there was no possibility of causing harm, then people wouldn't be truly free, and every human action would result in happiness, which would mean people were more like robots than actual people, as we would have no moral compass
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- the concept of a Heaven for all people seems unfair and unlikely, and calls God's system of justice into question

- religious people criticise this view as it contradicts the teachings of the Bible, which promise punishment for the unrighteous

- it also removes the importance of moral behaviour, as if everyone will have access to Heaven anways, there's no point in acting morally good on this earth, and so Iraneus' idea of human development through suffering becomes irrelevant as there's no motivation to develop ourselves

- the quantity and severity of suffering on earth seems uneccessary and unjust, and we may say that 'soul making' could still occur in a world that doesn't contain such grave suffering such as the Holocaust, making such excessive punishment unecessary and unloving

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- some argue that suffering can never be an expression of God's love, and that any amount of suffering being allowed on earth can be seen as in direct contrast to God's qualities

- D Z Philips argues that, for people, it would never be justfiable to hurt somebody to eventually help them, so why would it apply to God to be able to put people through suffering to develop them as people

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- in terms of moral issues with the argument, one such problem concerns the concept of Hell, which appears to be part of the design of the universe, but would mean that God must have anticipated that the world would go wrong and there would be need for a place to send those who disobeyed God, so evil wasn’t just as a result of the rebellion of humans

- finally, although Augustine argues that God sacrificing his son on the cross and thereby allowing some people to be sent to Heaven, which demonstrates his apparent mercy, others would argue that it displays irrational inconsistency, and that God favours some of his creations over others, which further limits God’s goodness

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- Augustine concluded his theodicy with a reminder of God’s grace, saying that God could have simply let everybody go to their rightful punishment in Hell, yet through his mercy, he sent his son to die on the cross so that some may be saved and go to Heaven

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- the argument uses the Greek idea of ‘Telos’, meaning purpose, to show that the universe is a result of intelligent design, and was intentionally created as it was

- it’s an ‘a posteriori’ argument as it’s based on evidence of order that we can experience in the world:

  • the universe has order, purpose and regularity
  • the complexity of the universe shows evidence of design
  • such design implies a designer
  • the designer of the universe is God
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- the argument assumes that there is order and design in the universe, and that all things function to fulfil a specific purpose, as planned by an ultimate designer

- whether or not there is the design in the universe seems to boil down to probabilities, as it may be probable that there is an ultimate designer from the evidence seen through our existences on earth, but there is no way of proving that this designer is God without making an inductive leap

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  • the way in which the inorganic world has provided the basic necessities required for sustaining life
  • the process of evolution leading to the emergence of intelligent human life

- Tennant believed that it would be possible to picture a chaotic universe in which no rules applied, however, the universe is clearly not chaotic and has been designed in a way that would lead to an environment in which intelligent life could exist

- this led Tennant to conclude that human life is part, or the final aim, of God’s plan

- Tennant developed this argument further by concluding that the universe isn’t only ordered, but furthermore seems to demonstrate beauty at all levels

- this part of his argument is known as the aesthetic argument

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- Tenant argues that humans possess the ability to comprehend and appreciate the beauty of their surroundings, yet such an appreciation is not necessary for survival or the development of life, and this therefore suggests a divine creator as it cannot be the result of natural selection alone

- Richard Swinburne accepted that the universe seemed ordered, and that it could just have easily turned out to be chaotic, and claimed that as it’s not, there is evidence of design, which means it's all to do with probabilities

- he says that out of the two options for explaining why the universe has order, chance or design, the sheer complexity of the universe would suggest that it’s more probable that there is design, and that God is the simplest explanation

- the Anthropic Principle accepts Darwin’s theory of evolution, along with the existence of God, by claiming that evolution was part of God’s plan for the development of human life

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- Mill was an empiricist (all knowledge is derived from the senses), so for him, all knowledge had to be grounded in experience

- he opposed the idea that evidence of design in the world proves the existence of the God of classical theism

- this is because the evidence either suggested the non-existence of God, or a God that didn’t have the attributes described in Christianity

- he claimed that, because suffering exists, then there cannot be an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent creator

- this is a dysteleological argument by claiming that the world isn’t the product of intelligent design

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- James identified four main qualities of religious experience, which will enable us to indentify them:

  • ineffability, meaning that the private experiences are difficult to express in everyday terms, due to their non-empirical nature (eg. St Teresa of Avila stated that she found it impossible to 'give a description of at least the smallest part of what I learned')
  • noetic quality, meaning that insight into unobtainable truths is gained that the recipient didn't have before, through intuition and perception
  • transcience, meaning that the event itself only lasts for a limited amount of time, yet the significance it has on a person can last a lifetime
  • passivity, meaning that the person feels as if they experience is happening to them, and they 'lose control' to a more powerful, divine being, which suggests that religious experiences are beyond human control
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