Philosophy – teleological argument

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Last updated: November 22, 2019

a) Briefly explain what is meant when an argument is described as ‘teleological’This argument is referred to as the design argument. This argument compared to the ontological is simpler and appeals to our common sense more. It is an argument that gathers evidence, and uses our experience of things from everyday life.The word teleological comes from the Greek word telos, which means ‘end’ or ‘purpose’.

This means that we are attempting to prove that God designed this world, or that there is a designer. This necessarily doesn’t mean that the designer is also the creator.b) Outline and illustrate how the teleological argument for the existence of God uses analogy.

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William Paley and David Hume both use analogy for their versions of the teleological argument. Paley described a scene where an individual walked across a beach and finds a stone. He says that this wouldn’t puzzle him a lot and wouldn’t require an explanation for how it came to be. He then continues by saying that if the person came across a watch, he would be puzzled and would think about where it came from as well as not accepting that it could have occurred naturally.The person then examines the workings and concludes that a watchmaker must exist to create such a piece. Even if the person had never seen a watch and was unaware of its purpose, they would conclude that some form of intelligence assembled this complicated piece of machinery. Paley drew a comparison between the watch and creation.

He saw the world inferring the existence of a creator. So therefore if the universe is analogous to a watch, or any man-made object, then we must also find from looking at the world that something or someone must have designed the world.Hume criticises Paley’s argument saying that we cannot compare man made artefacts to the universe.David Hume had actually criticized this argument before Paley set it out. Hume asks that if the world is complex it must be created by a complex mind; but who created such a mind. In other words, why do we have to stop this search for explanations at God? Why not carry on to the creator of God and so on.

His second criticism was that the world contained evil. If we argue from the facts in the world in order to arrive at God’s existence; we end up with at least a God who is not good and who is not powerful enough to bring his intentions about. Hume suggests a third point. Why believe in one God as creator and not many? Many people build a car, perhaps this is the case in the universe? Perhaps God has created this world as a practice one? Hume also suggested that perhaps God is male and female. Finally Hume states that we have no experience of creating universes.

So we are unable to argue from causes operating within the universe to a cause of the whole universe. Even then, Hume asks us to consider the time it has taken to create the universe and poses that God should be able to do this in less time. Hume sees the world, not as a structured machine, but as more like a vegetable. It grows by itself rather than being formed or moulded.

c) Assess what can be concluded from the teleological argumentCompared with the other arguments for God, the teleological appeals more to the common sense. It does not consist of intense theories and conclusions which confuse easily. Emmanuel Kant respected the authority of the teleological arguments saying ‘this proof always deserves to be mentioned with respect. It is the oldest, the clearest and the most accordant with the common reason of mankind.’The logical positivists say that the teleological argument does not fulfil the criteria for meaningful language because is cannot be checked. We make our conclusions about a topic due to research and experimentation, in this case we are not able to look from an outside view and make judgements. So how are we able to justify the teleological argument as a logical theory? Logical positivists also say that until we see what the world would look like if it wasn’t designed, we cannot claim that it is designed.

Personal life experiences can also influence ones judgment on the teleological argument. Our own worldly experiences may influence our beliefs or our beliefs may influence our worldly experiences. Could there be a difference in the way the world is seen by a believer and a non-believer? A believer may see a miracle of God in the sky proving Gods existence to him whereas a non-believer looking at the same sky may see the beauty of nature.

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