What are the best philosophical arguments for God?

I am interested in a sound philosophical argument for the existence of God because, in my opinion, this is the only way to prove it. (I heard litle about Anselm’s argument or Thomas Aquinas five ways)

Hi @AlexandruVasile,

I don’t like any philosophical arguments personally but found this video made by an atheist rather amusing:

Maybe @T_aquaticus has similar opinions on the best arguments for God?

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Try the website here. Of course, if you are not someone who like philosophical argument, you will not like these, but I think William does a good job of posting a summary of those philosophical arguments. As for what argument the best one, that is up to you and in your heart to choose what speaks to you the most. Some people feel each argument in a different way =)

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Ok I would definitely disagree with the evaluation of these arguments by the atheist in the video clip, which is not to say that his analysis was not well done.

I prefer a numerical rating of these arguments and I have added two more arguments to the list. The two at the bottom have a negative evaluation because the beliefs they support are no good. The moral argument supports an authoritarian morality (inadequate for mature responsible people in a changing world) and Pascal’s wager supports gospel of salvation by mental works (purchasing your salvation with the sacrifice of your honesty and intellectual integrity). The personal experience argument is immensely improved by accepting the subjective nature and inherent diversity of resulting belief. This accepts the basic flaw of all these arguments as lacking objective validity.

9 Personal Experience – accepting the subjective nature and diversity of belief
7 The failure of physical determinism in quantum physics.-- suggests a nonphysical involvement
6 Predicting the universe had a beginning – prediction is always strong evidence
4 FineTuning – involves probabilities which cannot be calculated and thus are pure rhetoric
3 C. S. Lewis’ version of the moral argument – evolution can account for morality
2 Kalam Cosmological Argument – only an argument for a first cause and nothing else
1 Ontological Argument – defining God into existence is a really lame move
-1 Pascal’s Wager – assumes salvation by mental works giving you religion which is faithless
-2 The usual Moral Argument – assumes an authoritarian morality which is utterly inadequate

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I also heard about Christological arguments. (Lewis’s Trilemma and the Resurrection Argument). Are they useful?

The argument from motion

You’re gonna have to unpack this one for me. Since motion gets into lots of questions from Physics I have no idea how this argument is supposed to work. It kind of seems like the argument is supposed to lead to an ‘unmoved mover’ similar to the first cause ‘uncaused causer.’ However for me, the argument makes little sense with how its supposed to work and how things work with Physics.

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Really, that’s a ‘Horus’ Atheist level mistake.

Motion in this instance refers to movement from a state of potentiality to actuality, such as a cold cup of coffee becoming hot, not literal physical movement

I still don’t understand what that means. Can you go from the notion that a cup of coffee has the potential to become hot, and then when you put it in the microwave it heats up to an argument for God?

@DoKo help me out here

It changes from being potentially hot to actually hot. It cannot ‘actualise’ itself, that would imply a non-existent thing doing something, so it must be actualised by something already actual. This culminates in an un-actualised necessary being.

From a entropic standpoint, technically a cup of coffee if you wait long enough will spontaneously become hot, but we generally wouldn’t see this because the probability of such is so incredibly low.

The cup of coffee doesn’t make itself hot, the temperature in the air does. Besides, the coffee is only an analogy for how things change from potentiality to actuality.

If you heated in the microwave, a microwave doesn’t work by heating up the air but by providing kinetic energy to the molecules inside of the thing you are heating. But generally speaking coffee would never actually get heat from the air unless it was hundreds of degrees outside. Technically it might lose heat to the air, but it’s best to realize that the temperature of coffee is not anything real – it’s just made up of molecules that have a certain probability distribution. The underlying probability distribution typically will be found to be a Maxwell Boltzmann distribution:
image

However this is actually just the most probable state to find the system in, I.e. the state of equilibrium/highest entropy. But that in itself is a probability thing and there is a nonzero probability that an isolated (meaning it cannot exchange energy with its environment) cup of coffee will spontaneous “heat itself” up!

This only supports the position being made. What is required for the argument is

  1. change occurs
  2. the change isn´t selfinduced.

The coffee can be reduced to its parts, in this case H2O and whatever molecules make up the coffee powder. That the coffee can become hot from an entropic standpoint at some point in an infinite timeline is unproblematic superficially, since you only gave an alternative way for the coffee to become actually hot. While in the one scenario Reggie provided the surrounding air actualizes the potential of the coffee to change its temperature, in your example the actualization would be due to a bottom-up causal way.

However we also reach a point where we leave physics behind and enter the realm of metaphysics and philosophy of science. How do we interpret QM or QFT? Where this becomes problematic is if you want to assume that spontaneous=uncaused. I reject such an idea on metaphysical grounds as a violation of ex nihilo nihil fit. Further more I´d point to the fact that such a violation isn´t seen in the macroscopic world. And third QM doesn´t disprove , rather it excludes causality from the equation. But I don´t want to give a big defense of the principle of causality in this comment and will rather give a few links for the interested:



Note: If Reggie and I are talking of causality, as the actualization of a potential by something already actual we don´t limit ourselves to the modern mechanistic understanding which makes our idea wholly unintelligible. This mechanistic physicalistic understanding as an exhaustive picture of causality leads to eliminative materialism, which is obviously wrong. I take it as a given, that understanding consciousness via that way is impossible. Hence I have no problems including immaterial entities within the causal picture when required. Also this broader approach isn´t committed to determinism and allows for probability states, though I expect that there is a deeper explanation for the probabilities being the way that they are.

The mechanism is of secondary importance. Though you are certainly correct about it, most people don´t understand a microwave that well and we can restrict us to an analogy about the heating of the air, since your more detailed picture doesn´t threaten the underlying metaphysical principle.

Now you´re getting to the deeper issues, The temperature is entirely reducible to the spatial relations of the particles and their inherent energy. However every change in that system, be it spatial movement or transfer of energy is a change, and per defintion an actualization of a potential, since, if we´re not supporters of Spinozism, we assume that there isn´t a logical contradiction in the idea of a certain molecule being in a different place or having a different energy.

I described above shortly how I and Reggie would understand causality, or rather, I described what it is not. I take this modern confusion about the principle to be the reason why so many respected physicists talk about QFT showing that particles come from literal nothing. That and a lack of critical thinking.
Now I need to know from you how you apply the term “causality” and if the defintion applied could be a reason for the disagreements. I also want to know if you understand spontaneous to entail uncaused and if that would change upon reflection of your understanding of causality?

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Many responses are warranted:

@AlexandruVasile
Metaphysical: Leibnizinan Cosmological Argument, Modal Ontological Argument, Argument from Consciousness, Existential Argument (e.g. Aquinas Third Way, Vallicellas Paradigm Theory), Argument from Reason, Teleological Argument (Aquinas, not the modern Paleyian version)
Epistemological: Argument from religious experience, Modal Epistemological Argument (Emanuel Rutten)

This will get its own comment later.

That´s an important point. The best sign if naturalism were correct would be the success of mechanistic philosophy post-Descarte. However reductionism is both philosophically and scientifically untenable.

Depends on the version. I think Robin Collins´ version avoids the objections that are raised to the standard one rather well.

It can provide the answer to the question of why we generally act the way we´d recognize as being moral. But if it is indeed objective, evolution is not the foundation.

It entails the Principle of Proportionate Causality. One isn´t forced to stop once the first cause is reached, since certain attributes can then be derived. One doesn´t get to Anselmian theism or the omni-attributes. However one reaches a very powerful first cause which, if we are intelligent, is itself intelligent.

It´s safe to say that you neither understand the ontological argument nor are able to recite it properly if you say something like that. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you at least read a real presentation of it.
Here´s the version of the Modal Ontological Argument by Robert Maydole, printed in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Here

E: Here´s a popular piece by Yujin Nagasawa on why the Ontological Argument is so important and held in high regard by many philosophers:


The logic applied in the Modal Ontological Arguments is flawless and this is uncontroversial. The main work is to investigate if the concept of God is a coherent concept. This, based on the Gödelian version, is attempted by Maydole in the link above. If it is, then God, defined as a maximally great being, is possible. Maximally greatness entails necessity. So if God is possible then, because of S5, God actually exists.

The choice of the word “induced” is a clever way to sidestep examples of spontaneous symmetry breaking and self-organization, but there is still a rather substantial counterexample: any change in an isolated system must be self-induced.

I think it is just as problematic if you want to assume that spontaneous=caused. How about instead something like spontaneous = possibly caused and possibly uncaused.

Just because Parmenides/Aristotle said it doesn’t make true.

Not quite. Bell’s inequality has conditions, so the most you can conclude is that for some events, QM excludes physical causality (i.e. excludes causality within the accepted premises of the scientific worldview).

I think your accusation of a lack of critical thinking is an example of a lack of critical thinking. And you bend so far over backwards in your insistence on ex nihilo nihil fit that you render the claim meaningless. At least in the case of the physicists, they give precise and substantial meaning to the claims they are making.

Yes I studied both the original argument of Anselm and variations at seminary and I read the two links you posted as well (Robert Maydole and Kurt Godel). My opinion is completely unchanged by them. Furthermore I quite agree with the criticism that this argument ultimately begs the question no matter how they try to hide this among a number of intermediate definitions.

I´m not able to discuss physics properly, I´m mainly familiar with the metaphysical debate surrounding it. And from that perspective there are the following problems with your answer:

  1. I don´t assume mechanistic causality. I affirm living organisms to be self-organized.
  2. The system however cannot actualize its own potential. For simplicity reasons we stay with an inanimate object like the cup of coffee. The coffee itself didn´t heat itself up, rather some events on the deep physical level happened which caused the coffee to heat up. What the nature of that event is or in which causal relationship it stands may be a topic of further physics, but clearly the default position is that there is an explanation, after all we can make informative probabilistic models. I will however not presuppose, like the early moderns did, that the causal structure has to be physical.

Well you could, but the reason why I affirm causation here is because on further analysis, we see that if we affirm “uncaused” we open Pandoras Box. Also, the definition of causation I apply is much broader, so I don´t need newtonian causation like on macroscopic scales. I´d rather say “spontaneous=enabled”. Analogically we can take human free action. In the vertical causal series, the action is enabled, the human is made of particles while not being reducible to it; formal causality. In the horizontal series, the human action is “caused” in response to the surrounding environmental influences. This neither entails that the human action is determined, nor that it is uncaused.

It is as basic as the laws of the excluded middle, identity or non-contradiction. If you reject it, I don´t even know what to say.

Which is fine by me. I´d question however excludes causality within the accepted premises of the scientific worldview and refer to that as field-specific. What the physicist counts as the scientific worldview of causality probably vastly differs from the definition of the biologist and moreso from the psychologist. The Act-Potency-distinction @Reggie_O_Donoghue and I apply intends to work as a unifying principle all those applications of causality have in common.

Ah come on now, this is ridicolous. I only insist that if a system changes its state, there has to be an explanation. In the case of the hot coffee, if we assume that the coffee spontaneously became hot, my assumption is that there is an explanation. There is an explanation withtin the nature of the molecules as to why they tend to act within certain probabilities. Just because I don´t presuppose that every causal relationship has to be mechanistic, doesn´t mean that I think claiming something to be a brute fact with no explanation in principle, has any plausibility.
My insistence on ex nihilo nihil fit should be easily understandable, since literal nothing has nothing from which something can come from. Physicists however tend to include the wavefunction or virtual particles, all of which aren´t nothing, hence they have nothing positve to add to the philosophical issues and are merely confusing the masses, which leads to the confusion of the masses who start to believe that particles come from literal nothing. This is what I mean by a lack of critical thinking. It´s what led to the absurdity that is postmodernism and people denying the existence of truth.

Where is the question-begging? Every premise involving the logical assumptions is quite uncontroversial, including S5. The issue is premise 1, that a maximal great being is possible. Plantingas version merely intended to show that faith is rational. The follow-ups by WLC, Nagasawa, Maydole and Almeida focused on the logical relationship between the attributes. You have the article, where is Maydole begging the question? Would, under you accusation, “Every man is mortal, Socrates is a man, therefor Socrates is mortal”, count as question-begging?

Just for your information, the weakness of the original version of the Gödelian argument (C.A. Anderson has revised it since) was not that it was question-begging but that it led to a modal collapse, which would be the denial of metaphysical contingency. Everything, be it a human action or a virtual particle coming into being at a specific spatial place at a specific time would be absolutely predetermined.

As someone unconvinced that the Christian God exists I can tell you it isn’t as much because of the quality of the arguments as it is the lack of clarity in the term being used, “God”. Without better clarity I cannot imagine how one would successfully argue either for or against existence.

Personally I’m inclined to believe there is something that supports belief in God or gods. What exactly that may be is the question that interests me.

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Ok… let’s look at some syllogisms
premise A
premise B
premise C
conclusion B
textbook definition of begging the question, right?

But then you can hide this a little
premise A, where A is defined as requiring B
premise C
conclusion B
still begs the question.

And you can hide it more and more
premise A, where A is defined as D
lot of argumentation to get us to accept that D requires E
lot of argumentation to get us to accept that E requires B
premise C
conclusion B
still begs the question and you are still trying to get your conclusion by definition!

Ok so what if we change this last one slightly to
premise A, where A is defined as D
lot of argumentation to get us to accept that D requires E
premise C
lot of argumentation to get us to accept that C means E requires B
conclusion B
It still looks like begging the question and then you may object that all arguments are begging the question. Perhaps the key point is that the actual content of B seems somewhat irrelevant and that you can put anything in there and the argument still works. What makes the ontological argument beg the question so much is that the conclusion, God’s existence, is treated as a property and stuffed into argument without really taking it apart to finds its meaning and why this must follow.

It is somewhat typical that the flaws of arguments can be described in more than one way.

Exactly! If I say that something happens because it is completely random within some probability distribution then you can call that an explanation. Or what if my explanation for doing something is simply “why not?” In either case you have done exactly what I said which is to reduce your claim of ex nihilo nihil fit to meaninglessness.

And I suggest you need to change this to nothing comes from nothing without any possibility of something that might be called an explanation. Since you can make up words and plaster the label “explanation” on anything you chose, the claim is rendered meaningless. The context of the physics is the conservation of energy so you can make matter in particle antiparticle pairs out of pure energy. But in the case of virtual particles there is no energy so it is out of nothing at all and energy is conserved in the long run because the virtual particles are required to disappear within an amount of time given by the energy-time uncertainty principle. The virtual particles are in fact created out of nothing because in the end eventually you can say that they are nothing after all (but not without having an effect on other things which are not nothing).

And I find it absurd the way some people throw out such red flag terms as communist and postmodern without any examination of whether the actual meaning applies. Various philosophical positions have been justified by any number of facts but that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the facts.

Yes and the law of the excluded middle has also been challenged by quantum physics. And this… “don’t even know what to say” is a rather common reaction to quantum physics especially by physicists.

Yes that is pretty accurate… as long as you realize this doesn’t change the fact that the cause of the result is not always determined by pre-existing conditions.

Yes… when I was growing up people would ask me if I believed God exists and my answer was that the real question is… “What is God?” There are more possible answers to the question than just a made up story and an ancient necromancer making golems of dust and bone.

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