|HZT4U1 Unit 1 Culminating Activity
Metaphysical Web Quest – Essay
November 6, 2008
Theology, from “theos” (God) and “logos” (discourse),1 is the study of the nature of God and religious truth; the rational inquiry into religious questions.2 It is ordered knowledge that represents, with intellect, what religion embodies in the heart and life of man.3 Depending on one’s stance on the existence of God, it can be a science of God or simply one of religion.4
The Ontological Argument
There are many various ontological arguments,5 most of which argue the existence of God by saying that His being by nature includes the concept of necessary existence.6 St. Anselm’s ontological argument is as follows: if God is that than which no greater can be conceived, then nothing can be imagined that is greater than God. If God does not exist, though, then something can be imagined that is greater than God, namely a God that does exist.7 Like most ontological arguments, St. Anselm’s is criticised for being the culprit of circular reasoning,8 as well as for using premises that would not be agreed upon by atheists.9 However, Anselm’s argument was only the first of its kind; the ones made since have been seemingly less flawed.10 Even so, atheists can still claim them to be not universally satisfying, and so the debate of God’s existence continues.
The Cosmological Argument
Based ultimately on the existence of the cosmos, the cosmological argument justifies God's existence by stating that for something to move, it must first be caused to move by something else.11 Applying this to the universe, one realizes there must have been a first cause of life as we know it, something that must itself be unmoved by anything else; this is God.12 This argument was first introduced by Plato, in book X of the Laws, from which he concludes that “soul” or “life” gave motion to the universe.13 However, it was St. Thomas Aquinas who first concluded that God was the prime mover.14 Aquinas begins by proving that all things are not contingent, and that there is such a thing as necessary existence.15 He then goes on to say there is a hierarchy of necessary existence, and there must be a self-explaining necessary being outside of the hierarchy; God.16 David Hume disputes the cosmological argument by saying that it is based on principles that are actually false, and reasons that all things may be contingent without any need for necessary existence.17
The Teleological Argument
Also known as the argument from design, the teleological argument is based on the idea that the world is too complex and well ordered to have been produced by chance or random change; God is the only explanation.18 In 1908, G. K. Chesterson whimsically stated, “So one elephant having a trunk was odd; but all elephants having trunks looked like a plot”.19 One of the most popular forms of the argument was put forward by William Paley, who compares the world to a watch; the watch is so intricately designed that it simply must have a designer, and the same goes for the universe.20 David Hume disagrees with the teleological argument; he says it is logically possible that chance caused everything, and that the universe is really only one subdivided machine, there's no spiritual individuality or beauty.21 Additional opponents of the argument are Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin, among others.22
The Moral Argument & The Problem of Evil
The moral argument claims God is the only explanation for why we have developed moral codes, and have a conscience which influences us to behave unselfishly.23 Supporters of it include Immanuel Kant and Thomas Aquinas, while opponents include John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Friedrich Nietzsche.24 Criticisms revolve around morality being able to develop without God, that moral norms are nothing but the product of society and contracts, and so on.25 However, there is one sizeable argument against God's existence, contrasting greatly with the moral argument, and that is the problem of evil. J.L. Mackie states that if God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good, there can be no evil; and since evil does exist, God can not.26 There are, however, some defenses against this argument that logically work. If God is not omnipotent, then He is simply not powerful enough to make them go away, and He can still exist.27 If God is not totally good, then He is able to solve the problems but simply doesn't feel the need to or has a reason why he shouldn't, and He can still exist.28 If God is not omniscient, then He simply is not aware of the existence of evil, and He can still exist.29 Or, if evil does not exist and is simply a projection of one's ego, then God can still exist.30
“Mysticism is a belief in or the pursuit in the unification with the One or some other principle; the immediate consciousness of God; or the direct experience of religious truth.”31 The term “mysticism” likely comes from a classical Greco-Roman meaning of “to close the lips and eyes”, and refers to a sacred oath that kept the inner workings of religion secret.32 It was first introduced to the Western World by Dionysius the Areopagite.33 The two theories of Divine Reality are emanation (all things in the universe overflow from God), and immanence (the universe is immersed in God, rather than projected from Him).34 Monistic mysticism, in the Upanishads of India and Taoism, refers to the either the soul or Tao (respectively) as the eternal and Absolute being, whereas theistic mysticism, in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, refers to a unity with God, and nonreligious mysticism refers to a unity with Nature.35
Pantheism, from “pan” (everything) and “theos” (God), is the philosophy that everything is God or that the universe and nature are divine.36 Technically, true pantheists do not believe in a personal God, and feel the word “God” itself is so loaded with inaccurate connotations that they rarely use it.37 People often associate pantheism with atheism, because they share naturalistic beliefs, the same arguments, and critiques of other beliefs.38 However, the two differ in that pantheism has an emotional and ethical response to the material universe, and stresses the positive aspects of life and nature.39 Naturalistic pantheism concludes that humans should seek a closer harmony with nature, and should preserve biodiversity not just for survival but for personal fulfillment.40 Hegel expresses a version of “pan-psychic pantheism”, the belief that the universe or God has a collective soul, mind or will.41
Atheism, from “a-” (without) and “theos” (God), is the belief that there is no deity or God.42 A “weak atheist” believes there is no reason to believe a god exists; they may be open to the idea that there is a driving force keeping the universe in motion, but that force is not divine.43 A “strong atheist” believes it can never be possible for a god to exist.44 Originally, it was a crime to be an atheist, and there are still laws against it in some places, but now that it is becoming more common, some countries have laws that protect atheists' rights, giving them the same freedoms of everyone else.45 Famous writers on the subject of atheism include d'Holbach, Marx, Nietzsche, Percy Shelley, and Schopenhauer.
Agnosticism is the belief that it is not possible to prove if there is or isn't a god or higher power.46 An agnostic can either believe in a god or not, and still follow the principles of agnosticism.47 A “strong agnostic” believes that it is not possible to prove if a god exists, a “weak agnostic” believes it may be possible to know someday, an “apathetic agnostic” believes it does not matter whether a god exists or not, and an “ignostic” believes the idea of a god is useless.48 Famous writers on the subject of agnosticism include Huxley, Ingersoll, Russell, Kreeft and Ratzinger.
-E-mailed to Mr. Baker, don’t have a copy handy.