Religion Philosophy: Aquinas’s and Hume’s Theories

Second Way

Aquinas’s argument for the existence of God in “The Second Way”

The argument of Aquinas is based on the concept of cause and effect wherein all present and future events, objects, and even people are categorized under the concept of an effect that come about as a result of an initial cause. For example, a person would not be here if his/her mother did not give birth to them, their mother would not have given birth to him/her if she had not met their father, the father would not have met their mother if his own mother had not given birth to him and so on and so forth. Referring to this statement Aquinas conceptualizes that everything we see around us in the present is the direct result of a past cause. His arguments focus on the logical conclusion that the current process of cause and effect that we see around us today must have had an origin. Thus, for Aquinas God is the uncaused cause, namely, he is the one who initiated the process of cause and effect that brought about the world as we know it today.

Hume’s criticism of “The Second Way”

On the other end of the spectrum the arguments of David Hume and the statement found on page 168 move to the forefront. In his example Hume acknowledges the concept of the necessity of the first cause (i.e. the uncaused cause), however, at the same time he is wondering if there is a need to ask for the cause (in other words, do we really need to argue over the concept being a first cause?). Instead, Hume posits the question of finding a material cause for our current material universe. From this example it can be clearly seen that Hume believes that there is a clear separation between the material (our current universe) and the immaterial (God), and that there must have been a material first cause within our universe that started it in the first place. From a certain perspective it can be stated that both philosophers present valid arguments towards the origin of God and the universe itself. As such both statements can be considered correct in their own way since one of them tries to explain the concept of the immaterial first cause while the other elaborates on the material first cause.

Argument from Evil and Argument from Design

Hume: The whole earth is cursed and pollute

What you have to understand is that when Hume elaborates on the statement found on page 166, he does so under the context of comparing the natural process of life as being evil. The statement “the strong shall live and weak shall perish” is an apt way of summarizing the thoughts of Hume in the first half of the statement while the phrase “to live is to be in pain” is a way of summarizing the second half of his statement. Both summaries seemingly imply that the world is an unjust place full of pain and unfairness wherein the odds are stacked against the weak and infirm. Hume considers all acts related to unfairness, pain, disadvantages and abuse of the frail as being evil.

What connection does Hume’s remark have to either the Argument from Evil or the Argument from Design?

The inherent problem with Hume’s assertion can be found when examining “the argument from evil” and “the argument from design”. First and foremost, the argument from evil asserts that an all powerful and good being such as God would not allow the creation of evil. The opposite argument asserts that despite the complexity of the world there is still an underlying order to it. This provides the basis for the argument of the existence of an intelligent designer (namely God). It is based on this fact that one can assume that creation as we know of it today is not evil by design but rather it is the perspective that we impart on it that creates the concept of evil (i.e. pain being a natural process for all creatures and that the concept of weakness is just another aspect of creation). As such Hume’s assertion can be considered as being a personal observation rather than an all-encompassing truth.

The ship-owner case provided by William Clifford

The main conclusion that Clifford draws from the story is that even if a person believes that something is true beyond the shadow of a doubt, it is still necessary to inquire and investigate in order to determine the accuracy of such beliefs. Even if it can be said that the ship owner wholeheartedly believed in the sturdiness and seaworthiness of his boat the fact remains that others had already presented arguments indicating that something was wrong yet he still had supreme confidence in his beliefs and did not even attempt to examine the veracity of such claims. As such, Clifford presents the argument that all beliefs, no matter how valid or true they are, form a person’s view point, however, they still need to be subject to appropriate levels of inquiry as a form of ethical duty in order to ensure that they are true. It is based on this assumption that it would be highly unlikely that William James would agree with the argument presented by Clifford since an examination of the work of James in the lecture “the Will to Believe” clearly shows the support of James towards the adoption of certain types of beliefs without first having sufficient evidence of their overall accuracy. Thus, when presented with the statement indicated within the assignment, it is obvious that it would be an apt conclusion to the essay of James which supports the rationality of unsupported faith despite the necessary evidence to prove it.

References

Castell, A., Borchert, D. and Zucker, A., 2001. Introduction to modern philosophy. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.