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Free «Existence of God in Philosophy» Essay Sample

Discussions about God’s existence had lasted a long time before Thomas Aquinas, whose teachings became the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. He offered five proofs of God’s existence in his famous work “Summa Theologica”. His idea represented the following: no man can say what God is, because neither human speech, nor human thinking has sufficient capacity to do so (Aquinas I, 3, 1). Even if someone tries to say “God is this or that,” this is not possible, because there are no words in the language with which one can express exactly what God is. Any words referring to God are not true.

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Traditional theology proceeds from divine initial cause, following from it to a variety of consequences. In essence, they argued a priori (i.e., beyond sensory experience), for a speculative approach of such theological thinking applied to extremely “high matters” cannot exist otherwise. But in Thomas Aquinas’ natural theology such movement from cause to effect cannot be a proof. His theology is able to come only from the works of God, specific things (not necessarily material), from the natural phenomena of the human world, etc. It thus follows from the consequences. In “Summa Theologica” he offered five articulated evidences of the God’s existence. They are presented in this paper in the simplified and rather compressed form. The problem of God’s existence is understood in a strictly metaphysical aspect.

The first of his Five Ways Aquinas follows from existence of things that are “moving” to the existence of supreme “unmoved mover”. In the second way he follows from existence of order or hierarchy of existing causes to the existence of uncaused cause of all that is caused. In the third one he follows from the existence of contingent beings to the existence of an absolutely necessary being. In the fourth way he follows from varying perfections of varying degrees to existence of an ultimate standard of perfection. And in the fifth way he follows from the final causes in the corporeal world to the existence of the mind, which determines the order of the world (Aquinas I, 2, 3).

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The first three proofs represent practically the same argument expressed in different words, and they should be considered together. Each of them leads to the infinite sequence of questions – which means that the answer to the question is a new question, and so on, ad infinitum. These three arguments are based on the idea of an infinite sequence, and God finishes this movement to infinity. The first drawback here is completely unproven premise that God alone cannot be a part of the sequence. Even if one imagines the creature, which ends the process of climbing the endless chain of reasons (because it is needed for proof), and gives it a name, it is not clear why this creature should have other qualities, usually attributed to God: omnipotence, omniscience, grace, possibility of creation, etc., not to mention the purely human qualities like listening to prayers, forgiveness and recognition of secret thoughts. By the way, in the logical way omniscience and omnipotence are mutually exclusive qualities. If God is all-knowing, he knows that he will intervene in history and, using his omnipotence, will change its course. But it means that he cannot change his mind and not interfere, and therefore he is not omnipotent.

The above mentioned proofs of God’s existence are based on the false concept of a finite world, the substitution of the concept of objective need with the concept of the supernatural. Thomas Aquinas believed that his proposed proofs of God’s existence on their own are not able to create the right idea of God. Therefore, to understand the essence of God, he suggested agreeing to three points: that God exists, that he exists in a definite way, and that he manifests himself.

 
 
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His nature can be comprehended only being sure of his existence, but not vice versa. According to Thomas Aquinas, the ultimate knowledge of God, the final understanding of him, to which humanity can come, is, in fact, his definition, which appears in the ontological proof. Therefore, humanity must first establish his existence in other ways, and only then study his properties, and only at the end of this study people may accumulate enough knowledge to define God. Until that time, according to Thomas Aquinas, the ontological argument is a hypothetical statement that if God is perfect, then he must exist.

The basic principles of Thomas Aquinas’ “rational theology” have been criticized by Kant. In his work “The Critique of Pure Reason” he argued that the majority of rational proofs of God’s existence are somehow reduced to the ontological one, which has no evidentiary value. Therefore all “rational theology” is a pseudo-science. However, Kant criticized the main provisions of the “rational theology” from the standpoint of Christianity. Rejecting it, he was not going to reject religion and its main ideas. Instead of “rational” proofs of God’s existence Kant proposed a moral proof.

Conclusion

While many thinkers believe in the possibility of proving the existence of God by rational and natural means, the equal number of philosophers believes, that none of these attempts can be satisfactory. Some representatives of the latter argue that such evidence is impossible, since the object in question does not exist. Others insist that all the difficulties of this kind of evidence are related to the nature of the object, which may be located outside of comprehension by rational means. Such thinkers point out that all of the difficulties, that arise when trying to prove the existence of God on the natural and rational basis, suggest looking for evidence of the entirely different kind and giving up the approach of proving God’s existence by means of reason, i.e. philosophy can’t prove the existence of God.

   

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