Proving the existence of God has always been a contentious issue.Many philosophers have developed and advanced their views on proofingGod’s existence. The different philosophers present differingproofs, which further complicates the issue. There are those thatsupport God’s existence while others do not. Even amongphilosophers arguing for God’s existence, it is clear that theirarguments are incomparable. It can only mean that research on God’sexistence has been inconclusive.
The purpose of this study is to analyze the views of two philosophersconcerning proof on whether God exists, and decide on whichphilosopher presents a stronger argument.
The study is significant because it endeavors to provide a solutionon the best argument in proving God’s existence.
It is possible to assume that when philosophers present an argumentsupporting the same issue that their arguments are related. Forinstance, Thomas Aquinas and Anselm both argue for God’s existence,which could result in presuming that their premises are the same.However, despite the sameness in topic it is important to note thatthe philosophers employ different premises.
The topic on proving God’s existence is large. There are manyphilosophers arguing for and against. It is not possible to dwell onthe arguments that fail to proof God exists. The study limits itsscope to arguments for.
Following the introduction, this study describes the philosophicalarguments of Thomas Aquinas and Anselm. The chapter summarizes whatthey have written to depict proof that God exists. The third chapteris an analysis of the two arguments. This section compares andcontrasts Thomas Aquinas fifth proof to Anselm’s ontologicalargument. Chapter four evaluates the philosophical arguments toidentify the weak and strong points presented. Last, chapter fiversummarizes the arguments and argues in favor of Thomas Aquinas fifthargument.
1.2 Chapter II
Thomas Aquinas uses reason as well as observation to argue for God’sexistence. He is regarded as a great Christian philosopher, whopresents five proofs as to why it cannot be refuted that God exists.This study delves on the fifth way and will straightforwardlyprogress to describe the proof described as intelligent design. Inthe proof, Thomas uses what can be observed from our universe toconvince readers of the existence of supernatural forces in controlof nature’s order.1He notes that using common sense people conclude that the worldworks in a manner that makes it possible to conclude it was plannedby an intellectual designer. It means that the existing manner inwhich nature appears were formulated and commanded by God, who isthen the intelligent designer.
To enhance his argument, Aquinas notes that there exist entitieswithin creation, which lack any form of consciousness. However, theseentities continue to behave in a habitual way, which benefits theircontinuous survival.2An illustration of these entities is trees. Trees lack any form ofconsciousness that can be said to direct how they co-exists andsurvive in the world. Nonetheless, their roots permeate deep into thesoil to collect the needed nutrients like water, which ensure thatthe tree continues to grow. The roots also provide firm support fortrees ensuring they continue to stand. They depend on the spreadingof their branches to gather light that makes it possible tophotosynthesize. To ensure their survival, they drop seeds thatgerminate into new trees. Aquinas observation is that naturalentities appear to act as though they have a sense of direction,despite lacking guidance from their consciousness. Hence, resultingin the premise that there must be another consciousness that guidesthe entities and this consciousness can only be God.
In another argument, Anselm presents the ontological case of God’sexistence. His argument described within the “Proslogium” isprecisely narrowed down into five premises.3The first premise emerges from the definition of God. Anselm refersto God as a supernatural person, meaning that there can never beanother individual as great as God. He is the greatest person thatcan ever be envisioned. Second, is that God’s existence is aconcept in people’s mind. People already have an idea of someonegreat who they refer to as God. Third, when something exists as aconcept as well as in reality, while other things remain constant,the being is greater than the one, which exists solely as an idea.Fourth, hence supposing God exists merely as an idea formed inpeople’s minds, it is possible to envision someone or somethingsuperior to God, which is the greatest probable being to haveexisted. On his fifth premise, Anselm argues that it is not possibleto envision of something better than God because it would result ininconsistency to make presumptions on the existence of somethingbetter than the supreme possible being. Hence, in Anselm’s sixthpremise, he concludes that God exists.4
Anselm’s argument seems to be powered by people’s perception ofthe existence of a supernatural being. This means that providedpeople conceive of the possibility of someone great existing, thenthey consent to God’s existence. The conclusion derives from thefact that there cannot be any greater being than God. The ontologicalargument’s objective is to provide and make individuals understandthat God exists.
1.3 Chapter III
Both, Aquinas and Anselm’s philosophical arguments support thatGod exists. A major similarity between the arguments derives fromtheir claim that the supernatural existence of things acts as proofof God. In the fifth way by Aquinas, he uses the order of theuniverse to explain that such an order cannot exist by its own.Further, is the assertion that all natural occurrences depict proofof design, since by observing nature things appear to adhere tonatural laws.5The natural laws applies to even things that lack consciousnesshence, are unable to direct themselves on what to do. As a result,there can only be a supernatural being that directs how thingsfollow, which explains the existence of God. Similarly, Anselmacknowledges that there exists a supernatural being. He uses the ideaof God to explain how there exists one who is the greatest and mostperfect. When Anselm speaks of God, he refers to a supreme beingbecause nothing else can be perceived to be better than God.6
There are also apparent differences between both arguments. Whilethe fifth way argues from a point of design, the ontological argumentis based on the nature of being. The fifth way can be summarized asclaiming that all things comprise of order.7The argument commences from the empirical proof of adaptation inorder to survive. This is explained through the use of illustrationssuch as how sensory organs work, the example of the food chain ornitrogen cycle. Thus, Aquinas argument is inductive. A logicalprocedure of explaining how nature look and that the natural order iscommanded by divine intelligence leads to the conclusion that theintellectual is God. On the contrary, Anselm’s argument isdeductive and does not rely on observations. The argument is that theexistences of God derives from the nature of being, which refers toexistence.8This means that being is God’s nature, and hence His existencecannot be based on observing as suggested by Aquinas.
1.4 Chapter IV
The philosophical arguments have strengths and weaknesses. Strengthsapparent in the fifth way include the fact that it delves on the ideaof purpose. We live in a world where we ought to have a function,means to ends. Using the illustration of an arrow and its target,Aquinas depicts that in order for an arrow to get to its target itought to be directed by an archer. The archer must be someone that isintelligent. Hence, God is the archer and people are the arrowsguided towards their target. The argument is further strengthened bythe capability of the author to use a cause and effect analysis.9Aquinas uses nature to make it possible for individuals to questionhow nature exists he then brings in the idea of someone designingthis nature. It is because of the designer that we have nature, whichin turn justifies the existence of God.
Aquinas argument’s weaknesses derive from presenting argumentsthat are reasonably as well as scientifically incorrect. It cannot berefuted that the universe is complicated. However, this cannot beused as a basis for arguing that there is need for a designer. Bymaking a comparison of the world as well as biological structures toman-made things like a watch, the philosopher makes a rationalfallacy described as incorrect analogy. The universe and biologicalstructures function in manners that are very exceptional compared tohow human-made things work. If the world needs a creator, then peopleshould question how God was created. This is because there can benothing more intricate than super intelligence. Aquinas argues thatthere exists an intellect and resolute designer. This differs fromthe unpredictability and chance exhibited by biological structuresand the universe. Presuming that the world and biological structureshave been designed decisively, then they should not comprise ofsuperfluous characteristics.
The major strength of the ontological arguments derives fromAnselm’s claim that the idea of God is not irrational. He achievesthis through the explanation that every individual ought to have anidea of who God is, regardless of being a believer or not. He furthersupports his argument by demonstrating that an idea cannot merelyexist in mind, but also in reality. As a result, God exists becauseof the concept of God. In addition, the argument is strong because itresults in a clear conclusion, from an idea to reality and finallythe existence of God. Anselm uses deductive reasoning to make hispoint clear and logically conclude on why God exists.
The argument’s weaknesses derive from the fact that the logicAnselm uses can also be used to argue that God does not exist.10Supposing one is to use the argument in arguing the existence of anobject, the conclusion becomes unreasonable. For instance, one cannotthink of a perfect island just because they have the idea that thereexists a perfect island does not mean that there is one. Anotherweakness is that the argument depends on thought, which makes it lessconvincing by presenting an argument that cannot be resolved.11It is not possible to simply think of something and conclude thatwhat has been thought of is true or exists. It is important to notethat it is not every individual that hears the phrase God thatcomprehends what it means. One could simply think of the work assomething great or vice versa. Hence, to assume that everyone thinksof God in the same way is not convincing of why we should think ofGod’s existence.12
1.5 Chapter V
Based on the arguments presented by Aquinas and Anselm, Aquinasargument is the best. Aquinas presents a convincing analysis on whypeople should believe in the existence of God. He achieves this bymotivating us to question our own existence and how we manage tosurvive in nature. Although it may be natural for things to fall inplace as they do, there must be someone in charge of these naturallaws. By observing our environment, it is apparent that some thingshappen in ways that cannot be explained. For instance, it is possibleto question how trees realize the importance of spreading their rootsto get water. It can only mean that there exists someone that designsthings to work and appear the way they do. This person must be uniqueto all others thus, the reason why it is possible to conclude thatGod exists. On the contrary, Anselm does not convince because hebases his argument on an idea.
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1 Leo Elders, The Philosophical Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas (Leiden: Brill, 1990), p. 120.
2 Brian Davies, Thomas Aquinas`s Summa Theologiae: A Guide and Commentary (New York: Oxford University Press 2014), p. 47.
3 Alvin Plantinga, The Ontological Argument from St. Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers (London: Macmillan, 1968), p. 3.
4 Robert Shofner D, Anselm Revisited: A Study on the Role of the Ontological Argument in the Writings of Karl Barth and Charles Hartshorne, (Leiden: Brill, 1974), p. 43-47.
5 Dennis Bonnette, Aquinas` Proofs for God`s Existence St. Thomas Aquinas on: The Per Accidens Necessarily Implies the Per Se (Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 1973), p.157.
6 Christopher Hamilton, Understanding Philosophy: For AS Level AQA (Cheltenham: N. Thornes, 2003), p. 244.
7 Frederick Bauerschmidt, Thomas Aquinas: Faith, Reason, and Following Christ (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2013), p. 95.
8 Brian Davies and Leftow Brian, The Cambridge Companion to Anselm, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 159.
9 Joseph Owens, and Catan John, St. Thomas Aquinas on the Existence of God: Collected Papers of Joseph Owens (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1980), p. 30.
10 James Harris F, Analytic Philosophy of Religion, (Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2002), p. 110.
11 Graham Oppy, Ontological Arguments and Belief in God, (Cambridge: UK, 2007), p. 335.
12 William Rowe L and Trakakis Nick, William L. Rowe on Philosophy of Religion: Selected Writings (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), p. 362.