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October 09, 1960 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1960-10-09
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A Modern
By PHILO WASBURN

~- -~

WHYS AND WHEREFORES:

Anal sis

of

God

~The
By PETER STEINBERGER

Libera

HE question of whether or not.
God .exists was once consider-
ed to be of momentous signifi-
cance. Today it-is a question which
is seldom asked. It seems that
the contemporary position con-
cerning the subject may be stat-
ed: "It is hardly even worth be-
ing an atheist these days."
Within the cultural environ-
ment of the university religion
seems to have miserably failed-
Nietsche's dictum, "God is dead"
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seems to be well accepted. Why
is this?
It seems to me that the an-
swer to the question is to be
found in a consideration of what
sort of "evidence" people expect
a believer to present in support
of his contention "God exists."
What I hope to indicate in this.
article is that religious beliefs
often receive criticism because in-
dividuals often have a faulty no-
tion of the grounds upon which
religious beliefs may be establish-
ed. It is my contention that much
criticism of religious beliefs has
been misdirected. What I hope to
do is to indicate the traditional
arguments presented to support
the proposition that God exists;
next to indicate contemporary
criticism of these arguments and
finally to note an alternate
ground upon which the assertions
of religions may be considered to
be established.

How the Old Proofs Fail
To Give a Valid Answer
To Today's Religious Needs

AN EDUCATION in the humani-
ties is supposed to improve, or
at least alter, the "whole man";
technical courses give to that
whole man skill in performing a
specialized task. Or at least these
are the concepts which cause col-
leges to set distribution require-
ments, maintain courses with little
"practical" application, and en-
courage some of its students to
become professors that teach these

T HE PROBLEM the universities
set for themselves is how to
produce men and women who are
familiar with the modern world,
but can also look at it with the
knowledge that it was not here
always; that other worlds pre-
ceeded it-perhaps in some ways,
better worlds; that other worlds
will follow it, and that those
worlds will depend for their shape
on how clearly we can understand

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The traditional approach to
the establishment of fundamental
religious beliefs attempted to se-
cure them on the basis of human
observation and reasoning; to give
metaphysical arguments for the
most basic beliefs. Such a position
is termed "natural theology."
THE classical representatives of
the view that the foundations
of religion find their support by
reasoning are Saint Thomas
Aquinas and Saint Anselm, who
attempted to establish the basis
for religion upon metaphysical ar-
guments for the existence of God.
Although Anselm and Aquinas do
present many varieties of meta-
physical arguments for God's ex-
istence, the arguments may, for
purposes of expediency, be gen-
erally considered to be of three
types, in accord with the classi-
ficatign purposed by Immanuel
Kant in his "Critique of Pure Rea-
son." Let us briefly note the nature
of. each of these types of argu-
ments.
The Ontological argument for
the existence of God tries to show
that an assertion denying the
existence would involve a contra-
diction. The argument, employed
by Anselm and Decartes, contain-
ed no factual premises and is a
reductio-ad-absurdum of the sup-
position that God does not exist.
Decartes asserted that an infi-
nitely perfect being necessarily
exists just as we might say that
the two sides of a triangle are
necessarily greater than the third
side.
The Theological argument for
the existence of God assumes that
Philo Wasburn is a gradu-
ate student in the literary col-
lege, and is presently working
for his master's degree in phil-
osophy.

there are patterns to be discov-
ered in the natural world; an
apparent design may be found.
The employer of the argument as-
serts that the universe as a whole
seems to show the mark of a de-
signer, and implies that this de-
signer is what men call "God."
The third or Cosmological ar-
gument for God's existence pro-
ceeds from the supposition that
something exists. The argument
runs as follows: Something exists;
everything in the world is con-
tingent. If anything exists, an ab-
solutely necessary being must
exist. Since something exists then
an absolutely necessary being
exists also.
NOW there is a fourth classical
type of argument for God's
existence. It is interesting (and,
as I hope to indicate, significant)
that Kant does not classify the
argument in his "Critique" in the
manner in which he considered
the Ontological; Cosmological and
Theological arguments. The Mor-
al argument for the existence of
God asserts that God is neces-
sary for the objectivity or author-
itative character of moral issues.
Duty, it insists, exists independent
of individual sentiment. A su-
preme being, in whom the reality
of moral fact resides, is the
source of moral obligations.
The four preceeding paragraphs
attemptedrto impart a feeling of
the sort and method of consider-
ations which are termed Natural
Theology. Implicit in all of the
arguemnts was the notion that
the basis of religion is a belief in
God, a belief which is well founded
upon reason. One asserts that God
exists, and one adheres to moral
doctrines on grounds both rational
and logically necessary. To choose
to believe in the existence of God
and to choose to act morally is

synonymous with choosing to be
rational.
Now let us shift our attention
from a consideration of the es-
sence of traditional Natural
Theology to a discussion of con=
temporary criticisms of the posi-
tion. As examples of the sort of
approach contemporary authors
use in attacking the assertions
of Natural Theology, I shall em-
ploy sketches of several arguments
contained in New Essays in
Philosophical Theology.
In chapter three of this text,
J. J. C. Smart comments: "The
danger to theism today comes
from people who want to say'that
'God exists' and 'God does not
exist' are equally absurd. The con-
cept of God, they would say, is
a nonsensical one." Let us note how
this statement is applied to the
various arguments for the exist-
ence of God set forth by Natural
Theology.
SMART supposes that the only
sort of necessity a proposition
may possess may be discovered by
an examination of the proposition
itself ; le. 'necessity' lies within
the syntax of a language and the
meaning of the terms of that
language. Smart continues to say
that 'X exists' is not at all like
saying that 'X has Y property'.
Whether or not a concept applies
to something cannot be seen from
the examination of the concept
itself. This being granted, it
follows that the statement 'God
exists' is not logically necessary.
Hence, there can never be any
logical contradiction in denying
that God exists. For this reason,
Smart contends, the Ontological
proof for the existence of God is
unsuitable.
In a similar manner, the Cos-
mological argument also fails, ac-
cording to Smart who argues:
"Necessity is a predicate of pro-
Conunued on Page Ten

courses.ours.
In the flurry of self-examina- This is not an easy task, for
freshmen do not spring new-born
Rusian ientich aompichish- from the earth each September,
cm e n t wipm u thtroltwith eyes that have not yet seen
of the humanities has come in for and ears that have not yet heard.
speal atntion. This was, offr Rather, minds saturated with in-
seeaue wewere searching ferior and complacent secondary
for "difference in kind" between education, with the messages of
ourselves and the Russians and the mass media--that is, our low-
ourelvs nd heRusias, ndest common denominator -- are
their materialism looked as if it sent en masse to the colleges.
could be opposed neatly by our Some pass through without ab-
humanism. At any rate, the pastIsombngasyothhut all,
five years, which have witnessed sorbing any of these ideas at a,
such extensive advances in scien-althoughthese are not too many.-
tific fields, have also seen a sens Others, probably the great major-
tifc ielshav aso ee arenais- itv, find these new viewpoints ex-
sance (sic) in thought about the yfnthsnevipinsx-
liberal arts. citing, but regard them as essen-
tially outside the experience they
IT WAS Pascal who said that seek. A third group, smaller, is
T A s whcaptured by the humanism-the
human knowledge is like an study of man in all his potential-
expanding sphere; the larger it ities-that they find at college;
grows, the more 'it touches on these often decide to teach the
the uknown. The inevitable result liberal arts, which examine both
of this has been the division and: the whole man and his relation to

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re-division of areas of study so'
that the Universal Man has given'
way to the isolated expert, who
must concentrate nearly all, his!
energies on his specialty if he is
to master it and produce things
with that mastery.
This atomization of academics
has been accompanied over the
past few hundred years with an
even more intense atomization of
society. The rise of the cities and
the division of labor in the fac-
tories have resulted in the with-
drawal of the individual from his
old associations of the closely knit
family group and the clan. At the
same time that studies tend to
draw people into lonely and unique
niches, social changes are frag-
mentizing the groups that provide
a means of exchanging knowledge
and attitude. Thus, the Atomic
Man is now a more imminent
possibility than the Universal Man
was ever a reality.
Peter Steinberg is a sopho-
more in the college honors
program and a member of the
Daily staff.

the society and technology he has
created.
T HE RELATION between this
last group of students and the
rest of the country is a matter of
great importance. On the other
hand, much of the criticism lev-
eled at our society has come from
academic humanists; on the other
hand, these are the people who
come in for heavy censure from
the rest of the population. Hu-
manism is a state of awareness.
It causes us to ask: Who am I;
why was I born? The answers of-
fered these questions by modern
artists and literary people have
been alarming to those citizens
who are satisfied with the world
as it is, and are capable of dis-
carding the humanistic questions.
One who questions himself and
the world around him is immedi-
ately placed in a difficult position.
No one can live meaningfully in
a country if he is at war with the
philosophy that makes it run.
That is, he cannot do so unless he
accepts at least part of it, and
actively works to change those
things in which he cannot believe.
He must do these things if he

wishes consciously to be a citizent
and a humanist-a man who can C
talk to his fellows, and set hist
thoughts in the context of his lifet
experience. To do otherwise is to
some extent, at least, to equivo-
cate, to exchange the potentialj
meaning of the few years given
him on earth for a timeless and
fretful anxiety. As Thoreau said
of his neighbors, "Most men lead
lives of quiet desperation." It has
seemed to many that there is noj
way out of this, that quiet des-
peration is to be the perpetual lot
of mankind.
THIS, of course, is only the view-
point of the humanists, of
those who attempt to understand
the world about -them, as well as
their place in it. Their problem is
that the values they stress, the
principles in which they believe--
these are part of a conception of
man that cannot be easily recon-
ciled to the shape and form of a
modern society. Nor can their out-
look be altered by education or
by gentle and peaceable persua-
sion. Such men, men of the hu-
manistic temperament, are types
which are recurrent throughout
history. In no age have they fitted
well, but in some they have left
a deep and violent impression,
while in others they have been
relatively obscure.
Our age is one of machines.
Machines feed us and clothe us;
ii&

they provide us with warmth and I
care. The humanist scholars in t
the universities believe that de- u
spite the great, tangible advan-
tages the cultivation of the ma- t
chine has offered us, we should a
still hold on to the trinity of
human brotherhood, Elysian fields
and holy tabernacles.
WE, ALL OF US, live and accept
the fruits of our society with
a clear conscience. Every time we
buy a loaf of bread, or watch a e
television program, we give our
tacit concent to the implications
of bread manufacturing and tele-
vision programming. Even the
most vociferous critics of the pres-
ent order accept its conveniences.
What they demand is that society
trade them their advice for its
advantages. Liberal academicians
do not ask that society be changed
back to an agrarian paradise;
neither are they content to fol-
low the course of things as they ,
will naturally evolve. What the

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S T A T E

S T R E E T

AT L I B ERTY

L-.

a

THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINES

BEAVER BIKE . . . 605 Church Street
UNDAY, OCTOBER 9, 1960

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