Aquinas' design argument

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  • Created on: 20-05-14 18:16
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We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an
end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same
way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their
end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot
move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with
knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore
some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their
end; and this being we call God (Aquinas, Summa Theologica).
Aquinas' Argument from Design begins with the empirical observation of
the design and order of the universe. Hence, this argument is an à
posteriori argument, and the conclusion is not claimed to follow with
absolute certainty.
Aquinas's version of the argument relies on a very strong claim about the
explanation for ends and processes: the existence of any end-directed
system or process can be explained, as a logical matter, only by the
existence of an intelligent being who directs that system or process
towards its end.
The operations of all natural bodies such as plants and animals, in
Aquinas's view, are directed towards some specific end that conduces
to, at the very least, the preservation of the object. He then goes on to
notice the fact that these natural bodies `lack intelligence'. By this he
means that they are not conscious of their own movement, yet even so
they appear to move or act in regular fashion.
He suggests that this does not occur `fortuitously but designedly'. By this
he means that this regularity or movement has not come around by
sheer chance but that something else has caused the flower or `natural
bodies' to obey an ordained pattern.
For example, most plants grow in the direction of light. Clearly, as
Aquinas says, plants cannot do this by themselves because they "lack
knowledge" to do so. This must mean that their growing towards light
must come from somewhere else. Aquinas' would say that they must be
"directed to their end" -- i.e., designed to be such as to grow toward the
Aquinas then goes on to suggest that `as an arrow is directed to its mark
by the archer' so too is the movement/regularity of things directed by a

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The analogy of the arrow and the archer is used
by Aquinas to demonstrate the link between God and creation.
Thus, for Aquinas the intelligence that provides regularity of movement
in the universe is God.
This is the conclusion of Aquinas' design qua regularity.…read more


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