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What are the key features of the Design argument for the existence of God?
The design argument is also known as the teleological argument. `Teleos' is the Greek word for end
or goal and `logos' which mean `the study of'. The teleological argument looks at a feature of the
universe that the universe cannot account for its own existence. The intricate designs of the world,
the presence of order, regularity and purpose often express this. In this essay I will be looking at the
proposals philosophers such as Aquinas and Paley made and the arguments that were put forward to
prove the existence of God.
Aquinas based his theory upon the works done by his teacher Aristotle; thought that everything has a
purpose, revealed in its design. For example, the fact that ducks have webbed feet, he argues that
the reason for this is so that they might swim better. Aquinas used this thought but rejected the
Aristotelian view that this teleology (i.e. the purposefulness) came about by chance.
He argued that it doesn't happen by chance but there has to be a director or force behind it all.
Aquinas's main point was things that lack intelligence within the universe may need help in order for
them to achieve their end or purpose. The argument by Aquinas was formulated by the fifth of his
five ways; it focuses on goal-directed activity in nature. To prove this point he used the analogy that
an arrow needs an archer in order for it to be directed towards its target. Like an arrow nature and
living organisms strive for an end or purpose and in order for them to be achieved, an intelligent
being must direct us and that intelligence must be God. The key premise for this argument is that
things that lack intelligence cannot move towards their end unless they are directed by someone
with knowledge or intelligence. It is an inductive argument because its conclusion jumps into the
intelligent being, this `being' we call God.
Paley also argued for the existence of God in Natural theology which made use of the watch maker
analogy. The argument is that the world is such an intricate design that there needs to be a designer
behind it. His first reason for this is that the world is complex and has order and purpose, the second
that the world shows evidence of a designer. This argument is best understood through the watch
analogy. Paley uses the design and complexity of the watch to conclude that it can only be so
beautiful because of a designer who created the watch as such. Like the watch, the universe has a
designer and that designer is God. The universe reveals so much evidence of design and purpose it
could only have been designed by God. An example could be the human eye; the design of it is far
more complex than the lens on a camera which will lead us to believe that it was put together by an
intelligent, designing mind- God. This is also an inductive argument because the conclusion jumps
ahead of the premise and says that God is the cause behind everything.
The design argument is in two parts:
Design qua regularity- looks at design in relation to the order and regularity in the universe.
An example of this would be the rotation of the planets or the simple natural law of gravity.
Design qua purpose-looks at design in relation to the ways in which the parts of the universe
appear to fit together for some purpose. An example of this would be the human eye or the
Philosophy: Key features of the design argument
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The beginning of Paley's argument was design qua purpose because he puts forward the argument
of design through a simple analogy. He compares the design of the watch to that of the universe and
concludes on there having to be a designer behind it.
Paley is supported by modern philosophers such as Arthur Brown and John Wisdom.…read more
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This a second key
feature of a design argument because it is based on observations and personal experiences of the
Another feature mentioned in the arguments above was natural theology. Natural theology can be
defined as a concept that stresses the possibility of understanding God through human reason and
observation alone. Examples of natural theology tend to be science or human experience. The
arguments that we looked at are natural theological arguments because they are based on a human