• Rationalist/ a priori
  • World is constantly changing and so cannot be a source of absolute truth.
  • Rejected a posteriori knowledge/ empirical evidence/ sense experience
  • Theory of Forms: there are ideal versions of everything that exists in the World of Forms, which is the real world. They are eternal, perfect and immutable.
  • We have an immortal soul that has innate knowledge of these Forms, and can recognise elements of them in the world around us.
  • The Form of the Good overlays all, and there are other high forms such as justice and beauty.
  • Allegory of the Cave. Symbolism of the slaves (humankind believing empirical world is reality), the flickering shadows (false perceptions of truth), the sun outside (Form of the Good), etc.
  • Epistemology: questions what we can claim to know
  • Aristotle/ Bertrand Russell/ Ayer/ Karl Popper
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Plato Evaluation


  • Young children have an understandings of abstract concepts. (Slave boy solving maths in Meno)
  • Betrand Russell argued that for functional dialogue we need a general acceptance of forms such as a cat.


  • Aristotle's Third Man argument (infinite regression, cow)
  • Ayer: The concept of good is highly subjective and when we use these terms we are attaching our own interpretation of them not refering to objective knowledge.
  • Plato's theory is based on assumptions and lacking evidence
  • Assigning a noun to an entity (i.e. beauty) does not mean it exists in reality
  • Some entities do not have a logically perfect form (cancer/ death)
  • Plato asserted that people only do wrong when they lack knowledge of what is right - sociopaths?
  • Karl Popper: Plato invented permanence because he was troubled by the changing world.
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  • Empiricist - knowledge is based on a posteriori observation.
  • Everything has a telos (purpose). If something fulfills this then it is deemed 'good'. He said 'nothing in nature is superfluous.'
  • 'Per genus et per differentia'. (By type and by difference).
  • Four Causes - Material: substance/ what is it made of? Efficient: maker/ what causes it to exist? Formal: design/ what type of thing is it? Final: purpose/ what is the function? (MEFF)
  • Uses analogy of a bronze statue. M = bronze. E = sculptor. F = statue. F = commemoration.
  • Everything has a potentiality and an actuality.
  • Prime Mover - uncaused cause. Immaterial/ passive can only think of itself which is perfection otherwise there will be a change. 
  • Betrand Russell/ Sartre
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Aristotle Evaluation


  • Prime Mover could be a logical idea; the concept of an uncaused instigator.
  • His metaphysical approach provided a basis for Thomist thinking and many Christian concepts.


  • We have no evidence that the material world is true knowledge.
  • Sartre: we have no assigned purpose. Nothing has a Final Cause. 
  • Nichomachean Ethics suggests that if each component has a purpose then the whole must. Betrand Russell says this is the fallacy of composition.
  • If our purpose is to procreate, an infertile person cannot propagate, and so can never achieve perfection.
  • Analogy of a clock: why does it tick? Time is a human construct so its egocentric to assume we have created the purpose for a clock. 
  • Can purpose be intrinsic to the thing that it is? We may appropriate something to a different end than another animal would.
  • Plato predated Aristotle but would have repudiated his dependence on the Empirical World.
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  • Dualism: body and soul are different
  • Monism: body and soul are one.
  • Materialism: we are just physical bodies
  • Gnostic view that the souls are far superior to their physical vessels, the body.
  • Plato - dualist. Immortal souls trapped in bodies. Simple substance/tripartite view. Chariot-racer analogy (horses are emotions guided by the racer, reason). 
  • Aristotelian - property dualist. the soul is the principle of life, animating the material body. No immortal soul. The body and soul are inseparable - wax and stamp analogy. 'To attain any assured knolwedge of the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world.' Aquinas followed this thinking.
  • Descartes - extreme substance dualist. 'A body is by nature divisible but the mind is not.' 
  • Ryle/ Dawkins/ Hick/ Anscombe/ Skinner/ Dennett
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Body/Soul Evaluation

  • Use Hick to criticise Plato: Soul needs the body. Pyscho-somatic unity. Opposed Platonic soul on grounds of it being un-Christian.
  • Use Gilbert Ryle to criticise Descartes: category error. He argues that Descartes likens the soul to a 'ghost in the machine'. Says Descartes has misunderstood what soul means - (collegiate university + boy example.)
  • Dawkins: biological reductionism, hard materialist. No need for a spiritual component. Soul 1/ Soul 2. 
  • Anscombe: man qua spirit. A soul cannot point. 
  • Skinner: mental states are not separate from the body; they are physically explicable. (Use Dennett to criticise. 'Skinner skinned' - argues that he oversimplifies human conciousness. Behavourism: all mental states are learned behaviours).
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Cosmological Argument

  • Aquinas followed a cause-and-effect line of Aristotelian thinking.
  • Offers 5 proofs in Summa Theologica
  • First Way - everything is in a state of change. By logic of reductio ad absurdum infinite regress cannot exist so a Prime Mover must move things from potentiality to actuality
  • Second Way - Argument from causation. Causes itself and exists to cause
  • Third Way - Contingency. Time is infinite but requires a necessary being. (Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit/ Nothing comes from nothing).
  • Humans are contingent, unlike God.
  • Claims that God has a necessary existence. De Re - immutable, passive, etc.
  • Copleston vs Russell radio debate
  • Russell/ Dawkins/ Leibniz/ Hume/ Kant
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Cosmological Argument Evaluation

For - 

  • Leibniz' Principle of Sufficient Reason. An ultimate explanation is required
  • Copleston: everything is contingent except God.

Against -

  • Russell: humans have a mother but the human race does not. Similar arguments to Kant + Hume. 'I should say that the universe is just there, that's all.'
  • Hume: Aquinas makes the fallacy of composition. Principle of causality is unfounded. 
  • Kant: believes necessary existence is a nonsensical notion. 
  • Just because we cannot comprehend infinite regression does not mean it is not a possibility.
  • Stephen Hawking: 'Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing.' If God can be accepted as self-explanatory why not the universe?
  • Why does the Prime Mover have to be a Christian God?
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Teleological Argument

  • Design qua purpose - universe has purpose. Design qua regularity - universe has order.
  • Aquinas - Fifth Way suggests an intelligent being is directing the universe like an archer and an arrow. 
  • William Paley - watchmaker analogy. A wandererer encountering a watch woulod assume it had been created based on its functionality. Does not matter if watch does not keep perfect time; the point is that it was created.
  • This is an abductive argument (Occam's Razor).
  • Dawkins/ Stephen Fry/ John Stuart Mill/ Darwin/ Polkinghorne
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Teleological Argument Evaluation

For - 

  • Swinburne says God's creation of the world is more probable than chance evolutionary processes.
  • Polkinghorne: 'science and religion seek to answer different questions.'
  • Tennant: Anthropic principle. Aesthetic argument.

Against - 

  • Falls down on initial logic: empirical evidence disproves intelligent design. Absence of purpose - parasitic wasp Stephen Fry. 
  • Bertrand Russell - rabbit with white tail for hunters to shoot. Purpose is imposed not innate. 
  • Fallacy of composition - Paley's analogy is false. He dismisses the beauty and order of the heath. 
  • Dawkins - a modern Darwinist, he argues for evolution by natural selection. Authored 'The Blind Watchmaker.'
  • Hume - (preceeded Paley so can undermine but not criticise) a flawed world implies a flawed creator. This designer does not have to be the Christian God. 
  • J. S. Mill - there cannot be an omnibenevolent creator because of how cruel the natural world is. The world points to a cruel God. 
  • Theory of infinite universes means infinite possiblities so it is not surprising that one world ended up designed well. 
  • Darwin: evolution and natural selection. Analogy of lightning strike. 
  • In Hume's dialogue the character of Philo asks why there are not many gods if it takes many people to build a ship.
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Ontological Argument

  • St Anselm - 'credo ut intelligam'. Arguing from a position of faith.
  • God is 'something than which nothing greater can be conceived' so by definition, must exist. If he didn't then he would not be the greatest thing we could think of. 
  • Existence is a predicate of God.
  • Descartes developed these ideas - existence is a necessary part of God like three angles are necessary to form a triangle. He must exist to be supremely perfect. 
  • Gaunilo (!)/ Aquinas/ Kant/ Hume/ Davies
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Ontological Argument Evaluation


  • Descartes (use Kant to criticise)
  • Plantinga: 'intrinsic maximum'. You can add to an island but God is a maximally excellent being and cannot be added to. 

Against - 

  • Gaunilo and the Perfect Island. If the argument is to be accepted then anything can be defined into existence. To say I conceive of a perfect island is not to say it exists. 
  • Kant argues in Critique of Pure Reason that if there was a triangle it would need three angles but the triangle is not needed. Existence is not a predicate it just states an actuality. E.g. conceptual 100 thalers. Existential statements should be a posteriori.
  • Hume says argument requires prerequisite of faith. Cannot define something into existence. 
  • Brian Davies argues that there are two different forms of the verb 'to be.' One is defining (a cow is a four legged animal) and one claims existence (there is a cow). Ontological argument conflates these two forms. 
  • Aquinas takes issue with a priori nature of argument - knowledge of God can only be gleaned through experience of the world. 
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Religious Experience

  • William James - Passivity (happens to them), Ineffability (indescribable), Noetic (unlike human experiences), Transience (temporary). Experiences are honest claims but not always divine in origin - offers criteria. 
  • Richard Swinburne: principle of credulity (default should be to believe people) and principle of testimony (in general people are truthful). 
  • Problem of other minds - we cannot know someone else's experience. Sincerity not to be confused with validity. 
  • 'Mysterium tremendum et fascinas.' Rudolph Otto refered to a numinous experience. 
  • St Teresa of Avila - experienced divine visions and inner peace
  • Toronto Vineyard Church
  • Saul on the road to Damascus
  • Types of religious experience: mystical, conversion, corporate.
  • Hobbes/ Wittgenstein/ Brumer/ Freud/ Hume/ Mackie/ Russell/ Flew
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Religious Experience Evaluation

  • Thomas Hobbes - no difference between God spoke to me in a dream and I dreamed that God spoke to me.
  • Wittgenstein and 'seeing-as'; humans experience things differently. Line drawing could be rabbit or duck
  • Brummer: not a rabbit or a duck, it is a line drawing. 
  • Anthony Flew: ten leaky buckets analogy. All arguments for God are unsound and not quantitative (contrary to what Swinburne suggested).
  • J.L. Mackie - if pyschology can explain it then religious experineces are rendered null and void.
  • Freud/ Feuerbach - religion is illusory wish fulfillment and mass hysteria/ confirmation bias. Humans want there to be a higher being. 
  • Physiological evidence - Bertrand Russell said 'some men drink and see snakes, others fast and see God.'
  • Hume's conflicting claims argument: experiences are aligned with church teachings. There cannot be both polytheism and monotheism if we accept a shared, objective reality. (There is no reasonable challenge to this).
  • Perceived truth cannot be taken as objective truth. 
  • The argument is highly subjective and cannot be used as a basis for proving the existence of God. 
  • Swinburne's principles are contentious assumptions. 
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Problem of Evil

  • Logical Problem of Evil (Mackie's Inconsistent Triad)
  • Evidential Problem of Evil - why is there so much?
  • Is it possible for a God in the Christian image to have created/ exist in a world so full of evil?
  • St Augustine's Theodicy: humans are tainted by original sin. We have free will but God also has a Divine Plan. Literal interpretation of the Bible. God created the world perfect and it was corrupted by humankind. Evil does not exist - it is a privation of good (privatio boni). 
  • Irenaean Theodicy: human beings created imperfect and imago dei. They must grow into God's likeness, closer to the conception of perfection and for this they need free will. 
  • Hick's soul-making theodicy is a modern development of Irenaeus' thinking. God created a 'vale of soul-making.' Hardships in life form part of a meaningful existence and an opportunity to choose the right thing. 
  • The Thomist approach is characterised by the Principle of Plenitude - the good of the whole justifies imperfections. A good volcano erupts because it is necessary for the planet. Egocentrism has led to our perception of evil (but why would God create a world where this was the case?)
  • Character of Ivan Karamazov
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Problem of Evil Evaluation

Augustine - 

  • For: Davies argued that evil is a gap between what there is and what there ought to be. 
  • Against: illogical - evil is more than a lack of goodness. Why is goodness not a lack of evil? It is based on a contentious interpretation of Genesis and scientifically flawed ('loins of Adam'). Why did God create a world that had the potential to be anything less than good? It does not account for natural evil.

Irenaeus/ Hick - 

  • For - Plantinga used the Free Will Defense (free will means a possibility for evil). 
  • Against - it does not account for animal suffering (if they don't go to heaven, what is the purpose?) The amount of suffering seems unnecessary - with Mackie' Triad in mind, why would a God in the Christian image create the parasitic wasp (Stephen Fry)? Dostoevsky examined it in 'The Brothers Karamazov' where the character of Ivan belives God exists but rejects him. Stephen Fry said nothing is worth the price of a child's tears. If this was the only world possible, perhaps God should never have created it. Soul-making for whom??
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