David Hume's criticisms of the teleological argument

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  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 09-04-16 15:07

Scottish enlightenment philosopher David Hume found many flaws in the main theistic arguments for God, including that of the argument of design. The following are criticisms relate to teleological argument:

Analogies - You can't use an analogy to explain the totally unique universe

  • The strength of the cosmological argument depends upon the similarity between the things that are supposed to be analogous (i.e. machine and world)
  • The greater the similarity the stronger the argument, the weaker the similarity, the weaker the argument
  • Hume argued that to try to discuss the design of the universe in human terms was not an acceptable analogy – because God transcends human understanding
  • The universe is totally unique and no other thing is similar so any analogy would be weak

Organic universe - The universe is organic and so cannot be compared to something that is manmade

  • He criticises the comparison between the universe and some artificial construction
  • The universe demonstrates greater similarities to the living organisms within the natural world than it does to a static artificial construct

Experience - We have no experience of how the universe was designed so we can't try to understand it

  • Similar to his criticisms of the cosmological argument, Hume also argued that to know that an orderly universe must arise from intelligence and thought and only one designer, we would have to have experienced the origin of the world.
  • As we only have experience of things we design and create – it is not sufficient to come to similar conclusions about the creation and design of the universe.
  • We were not at the creation of the universe and we do not truly understand it so therefore we cannot draw conclusions on it

Apparent design - The 'order' of the universe may actually be chaos or the universe was chaos and any order happen by coincidence

  • Hume argues apparent design based order only existing as the random association of atoms that had previously been in a chaotic state had (through change – the principal nature of the universe) reorganised themselves infinitely and occasionally in a way that resembles order.
  • This is called the Epicurean Hypothesis which argues that at the time of creation the universe consisted of particles in random motion.

It was in a chaotic…


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