Design Arguments [PHIL2]

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  • Created by: Joe
  • Created on: 04-05-13 12:15

Design Arguments

A brief introduction

Design arguments are sometimes refered to as Teleological Arguments derived from the Greek 'telos' meaning goal and 'logos' meaning reasoning. They are written using 'a posteriori' knowledge and use inductive reasoning that is, they are based off of experience and form general conclusions (that there exists an intelligent Designer) based off of specific observations.

These arguments are split up into two subtypes:

  • Arguments from analogy (from design)
  • Arguments to the best explanation (for design)

Arguments from analogy

Aquinas' argument [archer]

  • Aquinas stated that unintelligent things all have an end or purpose.
  • Such things cannot move toward their end without the aid of an intelligence guiding them.
  • For example, an arrow (unintelligent object) does not direct itself towards a target (end) without the assistance of an archer (guiding intelligence).
  • Therefore, by analogy unintelligent natural things in the Universe require an intelligence to guide them this, Aquinas concludes is God.


  • The fact that Aquinas seems to assume that unintelligent things cannot move towards their end without being intelligently directed assumes in the first place that they need an intelligent guide. (circularity)
  • This position maintained by Aquinas is done so using no evidence - Anthony Flew states that foetus' reach their purpose without the aid of an intelligent guide.
  • Aquinas' argument does conform to key ideas with classical theism namely that God is an intelligent being.

Paley's argument [watch]

  • Paley invites us to imagine a man crossing a heath who discovers a watch.
  • Upon picking the watch up and examining it, the man notices that it has several complex parts, each working harmoniously, with intelligence and purpose.
  • From these observations, Paley states that the object possesses Spatial Order and from this we can conclude that it has a designer.
  • These conclusions could be drawn about an object regardless of whether it functioned or we knew its purpose.
  • By analogy, when looking from the watch to the world the man notices the same Spatial Order in the Universe (eg. the positioning of the planets, the regularity of the orbits) and from this, he concludes that a designer must be responsible for this also.
  • As the Universe is infinitely more great than the watch, it's designer must be also; this designer therefore is God.


  • Paley's design argument conforms with key classical theistic ideas - he is able to draw the conclusion that God is an infinitely great being.
  • Criticisms are included in the next section from Hume.

Hume's criticisms of Arguments from Analogy

We have no experience of world-making

  • Hume states that we only can conclude that there is a designer of something if we have experience of such a thing being made (conformity with empiricism).
  • We can also draw a conclusion that something exhibits design if we have had experience of the manufacturing process of something similar.
  • For a watch, we can conclude it is designed because


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