Teleological / Design Arugment

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Teleological Argument Notes


  • Derives its name from the Greek word “teleos” meaning end/purpose

  • Based on empirical evidence, specifically on the observation of the laws of nature to infer that the universe has been “intelligently designed”

  • Cicero was one of the earliest philosophers to write about the evident design in the universe

  • In De Natura Deorum he writes “What could be more clear or obvious than when we look up to the sky and contemplate the heavens than that there is some divinity or superior intelligence?”

  • Aquinas adapted this to create a theistic argument – prove that the “intelligible living create” is God of the classical theism using a posteriori evidence

  • Aruged from design qua purpose and design qua regularity



  • Developed the argument in his books, the Summas Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles

  • Fifth Way, written from design qua purpose, he argued the ‘natural bodies’ in the universe move towards an end despite lacking the rational powers to do so

  • “Goal directed behaviour is observed in all bodies that obey natural law even if they lack awareness” (Aquinas)

  • Aquinas used the examples of whales travelling 20,000km annually to their Mexican breeding grounds – these whales have purpose, therefore, must’ve been designed

  • Uses the example of an arrow being directed by an archer, a superior being must be directing the universe towards a “teleos” as “they achieve their end not fortuitously, but designedly” (Aquinas)

  • Concluded from these ideas that it was God who was directing these non-rational beings towards a bemove towards an end unless directed to do so by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence, this being we call God” (Aquinas)neficial end

  • “whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end unless directed to do so by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence, this being we call God” (Aquinas)


  • Compared the universe to a watch – both have design, purpose and complexity

  • In Natural Theologies, Paley writes come design qua regularity

  • Analogy of the watch – a man is walking across a heath and stumbles upon a watch. Upon examination the man realises that the watch is for telling the time. From this the man concludes that it is impossible to suppose that the watch had come about without a ‘watch maker’.

  • From this analogy Paley concludes that, like


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