The Teleological Argument

  • Created by: ekenny5
  • Created on: 05-02-22 15:13

The Teleological Argument 

Thomas Aquinas - 13th century Dominican Monk, influenced by Aristotle. Sought to combine faith (revelation), rationalism (reason) and empiricism (experience). Believed in arguments through inductive reasoning. Summa theologica contains Aquinas' five ways to God.

The argument from the Governance of the world. He observed order and purpose in the natural world around him. 

Qua regularity: operating in accordance with a plan

Qua purpose: they do not arrive at the result by chance but because of a purpose

'There is something intelligent by which all things are arranged in accordance with a plan-this we call God'.

Context of the Teleological Argument:

  • very popular in the late 18/19th century - during the enlightenment and trying to find explanations 
  • Isaac Newton showed this in 'the system of the world'
  • scientific research showed the universe was more complicated than it previously seemed
  • Charles Darwin 'On the Origin of Species' in 1859 and the theory of evolution replaced the need for a divine designer 

The Teleological Argument is concerned with proving God is the reason for why the world functions in an orderly and intelligent manner and why things in the world seem to be designed for a purpose. Telos meaning end, aim or purpose. Logos meaning reason.

Starts with humans experiences of the world - inductive reasoning. Moves to deductive reasoning in order to reason to God's existence from observations of order and purpose in the world. Considered to be an a posteriori proof of God's existence.

Aquinas' Fifth Way

  • phenomena in the natural universe are regulated and appear to be designed for a telos
  • these phenomena lack reason and so do not possess the intelligence to regulate themselves, they cannot direct themselves towards themselves
  • the same way an arrow lacks reason and so does not have the intelligence to direct itself towards a target. An archer (a being with intelligence) is needed to aim and release it
  • comparatively, there must be an intelligent being that has regulated natural phenomena and directing them towards their telos
  • this we call God


  • the intelligent being shares many attributes with the Judeao Christian God
  • appeals to both empiricists and rationalists, using both inductive and deductive 
  • scientific laws such as gravity and evolution can still occur 
  • provides an explanation for the orderliness of the natural world
  • Harold Morowitz - 1/10^236 chance of the Earth being suitable for human life


  • doesn't share all attributes - eg omnibenevolence
  • hard rationalists or empiricists would not accept the whole structure
  • many aspects of the world are chaotic, unorganised and dysteleological 
  • Dawkins - the theory of evolution has replaced the possibility of God as the intelligent designer
  • it is possible that the world organised itself, even if not likely - the Epicurian Hypothesis

William Paley

Wrote Natural Theology in 1802. He believed the world must have been designing, referring specifically to:

  • the complexity of the human brain
  • the ability of the eye
  • wings of birds
  • rotations of the planets

The Watchmaker Analogy - you wouldn't question that a


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