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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Immanuel Kant: On The Proof of God’s Existence

In the Critique of Pure Reason, in the chapter entitled, “The Idealism of Pure Reason,” (Chapter 3), Immanuel Kant presents his analysis of the traditional arguments for the existence of god. He divides the traditional arguments into three categories: the cosmological, the ontological, and the physico-theological.

The arguments that precede from some contingent fact of the world and from a question about the nature of a thing or process are seen by Kant as the cosmological arguments. This type of argument entails that a contingent fact can be true only if a series of causes commence with a first cause or unmoved mover—an example of the “first cause” argument is the one postulated by Thomas Aquinas and a few other Aristotelian scholars. The second type of argument, the ontological, tries to free itself from the contingent premises by taking the view that the proof of god’s existence is subsumed in the concept of god. In the third type of argument, the physico-theological, Kant includes all arguments that proceed from the idea of “design”—some good in nature is identified and the argument is made that the perfection is by itself a proof of god.

Kant notes that the argument from design (the physico-theological) is the clearest and in line with human reason. He says that this argument encourages a study of nature and it deserves to be mentioned with respect. However, he dedicates three of the seven sections in Chapter 3 to showing the impossibility of the cosmological, ontological, and physico-theological arguments.

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