Kant's Refutations of the Proofs of the Existence of God

Kant's Refutations of the Proofs of the Existence of God
Kant?s Refutations of the Proofs of the Existence of God

There are three types of proof for the existance of God:

The Ontological Proof:
God is the most perfect conceivable being. Existence is more perfect than non-existence. God by definition exists.

The Cosmological Proof:
Everything contingent must have a cause. If this cause is also contingent, then it too must also have a cause. This chain of causes and effects must have a beginning ? a necessary cause. This necessary cause must be God.

The Physico-Theological Proof:
Observations about the particular constitution of the sensible world provide proof of the existence of God.
As we saw earlier in the cpr, there are two types of judgment: analytical and synthetic. The example that Kant used for an analytical judgment was ?a triangle has three angles? (p.564). This is obviously true, because by definition a triangle must have three sides ? all that one would need is the knowledge of the definition of triangle in order to see that the predicate (three angles) is contained in the subject (triangle). The ontological argument claims to be analytical in that it proves the existence of God because existence is contained in the definition of the word God. An analytical judgment, like the one given above, does not imply necessity ? the words ?if? and ?then? are implied. The statement could also be read: ?If there are triangles, then they have three angles? and could be negated without contradiction ?If there are no triangles, then they do not have three angles?. However, it is claimed that the ontological argument is the single exception to this rule. If existence is in the definition of the word ?God? then: ?If there is no God, then no God exists? is a contradiction and would be like saying: ?If there are no triangles, then the concept of a triangle does not contain three angles?. As soon as a person has admitted that he/she has a concept of ?God?, by this argument, then that person has also admitted God?s existence (in the same way that admitting you have the concept of a triangle is, is to admit that a triangle has three angles).
Like most of Kant?s topics of discussion, it is difficult to fully grasp the entirety of what is being said. However, unlike most other cases, this time I don?t think it?s entirely his fault. In fact, his refutation to this deceivingly simple argument is (perhaps deceivingly) actually quite simple. Existence cannot be a predicate. In the sentence ?Thomas is the teacher?, the word ?is? is not the predicate, but it is the word that implies existence. Therefore, the sentence ?God is? does not contain a predicate. A predicate is a word that ads a quality to the concept of the thing it is applied to ? existence is not a quality.
The cosmological argument, according to Kant, ?is too well known for it to be necessary to expound it in detail here? (P570), so if you don?t know it, you can join me in feeling like an idiot? However, he then goes on to quickly explain the argument. I also took the liberty of finding out where this argument came from and it seems to have started with Aristotle and also used by Aquinas. Aristotle said that the fact that there is movement could prove the existence of an ?unmoved mover? (God). In other words the only way that something can have movement is if something moves it. The only way the thing that moves it can have motion is if something, in turn, moves that as well (and so on). Aristotle believed that there must be a final end to this chain ? a thing that can cause movement without inheriting that movement from anything else ? this thing must be God.
As per usual, Kant uses as many words as he can find, saying that this argument ?appeals to the agreement of two witnesses, namely a pure rational witness and another with empirical credentials? (p.571) and that this argument ?is the greatest possible transcendental illusion?(p.571) and it ?commits an ignoratio elenchi? (refutation by ignorance)(p.572). This argument can be deduced to nothing more than the pure reason that failed in the ontological argument, and yada yada, bla bla bla? All Kant really says in this refutation is that the cosmological argument uses inductive reasoning and is no more a proof that there is a God, then the fact that my arms hurts proves you punched me. One cannot deduce cause from effect.
The physico-theological proof for God?s existence is the oldest proof. It is the proof that basically says the order of nature could not be an accident, there must be a creator. Kant gives this argument a surprising amount of credit, in that it is the ?clearest and the most appropriate to common human reason.? (p.579) However, Kant states that the physico-theological argument cannot do more than give support to other proofs (such as the ontological), of which non can truly exist. As well, even if taken at face value, this argument can do little more than demonstrate the existence of an ?architect? of the world (similar to what we might call mother nature), not a supreme creator. The leap from using this the empirical proof of an ?architect? to a ?creator? is done entirely through speculative reason, and can not be looked upon as being proof that there is a God.
The value of Kant?s discussion is not so much that he refutes these arguments in particular, but that (to him at least) all so-called ?proof? of the existence of God has been refuted and no other proof could ever be developed. This is because, to Kant, the ontological argument is the basis for all transcendental proof, and it has been disproved, and there can be no direct empirical evidence of the existence of God. For these reasons, Kant comes to the conclusion that God?s existence can never be proven.

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