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The Existence of God 5: The Intrinsic Probability of Theism


Swinburne is looking at the probability that God exists given simple tautological evidence, and he says that this mainly has to do with the simplicity of God. He goes on to say that God must be super, duper simple. He does this on grounds that I really can’t evaluate, like saying that an infinitely powerful God is more simple than a finitely powerful one. Really? He says that historically, people have preferred hypotheses that light moves at infinite speed, and atoms have 0 mass. Really? But why? On top of this, we can see how these hypotheses have turned out. Shouldn’t a finite occurrence like the creation of the universe be done by a finitely powerful being?

On top of this, there is a strange forcing of perfect morality onto God, deduced from his perfect freedom and omnipotence. It goes something like this: no one acts for no reason. All agents act because they see something as in some way good. If they see something as not good at all, they would not do it, as long as they are being influenced only rationally. God is perfectly rational, and can do anything, so he always chooses the best option, never doing what is ‘bad.’

Of course, there’s no definition of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and I wonder what would even count for a God. On top of this, it seems strange that a perfect God would even act at all.

Kindle Notes:

In so far as there is reason to suppose that there is no h that will lead to an increase either of explanatory power or of prior probability, it is probable that (e1 & e3) constitute ultimate brute facts (1224).

It is simpler in just the same way that the hypothesis that some particle has zero mass, or infinite velocity is simpler than the hypothesis that it has a mass of 0.34127 of some unit, or a velocity of 301,000 km/sec (1317).

Note: Really? Where’s the argument for this?

But a person with an inbuilt detailed specification of how to act is a much more complex person than one whose actions are determined only by his uncaused choice at the moment of choice. Such a being I call a perfectly free being (1332).

Note: Not even desires cause the choice? That’s pure chaos.

Surely the person who says that there was nothing morally wrong in Hitler’s exterminating the Jews is saying something false (1355).

Note: That’s an argument? Intuition pump.

To do an action an agent has to have a reason for acting (1362).

Note: Isn’t that the cause?

God, like man, cannot just act. He must act for a purpose and see his action as in some way a good thing. Hence he cannot do what he does not regard as in some way a good thing (1369).

Note: His reasons cause his actions.

Given that moral judgements have truth values, an omniscient person will know them (1443).

Note: How can goodness mean anything to a God? Does that mean he has desires? Perhaps those desires are the ultimate cause of everything.

God chooses to bring about what he does in virtue of seeing the goodness of things; and, in so far as that still gives him an enormous choice of what to bring about, he chooses by a `mental toss up’ (1459).

Note: What reason do we have to believe this is a perfect world?

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