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Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology 1: The Project of Natural Theology


This relatively short chapter argues for the meaningfulness of the questions about the nature and existence of God. Taliaferro puts forward five arguments that seek to show that the whole attempt of natural theology is misguided, and can’t really get off the ground.

I think I mostly agree with him, at least in his criticisms of arguments as presented. It seems to be at least a hypothesis that can be examined, unless God’s attributes are incoherent, an area that is not addressed in this chapter.

Kindle Notes:

theology is the practice of philosophically reflecting on the existence and nature of God independent of real or apparent divine revelation or scripture (293)

There is no logical space for theism. According to D. Z. Phillips, theism can be faulted for its positing a reality that is independent of the structure of the world (345).

Note: Argument 1

Theism fails in terms of explanatory power (373)

Note: Argument 2

and maintains that theism receives whatever plausibility it has in natural theology by comparing God to a human person. In one version of the argument from design, for example, theists argue that God must be like us because the cosmos resembles artifacts we make intentionally. But, Hume reasons, is there not something grossly anthropomorphic (and anthropocentric) to suppose that the creator or cause of the cosmos must resemble us when there are so many other possible sources of causal explanation? (410).

Note: Argument 3

to this argument, the project of theistic natural theology cannot get off the ground because there is no framework in which we can test the plausibility of theism over against its alternatives (450).

Note: Argument 4

theology is not enough. David Hume and Immanuel Kant both object to theistic natural theology on the grounds that the God that appears in natural theology is not sufficient to justify belief in the God of theistic tradition (467).

Note: Argument 5

I suggest that theistic philosophers should truly seek to see naturalism in its best, most comprehensive light, weighing the different ways in which consciousness and values and the very nature of the cosmos should be described and explained. Conversely, a naturalist philosopher needs to see theism in comprehensive terms (847).

Note: Nice approach.

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