||Phil. 102: Introduction to Philosophical
Soren Kierkegaard, "God's Existence Cannot Be Proved"
1.What is Kierkegaard's argument relating God's existence to
Let us look at a standard-form categorical syllogism as a proof for God's existence.
An [unknown thing] is an existent thing.
The syllogism is of the valid form:
All B's and C's.
Notice how we have assumed in the very premisses the very point we which to prove. As Kierkegaard says, all we have done is to develop the content of a conception. Suppose we ask who most people voted for in the past Presidential election, and suppose we ask who can increase spending for the military, education, social security, and so on as well as balance the budget. The answer to both questions is "Nobody." Hence, Nobody should be President.
In an argument, one gives reasons, grounds, and evidence for the acceptance of a conclusion. Existence must be assumed in the premisses; it cannot be proved. Occasionally, this point is expressed as "Existence is not a predicate."
Consider the following inferences from the Square of Opposition:
All philosophy students are awake ----------> At least one philosophy student is
If the subject of the conclusion exists and the conclusion is true, then we must have assumed the existence of that subject in the premisses of the argument.
For example, one does not prove Napoleon's existence from his deeds.
An unknown invaded Russia, lost the Waterloo campaign, was exiled to Elba, and so on.
The works or deeds of God are not immediately given. It could be a serious philosophical mistake to look at the deeds of God as the works or nature, the governance of the world, or natural law because of plague, pestilence, earthquakes, and other natural disasters (nonmoral evil).
One would have to take an ideal interpretation that only the good things in the world are done by God. Consider the aphorism, "It's an ill wind that blows nobody good."
If we tried to prove the existence of God by a posteriori means, then we could never finish listing the events in the natural order. Thus, the proof would be incomplete--we would be anxiously awaiting future events.
Again, existence explains the deeds, but the deeds do not prove existence.
Thus, Kierkegaard says we would be living in suspense until the proof is complete. The proof would hang on future occurrences.
If we use the facts of nature for proof, a tragic disaster or new discovery could change our mind about the acts of God.
For example, many persons say upon the birth of a newborn baby, "How could one not believe in the miracles of God." Yet, the future occurrence of a crib death or deformity might alter the belief. Often the defense of God's existence as exemplified in such occurrences is ultimately circular.
Consider Edmund Grosse's account of Charles Lyell's geologic studies. (Lyell's geology was extensively used by Charles Darwin.) Lyell recognized that the fossil record extended over many millions of years but also believed that the world was created in 4004 BC. He claimed that God put the fossil record on earth as a test of man's faith.
The "leap" is a simile for the "ah ha" phenomena of suddenly seeing the point of something. In a word, God's existence or nonexistence does not hinge on our ability to see the point of an argument. The psychological point of comprehending an inference is "the leap."
As an example of "ah ha," consider the following story.
Reason and intellect attempt to prove God's existence. But God is absolutely different and totally beyond our comprehension and beyond our language to describe. The qualities of God cannot be captured in the predicates of language. Pascal makes a similar point when making his wager.