“What Philosophy Can Do”, the new book by philosopher Gary Gutting, is an attempt to show readers how philosophy can be practical and functional outside of academic settings. As part of a promotion for his work, Gutting has published an excerpt on God and atheism on Salon.
This piece takes the New Atheist argument that God and Santa Claus are equivalent, and uses lay-person language to demonstrate why that isn’t the case. Gutting mostly works with the argument that something can not come from nothing; theists speculate that God is the origin or the spark of existence in an argument called “the cosmological argument”. This argument is one of the better ones used by theists seeking to prove the existence of God, and draws the most fire from New Atheists.
From the article:
Our first concern will be Richard Dawkins’s efforts to refute standard arguments for theism. These efforts suffer from a variety of logical mistakes. His critique of the cosmological argument confuses an implication with a presupposition, while his critique of the ontological argument makes an illegitimate move from distaste for a conclusion to its invalidity. His critique of arguments from religious experience ignores the distinction between when we can explain an experience as illusory and when we should explain an experience as illusory.
This is the opening of the excerpt; missing the context of previous chapters makes it a bit dense, but ultimately approachable, as concepts which may be unfamiliar are explored and defined through the piece. Gutting doesn’t explore every aspect in full; he refers to the ontological argument and notes that Dawkins has not argued against it successfully, but he doesn’t note that there is a rich tradition of countering the ontological argument even within theism. The Benedictine monk Gaunilo was one of the first to counter Anselm, although Thomas Aquinas is probably more well-known for making the assertions that humans can not know the nature of God.
Do you already read Gutting, perhaps in the New York Times or other outlets? If you’re interested in his book, it is available online at Amazon and at local book sellers.