Explain the argument from Design put forward by Aquinas (30)
Some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God. Thomas Aquinas put forward his version of the Argument from Design in the fifth of his ‘five ways’ outlined in the Summa Theologica. Aquinas wanted to show that faith could be founded in reason and so built his theological argument for the existence of God on the foundations of the philosophical idea of the ‘prime move’ put forward by ‘The Philosopher’ Aristotle. This essay will seek to explain Aquinas’ version of the Teleological Argument.
Although believing that God could not be directly experienced through the senses, Aquinas felt that an argument a posteriori could be presented for the existence of God, as there is evidence and experience of God in the Natural World. Aquinas examined the order in the world and states that it points to the existence of God and thus his argument is one of Design Qua Regularity.
For Aquinas, there are two elements of the Natural World that show that it has been designed by an intelligent designer. Firstly, there is order in the universe and secondly, this order is beneficial – it brings about good things. Aquinas points to the rotation of the planets around the sun, ordered by gravity and the movement of blood around the human body, pumped by the heart as examples of order in the world. These things, Aquinas argues, are so complex that they can not be down to chance, but to design, it is plain that they achieve their end not fortuitously, but designedly. The fact that the order of the world brings about good things, Aquinas goes on to say, is further evidence for the existence of a designer God. For example, gravity and the movement of the planets allows for the existence of life on earth. Aquinas’ argument is inductive as he states that the fact that there is order which is beneficial makes it likely that the world has been designed by a designer who Christians believe to be God.
We have seen that Aquinas’ version of the Argument from Design uses evidence of order in the Natural World and its beneficial nature to point to the existence of God. For Aquinas, beings and elements in the universe can not give themselves the order to bring about good things and so there must be a designer God. By using Aristotle as his foundation, Aquinas presents an argument for God’s existence based on philosophical reasoning and concludes that there must be a designer. The fact that Aquinas believes that this designer is God is down to his Christian faith, which, for him, is far superior to philosophical reasoning.