Sat 18 Oct, 2008 12:28 am
20 - The Folly of Proving God's Existence
"If, namely, God does not exist, then of course it is impossible to demonstrate it. But if he does exist, then it is also foolishness to want to demonstrate it, for in the very moment the demonstration commences, you would presuppose his existence." In this passage from the Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard expresses his skepticism about attempting to prove God's existence. His key assumption is that "one never reasons in conclusion to existence, but reasons from existence".
Kierkegaard offers several points. First, Napoleon existence explains his deed's, but his deed's do not explain his existence. "Isn't it Napoleon's existence which explains his works, not his works his existence? To prove Napoleon's existence from his works I would have in advance interpreted the word "his" in such a way as to have assumed that he exists." This idea is especially familiar to astronomers. Astronomers attempt to describe astronomical phenomena, not by saying because there's a certain gravitational pull, a comet exists, but by saying some existing thing is causing a certain gravitational pull, and we'll name this existing thing a comet.
Second, he offers a classic response to the intelligent design argument, that "Even if I began [to list the examples of His intelligent designs], I would never finish. Not only that, I would be obliged to continually live in suspense lest something so terrible happen that my fragment of demonstration would be ruined". Some would even say that the IDA is already unsound because our world is not that intelligently designed!!
Thirdly, demonstrating one's existence (as opposed to proving one's existence) ought to replace proofs of existence. "A king's existence is demonstrated by way of subjection and submissiveness. Do you want to try and demonstrate that the king exists? Will you do so by offering a string of proofs, a series of arguments? No. If you are serious, you will demonstrate the king's existence by your submission, by the way you live. And so it is with demonstrating God's existence. It is accomplished not by proofs but by worship. Any other way is but a thinker's pious bungling." It is said that Actions speak louder than Words. Again, Kierkegaard emphasizes action, rather than words.