I was reading this William James speech entitled “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life,”  and came across a random God Proof that totally stumped me. Here is a summary of his argument:

1) Imagine a world without any living creatures, where everything is mechanical. Does it make sense for certain situations in this world to be more “moral” than others? [correct answer= no]

2) Now imagine a world with one living creature, eg yourself. Does it make sense for certain situations to be more moral than others? [correct answer= sure, preparing food for winter might be more moral than sitting around being lazy, at least from your perspective come January]

3) So now we’ve established a link between morals and the desires of living beings. Let’s continue by imagining two people in the world who have competing desires, and hence competing moral ideals they are striving towards achieving. What determines who is right and who is wrong? [correct answer= it sure seems pretty arbitrary, doesn’t it?]

4) But then again, if you imagined that one of the two people was more smart/ just/ good, you’d pretty much assume that the moral ideals of the smart/ just/ good person would typically be preferable to the moral ideals of the other person, wouldn’t you? [correct answer= yes]

5) Now we need to go back to what morality actually is. So if morality is just some universal force, like gravity or magnetic fields, we run into a problem- we established earlier that a world without any living creatures does not have any morality in it. Therefore, with morality as some non-living universal force, a hypothetical place that has this force called morality but no living creatures would actually NOT have morality. This makes zero sense! (Therefore morality always represents the desires and ideals of living beings, and isn’t some universal set of dead principles.)

6) As morality represents the desires/ ideals of living being, and living beings who are more smart/ just/ good tend to have better desires/ ideals, it makes the most sense to attribute our universal morality to the desires/ ideals of the most smart/ just/ good living being out there, who we’ll call, I dunno, Gad? Gid? How about God.

7) Therefore, if you believe in some sort of right and wrong that is universal, rather than arbitrary, you also believe in God. I’m William James, by the way, and I happen to be very clever.

This is, indeed, the most clever “God Proof” I’ve come across, and I’m going to think about it some more and try to figure out if I’m just missing something obvious. But does anyone have any strong rebuttals to this thing?


NOTE: I happened to believe in God’s existence (not necessarily a Judeo-Christian/ Aristotelian all powerful, all knowing Being, but certainly in some sort of benevolent, personified force), and I know this biases me to be more accepting of these sorts of proofs. Wanted to admit that publicly, so you know where I’m coming from.



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