Five Ways (Aquinas)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Quinque viae, Five Ways, or Five Proofs are five arguments for the existence of God summarized by the 13th century Roman Catholic theologian St. Thomas Aquinas in his book, Summa Theologica. The five ways are; the argument of the unmoved mover, the argument of the first cause, the argument from contingency, the argument from degree and the teleological argument. Aquinas left out from his list several arguments that were already in existence at the time, such as the ontological argument of Saint Anselm, because he did not believe that they worked. In the 20th century, the Roman Catholic priest and philosopher Frederick Copleston, devoted much of his works to fully explaining and expanding on Aquinas' five ways.

The arguments are designed to prove the existence of a monotheistic God, namely the Judeo-Christian God (though they could also support notions of God in other Abrahamic faiths that believe in a monotheistic God, such as Islam, Rastafari and the Bahá'í Faith), but as a set they do not work when used to provide evidence for the existence of polytheistic, pantheistic, panentheistic or pandeistic deities such as those found in major religions like Hinduism, Shinto and Wicca.



Criticism of the cosmological argument emerged in the 18th century by the philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant.

Richard Dawkins criticized Aquinas' collection of arguments in his book The God Delusion. He asserts that the first three arguments are essentially cosmological arguments that rely upon an infinite regress to which God is unjustifiably immune. He summarizes the fourth argument.

The Argument from Degree. We notice that things in the world differ. There are degrees of, say, goodness or perfection. But we judge these degrees only by a comparison with a maximum. Humans can be both good and bad, so the maximum goodness cannot rest in us. Therefore there must be some other maximum to set the standard for perfection, and we call that maximum God.

That's an argument? You might as well say, people vary in smelliness but we can make the comparison only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a pre-eminently peerless stinker, and we call him God. Or substitute any dimension of comparison you like, and derive an equivalently fatuous conclusion. --The God Delusion

Dawkins says the fifth argument claims the necessity of a designer, considering that biological life has complexity which appears designed. However evolution via natural selection explains its complexity and diversity, and abiogenesis explains its origin. Paul Almond criticized the logic behind the third argument in his writing. Specifically he argued that one cannot prove that an object exists based only on the possibility that it exists. In other words, a "most perfect being" possibly exists, but does not necessarily exist.

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