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Robert Nozick in his book The Examined Life considers in one chapter "The Nature of God, the Nature of Faith," a major philosophical issue that has been addressed through history by many philosophers. Nozick himself cites Descartes in his introduction and then develops the idea of God, considers how that conception was formed, why it persists, and how it has been tested and might be tested. We know that millions of people believe in God, and we might simply accept that this is so or even accept that God is real, which is why people believe in Him. The philosopher, however, wants to know whether God does or does not exist and in any case why people have faith in the idea of God.
Descartes originally asserted that there was only one thing that he could see as certain -- his own existence. He later came to see that there were certain innate ideas in the mind, one of which was the idea of God. In his argument in the fifth Meditation, he stated that he could produce in his mind the idea of God just as he could the ideas of shape and number so that he should accord the idea of the existence of God the same certainty he accords mathematics. Nozick draws on Descartes for the conception of God as "the most perfect possible being" (46). Nozick finds this interesting and yet is torn between belief and nonbelief.
Nozick suggests that the concept of God is rather indistinct in terms of details, for there is "great leeway about what particular attributes God has" (47), except for the characteristic of "being most importantly connected to our universe" (47). Nozick says this does not necessarily indicate that God is the creator of the universe, and he sets forth a number of stories to test that idea and to offer alternatives, and he finds that there are four conditions a being must satisfy in order to be God: 1) this would be the most perfect actual being; 2) the being would be very high on the scale of perfection; 3) the being's perfection must be vastly greater that=n that of the second most perfect actual being; and 4) the being is in some way most importantly connected to the universe, perhaps as creator and perhaps in a different capacity.
Nozick asks why we believe in such a divine being, and he cites numerous attempts to prove the existence of God. A problem at the beginning is that "it is not at all easy to imagine how God could provide a permanently convincing proof to us of his existence" (49). Nozick's discussion of evidence that might be created or that might already exist and now be found suggests that an objective analyst would find fault with virtually all such evidence. Nozick considers the type of message that might be provided and what it would have to contain to be effective, yet he shows as well as he can that there can be no permanently convincing proof that God exists.
What one can believe in is based on faith, meaning no proof is asked for and none is required. This raises the issue of whether faith is justified, and he does find that for individuals at least, there is often some reason or event that causes belief and that causes the individual to take this belief on faith. Nozick says we could call the faith justified "when it can be paralleled by a plausible argument to the best explanation" (51-52). Nozick indicates that faith is something that means we simply trust our experiences and our beliefs.
Nozick's discussion of the search for proof for the existence of God is just that -- a discussion of the search rather than an attempt to offer a proof. His analysis is perfectly logical as he shows that doubt would emerge if proof was offered, though this in itself does not disprove the existence of God, either, Indeed, Nozick does not say it does, only that there is no proof he can think of that would satisfy. Indeed, it could be argued that asking for proof at all demonstrates a lack of belief, for those who believe need no proof. They accept the existence of God on faith and are even adamant that faith is all that is required.
Of course, philosophers have long sought a more scientific proof. Descartes…[continue]
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