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UNESCO World Philosophy Day

Thursday 15th November marks UNESCO world philosophy day. This is a day wherein philosophy is celebrated throughout the world. Many departments of philosophy host special events or celebrations to mark this day.

It is right and just that we take a day to celebrate philosophy, for whilst the designation of ‘philosophical’ can often come across as quite negative (‘that’s all just philosophical’), there is an importance to philosophy that often goes unnoticed.

I think the importance to philosophy is illustrated by a famous story said of Thales. Thales was walking along one day and as he was looking at the sky observing the heavenly bodies, he fell into a well. We naturally think that Thales was quite foolish and absent minded for falling into the well, that he could not see beyond the end of his nose and look where he was going. But let’s consider this.

Thales was no fool; he was said to have predicted an eclipse. In order to do this he had to go through the painstaking observations of the heavens and abstract from that the principles of their motion and position in the sky, and then from that deduce where the heavenly bodies would be at a future date. This is a task many today would find challenging, never mind a few thousand years ago. Clearly Thales was a very intelligent individual, so what does his falling into the well have to say about the importance of philosophy?

Thales’s intelligence is revealed precisely in his missing the well because he was observing the heavens. He moves his attention away from the here and now and focuses on those realities without which there would be no here and now at all. Such a shifting of attention can make Thales comes across as stupid, unconcerned with everyday life, useless to the community; but in fact he is thinking through and trying to understand what the community in their everydayness take for granted. And this is what the philosopher does; in pursuing the different branches of philosophy, he goes beyond the concrete particular to consider that without which the concrete particular would be unintelligible. The philosopher is of service to the community precisely because it is he who understands being and its intelligibility.

The same thought can be drawn from a famous parable in Plato’s Republic. In the Republic, Plato, through the character of Socrates, outlines the myth of the cave. He asks us to imagine prisoners trapped in a cave from birth, unable to move so that they can only see the wall in front of them. Behind them is a fire and between them and the fire their captors parade objects from the outside world so that shadows appear on the wall before the prisoners. Not knowing any better, the prisoners naturally assume that the shadows are real things and that the talk of the captors comes from the shadows. However, a prisoner escapes and exits the cave. Immediately he is dazzled by the light and can only come out on a moonless night. Even in such darkness he can see that objects have more reality, more depth to them, than the shadows of the cave. Eventually he can come out in the light of the moon and see even more to the objects than before. And ultimately he can stand the full light of day and see objects in all their luminosity. This prisoner cannot return to the safety and confines of the cave; for not only is it not the real world, his eyes can no longer see in the darkness. His fellow prisoners would naturally assume that his journey outside the cave has damaged him and given the chance they would kill him.

There are many interpretative levels to this parable. The primary one is illustrative of Plato’s philosophy of the Forms or Ideas such that our everyday reality is founded upon the reality of the Forms, and it relates to the Forms like the shadows of the cave relate to objects outside the cave.

But there is a salutary lesson here for the study of philosophy. To study philosophy we must escape the cave of everydayness; and the first time we do this it is dazzling (it’s not easy studying philosophy!). We can only glimpse philosophy bit by bit. But the more we turn to it, the more we become accustomed to its light. Once we are at home with philosophy we are no longer at home in the cave, and indeed if we as philosophers try to return to the cave, we are shunned and avoided – we just don’t make sense to people anymore. We are like Thales, looking at things beyond and not focusing on the everyday; to many we seem to be of no use; like the escaped prisoner, our eyes are blinded to everyday reality.

However, the study of philosophy allows us to see the reality behind the humdrum of the everyday. We see things are intelligible and capable of being understood; indeed we offer accounts for precisely how all of reality can be understood and thereby justify what many sciences take for granted. We offer accounts of what it is to engage in action and what kind of action we ought to engage in; thus philosophy is pivotal for thinking through how one ought to live and act. Philosophers are critical in their thinking and do not take for granted something simply because some authority says it is so; indeed logic is the special domain of the philosopher. Through the application of logic and critical thinking, philosophers look for justification for any belief on offer. Indeed, when it comes to God and religion, philosophers engage with these issues and offer systematic defences of the existence of God and the truths of religion. In short, the pursuit of philosophy enables the philosopher to pursue a life lived well. This may not be of immediate utilitarian benefit, but it is something of everlasting benefit, since the life lived well is something that remains even when all utilitarian benefits are gone, and this is because the philosopher living that life remains throughout the comings and goings of riches and poverty.

Philosophy is worth the pursuit and effort that it takes to study it, and whilst many will not study it systematically at a high level, all are capable of engaging with the works of the great philosophers and getting something from them. In doing so, one will find that one becomes more reasonable in one’s thinking and better able to step back from arguments and disagreements in order to take a critical view of matters. Whilst philosophy may not have an explicit utilitarian benefit in the way that business studies might, the ability to adopt a calm and reasonable attitude to vexed issues open for public discussion is certainly a valuable consequence of the study of philosophy in this day and age.

Dr Gaven Kerr

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The Splendour of Truth

Pope St John Paul II was a significant figure in the latter part of the 20th Century. This is not simply due to the fact that he was the leader of a significant world religion or that he tirelessly travelled the globe evangelising Catholics and non-Catholics alike. John Paul II was also a consummate thinker and philosopher; and it has been rightly remarked that he could easily have held a chair in academic philosophy (phenomenological philosophy in particular) in any European university. His numerous writings as pope attest to the profundity of his thinking, and his philosophical publications (including Love and Responsibilty and The Acting Person) can sit on the shelves of any academic philosopher’s library. Hence when John Paul II addressed philosophical issues, he did so not as a run of the mill affair – something relevant to Catholicism but not to him as an individual Catholic; John Paul II was personally invested in his treatment of philosophical matters as pope.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II’s encyclical treating of moral theology and philosophy. What is significant about this encyclical is that John Paul II does not limit himself to addressing a particular moral issue such as contraception or abortion; rather he treats of the whole field of moral theology and how a genuinely Catholic moral theology can be worked out. This encyclical is valuable precisely because it not only speaks to Catholics in the determination of Catholic teaching, but it also addresses important issues in philosophy more generally, moral philosophy in particular.

Truth

The first feature of the document that is worth reflecting on is the prominence it gives to truth. Truth is the agreement or conformity of the intellect with thing, so that if my thinking is about some object and the nature of that thought is in agreement with the nature of the object, then we have truth. Hence, truth is the measurement of the intellect and signifies a proper relationship the intellect has to its object. In moral matters then, truth is the agreement of the moral agent with what is good, such that the actions that he or she undertakes are good actions.

The focus on truth sets the tone for the entire encyclical, and it is important that it do so. This is because the pope is keen to stress that in matters of truth, man is not the measure of things, the objective facts are. Hence, it is not the intellect which is the measure of the facts, but the facts which are the measure of the intellect. Should the intellect not measure up to the facts, then the intellect is not functioning as it ought. The same goes then for the moral agent; there is a good which is the measure of the agent which is captured in the natural law, and should the moral agent not measure up to this good he or she is failing as a moral agent.

Freedom in action

A moral action is one that is freely undertaken, since if one is forced into performing an action, one does not bear responsibility for that action. Hence, freedom is essential to the performance of a moral action, and this stands to reason since we as rational agents are able to consider what the good is and choose to implement it or not – this is what is involved in morally evaluable activity.

So far so good, but there is a conception of freedom that the pope is keen is dispel, and this is the notion that treats of freedom as so utterly free that there can be no constraint on it. On this account then, any moral law which seeks to curtail free activity is fundamentally at odds with freedom and thereby at odds with the truth about the human person. The natural law cannot be the measure of free human activity on this view.

But this is a flawed account of freedom. Freedom is a feature of human nature because human beings are rational beings; we can envisage possibilities and opt for them. However, not all these possibilities are consistent with freedom, since many of them can undermine our freedom. Hence, freedom is only genuine when exercised in those actions consistent with it. So in chess, there are lots of moves that one is free to make, and these moves are consistent with playing chess. Once one starts breaking all the rules, one is of course exercising one’s freedom to do that, but one is no longer playing chess, and the game has ended; with the end of the game, one is no longer free to play chess. The same applies to the use of human freedom and the moral law. Any action which undermines human nature is clearly an action inconsistent with freedom; for freedom is an essential feature of human nature, so to undermine that nature is to undermine freedom (just as freely breaking all the rules of chess entails that one is no longer free to play chess). The natural law encapsulates the principles of action which principles are in agreement with the truth about human nature, in which case the exercise of freedom in agreement with the natural law (like the moves within the chess game), far from destroying freedom, fulfils it.

The Human Person

What is by far the most significant theme of the encyclical and of John Paul II’s thinking more generally is the significance of the human person. Thus far we have been considering issues relevant to the human person, but we have not focused on the human person itself. It is the person that pursues truth, it is the person that is free, and it is the person who engages in moral activity. The person then is the locus of moral action and it is the perfection of the person towards which the natural law works.

Now the human person is a rational substance, and as a rational substance the human person is capable of knowing and willing the good. It follows then that the human person has an intrinsic dignity, and this because the person can will ends for himself. This means that using a person as a means to an end is to subvert his or her personhood and take away something that is essentially theirs, i.e. their ability to will the end. Hence, the only legitimate activity in relation to the person is to treat him or her as an end in himself or herself, and never a means. And this means that the only relation one ought to have to a person is one of love.

The Splendour of Truth

We return then to the issue of truth, and this is because it is neglect of the fact that reality is the measure of us that leads to problems in moral thinking.

Often too much of a stress is put on the exercise of freedom such that it is assumed that so long as an action is free it is morally legitimate. Hence even free action against truth is seen as morally good. But freedom is not enough for moral goodness precisely because there are some actions inconsistent with human nature which only serve to undermine the very freedom that is lauded in opting for them. Accordingly, freedom must be exercised in conformity with truth, and not in contradiction to it.

Relatedly, it is sometimes thought that devising moral principles informing action, such as the natural law, is problematic because different situations call for different responses; situations are diverse and there cannot be a one size fits all approach. In a rather benign sense, all moral principles are somewhat abstract and they have to be internalised and implemented in every individual situation. Thus, just as there is a rule for moving the knight in chess, but many different circumstances in which the knight will be moved in the game, so too there is a moral law (the natural law) and different situations in which it is implemented. This is unproblematic and does not amount to a relativism of moral principles because just as in the chess game the moves are uniform but realised in different situations so too in moral action the principles of right acting are uniform (the natural law) but realised in different situations. A non-benign relativism creeps in when it is argued that there are some situations in which the only reasonable course of action is one inconsistent with the natural law. This would be like having a rule stipulating the right move for knights but then modifying it if the knight is in a tricky situation. It is problematic to change and modify the principles of the natural law because it is the moral outlook which permits one to live in accord with one’s human nature as a rational substance. Any activity inconsistent with the natural law is at odds with human nature and hence at odds with reason. Thus, activity inconsistent with the natural law is manifestly unreasonable. As John Paul II writes at 51.3: ‘…[T]he natural law expresses the dignity of the human person and lays the foundation for his fundamental rights and duties, it is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all mankind. This universality does not ignore the individuality of human beings, nor is it opposed to the absolute uniqueness of each person. On the contrary, it embraces at its root each of the person’s free acts, which are meant to bear witness to the universality of the true good’.

This reasoning further militates against a kind of consequentialism in moral matters. Consequentialism is the view that the moral worth of an action should be judged on the basis of its consequences; and depending on how one measures the outcome of an action, one will measure the act accordingly. On the contrary, by giving the conditions for good action the natural law allows us to live in accord with our natures as rational substances. But we are able to live in accord with our natures by considering that nature of itself, and not the consequences of our actions when we perform them. Thus, the moral worth of our actions is determined by the kind of action itself that is performed rather than what the action brings about.

Veritatis Splendor is a lengthy document full of fine grained reasoning from a pope who specialised in philosophy. I have teased out some of the central themes of the document, but for those who either agree or disagree with its outlook, it is hoped that they will engage with its reasoning themselves and come to terms with the argumentation.

Dr Gaven Kerr

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Morality, Religion, and the Natural Law

With the falling popularity of the study of academic philosophy, and the preference for academic subjects that are seen to lead more securely to employment, the public discussion of morality has suffered somewhat. When one comes to study academic philosophy, a course in moral philosophy (hopefully several) is usually essential (along with metaphysics, epistemology, and logic). Whilst one can get a smattering of philosophy in other academic subjects, one rarely gets the opportunity to study it in depth unless one undertakes a course in philosophy. That then entails that there is a general lack of recognition in public discussion of philosophical issues, and this particularly is the case with the discussion of moral matters.

In general, there is an awareness of some conclusions that are adopted in moral reasoning, especially with regard to hot button social issues that have their roots in moral philosophy. These conclusions did not come from nowhere, and significant voices in the philosophical tradition have offered reasoning on their behalf. But because of the lack of awareness of moral philosophy and often only a smattering of philosophy from elsewhere, the conclusions are known, but not their means of demonstration (indeed, in my experience of teaching moral philosophy, the very notion of demonstration in moral matters is one that has to be neatly and gently laid out before any exploration of the thinking of a particular philosopher is considered).

Now, moral philosophers are not the only individuals to draw conclusions in moral matters, the Church does so as well. And it is often the case that a moral philosopher draws the same conclusion as the Church, e.g. a number of moral philosophers agree with the Church that murder is wrong. But it is often assumed that a moral position advocated by the Church on some particular issue is one that is defended on the basis of religious belief and not on the basis of natural reason.

However, the latter view is incorrect. The natural law position in morality that is adopted by the Church is not one that depends on revelation for its cogency, nor does one even have to believe in God in order to accept that position. Indeed significant defenders of the natural law have explicitly stated that it can be known by all without recourse to God; so for instance John Finnis in Natural Law and Natural Rights, pp. 48 – 49 states clearly that knowledge of God is not needed for knowledge of the natural law, and indeed he states that part II of his book is an articulation of the natural law without advertence to the existence of God, His nature, or will; Aquinas argues that the principles of the natural law are self-evident, and its further precepts can be elucidated on the basis of rational reflection on human nature (Summa Theologiae, IaIIae, qu. 94, art. 2: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FS/FS094.html#FSQ94OUTP1).

What the natural law position in morality maintains is that human beings have a nature and given that their actions are rationally willed, in order for humans to flourish as the kind of things they are, humans ought to order their actions in a way consonant with that nature. This is not a moral position that depends on God or revelation for its cogency, but simply on philosophical argumentation, as Finnis, Aquinas and others have articulated it. It stands in contrast to other moral theories, in particular utilitarianism and deontology; and it, like them, is defensible on the basis of natural reason.

The point here is that whilst natural law reasoning may coincide with the Church’s position in moral matters such reasoning does not depend on religious belief. In that case, the conclusions that the Church adopts on the basis of the natural law are not conclusions immune from philosophical discussion and scrutiny or indeed defence (they are not matters of faith), since they have publicly accessible reasons on their behalf. But if they have publicly accessible reasons, then they are as much up for grabs in the public discussion of moral matters as those defended from other moral perspectives.

Dr Gaven Kerr

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Rehabilitating Public Moral Discussion

A lot of public discussion over hot button issues such as abortion, same sex marriage, euthanasia there involve a definite moral dimension such that proponents and opponents hold that each is either right or wrong and that general society’s position on the matter is a good one or a bad one. However, often these public discussions occur free from any appeal to what is right or wrong in the case at hand since appeals to moral judgements are taken to be judgemental and reflective of a private morality that not everyone accepts. Hence, unless everyone or at least the majority of people affected by the particular issue agree with the moral position in question, it is not one that can inform the public debate. Accordingly, these hot button moral issues are decided not by appeal to what is right or wrong about the particular situation, but by an appeal to the democratic majority in question, whether that majority is expressed by a political party that promotes the issue as party policy or by a referendum.

What is clear is that the notion of morality is one that has been largely dismissed to the private realm and not as having any force to justify doing something that is right (or avoiding something that is wrong) if its being right (or wrong) does not accord with the general will of the people. The state of the public debate reflects something that Alasdair McIntyre and Elizabeth Anscombe focused on when discussing modern moral philosophy, and this is that it is as if we are in a post-apocalyptic era wherein we use the same terms as a previous era such as true, good, right, just etc, but they do not have the same meaning or force that they once had. Accordingly, there is no common conceptual backdrop (or philosophical psychology) against which moral claims can be defended or indeed disputed. With that situation in place, all moral positions are perceived to be motivated by emotions associated with agreement and disagreement, i.e. love and hate. Thus if you agree with something you are taken to approve of it or to like it, and if you disagree you hate it (and this very easily is taken to be love or hate for the one who holds the viewpoint). Moral judgements then are often dismissed as follows: if you don’t like x, don’t have one, but don’t stop others who do from having one.

Yet the latter approach is quite problematic when it comes to certain uncontroversial moral judgements; take murder for instance. A principled moral stance against murder is not simply a dislike for murder, but the judgement that there is something about the action which is wrong; and it is not wrong simply because the victim of murder does not want to be murdered, since even if the victim did want to be murdered the judgement could still be made that the action itself was wrong. Moral philosophers will typically analyse such an action against the backdrop of a moral theory independent of the tastes of the philosopher himself and which expresses the objective nature of moral judgements (by that philosopher’s own reasoning). What is often missing from contemporary public discourse is appeal to a rigidly worked out moral framework that informs the moral judgements which occur in such discourse. Hence the dismissal of opposed views as motivated by hatred or some other negative emotion.

Just as McIntyre, Anscombe et al sought to reorient modern moral philosophy by (re)introducing the conceptual framework that informed a lot of moral talk, and having done that proceeded to justify various moral judgements, so too in our contemporary (non-specialist) public discourse we need to (re)introduce a conceptual backdrop by which disagreements about moral issues can be evaluated.

In his book Man and the State, Jacques Maritain reflects on his experiences of drafting the universal declaration of human rights, and he notes that despite disagreements of theoretical justification, it was possible for all of the parties involved in the drafting to come up with a number of rights that they took to apply to all humans. So it is possible to come to agreement on practical outcomes of disputed moral positions without those involved compromising the moral framework to which they are committed. In the case of the declaration of human rights, all parties involved realised that they had to reach some sort of conclusion, and they sat down and talked it out. They didn’t denounce each other publicly, or take to social media (there was none) to laud their own positions. They discussed, no doubt heatedly, the vexed issues and managed to produce the universal declaration of human rights.

The above experience indicates that in whatever way agreement is to occur, it has to occur within the context of discussion of the moral viewpoints involved, not by focusing on the conclusions generated from those viewpoints. If we focus on conclusions, we label others as pro-this or anti-that, and thus we do not give them a chance to articulate why they are pro or anti whatever they are. By focusing on conclusions we do indeed react emotionally to what we either like or do not like regardless of how reasonable its foundations are. On the other hand, when we focus on the reasons for the conclusion, it is possible to find common ground, and to map out clearly where the divergence occurs. When we know that, we are not as quick to denounce our interlocutor, but rather we can see how he or she has been led to adopt that position.

The individuals involved in drafting the declaration of human rights were not involved in political lobbying, running for office, orchestrating a rhetorical tennis match; they had work to do in finding a practical solution to vexed moral questions, and they sat down and hammered out the issues. We need to do the same in our public discussion. Radio interviews, social media debates, parliamentary debates etc are good as far as they go, but very often they descend into one-line burns that only serve to focus on conclusions and not the reasons which justify those conclusions. What we need is a public space where reasons justifying moral judgements are discussed without acrimony. This can take all sorts of forms such as reading groups, school philosophy programmes, public discussion groups etc, but what it cannot be is faceless. A public space within which moral discussion takes place must allow for one rational individual to talk to another rational individual; it cannot have either give their own two cents to a third party who in turn relays these messages back and forward and the discussion goes nowhere. The lack of any such public space, or even an acknowledgement for such, wherein justifying reasons for moral judgements are discussed is leading to a lack of knowledge of why one’s opponent concludes as he or she does; and this leads us to focus only on the conclusions whereby we define our positions as anti-this and pro-that, it does not illuminate us as to why we disagree or where we could possibly agree.

So in order to rehabilitate public discussions of morality, we have to move beyond the rhetorical tennis match and engage with those reasons which justify our views, disagree with those reasons when we do, and get into a discussion of why we disagree (and where) and to pursue the discussion wherever it goes. If the impasse over some of these hot button issues is not resolved by this, at least the public discussion of them will be a lot less acrimonious and divisive.

Dr Gaven Kerr

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The Existence of God

The question of the existence of God is one that is part and parcel of contemporary society’s general interest in religion. All religious traditions consider the issue of some divine being, even those which reject the existence of a divine figure precisely because their religious outlook is formed on the basis of the lack of a divinity. The three main Western monotheisms affirm the existence of a single divine being which is the cause of the existence of all things. Nevertheless, there are important differences amongst these monotheisms on how to conceive of the divine being.

Given the close association of belief in the existence of God with religious belief more generally, it is often assumed in non-specialist discussions that belief in the existence of God is an article of faith and thus held on the basis of faith. Hence, belief in God is often taken to be on the same level as faith in the doctrines derived from revealed scripture, so that if we can reject scripture we can reject the existence of God. But if we look at some representative thinkers of Western monotheism, we see that for them the existence of God is not something that one holds on the basis of faith, but that one can have a rigid demonstration of God’s existence on the basis of natural reason. Indeed, St Thomas Aquinas, a representative Catholic theologian, argues in Summa Theologiae, Ia, qu. 2, art. 2 that the existence of God is not an article of faith but a preamble to the other articles of faith. This is to say, one must believe in God before one has faith, and that one’s faith builds upon belief in God. Hence, belief in God is not a part of faith, but precedes faith, and so is not held by faith. So how does one come by this belief?

Before proceeding it will be useful to distinguish some terminology. Often the terms ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ are used interchangeably when in fact they are distinct. One can have all sorts of beliefs, and they can be justified either on the basis of reason or on the basis of faith. So I believe that the earth is spherical because I have read the justifications of that outlook and I have seen pictures of the earth from space; this is a belief which is justified by natural reason. I believe that the floor beneath me will not collapse all of a sudden, not because I have investigated the integrity of the building materials or its design, but because it has remained solid for a substantial period of time and I have no reason to think it will not hold good in the future. This is a belief held by faith, since a number of factors come together to bring about my assent to that belief without direct confirmation. So belief is a kind of mental content, and one can assent to a belief either on the basis of natural reason providing a proof or on the basis of faith. Notice here that faith is not the attitude of believing without thinking; since in the belief that the floor will not collapse beneath me, it is hardly the case that I believe it without thinking, because if challenged as to why I believe this I could go on to give various reasons. But crucially the reasons do not directly amount to proof and so do not command the assent that demonstration by natural reason commands.

Turning then to belief in God, I have noted that in Western monotheism it was not held to be something justified by faith, and indeed we have seen one representative thinker who held that it is a belief that must be in place prior to faith. We can go through a number of important thinkers who all offered demonstrations for the existence of a divine being, to name a view from various religious traditions: Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Scotus, Moses Maimonides, Avicenna (Ibn-Sina), Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Plantinga, Lonergan. These figures cover diverse religious traditions: Pagan, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, and range from the ancient world to the twentieth century. Their demonstrations of God are well known and well documented in specialist circles and contemporary commentators on religious issues really ought to be familiar with their thinking if they are to comment on issues pertaining to the existence of God with any sort of authority (even if they wish to reject all such demonstrations of God’s existence).

But why have thinkers throughout the ages thought that the existence of God can be demonstrated and that it is not an article of faith like the Trinity or the Incarnation?

I think that what has impressed so many thinkers is the sheer existence of things; the fact that things are but may as well not have been has stimulated many to consider whether or not what accounts for the existence of things can be just another of those things which may as well not be. This observation has often led thinkers to progress on a form of complex reasoning by which they conclude that the very existence of things is not something explicable by appeal to any one thing whose existence is such that it may as well not have been, but must be located in something whose existence is such that it cannot not be, i.e. something that is simply pure existence itself and not an entity participating for now in existence. This insight into things is something I think is to be found in some form in the major representatives of Western monotheism and it is brought to perfection in the thought of St Thomas Aquinas (I defend the viability of one of his proofs in my book Aquinas’s Way to God: The Proof in De Ente et Essentia).

My point here is not to go into the depths of specialist philosophical reasoning (I have done that elsewhere); rather, I wish to highlight that the question of the existence of God is not simply one of personal faith and so to be side-lined to some private realm. The existence of God has some heavyweight reasoning behind it, and such reasoning is natural, that is to say, it makes no appeal to revelation or private experiences; it simply appeals to realities and concepts such as the existence of things, causality, causal relations etc that any rational person can understand. This then entails that not only ought the existence of God be taken more seriously in the public sphere and not dismissed as a private belief, but that those who wish to dismiss belief in the existence of God as something irrational will have to deal with the very rational and indeed reasonable argumentation of the thinkers mentioned above. At the very least this should generate a worthwhile public discussion wherein views can be exchanged and engaged with on the issue without theists being dismissed as irrational, backwards, idiotic, and without atheists being dismissed as irreligious, sinful, evil.

Dr Gaven Kerr