This paper will discuss the contributions of various concepts by different philosophers, such as Anselm, Humes, and James. It tries to examine their points of departure on a number of issues.
According to Anselm, the extent to which anything is real depends on the degree of its universality. He argued that as far as God is the most universal Being, he is the most real of all beings, absolutely real because his attributes are universal (Abel, 2008). The Ontological argument that he proposed states that if people possess a notion about an ideal Being and people are not able to imagine anything higher or better than this ideal Being, this perfect Being exists, for sure, as perfection implies existence. He, thus, considered this Being to be God.
Anselm’s major difference to Aquinas and Paley is that the latter two based their arguments on the empirical features of the world. On the other side, even though Hume believed in the fact that people could attribute the order and design of the world to an architect, he warned that this architect could be also responsible for the natural evil. He argued that this could make the problem of evil remain unresolved unless a finite limited God were to be created as the alleged architect of the universe. If God were perfectly good, he must also be omnipotent to eliminate all evil in the world.
Pointing out to the complexity of this matter, Dawkins noted that evolution is the theory that could explain the complexity of the universe and argues that since beings are too improbable and too beautifully designed; their existence cannot be accidental. The beings, according to him, have come into what they are through the step-by-step transformations from simple beginnings, like primordial entities, which might have come into existence by chance. He adds that the whole sequence of cumulative states involved in the gradual transformation constitutes nothing but a chance process. He considered the complexity of the final end product to be relative to the original starting point. He added that this cumulative process is directed by nonrandom survival.
On the other hand, Abel (2008) noted that Pascal’s argument on the need for people to believe in God is based on consequences associated with failure to believe in Him. His argument is that if people believe in God’s existence, they will be guaranteed a reward when they reach the heaven. He added that, in this way, even if God does not exist, people have lost little or nothing at all. To receive heavenly infinite reward or have to lose to a smaller extent or not lose at all is, therefore, preferable to him to being punished in hell or having to gain nothing. He adds, therefore, that it is in human’s interest and rationale to believe in God. The major problem in Pascal’s argument is his assertion that one has to endeavor to convince himself, not by the increase in proofs of God but by the abatement of one’s passion. If this would be done, human would be bound to lose their pride and dignity and instead have a thought that God would want humans to believe in him for fear of punishment.
According to James, the pragmatic criterion of truth is based on the workability of any theory or proposition. To him, it is only when an idea works on being applied to the concrete facts of experience that it becomes a true idea. To him, anything that is meaningful and real must have some influence on the human experience and practice, and everything that has a practical effect must be acknowledged to be meaningful and real. He argues that abstract truths are meaningless unless they make difference in concrete facts.
Equally, Plato argued that the true knowledge is the knowledge that knows itself as knowledge, is based on reasons, and is knowledgeable of its own ground. Such knowledge, according to him, is above sense-perception and is identical with existence itself. True knowledge is, therefore, the correspondence of thought and reality and is different from opinions, as the world presents them. It is only attainable by contemplation (Abel, 2008).
Descartes also gave his arguments on the certainty of knowledge. He states that those propositions are both certain and true if they present themselves clearly and distinctly to the reason or man’s consciousness. He says that he is certain of the existence of the ergo, God, and the world. For example, he argues that an idea can never originate from within oneself, because man is a thinking substance, which is finite and cannot have the idea of any infinite substance. To Descartes, such an idea is only given by some substance in reality, which is infinite, and that is God. Descartes also stated that it is the veracity of God, which assures people that the external world, which can be cognized by humans’ senses, is not a fiction but a genuine reality. He argues that if there were no God controlling the universe, then the external world would have been unreal.
Locke, Barkley, and Hume are called the empiricists because of their argument that no innate knowledge exists and that whatever knowledge a man possesses, has been acquired either during the natal period or thereafter. Locke specifically argues that while it is true that innate knowledge is universally accepted by mankind, such agreement is not a proof. Moreover, Locke notes that the axiomatic principle of logic, such as those of identity and contradiction, are not known by children; therefore, could not have been imprinted at birth.
According to Locke, in the process of gaining knowledge, only the mental faculty or power is innate whereas the actual knowledge itself is acquired. Knowledge, according to him, is imprinted upon the mind by sensation (Abel, 2008). Locke also distinguishes between simple and complex ideas, the latter being abstractions from or combination of the former. He also gave the difference between ideas and objective reality. He stated that ideas are within people whereas real things are outside of them and posses the power, which excites humans’ ideas. These powers can be primary or secondary. Primary qualities of objects are their real qualities, which are inseparable from the object itself. They include solidity, extension, and figure. On the other hand, the secondary qualities are those created in a human by sensation and are not in the objects at all. These may include the color, taste, and smell.
In his epistemology, David Hume held that the soul is a set or sequence of ideas; therefore, a person does not consist of a soul as a spiritual factor but as a series of mental activities. On the relationship of facts, he argues that they cannot be proved exclusively by reasoning but must be assumed on the basis of sense experience. According to Hume, man cannot know the ultimate reality or achieve knowledge beyond mere awareness of phenomenal sensory images. He held that there is no such a thing as the cause-effect relationship. According to him, this concept arises from the mere repetition of two incidences so that the effect habitually attends the cause but not a necessary consequence.
In conclusion, it is important to note that no one’s opinion is superior to that of anyone else’s. This is because there is no hierarchy of truths or values. Anyone’s viewpoint is just as valid as anyone else’s viewpoint while what matters is the trend of thought one offers to take.