P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 128
13th August 2007
I. 'The Argument from Design as Proof of Intelligent Designer?'
by Martin Jenkins
II. 'Bergson and Russell: Two Positions on Being and Nothingness'
by D.R. Khashaba
III. 'We (I and you) as Daseins? Reply to Jurgen Lawrenz' by Archana Barua
In this issue, Pathways Mentor Martin Jenkins takes a sceptical look at the
venerable 'Argument from Design', which has recently undergone a revival as a
result of recent discoveries in physics showing just how improbable the
existence of intelligent life is. Even tiny changes in the laws of nature would
have produced a universe where the required complex structures could not exist.
His answer to this point is, simply, 'We wouldn't be asking the question if we
Daoud Khashaba looks at the different views of Bertrand Russell and Henri
Bergson on the question, 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' and
makes a plea for respecting the ultimate mystery of existence, as a vital
overlooked third alternative to the usual theist and atheist responses.
Archana Barua gets the chance to respond to Jurgen Lawrenz's comments on her
article, 'Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence: a Heideggerian approach'. The
question, 'What is intelligence?' and the question, 'What is it to be the kinds
of being that we are?' are not necessarily the same. Therein lies the
possibility of fruitful work in artificial intelligence which leaves open the
question of what more is required for an intelligent entity to be 'one of us'.
Finally, hearty thanks all those who responded to my recent call to resubscribe
to Philosophy Pathways. Don't forget to spread the word!
I. 'THE ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN AS PROOF OF INTELLIGENT DESIGNER?'
BY MARTIN JENKINS
I understand the Argument from Design as that argument which seeks to infer the
existence of a creative intelligence -- usually the Abrahamic God -- from the
apparently designed phenomena of universe. Phenomena are taken to have been
designed, as there is no other explanation to account for their complexity, for
their intricate yet purposeful coherence.
The argument is succinctly stated in David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural
Religion. Cleanthes, one of the interlocutors says:
Look around the world: contemplate the whole and every
part of it: you will find it to be nothing but one great
machine, subdivided into a infinite number of lesser
machines, which again admit of subdivisions, to a degree
beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and
explain. All these various machines, and even their
minutest parts, are adjusted to each other with an
accuracy, which ravishes into admiration all men, who have
ever contemplated them. The curious adapting of means to
ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it
much proceeds, the production of human contrivance; of
human design, thought, wisdom and intelligence. Since
therefore the effects resemble each other, we are led to
infer by all the rules of analogy that the causes also
resemble; and that the author of nature is somewhat similar
to the mind of man, though possessed of larger faculties,
proportioned to the grandeur of the work which he has
executed. By this argument a posteriori do we prove at once
the existence of a deity and his similarity to the human
mind and intelligence.
The world is complex yet coherent. It resembles the products of human
contrivance and design. They are similar. Similar effects invoke similar
causes. As the cause of human products is an intelligent designer, so the cause
of all the effects of the phenomena of the world is also an intelligent
designer. The intelligent designer is traditionally ascribed as being God.
Recently, the ascription has been to 'intelligent design'. The objections to
the design argument still pertain and the latest manifestation of the design
argument fails. Let's examine this.
Argument from Analogy
Firstly, the analogy of human created products with the phenomena of the
universe is fallacious. Taking complex products as effects of human production
is one thing. We observe this every day. We create products ourselves everyday.
I can observe a house and without any problem, conclude that human beings --
architect, bricklayers and so on -- created it. It is safe to conclude a
posteriori, on the grounds of observed experience that a house needs the
combination of land developers, planning departments, architects and builders
without which it would not be built; that human complex contrivances presuppose
human design. This conclusion is reached from the experience of such things. It
is not safe to extend this a posteriori reasoning to what is unobserved -- to
the creation of the phenomena of the universe -- which the argument from design
So upon and within the grounds of observed experience, it is safe to conclude
that complex designs of a car, a house, a hammer presuppose human designing
intelligence; for it has been observed that the former cannot exist without the
latter. It has not been observed of the phenomena in the universe that they
cannot exist without a designing intelligence. So, the argument from design is
resting on a conclusion extending from an observed premise to an unobserved
premise and this does not follow. A premise is fallacious making the conclusion
unsound. Applying thinking 'inside the box' of human experience to what is
'outside the box' of human experience, is not conclusively sound.
Secondly, the argument from analogy rests on complex human artefacts requiring
a human designer. But it doesn't follow that all human artefacts are complex in
character. Some are simple, like the whittled stick or the stone used to make
markings. As such, the analogy doesn't hold as human artefacts are not always
complex. If not all complex then the example of created human objects as
complex being analogous for complex phenomena of the universe doesn't follow.
Thirdly, contrary to its claims, the argument from design does not remain
within observed experience. Remaining within a posteriori reasoning alone
permits the conclusion only that human designer's create artefacts, products of
complexity. Contrary to a posteriori reasoning, its limits are transgressed and
something not observed within experience is introduced as the cause of what is
empirically observed. This appears to commit the fallacy of Petitio Principi --
assuming the truth of that which has yet to be proven.
Like effects prove like causes?
Yet it is retorted that like effects must follow from like causes. We conclude
the complex yet coherent innards of a watch are effects of a designing cause.
Likewise, the complex yet coherent phenomena of the universe are an effect of a
cause -- a designing cause. The like effects of complexity arise from like
causes. For all complex coherence there must be a designing intelligence.
Again, that P leads to Q does not entail Q leading to P. That a designer P
leads to designed complexity Q does not logically entail that complexity Q
entails a designer P. This is borne out when we observe human designers create
artefacts and products of complexity but is not borne out by observing
non-human phenomena and inferring they likewise require a designer. It can be
concluded only that human designing intelligences entail complex, designed
So the phenomena of the universe if perceived as complex yet purposive in their
manifestation, do not logically or empirically entail an intelligent, designing
cause. There may be other explanations and/ or none.
Contrary to the a posteriori, empirical based reasoning of the Design argument,
complexity and purposiveness might be perceptions reducible to human cognition
and not an objective character of the universe. If not objective
characteristics of the world 'out there' then a central premise of the argument
from design -- that the universe displays complexity and coherence -- is not
sound and the desired conclusion of a creative intelligence of such complexity
etc. will not follow.
Additionally, what is understood by purposive and coherent is problematic.
Socrates keeps what appears to be a shambles of a filing system compared to
Immanuel whose files are labelled and appropriately placed under definite
categories and cabinet draws. Yet Socrates knows were everything is and can
retrieve requested information as quickly as Immanuel. So complexity and
purposiveness display an ambiguity. With the ambiguity no sure inference can be
drawn from complexity to a creative intelligence.
I will now assume that the universe does display a complex coherence of means
to ends. Assuming there is an objective complexity 'out there' independent of
human cognition where means cohere into ends. Is complexity alone evidence of
the necessity of a designing intelligence? No. For even if there is objective
complexity it does not escape the fallacy of analogy objection discussed above.
Complexity does not require or necessitate a designing intelligence. It just
doesn't follow that non-human complexity must require a designing intelligence
for its existence.
Even if it were admitted that the complex coherence displayed by phenomena
could be accounted for by intelligent design, then the nature of intelligent
design itself would have to be accounted for. The agency of intelligent design
must itself possess complexity in order to create complexity. If as the
argument for intelligent design maintains that complexity has to be explained
by an intelligent designer then the complexity of the designer likewise has to
be explained. If not, it is being maintained that the intelligent designer does
not possess complexity. If not complex it has no understanding of complexity so
cannot intentionally design complex creations. So if it designs complex
creations, it must possess complexity and this has to be explained in terms of
the design argument, in the existence of an intelligent designer of the
intelligent designer and so on ad infinitum.
Goldilocks and Intelligent Design
Another approach in the argument for intelligent design is to propose that the
conditions for life to exist are so delicate, so intricate that they could not
have occurred by chance alone. Neutrons are slightly heavier than protons. If
it were the other way round, atoms could not exist, as they would have decayed
into neutrons after the 'Big Bang'. No protons, no atomic nucleuses and no
atoms. No atoms then no chemistry. No chemistry then no life. That there is
life at all is due to the condition of slightly heavier neutrons. In the story
of Goldilocks where unlike Father and Mother Bear's porridge, Baby Bear's
porridge, is 'just right' -- so the conditions in the universe are 'just
right': just right to allow life to exist, This so-called 'Goldilocks enigma'
cannot have arisen from chance. If not from chance then there must have been
a creative intelligence designing the phenomena of the universe.
The immediate response to the Goldilocks enigma is that it is precisely because
such delicate conditions pertain that life exists. Without these delicate
conditions, life could not exist -- as we perceive in the solar system. We are
the lucky strike in the cosmic game of dice -- no god or deliberate design is
Furthermore, an intelligent designer could not have been that intelligent. If
it had, it would have loosened up on the conditions necessary for life so that
they weren't so stringent. Such conditions for life reduce the chances of life
rather than necessitate it. A change of a few degrees in temperature can decide
the existence or not of life. An intelligent designer would have made conditions
more flexible ensuring greater survival conditions for life.
The argument from Design whether to the Abrahamic God or to an Intelligent
Designer fails. It primarily fails because it is based on analogous reasoning
which is fallacious. Whilst human beings create complex products it does not
follow that a designing intelligence is required to create the universe. This
undermines the Argument from Design and its modern derivative of arguments for
1. P. 53. David Hume. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Penguin 1990.
2. Intelligent Design. This can be construed as a contemporary manifestation of
The Argument from Design originating particularly in the USA. Intelligent design
is defined as:
'the claim that 'certain features of the universe and of
living things are best explained by an intelligent cause,
not an undirected process such as natural selection'. It is
a modern form of the traditional teleological argument '.
3. This epistemological point is made by philosophers David Hume (1711-1776)
and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). In other words key terms of the Argument from
Design such as cause, effect, teleology, purposiveness are not objective
characters of the world but are human constructs. David Hume questions whether
causality is an objective constituent of the universe or rather the customary
conjunction of events by made human beings.
Immanuel Kant argues that causality and purposiveness are a constituent of the
phenomenal world as it appears to us created by the Transcendental Categories
of human cognition. It is not a constituent characteristic of the noumenal
world in itself. For both see:
David Hume Inquiries Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford University Press.
Immanuel Kant. Critique of Pure Reason. Everyman 1987.
4. Paul Davies. 'Yes, the Universe Looks like a Fix. But that doesn't mean a
god fixed it.' The Guardian. (UK) Tuesday 26 June 2007.
Anthony Flew Theology and Falsification. Reason and Responsibility. (ed: Joel
Finberg) Belmont Publishers. 1968
Anthony Flew. Arguments to Design: Why Life's Complexity does not prove the
Existence of God.
Atheist Notes. http://www.libertarian.co.uk
J.L. Mackie The Miracle of Theism. Oxford University Press. 1982
JCA. Gaskin. The Quest for Eternity. Penguin Books 1988
(c) Martin Jenkins 2007
II. 'BERGSON AND RUSSELL: TWO POSITIONS ON BEING AND NOTHINGNESS'
BY D.R. KHASHABA
Bertrand Russell and Henri Bergson were veritable antipodes. Russell early shed
off his youthful Platonism in favour of a thoroughgoing empiricism. Bergson
discarded his early interest in mathematics, turning to psychology, then
progressing from biology to high mysticism. The contrast is clearly illustrated
in their respective approaches to the notions of being and nothingness.
In 'Why I Am Not A Christian' Russell shows the inanity of the First-Cause
argument for the existence of God. He says, 'If everything must have a cause,
then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may
just as well be the world as God...'. The argument from First Cause does not
tell us anything about the nature of the First Cause: call it God or Nous or
Big Bang, that, in itself, does not tell us anything about the character or
nature of that First Cause.
Thus far I go fully along with Russell. But when he goes on to say, 'There is
no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on
the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed', I
think Russell is wrong in implying that these two alternatives stand on an
equal footing. I find the suggestion that the world could 'have come into being
without a cause' simply unintelligible. If we begin with nothing, I find it
utterly inconceivable that anything should then have come to be.
To my mind, being -- that there should have been anything rather than nothing
-- is the ultimate mystery. It is unexplainable and that's that. The idea of
God does not explain it. If we begin by assuming the existence of God, then
that may explain the existence of our actual world, but it leaves the being of
God unexplained; so we are back where we were.
It is true that Russell goes on to say, 'There is no reason to suppose that the
world had a beginning at all.' That I accept. But Russell immediately adds, 'The
idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our
imagination.' I do not feel easy about that. It damps the sense of the mystery
of being, and I believe it is this sense, when heightened, that gives birth to
philosophic wonder, without which there is no genuine philosophy.
Now to Bergson. In The Two Sources of Morality and Religion Bergson writes, 'We
have shown elsewhere that part of metaphysics moves, consciously or not, around
the question of knowing why anything exists -- why matter, or spirit, or God,
rather than nothing at all? But the question presupposes that reality fills a
void, that underneath Being lies nothingness, that de jure there should be
nothing, that we must therefore explain why there is de facto something. And
this presupposition is pure illusion, for the idea of absolute nothingness has
not one jot more meaning than a square circle.'
Let us just recall in passing that Plato also in the Sophist says that
absolute nothingness is unthinkable. But does not Bergson's dismissal of the
question deflate the sense of the mystery of being which I hold to be valuable?
No. The human intellect inevitably poses the question Why and inevitably raises
the chimera of Nothingness, and so we are not wrong when we say that for the
human intellect Being will remain an ultimate mystery and that mystery unfolds
in the profoundest reflections on the meaning and value of our own being.
1. 'Why I Am Not A Christian', a lecture delivered by Russell to the National
Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall, on March 6, 1927,
available online at http://users.drew.edu/~jlenz/whynot.html
2. Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, translated by R.
Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton, with the assistance of W. Horsfall
Carter, 1935, 1954, p.251.
3. Plato, Sophist, 237b-239c.
(c) D. R. Khashaba 2007
Web site: http://www.Back-to-Socrates.com
III. 'WE (I AND YOU) AS DASEINS? REPLY TO JURGEN LAWRENZ' BY ARCHANA BARUA
I appreciate the opportunity to respond to Jurgen Lawrenz's response to my
article, 'Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence: a Heideggerian Approach',
which appeared in Philosophy Pathways Issue 123. Jurgen Lawrenz lets us know
that he is basically out of sorts with the idea that a piece of metal might
have intelligence, 'however defined'.
I don't think there is special need for re-defining intelligence in order for
it to potentially apply to machines. Some of the existing definitions of
intelligence will very well encompass machine intelligence. There are plenty of
examples where a computer can already surpass people at solving problems, making
decisions, or carrying out other 'thinking' tasks. Shane Legg and Marcus Hutter
at the Swiss Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Manno-Lugano have drafted
an alternative test that will allow the intelligence of vision systems, robots,
natural language processing programs or trading agents to be compared and
contrasted despite their broad and disparate functions. Although there is no
consensus on what exactly human intelligence is, most views appear to cluster
around the idea that it hinges on a general ability to achieve goals in a wide
range of environments, says Legg. The same can be applied to an AI system. If
we want to hold that human intelligence or consciousness will always be special
or different in some way than that of machines, that's a different argument.
Nowhere in my article I have argued that one can ask a simple 'yes or no
question', 'Is this piece of metal intelligent or not'? While quite a few
people working in AI doubt that the common sense reasoning problem will
eventually be solved, there are others for whom computer intelligence has been
a fact at least since 1956, when LT found a proof that was better than the one
found by Whitehead and Russell, or when the engineers at Westinghouse wrote a
program that designed electric motors automatically. As per one operational
meaning for 'intelligence', an act or an entity is intelligent if it
accomplishes something that, if accomplished by a human being, would be called
intelligent. That way if someone or something that can play chess pretty well,
or can 'keep a car on the road', can diagnose symptoms of a disease and so on,
The fact that AI can be both more and less than human intelligence does not
amount to saying that they can be 100% equivalent. As George Johnson rightly
points out: 'There will be properties of human intelligence that may not be
exhibited in an AI system (sometimes because we have no particular reason for
doing so or because we have not yet gotten around to it). Conversely, there
will be capabilities of an AI system that will be beyond the reach of human
intelligence. Ultimately what AI will accomplish will depend more on what
society needs and where AI may have a 'comparative advantage' rather than by
philosophical considerations' (George Johnson The New York Times May 9, 1997).
Are human beings 'Daseins'? For Heidegger, we are not Daseins in our thing-like
mode of existing. Heidegger terms this fundamental 'be-ing' in experience Dasein
or, in English, being-in-the-world. As concernful beings we are Dasein-like for
whom 'his own mode of being is problematic. ' Otherwise we are just 'be-ings'
among 'beings', the fallen Daseins. We as humans can be treated as Daseins if
we are beings in the world continuously engaged in concernful activities. In
order to look for the very meaning of 'Being' in general and in the meaning of
Human Being in particular, one may very well begin with the individual 'Dasein'
as a starting point. This, I believe, will reveal the way of being, a 'being
that is peculiar to humans. ' This unique way of looking primarily at our own
unique way of being, the individual Dasein that is personalized as 'I' or
'you', could be just one initial starting point that sets forth to reveal more
primordial and deeper ways of being that may eventually transcend the very
intimate and personalized way of being that is peculiar to humans. Ultimately
the 'being question' amounts to: 'what is the most general way to understand
and how it is possible to intend something?' (Okrent 1996, online).
Are human beings Daseins? We should rather ask: 'is human being a 'thinking
entity?', or, 'what type of entity is a thinking entity?' What a 'thinking
being' means is to be determined by investigating that which characterizes that
type of entity. Heidegger has made a shift from an articulation of the question
of being to an articulation of the character of intentionality. The crux of the
question is: what conditions must be satisfied when some event is correctly
described in intentional terms? The meaning of an intentional entity is related
to the meaning of that general entity, that being, in Heidegger's terminology,
Dasein, which has that intentional state and also some other states. The
essential character of Dasein is its 'being-in-the-world', acting purposefully
in a goal directed way, and using tools as tools in pursuing its goals. My
initial question was: 'beginning with this outline of Heidegger's Dasein, could
one ascribe Dasein like character to a cyber being'?
For Dreyfus and others, computers would never be able to act intentionally
since these act only in a programmed way and it would be impossible for a
computer or for a cyber being to successfully cope with its environment unless
all the variables of a context are programmed. Contrary to what Dreyfus says,
with the advances made in technology and also in the field of AI, a robot of
the most sophisticated construction could be programmed to display better
coping abilities than humans. If that is what characterizes human
intentionality then these robots are better qualified to be Heideggerian
'Dasein' in terms of better coping skills, better than any human grandmaster
could ever display.
Whether the machine or the man ultimately wins the rematch between Deep Blue
and Garry Kasparov, it is probably just a matter of time before a computer
prevails. What is far less certain is just what to make of such a victory. How
to define intelligence and decide who or what has it remains among science's
unsolved, and possibly unsolvable, problems. Whether a machine like Deep Blue,
combining lightning-fast search power with a growing database of chess
knowledge, can be said to think depends on one's philosophical prejudices.
That a machine could attain a Dasein like character is now no longer an issue
for me. What I am interested in finding is what is that which is distinctively
human, that which would have made Kasparov look for a human face, which could
not come from his opponent displaying all coping abilities and all the known
techniques of a skilled player? Why that stone face of his opponent could make
him so unsure of himself? For me, this is related to a more vital question
regarding another dimension of meaning of Being. My question now is, 'What
makes our coping abilities distinctively human?' We as humans have the capacity
to learn from our mistakes, we can commit wrongs and can repent for those
wrongs, we may continuously ask the being question in order to redefine our
stand and to remake ourselves, the qualities which humans alone are required to
possess in a match for equality between humans and machines. 'This is what makes
our being distinct, this specific style of coping. It is a style consisting of
unknowns and knowns, of past and future, of stumbling not gliding. It is our
combination of Heidegger's big words, disclosed and undisclosed that
characterize our way of coping our being. Confusing gibberish it is, but in
many ways it is confusing gibberish that dominates what we are and therefore is
a major part of what it means to be a Dasein' (Frey 1999).
For us the real defeat comes not from machine acting smarter than us, it is a
defeat that comes when we surrender our distinctively human style of coping
imbibing a style that is alien to us. Heidegger's late philosophy was a move
toward a mystical dimension, more for mechanical submission to the moods of the
commune than to reflect and research, more with an urge to be seized than to
seize, for a kind of conversion than rational persuasion. His ideal Dasein
became more machine-like with blindness to those emotions, which are necessary
for us to cope with a style that is distinctively our own. The real threat
comes if Dasein attains a machine-like character wearing a mask of a sinister
stone face which is a real threat to its own being and to its authentic mode of
being in the world. The focus is on human existence as the route to understand
Being in general (Barua 2003).
(c) Archana Barua 2007
Dr. Archana Barua
Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati
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