Teleological (OCR exam board) - SlideShare

EPICURIAN HYPOTHESIS: the universe was chaotic but natural forces calmed it down.

Teleological (OCR exam board) ..

Although human beings, like everything else, are composed of atomsthat move according to their fixed laws, our actions are not whollypredetermined — rather than entertain such a paralyzingdoctrine, Epicurus says, it would be better to believe in the oldmyths, for all their perversities (LM 134). What enables us to wrestliberty from a mechanistic universe is the existence of a certainrandomness in the motion of atoms, that takes the form of a minuteswerve in their forward course (evidence for this doctrine deriveschiefly from later sources, including Lucretius and Cicero). It is notentirely clear how the swerve operates: it may involve a small angleof deviation from the original path, or else a slight shift sideways,perhaps by a single minimum, with no change in direction. The idea ofsuch a minute veering, said to occur at no determinate time or place,is less strange in the modern age of quantum physics than it was inEpicurus' time, and it gave rise to mocking critiques. Moreproblematic today is how the swerve might explain freedom of will— if indeed Epicurus' idea of the will was like our own. It did,at all events, introduce an indeterminacy into the universe, and ifsoul atoms, thanks to their fineness, were more susceptible to theeffects of such deviations than coarser matter, the swerve could atleast represent a breach in any strict predestination of humanbehavior. And this might have been enough for Epicurus' purposes: hemay not have invoked the swerve in order to explain voluntary action(claiming that it is action deriving, immediately or ultimately, froma swerve or some swerves of the soul's atoms). He may have wishedmerely to establish the possibility of action not deriving from thepositions of the soul's constituent atoms at any time plus the effectsof collisions among them resulting from their given movements at thattime. According to Lucretius (2.225–50), the swerve was also putto use to solve a cosmological problem: if at some (as it were)initial moment all atoms were moving uniformly in a single direction(downward) at the same speed, it is impossible to conceive how theprocess of atomic collisions could have begun, save by some suchdevice. This seems a curious idea: given that time, like space, wasinfinite according to Epicurus, he need not have imagined a time priorto collisions. Just possibly the tendency of atoms to emerge fromcollisions in a preferred direction (by definition “down”)might lead over time to local regions of parallel motion, and theswerve could serve to reintroduce contact among them. In any event,Epicurus may have thought of atoms moving in some uniform directionrather than in diverse ones as a default position for physical theory(because of the simplicity of that hypothesis); thus he may have feltthe need to explain how the diversity of the atoms' motions could havearisen.

The Case Against The Design Argument - Big Issue …

This early form of social life had various advantages: among others,the relative scarcity of goods prevented excessive competition(sharing was obligatory for survival) and thereby set limits on thoseunnatural desires that at a later, richer phase of society would leadto wars and other disturbances. It would appear too that, beforelanguage had developed fully, words more or less conformed to theiroriginal or primitive objects, and were not yet a source of mentalconfusion. But thanks to a gradual accumulation of wealth, thestruggle over goods came to infect social relations, and there emergedkings or tyrants who ruled over others not by virtue of their physicalstrength but by dint of gold. These autocrats in turn were overthrown,and after a subsequent period of violent anarchy people finally sawthe wisdom of living under the rule of law. This might seem torepresent the highest attainment in political organization, but thatis not so for the Epicureans. For with law came the generalized fearof punishment that has contaminated the blessings of life (Lucretius5.1151; cf. [Philodemus] On Choices and Avoidancescol. XII). Lucretius at this point gives an acount of the origin ofreligious superstition and dread of the gods, and although he does notrelate this anxiety directly to the fear of punishment under humanlaw, he does state that thunder and lightning are interpreted as signsthat the gods are angry at human sins (5.1218–25). Whileprimitive people in the presocial or early communal stages might havebeen awed by such manifestations of natural power and ascribed them tothe action of the gods, they would not necessarily have explained themas chastisement for human crimes before the concept of punishmentbecame familiar under the regime of law. People at an early time knewthat gods exist thanks to the simulacra that they give off, althoughthe precise nature of the gods according to Epicurus remains obscure(for contrasting intepretations, see Konstan 2011 and Sedley 2011);but the gods, for him, do not interest themselves in human affairs,since this would compromise their beatitude (see Obbink 1996:321–23).

Clearly major religions like traditional Christianity require a robustconception of God. With regard to robust theism, Hume is sharplycritical and goes well beyond the bounds of a more limited softskepticism. That is to say, Hume pursues what we may call thehard skeptical aim of providing grounds for denyingthe theist hypothesis in its various robust forms. For example, in anumber of passages of the Dialogues Hume suggests that theabundant evidence of unnecessary evil provides us with compellinggrounds for denying that there exists an omnipotent, morally perfectbeing who is the creator and governor of this world. In light of theseconsiderations, we may conclude that with respect to robusttheism Hume is a hard skeptic who defends a non-dogmatic formof atheism.