On misrepresenting the thomistic five ways

Sophia 48 (1):15 - 34 (2009)
A number of recent discussions of atheism allude to cosmological arguments in support of theism. The five ways of Aquinas are classic instances, offered as rational justification for theistic belief. However, the five ways receive short shrift. They are curtly dismissed as vacuous, arbitrary, and even insulting to reason. I contend that the atheistic critique of the Thomistic five ways, and similarly formulated cosmological arguments, argues at cross purposes because it misrepresents them. I first lay out the context, intent and structure of Aquinas’ arguments, then show in what way recent discussions misrepresent them, and finally conclude with a comment on metaphysical orientation, which I take to be central, not only to a proper understanding of the Thomistic five ways but generally to the debate between atheism and theism on the existence of God.
Keywords Aquinas  Cosmological arguments  Existence of God  Atheism  Dawkins
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DOI 10.1007/s11841-008-0089-9
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Timothy O'Connor (2004). And This All Men Call God. Faith and Philosophy 21 (4):417-435.

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