Hartshorne's Arguments Against Empirical Evidence for Necessary Existence: An Evaluation: GALEN A. JOHNSON

Religious Studies 13 (2):175-187 (1977)

Galen A. Johnson
University of Rhode Island
Is experiential evidence irrelevant to acceptance or rejection of belief in the existence of a Divine Being? Charles Hartshorne answers that it is indeed irrelevant, and this answer has an initial and, for me, continuing surprising ring to it. Specifically, Hartshorne makes two distinguishable claims: the traditional allegedly a posteriori arguments, the teleological and cosmological, are in fact incompatible with empiricist methodology and are disguised ontological arguments; the conception of God as necessary being demands that belief in such a being's existence or non-existence in no way depend upon empirical evidence. On the contrary, I shall argue, first, that empirical evidence for God is truly empirical and second, that there is no incompatibility between empirical evidence and necessary existence. My argument will involve an attempt to understand and clarify somewhat the very difficult concepts of ‘experience’ and ‘necessity’ as they arise in the context of religious epistemology. I wish to make clear at the outset that my aim is not to eliminate ontological arguments for God in favour of empirical arguments, for I believe that Hartshorne's work on the modal ontological argument contributes substantially to providing grounds for reasonable belief in theism. Rather, my purpose is to show that ontological and empirical patterns of theistic argumentation are neither incompatible with each other nor reducible to each other
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DOI 10.1017/S0034412500009963
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