Monday, September 19, 2011

Adamson on Anaxgoras

I just listened again to Peter Adamson's podcast about Anaxagoras.  Entertaining and improving, and an interesting characterisation of the argument from design.
There is a grand tradition, in both philosophy and religion, of invoking God, or the gods, to explain the fact that the world looks so well designed. Think about how the sun moves in just the right way to give us the seasons, so that we can plant and harvest food to keep ourselves alive.  Think of the giraffe with its long neck - just the thing for reaching those tasty leaves in the trees.  Think even of how much it hurts when you step on something sharp. Sure, you don't feel grateful when it happens, but if not for the pain, you would be a lot less careful in the future, and you would probably wind up with cuts all over your feet and then where would you be? So, even the bad things in life seem designed to make things better. Socrates assumed that is was roughly where Anaxagoras was heading when he put mind in charge of the cosmos.
The argument about the sun moving in just the right way is not exactly parallel to the argument about giraffes.  For them to be parallel, it would have to be argued that God created trees at just the right height so that giraffes, with their long necks, would not have to be constantly be leaning over and getting backache, or toppling over.

There is more to be said about arguments from design generally.  What are they?  What do they argue from?  What are they arguing for?

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