Antony Flew: the Existence and Belief of God Essay

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How can I start this paper? Hmmmm…..??? Let’s begin with the parable. Antony Flew starts off his speech by telling the audience this story of two explorers that accidentally came upon a garden in a jungle. In this garden, there were many beautiful flowers and weeds.

One explorer says, “some gardener must tend this plot”. While the other disagrees, “there is no gardener”. So, these two explorers tried to figure out who was right and who was wrong. They waited the whole night, but no gardener was ever seen. Then the “Believer” said that there must be a gardener, that he “is an invisible gardener”.

He tried everything he could to convince to the “Sceptic” that he was right, barbed-wire, electrifying fence, patrolling bloodhounds. But no gardener was ever found. Still the “Believer” was not convinced. He gave the “Sceptic” many excuses as to why they couldn’t see the gardener. The “Sceptic” told him that he was crazy because what started out as a simple assertion that there was a gardener, turned into “an imaginary gardener”.

This parable that Flew is using is clearly an analogy to the existence and belief of God. The garden represents God, “…invisible, intangible, insensible…”.

The “Sceptic” says there is no gardener, just as an atheist denies the existence God. The “Believer” says there is a gardener, like a theist telling everyone that God exists. The “Believer” tries to prove that there was a planter, who planted the seeds for the flowers to grow. This planter takes care of them, a parallelism to God supposedly taking care of “us”.

Flew talks about assertions. He states that “what starts as an assertion, that something exists…may be reduced step by step to an altogether different status”.

He uses the example of how if one man were to talk about sexual behavior, “another man prefers to talk of Aphrodite”. They don’t seem to make sense. How can one confuse the idea of a sexual behavior with Aphrodite? He also points out the fact that “a fine brash hypothesis may be killed by inches, the death of a thousand qualifications”.

A good example of this is when he said that “God loves us as a father loves his children”. He states that when we see a child dying of cancer, his “earthy father” is there, to help him, nurture him, trying his best for his son. But his “Heavenly Father”, God, is no where to be found, that he “reveals no obvious sign of concern”.

The qualification that is made is that “God’s love is not a merely human love or it is an inscrutable love.” What started as a simple statement “God loves us as a father loves his children”, has now turned into this complex idea that “God’s love is not a merely human love…” Also this new, complex thought, have started even more questions about that nature of God’s love, “what is this assurance of God’s love worth…” This is what Flew was talking about, “death of a thousand qualification”, something that is simple, is turned into a complex idea that needs more answering.

Flew also talks about other assertions such as “God has a plan”, “God created the world”. He calls them, a “peculiar danger, a endemic evil, of theological utterance.”

He states that they first look “very much like assertions, vast cosmological assertions”, but there is no sure sign, no evidence that “they either are or are intended to be, assertions”. Flew said that, “for is the utterance is indeed an assertion, it will necessarily be equivalent to a denial of the negation of that assertion.” What he meant is that if one asserts something then one must deny something.

He then goes on by saying that, “anything which would count against the assertion, or which would induce the speaker to withdraw it and to admit that it had been mistaken, must be part of the meaning of the negation of that assertion….and if there is nothing which a putative assertion denies then there is nothing which it asserts either; and so it is not really and assertion.” What does he mean by this?

He proposes that if an assertion must be continuously qualified in the face of evidence that counts against it, then the assertion is meaningless. For example, the “Sceptic” asking the “Believer”, “Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?” He was telling the “Believer” that there was no gardener, because they had watched the area for a long period of time and he never showed up.

The evidence counts against the gardener. The “Believer’s” statement had been “so eroded by qualification that it was no longer an assertion at all.” It was now very meaningless. He claims that in order for a belief to be meaningful it must be possible for it to be disproved. R.M. Hare also starts his speech with another parable. It is about this lunatic, who was “convinced that all dons want to murder him.”

A “don” refers to a Professor at an English University. He believes that they are all out to get him. He had this strong “blik.” Hare refers to a blik as an “undefined term that appears akin to an unprovable assumption.” A blik is like a very strong belief, I guess.

Many would say that this person is “deluded.” But what this mean? What is he deluded about? He strongly believes that they were out to get him. But his friends have shown him that they were not. Hare refers to him as having “an insane blik about dons.” That our bilk is sane. He explains that there are two sides to every argument.

Hare uses another example to give a better understanding of what a blik is. He talks about how when he is driving, he notices that his movement with the steering wheel will be followed by a corresponding alteration in the direction of the car. He thinks about steering failures, skids, and how his car is made.

He said that he knows what must go wrong (problems like the steel rods break or joints are defected) if he was to have a steering failure. He said that he have a “blik about steel and its properties.” What he probably meant was that, he knows that steel is a very strong compound and that it does not break that easily. So, his blik is a sane one.

But what if he were to switch his blik? “People would say I was silly about steel”, that he was crazy. There would be a difference between the respective bliks. For example, he would never go inside a car because he would feel that the care is unsafe.

Hare goes on to say that our perspective of the world depends on our bliks about the world and that differences between bliks about the world cannot be settled by observation of what happens in the world. He is trying to say that one’s bliks is one’s bliks, no matter what everyone tells you, no matter how much evidence there is to prove one wrong. That the individual will continue to have the same blik.

Hare points out that Flew “selects for attack is to regard this kind of talk as some sort of explanation.” Hare believes that without a blik, we can not explain what goes on in the world, “there can be no explanation” because it is “our bliks that we decide what is and is not an explanation”.

The example that he gives is what if “everything that happened, happened by pure chance.” He says that this is not an assertion because anything will happen or not happen. There is no asserting something because we are not trying to deny something here.

This is totally different from Flew’s argument, that if one asserts something that one must deny something. With this belief, he says “we should not be able to explain or predict or plan anything.” Thus, they are no different then from someone who doesn’t have this belief because they will not be asserting anything. “This is the sort of difference that there is between those who really believe in God and those who really disbelieve in him,” said Hare .

Hare concludes that there is a very important difference between Flew’s parable and his. He tells us that in Flew’s “the explorers do not mind about their garden, they discuss it with interest, but not with concern.” But in his, “my lunatic, poor fellow, minds about dons, and I mind about the steering of my car.”

What is he trying to say here? I think that he’s trying to mention that in Flew’s argument that people, the explorers, don’t mind about God. They talk about it and everything but are not “concern.” What exactly does this mean not “concern”? Hare tries to point that in his parable that his explains care about themselves.

They care about what goes on around them. They not only talk about it. “It is because I mind very much about what goes on in the garden in which I find myself, that I am unable to share the explorers’ detachment,” said Hare. He tried to point out that if he was in the same situation, he would not share the same views as the explorers. Which is a belief in the g ardener, a belief in God.

Both of these man had some strong viewpoints. Flew states, if one asserts something, then one must deny something. What Hare is trying to say is that, there is two sides to every idea or “assertions”, a blik. That that is a sane blik and a insane blik. Most people have the sane one and those who don’t share this view is point as lunatics.

But no one is not trying to deny something here. The person with the insane blik is not wrong or that he’s not trying to deny something, it’s just that his views are different. Flew states, “what would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence of, God?”

Hare’s reply to this question is that he calls this “completely victorious.” Nothing have to occur because those who does not share this belief in God have an insane blik. They are not trying to deny that God doesn’t but rather that they views are just different.

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