Explain and evaluate the Cosmological argument for the existence of God.

Your essay should focus on the relevant syllabus readings for your chosen topic.* You should also make some use of the additional reading(s) provided for your chosen topic.

*our syllabus treatment of the Problem of Evil is brief, so I’ve listed additional course text readings for that topic.

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1. Explain and evaluate the Cosmological argument for the existence of God.

Additional Readings:

i) Bruce Reichenbach, “Cosmological Argument”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2010 Edition)


ii) Chad Meister “Philosophy of Religion” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

–b. Cosmological Arguments–

Philosophy of Religion

Philosophy 1413 B1 2020 Essay Instructions

You are encouraged to meet with me at least once to discuss the plans for your paper. I am happy to go over detailed point form outlines. I will also read the first two pages of prose, including your intro. I will not, however, read full prose drafts in advance of submission.

General Instructions on Content, Formatting, Style and Submission

1. The paper must be written on one of the provided essay topics. But you are free to focus your paper on a particular set of issues/arguments within your general topic.

2. You are not required to do any external research for this paper. However, if you do use ideas or material from other sources, you must cite them. Review the library guidelines concerning plagiarism (the link is on the ACORN site). If you have any further questions about this issue, bring them to me.

3. The paper should focus on the relevant syllabus readings, and it should make some use of the additional readings provided.

4. You may use any of the major formatting styles (Chicago, APA etc.).

-but do not provide a separate title page (even if your chosen formatting style requires one). Place the title, along with your name and student number, at the top of the first page.

5. Remember to number your pages.

6. References to the course text should be cited (like any other source used in the paper).

8. Some use of first person personal is fine (“I think”, I argue”). Don’t overdo it.

9. As noted on ACORN, you will submit the paper through the ACORN site. I do not require hardcopy submissions.

10. The file name of your submission should indicate your paper topic.

Guidelines for Writing and Structure

This advice section follows the guidelines found in A. P. Martinich, Philosophical Writing (Blackwell Publishers, 1996)

1. Provide a short introduction

-your very first paragraph should do two things:

1) Set the topic or subject. Basically, let me know which of the questions you are answering. Perhaps clarify the specific area within the general debate that your paper focuses on. This should take no more than a few sentences.

-the ability to a compelling introduction that captures the reader’s attention is an important skill.

-but I am not testing/evaluating that skill in this assignment. Keep the introduction short.

2) State your thesis. What stand are you taking? This should take no more than a few sentences.

-provide a clear thesis statement.

-in other words, don’t make me wait until the end of the paper to discover your conclusion.

-you state your conclusion/thesis at the end of the first paragraph.

-your goals are made clear at the outset.

Sample Intros:

This paper explains and evaluates two similar versions of teleological argument for the existence of God, the watch-maker argument put forward by William Paley and the argument from experience articulated by David Hume’s Cleanthes. I argue that, while many of the objections to Paley and Cleanthes’ arguments can be answered, the teleological argument still fails. The teleological argument, because it must treat God’s mind as a complex machine, collapses into absurdity.

This paper explains and evaluates two similar versions of teleological argument for the existence of God, the watch-maker argument put forward by William Paley and the argument from experience articulated by David Hume’s Cleanthes. I argue that a hybrid teleological argument, one that combines Cleanthes’ and Paley’s ideas, can overcome both the criticisms of Hume’s other characters and the famous Darwinian Objection.

2. State your basic assumptions or project limitations.*

It’s good for the reader to be clear about the parameters of your paper. Just how much are you trying to prove? What basic ideas do treat as given for the purposes of the paper?

-the second paragraph should state any basic assumptions—perhaps you are relying on a controversial empirical claim.

-but don’t forget about the problem of circularity. Do not rely on an assumption that treats your thesis/conclusion as assumed. Do not rely on an assumption that would be agreeable only to those persons who already accept your thesis/conclusion.

-perhaps there are relevant arguments or responses that, for reasons for recommended paper length, you cannot deal with. If, so let me know at the beginning of the paper.

*You may find that you have nothing to say here—no assumptions or parameters to state. When in doubt, consult with me.

3. Provide a plan of the paper.

The third paragraph of your paper should provide the reader with a road map to the body of the paper.

In what order do you plan to present the issues?
What are the main steps in your argument(s)?

In 2500 (approx.) word papers, such a summary shouldn’t be very long (around 10 to 15 sentences)

You may find it helpful to break the body of the paper up into numbered sections and/or subsections.

The body of the paper should conform to the outline provided. (pg. 15)

-starting the writing process with an outline may be helpful.

-develop a list of the issues/points you want to cover.

-think about the best order of discussion.

-when the paper is finished, you punch a slimmed down but well-written version of that outline into the paper as your 3rd paragraph.

-so the reader starts out knowing:

1) the subject/topic & your thesis/conclusion.

2) your assumptions & parameters.

3) your plan for the body of the paper.

4. Technical terms

Any technical terms (ones that the reader is unlikely to understand) that have already appeared in the first few paragraphs should be defined before the body of the paper beings. The same holds for any technical term that, while it hasn’t shown up yet, but will show up frequently in the body of the paper.

-if a specific technical term doesn’t show up in the intro and doesn’t show up until late in the body of paper, pause to define it when it comes up.

-where possible, avoid “big” words.

-where you use them, make sure you understand them.

-and take the trouble to define them (using more ordinary language).

-“big” words, fancy words/technical terms have one legitimate purpose. They serve as short forms for ideas/concepts that can be defined or explained in plain language.

-once the plain language definition is in place, you can save words and time by using the relevant technical term.

-economy of words.

5. This completes the setup for the body of the paper—on to the body of the paper.

1) Show me you understand the material/debate that you are covering for your paper topic.

2) Attempt to prove your thesis/conclusion.

1) Show me you understand the material/debate that you are covering for your paper topic.


-assume that your reader has only very limited (if any) background in your chosen subject.

-you show that you understand the material by explaining it to another intelligent person (but one who is not acquainted with the relevant readings).

-in a first-year paper, I expect about 50-70% of the body of the paper to be expository.

-don’t assume that your reader understands any of the arguments from the relevant readings (eg. the reader has never heard of Paley or his watch). Again, your reader hasn’t done the readings.

-you must provide a thorough and charitable presentation of the opposing arguments—do not straw man your opponent.

2) Attempt to prove your thesis/conclusion.


-for starters, you must provide a thorough and charitable presentation of the opposing arguments—do not straw man your opponent.

-you don’t refute the teleological argument by ignoring or misrepresenting Cleanthes’ and Paley’s arguments.

-you don’t legitimate the teleological argument by ignoring or misrepresenting the criticisms forward by Hume (through Philo and Demea) or other relevant authors.

-in the body of the paper, you do three things:

i) explain the terrain/debate;

ii) present your arguments;

iii) consider possible objections;

-but organizing the body of the paper is a bit more complicated than do the i), do the ii), do the iii).


-explain issue X.

-present arguments concerning X.

-consider objections to your arguments about X.

-move on the issue Y…

-other advice on arguments and objections…

-the order of discussion that you end up following should be reflected in the outline that you provide to the reader at the beginning of the paper.

Sticking to the point…

-paragraph structure.

Some sample paragraphs (this is what good writing looks like):

Amy Gutmann “Civic Education and Social Diversity” Ethics, Vol. 105, No. 3 (Apr., 1995), pp. 557-579.

Consider the principle of fair equality of opportunity and one of its core demands, nondiscrimination in hiring. Now imagine a society whose citizens tolerate but do not respect each other. Citizens abide by the dictum “live and let live” but otherwise try not to associate with people from unfamiliar backgrounds. Whites do not have any positive regard for blacks, men for women, Protestants for Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, and vice versa. Members of these groups have inherited significantly unequal social and economic positions in society. However democratic it is in other respects, this society cannot support fair employment practices for all its citizens. A government cannot effectively enforce nondiscrimination in hiring in a social context of widespread disrespect among members of different races, ethnicities, religions, or genders. Even the minimalist understanding of fair equality of opportunity as nondiscrimination in hiring is therefore unachievable without mutual respect among citizens. Political liberalism does not value mutual respect as a nonpolitical virtue-part of what living an open-minded or autonomous life entails-but it still embraces mutual respect as an essential political virtue because it is a practical prerequisite for nondiscriminatory employment practices.

Arthur Ripstein, “As If It Had Never Happened”, 48 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1957 (2007),

My central contention will be that the law of torts protects each person’s means against other persons, so that each person is secure in the means that he or she has. The law of torts does this by articulating each person’s private rights, as against other private persons, to the means that they happen to have. Your ability to wish is in some sense already secure from the actions of others. With your ability to choose, things are otherwise. If there are many separate persons, each can only have his or her means securely, provided that everyone is subject to reciprocal limits on the ways in which they use what is theirs. You must use your means in a way that is consistent with everyone else being able to use what is, in turn, theirs. Achieving that consistency requires limits on the side effects of one person’s activities on the means that others have, and also restrictions preventing people from using means that belong to others. If such consistency is achieved, then everyone is secure in their capacity to choose, because it is up to each person to decide what purposes his or her means will be used for. As objects in the natural world, the means that you have are subject to generation and decay, so they may become more useful or stop being useful, with the passage of time. Your rights in private law simply guarantee their security against the actions of other persons, not against the ravages of time.

A few more thoughts

-when to quote.

-how to quote.

-block quotes.

Phil 1413 B1 2020 Final Essay Grade sheet

Student Name:



Writing (grammar, style, clarity of expression, word usage, paragraph structure)

Organization (thesis statement, outline, overall organization of paper)


Understanding (explanation of issues, sensitivity to opposing views)

Argument (case for the stated thesis)

books you will use;

Louis P. Pojman & James Fieser, Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings 4th Edition (Oxford, 2008).

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