Classical Theism, Philosophy, and Religion Forum

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3/17/2017 2:33 am  #1

Classical theism,God and source of meaning of life..

Hello everyone,
Today I decided to post my first topic..I want to discuss this intriguing paper I recently read(and maybe you have read too) its titled "GOD, THE MEANING OF LIFE, AND A NEW ARGUMENT FOR ATHEISM" written by Jason Megill and Daniel Linford  ..its Penultimate Draft available online here ..

The authors argue that existence of God is not entailed by our lives having meaning because while if God of classical theism exists our life have meaning ,God can't be the source of this meaning (means we can't base meaningfulness of our lives on God even if he exists) so they try to conclude from this that atheism is rationally more justifiable than theism because while God can be sufficient and compatible with our lives having meaning,he can't be the necessary condition for our lives having meaning. Means the highly intuitive axiological arguments for theism which say that existence of God should be inferred because God is source of meaning and value fails..(this is important because this type of arguments are used in pragmatic defences of other arguments for God existence where any given premise is dubious) ..

 The authors first argue against the view that existence of God can be somehow compatible with us living meaningless lives.they argue along these lines,that we,living meaningless lives is a gratuitous evil and that is incompatible with existence of God of classical theism..

Then authors offer four arguments against God based account of meaning of life and for the conclusion that God can't be the source of meaning and addresses some potential objections 

I myself find these arguments highly plausible particularly second and third  one..

Its these four arguments I would like to read your thoughts on,from a classical theistic perspective (if you're willing to go through them )..
Otherwise I would be interested in reading about the Axiological consequences of Classical theism,what accounts for meaning of our lives from a Thomistic perspective (if there is any, distinct from theological considerations),what case can be made that existence of  Classical theist God should be desired as opposed to its nonexistence ?
Does meaning of our lives also dependent on our nature(ends?) and can be known(at least to a large extent) independently of God similarly to the thomistic views on morality ? (this is related to the fourth argument the authors present as they discuss Euthyphro  dilemma and Classical theistic reply to it ,divine simplicity,etc) 

At the end of the papers the authors discuss what is related to what I find most plausible version of the argument from evil..that is  that the very epistemic possibility of creatures leading pointless,painful and meaningless life (basically whole life full of nothing but gratuitous evil and suffering) is incompatible with the existence of Classical theistic-Anselmian God . Can classical theistic metaphysics help here ? maybe its views on modality ?

Thank you for reading. 



3/20/2017 12:14 pm  #2

Re: Classical theism,God and source of meaning of life..

Hi Calhoun,

I honestly have not gone through the paper you posed and am basing my point on the summary you have written here. I am really not sure if there is a specific Thomist argument of existence of God using the meaning of life (at least none that I have read) but there are argument to the ultimate end of an agent, which "point" to God, see here it kind of deals with the fact that even if we act in ways that do are not aligned with the ultimate end we are still moving in that direction since we are always looking for our good and the ultimate Good is God. You can also read St. Thomas answers related to this in the Summa here

For the problem of evil, see here (far better job then I could do here).



Today 8:55 am  #3

Re: Classical theism,God and source of meaning of life..

Hello, Calhoun! Thanks for the article. I have been thinking about it a lot since the day you posted it. I decided to make an account so I could comment. 

I think there are some problems with Megill and Linford's arguments that have to do with imprecision in their language. I am in the process of writing a thorough counterargument, but it is taking longer than I expected, so I will just share the gist of it. I am something of a beginner to philosophy, so if I a missing something please let me know. 

I think we can take the phrase "the meaning of life" as Megill and Linford use it and divide it into three separate concepts: (1) the purpose of a life, (2) the value of a life, and (3) the meaning of a life. For myself, I think the meaningful life is something like a life lived for a certain purpose. "Purpose" is an end for which one acts, and value is the condition of being desirable. Megill and Linford's arguments lose a lot of force once these distinctions are made. 

Under classical theism, humanity has an innate value and an ultimate purpose. Our ultimate purpose, ie. the purpose for which God created us and the optimum condition for our flourishing, is loving union with God. But as the freedom to choose is a necessary condition for loving relationship, God rightly gives us freedom to choose to pursue our own ends. Some choose to spend their life on baser purposes. We say to these people that they are living "a meaningless life," but they do not lack purpose or value. They have purpose and value simply by being human persons created and loved by God. By my reading, this account of purpose, value, and meaning avoids most, if not all, of Megill and Linford's arguments. Try it out at and tell me what you think.  


Today 10:26 pm  #4

Re: Classical theism,God and source of meaning of life..

Hi Jason and Quod-est-Devium 
Thank you both for your responses..
​About Problem of evil, I intend to make a separate thread for its discussion in the future.

About the paper, your distinctions does make sense , but I find it difficult to see how they can be made to provide counterarguments. given the very conclusion their four arguments seek to establish is that God can't be source of meaning of life, Of course under classical theism everything is ultimately Causally explained by existence of First uncaused cause including morality and value, but I think that authors mean that such a being can't be an object of desire just in virtue of its existence and nothing else ...

If in case there is some problem with their arguments I think it comes down to some confusion about what theists mean by calling God essential for meaningful life ..I would be interested in seeing more on that ...


Last edited by Calhoun (Today 10:38 pm)

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