Inconsistent triad

An inconsistent triad consists of three propositions of which at most two can be true. For example:

  1. Alice loves me.
  2. If Alice loves me, then she would have sent flowers.
  3. Alice has not sent flowers.

If one finds oneself believing all three propositions of an inconsistent triad, then (in order to be rational) one must give up or modify at least one of those beliefs. Maybe Alice doesn't love me, or maybe she wouldn't send flowers to me if she did, or maybe she actually has sent flowers.

Any inconsistent triad {A, B, C} gives rise to a trilemma {{A, B}, {B, C}, {C, A}}.

The problem of evil

The problem of evil is often given in the form of an inconsistent triad. For example, J. L. Mackie gave the following three propositions:

  1. God is omnipotent
  2. God is omnibenevolent
  3. Evil exists

Mackie argued that these propositions were inconsistent, and thus, that at least one of these propositions must be false. Either:

  • God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, and evil does not exist.
  • God is omnipotent, but not omnibenevolent; thus, evil exists by God's will.
  • God is omnibenevolent, but not omnipotent; thus, evil exists, but it is not within God's power to stop it (at least not instantaneously).

Many responses have been made to the problem of evil, including the proposition that evil exists as a consequence of a greater good, such as free will; that evil is an illusion; and that evil is necessary for spiritual growth.

See also


  • Howard-Snyder, F., Howard-Snyder, D., & Wasserman, R. (2009). The Power of Logic (4th Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill. (p. 336) ISBN 978-0-07-340737-1

Acosmism, in contrast to pantheism, denies the reality of the universe, seeing it as ultimately illusory, (the prefix "a-" in Greek meaning negation; like "un-" in English), and only the infinite unmanifest Absolute as real. Conceptual versions of Acosmism are found in eastern and western philosophies.

Agnostic existentialism

Agnostic existentialism is a type of existentialism which makes no claim to know whether there is a "greater picture"; rather, it simply asserts that the greatest truth is that which the individual chooses to act upon. It feels that to know the greater picture, whether there is one or not, is impossible, or impossible so far, or of little value. Like the Christian existentialist, the agnostic existentialist believes existence is subjective.

Argument from free will

The argument from free will, also called the paradox of free will or theological fatalism, contends that omniscience and free will are incompatible and that any conception of God that incorporates both properties is therefore inherently contradictory. These arguments are deeply concerned with the implications of predestination.

Argument from love

The Argument from love is an argument for the existence of God. The best-known defender of the argument is Roger Scruton.

Argument from miracles

The argument from miracles is an argument for the existence of God that relies on the belief that events witnessed and described as miracles – i.e. as events not explicable by natural or scientific laws – indicate the intervention of the supernatural.

One example of this argument is the Christological argument: the claim that historical evidence proves that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that this can only be explained if God exists. Another is the claim that many of the Qur'an's prophecies have been fulfilled and that this too can only be explained if God (Allah) exists.

Defenders of the argument include C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and William of Ockham.

Argument from morality

The argument from morality is an argument for the existence of God. Arguments from morality tend to be based on moral normativity or moral order. Arguments from moral normativity observe some aspect of morality and argue that God is the best or only explanation for this, concluding that God must exist. Arguments from moral order are based on the asserted need for moral order to exist in the universe. They claim that, for this moral order to exist, God must exist to support it. The argument from morality is noteworthy in that one cannot evaluate the soundness of the argument without attending to almost every important philosophical issue in meta-ethics.

German philosopher Immanuel Kant devised an argument from morality based on practical reason. Kant argued that the goal of humanity is to achieve perfect happiness and virtue (the summum bonum) and believed that an afterlife must exist in order for this to be possible, and that God must exist to provide this. In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis argued that "conscience reveals to us a moral law whose source cannot be found in the natural world, thus pointing to a supernatural Lawgiver." Lewis argued that accepting the validity of human reason as a given must include accepting the validity of practical reason, which could not be valid without reference to a higher cosmic moral order which could not exist without a God to create and/or establish it. A related argument is from conscience; John Henry Newman argued that the conscience supports the claim that objective moral truths exist because it drives people to act morally even when it is not in their own interest. Newman argued that, because the conscience suggests the existence of objective moral truths, God must exist to give authority to these truths.

Contemporary defenders of the argument from morality are Graham Ward, Alister McGrath and William Lane Craig.

Atheist's Wager

The Atheist's Wager, popularised by the philosopher Michael Martin and published in his 1990 book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, is an atheistic response to Pascal's Wager regarding the existence of God.

One version of the Atheist's Wager suggests that since a kind and loving god would reward good deeds – and that if no gods exist, good deeds would still leave a positive legacy – one should live a good life without religion. Another formulation suggests that a god may reward honest disbelief and punish a dishonest belief in the divine.

Atheistic existentialism

Atheistic existentialism is a kind of existentialism which strongly diverged from the Christian existential works of Søren Kierkegaard and developed within the context of an atheistic world view. The philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche provided existentialism's theoretical foundation in the 19th century, although their differing views on religion proved essential to the development of alternate types of existentialism. Atheistic existentialism was formally recognized after the 1943 publication of Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre and Sartre later explicitly alluded to it in Existentialism is a Humanism in 1946.

Cataphatic theology

Cataphatic theology or kataphatic theology is theology that uses "positive" terminology to describe or refer to the divine – specifically, God – i.e. terminology that describes or refers to what the divine is believed to be, in contrast to the "negative" terminology used in apophatic theology to indicate what it is believed the divine is not.

George I. Mavrodes

George I. Mavrodes is an American philosopher who is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Michigan.

Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, is a term found in English translations of the Bible that is understood differently among the Abrahamic religions. The term is also used to describe aspects of other religions and belief structures.

J. L. Mackie

John Leslie Mackie (1917–1981) was an Australian philosopher. He made significant contributions to the philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language, and is perhaps best known for his views on meta-ethics, especially his defence of moral scepticism. He authored six books. His most widely known, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (1977), opens by boldly stating that "There are no objective values." It goes on to argue that because of this ethics must be invented, rather than discovered.

List of philosophies

Philosophical schools of thought and philosophical movements.

Natural-law argument

Natural-law argument for the existence of God was especially popular in the eighteenth century as a result of the influence of Sir Isaac Newton. As Bertrand Russell pointed out much later, many of the things we consider to be laws of nature, in fact, are human conventions. Indeed, Albert Einstein has shown that Newton's law of universal gravitation was such a convention, and though elegant and useful, one that did not describe the universe precisely. Most true laws are rather trivial, such as mathematical laws, laws of probability, and so forth, and much less impressive than those that were envisioned by Newton and his followers. Russell wrote:

"If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others -- the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it -- if there was a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary. You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate law-giver. In short, this whole argument from natural law no longer has anything like the strength that it used to have."The argument of natural laws as a basis for God was changed by Christian figures such as Thomas Aquinas, in order to fit biblical scripture and establish a Judeo-Christian teleological law.

Nicholas Wolterstorff

Nicholas Wolterstorff (born January 21, 1932) is an American philosopher and a liturgical theologian. He is currently Noah Porter Professor Emeritus Philosophical Theology at Yale University. A prolific writer with wide-ranging philosophical and theological interests, he has written books on aesthetics, epistemology, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and philosophy of education. In Faith and Rationality, Wolterstorff, Alvin Plantinga, and William Alston developed and expanded upon a view of religious epistemology that has come to be known as Reformed epistemology. He also helped to establish the journal Faith and Philosophy and the Society of Christian Philosophers.

Proof of the Truthful

The Proof of the Truthful (Arabic: برهان الصديقين‎, romanized: burhan al-siddiqin, also translated Demonstration of the Truthful or Proof of the Veracious, among others) is a formal argument for proving the existence of God introduced by the Islamic philosopher Avicenna (also known as Ibn Sina, 980–1037). Avicenna argued that there must be a "necessary existent" (Arabic: واجب الوجود‎, romanized: wajib al-wujud), an entity that cannot not exist. The argument says that the entire set of contingent things must have a cause that is not contingent because otherwise it would be included in the set. Furthermore, through a series of arguments, he derived that the necessary existent must have attributes that he identified with the God of Islam, including unity, simplicity, immateriality, intellect, power, generosity, and goodness.Historian of philosophy Peter Adamson called the argument one of the most influential medieval arguments for God's existence, and Avicenna's biggest contribution to the history of philosophy. It was enthusiastically received and repeated (sometimes with modification) by later philosophers, including generations of Muslim philosophers, Western Christian philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, and Jewish philosophers such as Maimonides.

Critics of the argument include Averroes, who objected to its methodology, Al-Ghazali, who disagreed with its characterization of God, and modern critics who state that its piecemeal derivation of God's attributes allows people to accept parts of the argument but still reject God's existence. There is no consensus among modern scholars on the classification of the argument; some say that it is ontological while others say it is cosmological.

Religious skepticism

Religious skepticism is a type of skepticism relating to religion. Religious skeptics question religious authority and are not necessarily anti-religious but skeptical of specific or all religious beliefs and/or practices. Socrates was one of the most prominent and first religious skeptics of whom there are records; he questioned the legitimacy of the beliefs of his time in the existence of the Greek gods. Religious skepticism is not the same as atheism or agnosticism and some religious skeptics are deists.

Robert Merrihew Adams

Robert Merrihew Adams (born 1937) is an American analytic philosopher of metaphysics, religion, and morality.

Theological noncognitivism

Theological noncognitivism is the position that religious language – specifically, words such as "God" – are not cognitively meaningful. It is sometimes considered synonymous with ignosticism.

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