- Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology provides a comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible overview of the philosophy of religion. Under the careful editorship of Brian Davies, the book contains a selection of the best classical and contemporary writings on the philosophy of religion together with substantial commentary, introductory material, discussion questions, and detailed guides to further reading. The editorial material sets the extracts in context and guides the reader through them. Taken as a whole, the book offers the ideal, self-contained introduction to the questions which have most preoccupied Western philosophers when thinking about religion.
- The selection is both very comprehensive and very generous. 65 sizeable extracts map out the full range of topics most commonly encounter in courses on the philosophy of religion. Part I looks at the relation between philosophy and religious belief, Parts II-IV consider the existence. and nature of God; Part V addresses the problem of evil; and Parts VI and VII are devoted to the relationship between morality and religion and to the question of life after death1.
- No other book on the market offers this combination of introductory guide along with such a substantial anthology of key writings.
- Brian Davies is Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University, New York.
Amazon Customer Review
- Davies has succeeded in producing a standard text for those engaged in undergraduate study of philosophy of religion. The book is divided into the main sections of inquiry that the philosophy of religion is concerned with: religious language, arguments for and against the existence of God, reason and religious belief and the nature of God, etc. Within each section Davies presents a neat introductory chapter, detailing the elements of the argument that the book records and demonstrating the historical and conceptual dialectic that they form. The remainder of the section then holds the appropriate primary texts pertaining to his introduction.
- Not only does this introduction and exposition-method demonstrate to the uninitiated the form that philosophical discussion takes, it also provides an easily referencable starting point for essays and further research into the topic. This is enhanced by the excellent 'Notes on Contributors' at the beginning of the book, the thorough index at the close, and the questions for consideration at the end of each section.
- The selection of texts may not be as broad as some anthologies, but what Davies seems to be aiming to do is build the confidence of the beginner within the safe and well defined structure of his book and this he does well. Adequate stimulus for further research is provided in the suggested reading.
- Davies must be congratulated on producing an easily understandable, eminently quotable guide to philosophy of religion. If you must choose between this and his "Davies (Brian) - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion" don't be distracted by the other's slimness and comparative cheapness: this is the superior book.
Notes on Contributors – xv
General introduction – 1
Advice on further reading – 11
- Philosophy and religious belief
- The problem of God-Talk
- Arguments for God's existence
- Cosmological arguments
- Design arguments
- Ontological arguments
- God and human experience
- What is God?
- The problem of evil
- Morality and religion
- People and life after death2
Index – 735
"Anselm - Anselm Replies to Gaunilo"
Source: Davies (Brian) - Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology, Chapter 31 (pp. 318-326)
- Since it is not the Fool, against whom I spoke in my tract, who takes me up, but one who, though speaking on the Fool's behalf, is an orthodox Christian and no fool, it will suffice if I reply to the Christian.
- Part 1:
- You say then—you, whoever you are, who claim that the Fool can say these things—that the being than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought is not in the mind except as what cannot be thought of, in the true sense, at all. And [you claim] moreover, that what I say does not follow, namely, that 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' exists in reality from the fact that it exists in the mind, any more than that the Lost Island most certainly exists from the fact that, when it is described in words, he who hears it described has no doubt that it exists in his mind. I reply as follows: If 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' is neither understood nor thought of, and is neither in the mind nor in thought, then it is evident that either God is not that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought or is not understood nor thought of, and is not in the mind nor in thought. Now my strongest argument that this is false is to appeal to your faith and to your conscience. Therefore 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' is truly understood and thought and is in the mind and in thought. For this reason, [the arguments] by which you attempt to prove the contrary are either not true, or what you believe follows from them does not in fact follow.
- Moreover, you maintain that, from the fact that that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought is understood, it does not follow that it is in the mind, nor that, if it is in the mind, it therefore exists in reality. I insist, however, that simply if it can be thought it is necessary that it exists. For, 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' cannot be thought save as being without a beginning. But whatever can be thought as existing and does not actually exist can be thought as having a beginning of its existence. Consequently, 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' cannot be thought as existing and yet not actually exist. If, therefore, it can be thought as existing, it exists of necessity.
- Further: even if it can be thought of, then certainly it necessarily exists. For none who denies or doubts that there is something-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought, denies or doubts that, if this being were to exist, it would not be capable of not-existing either actually or in the mind—otherwise it would not be that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought But, whatever can be thought as existing and does not actually exist, could, if it were to exist, possibly not exist either actually or in the mind. For this reason, if it can merely be thought, ‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' cannot not exist. However, let us suppose that it does not exist even though it can be thought. Now whatever can be thought and does not actually exist would not be, if it should exist, ‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'. If, therefore, it were 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' it would not be that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought, which is completely absurd. It is, then, false that something-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought does not exist if it can merely be thought; and it is all the more false if it can be understood and be in the mind.
- I will go further: It cannot be doubted that whatever does not exist in any one place or at any one time, even though it does exist in some place or at some time, can however be thought to exist at no place and at no time, just as it does not exist in some place or at some time. For what did not exist yesterday and today exists can thus, as it is understood not to have existed yesterday, be supposed not to exist at any time. And that which does not exist here in this place, and does exist elsewhere can, in the same way as it does not exist here, be thought not to exist anywhere. Similarly with a thing some of whose particular parts do not exist in the place and it the time its other parts exist—all of its parts, and therefore the whole thing itself, can be thought to exist at no time and in no place. For even if it be said that time always exists and that the world is everywhere, the former does not, however, always exist as a whole, nor is the other as a whole everywhere; and as certain particular parts of time do not exist when other parts do exist, therefore they can be even thought not to exist at any time. Again, as certain particular parts of the world do not exist in the same place where other parts do exist, they can thus be supposed not to exist anywhere. Moreover, what is made up of parts can be broken up in thought and can possibly not exist. Thus it is that whatever does not exist as a whole at a certain place and time can be thought not to exist, even if it does actually exist. But 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' cannot be thought not to exist if it does actually exist; otherwise, if it exists it is not that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought, which is absurd. In no way, then, does this being not exist as a whole in any particular place or at any particular time; but it exists as a whole at every time and in every place.
- Do you not consider then that that about which we understand these things can to some extent be thought or understood, or can exist in thought or in the mind? For if it cannot, we could not understand these things about it. And if you say that, because it is not completely understood, it cannot be understood at all and cannot be in the mind, then you must say [equally] that one who cannot see the purest light of the sun directly does not see daylight, which is the same thing as the light of the sun. Surely then 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' is understood and is in the mind to the extent that we understand these things about it.
- Part 2:
- I said, then, in the argument that you criticize, that when the Fool hears ‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' spoken of he understands what he hears. Obviously if it is spoken of in a known language and he does not understand it, then either he has no intelligence at all, or a completely obtuse one.
- Next I said that, if it is understood it is in the mind; or does what has been proved to exist necessarily in actual reality not exist in any mind? But you will say that, if it is in the mind, yet it does not follow that it is understood. Observe then from the fact that it is understood, it does follow that it is in the mind. For, just as what is thought is thought by means of a thought, and what is thought by a thought is thus, as thought, in thought, so also, what is understood is understood by mind, and what is understood by the mind is thus, as understood, in the mind. What could be more obvious than this?
- I said further that if a thing exists even in the mind alone, it can be thought to exist also in reality, which is greater. If, then, it (namely, ‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought') exists in the mind alone, it is something than which a greater can be thought. What, I ask you, could be more logical? For if it exists even in the mind alone, cannot it be thought to exist also in reality? And if it can [be so thought], is it not the case that he who thinks this thinks of something greater than it, if it exists in the mind alone? What, then, could follow more logically than that, if 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' exists, in the mind alone, it is the same as that-than-which-a-greater-can-be-thought. But surely 'that-than-which-a-greater-can-be-thought' is not for any mind [the same as] 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'. Does it not follow then, that 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought', if it exists in anyone's mind does not exist in the mind alone? For if it exists in the mind alone, it is that-than-which-a-greater-can-be-thought, which is absurd.
- Part 3:
You claim, however, that this is as though someone asserted that it cannot be doubted that a certain island in the ocean (which is more fertile than all other land: and which, because of the difficulty or even the impossibility of discovering what does not exist, is called the ‘Lost Island') truly exists in reality since anyone easily understands it when it is described in words. Now I truly promise that anyone should discover for me something existing either in reality or in the mind alone—except 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'—to which the logic of my argument would apply, then I shall find that Lost Island and give it, never more to be lost, to that person. It has already been clearly seen, however, that 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' cannot be thought not to exist, because it exists as a matter of such certain truth. Otherwise it would not exist at all. In short, if anyone says that he thinks that this being does not exist, I reply that, when he thinks of this, either he thinks of something than which a greater cannot be thought, or he does not think of it. If he does not think of it, then he does not think that what he does not think of does not exist. If, however, he does think of it, then indeed he thinks of something which cannot be even thought not to exist. For if it could be thought not to exist, it could be thought to have a beginning and an end—but this cannot be. Thus, he who thinks of it thinks of something that cannot be thought not to exist; indeed, he who thinks of this does not think of it as not existing, otherwise he would think what cannot be thought. Therefore ‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' cannot be thought not to exist.
- Part 4:
- You say moreover, that when it is said that this supreme reality cannot be thought not to exist, it would perhaps be better to say that it cannot be understood not to exist or even to be able not to exist. However, it must rather be said that it cannot be thought. For if I had said that the thing in question could not be understood not to exist, perhaps you yourself (who claim that we cannot understand— if this word is to be taken strictly—things that are unreal) would object that nothing that exists can be understood not to exist. For it is false [to say that] what exists does not exist, so that it is not the distinguishing characteristic of God not to be able to be understood not to exist. But, if any of those things which exist with absolute certainty can be understood not to exist, in the same way other things that certainly exist can be understood not to exist. But, if the matter is carefully considered, this objection cannot be made apropos [the term] ‘thought'. For even if none of those things that exist can be understood not to exist, all however can be thought as not existing, save that which exists to a supreme degree. For in fact all those things (and they alone) that have a beginning or end or are made up of parts and, as I have already said, all those things that do not exist as a whole in a particular place or at a particular time can be thought as not existing. Only that being in which there is neither beginning nor end nor conjunction of parts, and that thought does not discern save as a whole in every place and at every time, cannot be thought as not existing.
- Know then that you can think of yourself as not existing while yet you are absolutely sure that you exist. I am astonished that you have said that you do not know this. For we think of many things that we know to exist, as not existing; and [we think of] many things that we know not to exist, as existing—not judging that it is really as we think but imagining it to be so. We can, in fact, think of something as not existing while knowing that it does exist, since we can [think of] the one and know the other at the same time. And we cannot think of something as not existing if yet we know that it does exist, since we cannot think of it as existing and not existing at the same time. He, therefore, who distinguishes these two senses of this assertion will understand that [in one sense] nothing can be thought as not existing while yet it is known to exist, and that [in another sense] whatever exists, save that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought, can be thought of as not existing even when we know that it does exist. Thus it is that, on the one hand, it is the distinguishing characteristic of God that He cannot be thought of as not existing, and that, on the other hand, many things, the while they do exist, cannot be thought of as not existing. In what sense, however, one can say that God can be thought of as not existing I think I have adequately explained in my tract.
- Part 5:
- As for the other objections you make against me on behalf of the Fool, it is quite easy to meet them, even for one weak in the head, and so I considered it a waste of time to show this. But since I hear that they appear to certain readers to have some force against me, I will deal briefly with them.
- First, you often reiterate that I say that that which is greater than everything exists in the mind, and that if it is in the mind, it exists also in reality, for otherwise that which is greater than everything would not be that which is greater than everything. However, nowhere in all that I have said will you find such an argument. For ‘that which is greater than everything' and 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' are not equivalent for the purpose of proving the real existence of the thing spoken of. Thus, if anyone should say that 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' is not something that actually exists, or that it can possibly not exist, or even can be thought of as not existing, he can easily be refuted. For what does not exist can possibly not exist, and what cannot exist can be thought of as not existing. However, whatever can be thought of as not existing, if it actually exists, is not that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought. But if it does not exist, indeed even if it should exist, it would not be that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought. But it cannot be asserted that 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' is not, if it exists, that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought, or that, if it should exist, it would not be that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought. It is evident, then, that it neither does not exist nor cannot exist or be thought of as not existing. For if it does exist in another way it is not what it is said to be, and if it should exist [in another way] it would not be [what it was said to be].ppp
- However it seems that it is not as easy to prove this in respect of what is said to be greater than everything. For it is not as evident that that which can be thought of as not existing is not that which is greater than everything, as that it is not that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought. And, in the same way, neither is it indubitable that, if there is something which is ‘greater than everything', it is identical with 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'; nor, if there were [such a being], that no other like it might exist—as this is certain in respect of what is said to be 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'. For what if someone should say that something that is greater than everything actually exists, and yet that this same being can be thought of as not existing, and that something greater than it can be thought, even if this does not exist? In this case can it be inferred as evidently that [this being] is therefore not that which is greater than everything, as it would quite evidently be said in the other case that it is therefore not that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought? The former [inference] needs, in fact, a premiss in addition to this which is said to be ‘greater than everything'; but the latter needs nothing save this utterance itself, namely, ‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'. Therefore, if what 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' of itself proves concerning itself cannot be proved in the same way in respect of what is said to be ‘greater than everything', you criticize me unjustly for having said what I did not say, since it differs so much from what I did say.
- If, however, it can [be proved] by means of another argument, you should not have criticized me for having asserted what can be proved. Whether it can [be proved], however, is easily appreciated by one who understands that it can [in respect of] 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'. For one cannot in any way understand 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' without [understanding that it is] that which alone is greater than everything. As, therefore, 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' is understood and is in the mind, and is consequently judged to exist in true reality, so also that which is greater than everything is said to be understood and to exist in the mind, and so is necessarily inferred to exist in reality itself. You see, then, how right you were to compare me with that stupid person who wished to maintain that the Lost Island existed from the sole fact that being described it was understood.
- Part 6:
You object, moreover, that any unreal or doubtfully real things at all can equally be understood and exist in the mind in the same way as the being I was speaking of. I am astonished that you urge this [objection] against me, for I was concerned to prove something which was in doubt, and for me it was sufficient that I should first show that it was understood and existed in the mind in some way or other, leaving it to be determined subsequently whether it was in the mind alone as unreal things are, or in reality also as true things are. For, if unreal or doubtfully real things are understood and exist in the mind in the sense that, when they are spoken of, he who hears them understands what the speaker means, nothing prevents what I have spoken of being understood and existing in the mind. But how are these [assertions] consistent, that is, when you assert that if someone speaks of unreal things you would understand whatever he says, and that, in the case of a thing which is not entertained in thought in the same way as even unreal things are, you do not say that you think of it or have it in thought upon hearing it spoken of, but rather that you understand it and have it in mind since, precisely, you cannot think of it save by understanding it, that is, knowing certainly that the thing exists in reality itself? How, I say, are both [assertions] consistent, namely that unreal things are understood, and that ‘to understand' means knowing with certainty that something actually exists? You should have seen that nothing [of this applies] to me. But unreal things are, in a sense, understood (this definition applying not to every kind of understanding but to a certain kind) then I ought not to be criticized for having said that 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' is understood and is the mind, even before it was certain that it existed in reality itself.
- Part 7:
Next, you say that it can hardly be believed that when this [that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought] has been spoken of and heard, it cannot be thought not to exist, as even it can be thought that God does not exist. Now those who have attained even a little expertise in disputation and argument could reply to that on my behalf. For is it reasonable that someone should therefore deny what he understands because it is said to be [the same as] that which he denies since he does not understand it? Or if that is denied [to exist] which is understood only to some extent and is the same as what is not understood at all, is not what is in doubt more easily proved from the fact that it is in some mind than from the fact that it is in no mind at all? For this reason it cannot be believed that anyone should deny ‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' (which, being heard, he understands to some extent), on the ground that he denies God whose meaning he does not think of in any way at all. On the other hand if it is denied on the ground that it is not understood completely, even so is not that which is understood in some way easier to prove than that which is not understood in any way? It was therefore not wholly without reason that, to prove against the Fool that God exists, I proposed 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought', since he would understand this in some way, [whereas] he would understand the former [God] in no way at all.
- Part 8:
- In fact, your painstaking argument that 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' is not like the not-yet-realized painting in the mind of the painter is beside the point. For I did not propose [the example] of the foreknown picture because I wanted to assert that what was at issue was in the same case, but rather that so I could show that something not understood as existing exists in the mind.
- Again, you say that upon hearing of 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' you cannot think of it as a real object known either generically or specifically or have it in your mind, on the grounds that you neither know the thing itself nor can you form an idea of it from other things similar to it. But obviously this is not so. For since everything that is less good is similar in so far as it is good to that which is more good, it is evident to every rational mind that, mounting from the less good to the more good we can from those things than which something greater can be thought conjecture a great deal about that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought. Who, for example, cannot think of this (even if he does not believe that what he thinks of actually exists) namely, that if something that has a beginning and end is good, that which, although it has had a beginning, does not, however, have an end, is much better? And just as this latter is better than the former, so also that which has neither beginning nor end is better again than this, even if it passes always from the past through the present to the future. Again, whether something of this kind actually exists or not, that which does not lack anything at all, nor is forced to change or move, is very much better still. Cannot this be thought? Or can we think of something greater than this? Or is not this precisely to form an idea of that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought from those things than which a greater can be thought? There is, then, a way by which one can form an idea of 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'. In this way, therefore, the Fool who does not accept the sacred authority [of Revelation] can easily be refuted if he denies that he can form an idea from other things of 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'. But if any orthodox Christian should deny this let him remember that ‘the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen through the things that have been made, even his eternal power and Godhead' [Rom. 1:20].
- Part 9:
But even if it were true that [the object] that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought cannot be thought of nor understood, it would not, however, be false that [the formula] 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' could be thought of and understood. For just as nothing prevents one from saying ‘ineffable' although one cannot specify what is said to be ineffable; and just as one can think of the inconceivable—although one cannot think of what ‘inconceivable' applies to—so also, when 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' is spoken of, there is no doubt at all that what is heard can be thought of and understood even if the thing itself cannot be thought of and understood. For if someone is so witless as to say that there is not something than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought, yet he will not be so shameless as to say that he is not able to understand and think of what he was speaking about. Or if such a one is to be found, not only should his assertion be condemned, but he himself condemned. Whoever, then, denies that there is something than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought, at any rate understands and thinks of the denial he makes, and this denial cannot be understood and thought about apart from its elements. Now, one element [of the denial] is 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'. Whoever, therefore, denies this understands and thinks of 'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought'. It is evident, moreover, that in the same way one can think of and understand that which cannot not exist. And one who thinks of this thinks of something greater than one who thinks of what cannot exist. When, therefore, one thinks of that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought, if one thinks of what cannot exist one does not think of that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought. Now the same thing cannot at the same time be thought of and not thought of. For this reason he who thinks of that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought does not think of something that cannot exist but something that cannot not exist. Therefore what he thinks of exists necessarily, since whatever cannot exist is not what he thinks of.
- Part 10:
I think now that I have shown that I have proved in the above tract, not by a weak argumentation but by a sufficiently necessary one, that something-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought exists in reality itself, and that this proof has not been weakened by the force of any objection. For the import of this proof is in itself of such force that what is spoken of is proved (as a necessary consequence of the fact that it is understood or thought of) both to exist in actual reality and to be itself whatever must be believed about the Divine Being. For we believe of the Divine Being whatever it can, absolutely speaking, be thought better to be than not to be. For example, it is better to be eternal than not eternal, good than not good, indeed, goodness-itself than not goodness-itself. However, nothing of this kind cannot but be that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought. It is, then, necessary that ‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' should be whatever must be believed about the Divine Nature.
COMMENT: Hard copy in "Various - Heythrop Essays & Supporting Material (Boxes)".
"Davies (Brian) - Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology"
Source: Davies (Brian) - Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology
Preface (Full Text)
- How should we define ‘philosophy of religion’? The task is not an easy one. We could say that it is ‘philosophy as applied to religious belief’. But we would then need to recognize that definitions of ‘philosophy’ and ‘religion’ vary. ‘What is philosophy?’ and ‘What is religion?’ are questions to which different people give surprisingly different answers.
- Yet philosophy of religion is now a thriving branch of philosophy. Many people currently describe themselves as students or teachers of the subject. And the literature devoted to it swells daily. Even if it is hard to say what philosophy of religion is exactly, there is no denying that it is currently very big business — every bit as big as, for example, philosophy of mind, philosophy of logic, or philosophy of language (phrases which also defy swift definition).
- A good way to understand what philosophy of religion amounts to is to examine what would commonly be taken to be standard examples of it. And this is what this book aims to help you do. Most of it consists of extracts from the writings of various philosophers. So it is first and foremost an anthology. But it is more than that. For it also contains a lot of material setting its extracts in context and guiding readers through them. Taken as a whole, the volume amounts to a self-contained introduction to philosophy of religion, one which can be used both by readers working on their own and by students working under guidance.
- In order to provide a helpful balance, I have selected extracts from authors of very different persuasions and philosophical traditions. In the source details at the start of each chapter, * indicates those extracts that have been edited by me, with the approval of the author. Since philosophers have reflected on religion for centuries, and since some of the most interesting and influential philosophy of religion comes from authors writing before the twentieth century, many of the extracts are from what one might call ‘classical’ rather than ‘contemporary’ sources. In so far as this volume allows readers to explore the ‘classical’ as well as the ‘contemporary’, it should help them to get a sense of what philosophy of religion has been and of how it has come to be the way it is today.
- I should add that I have tried, throughout my own text, to avoid gender-specific reference to God. In some instances, however, I have used ‘he’ / ‘his’ simply to avoid awkwardness in wording.
Notes on Contributors – xv
General introduction – 1
Advice on further reading – 11
Part I Philosophy and religious belief
Introduction – 17
- Thomas Aquinas: Faith and reason in harmony – 25
- W. K. Clifford: The ethics of belief – 31
- Antony Flew: The presumption of atheism – 36
- Alvin Plantinga: Religious belief as ‘properly basic’ – 42
- Norman Kretzmann: Evidence and religious belief – 95
- D. Z. Phillips: Grammar and religious belief – 108
- Norman Malcolm: The groundlessness of religious belief – 115
Questions for discussion – 123
Advice on further reading – 124
Part II The problem of God-Talk
Introduction – 129
- Augustine of Hippo: How believers find God-Talk puzzling – 141
- A. J. Ayer: God-Talk is evidently nonsense – 143
- Richard Swinburne: God-Talk is not evidently nonsense – 147
- Antony Flew: ‘Death by a thousand qualifications’ – 153
- Thomas Aquinas: One way of understanding God-Talk – 156
Questions for discussion – 168
Advice on further reading – 169
Part III Arguments for God’s existence
Introduction – 175
Advice on further reading – 177
Introduction – 179
- Anselm of Canterbury: A concise cosmological argument from the eleventh century – 186
- Thomas Aquinas: A thirteenth-century cosmological argument – 188
- John Duns Scotus: A fourteenth-century cosmological argument – 191
- Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: A seventeenth-century cosmological argument – 194
- Herbert McCabe: A modern cosmological argument – 196
- Paul Edwards: Objections to cosmological arguments – 202
- J. L. Mackie: More objections to cosmological arguments – 213
- David Hume: Why is a cause always necessary? – 230
- G. E. M. Anscombe: ‘Whatever has a beginning of existence must have a cause’ – 233
- James A. Sadowsky: Can there be an endless regress of causes? – 239
Questions for discussion – 242
Advice on further reading – 243
- Thomas Aquinas: Is the world ruled by providence? – 251
- William Paley: An especially famous design argument – 253
- David Hume: We cannot know that the world is designed by God – 260
- Immanuel Kant: The limits of design arguments – 271
- R. G. Swinburne: God, regularity, and David Hume – 274
- Robert Hambourger: Can design arguments be defended today? – 286
Questions for discussion – 301
Advice on further reading – 302
introduction – 304
- Anselm of Canterbury: Anselm argues that God cannot be thought not to exist – 311
- Gaunilo of Marmoutiers: Gaunilo argues that Anselm is wrong – 313
- Anselm of Canterbury: Anselm replies to Gaunilo – 318
- Rene Descartes: Descartes defends an ontological argument – 327
- Rene Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, Johannes Caterus: Descartes replies to critics – 330
- Immanuel Kant: A classic repudiation of ontological arguments – 337
- Alvin Plantinga: A contemporary defence of ontological arguments – 342
Questions for discussion – 353
Advice on further reading – 354
God and human experience
Introduction – 356
- C. B. Martin: Why ‘knowing God by experience’ is a notion open to question – 362
- Peter Donovan: Can we know God by experience? – 370
- William P. Alston: Why should there not be experience of God? – 382
Questions for discussion – 387
Advice on further reading – 388
Part IV What is God?
Introduction – 393
Advice on further reading – 395
Introduction – 397
- Thomas V. Morris: A modern discussion of divine omnipotence – 402
- Thomas Aquinas: Why think of God as omnipotent? – 415
- Richard Swinburne: Miracles and laws of nature – 422
- David Hume: Why we should disbelieve in miracles – 430
Questions for discussion – 436
Advice on further reading – 437
Introduction – 439
- Thomas Aquinas: Why ascribe knowledge to God? – 446
- Boethius: Omniscience and human freedom: a classic discussion – 456
- Nelson Pike: Problems for the notion of divine omniscience – 465
Questions for discussion – 473
Advice on further reading – 474
Introduction – 476
- Thomas Aquinas: Why call God ‘eternal’? – 482
- Nicholas Wolterstorff: God is ‘everlasting’, not ‘eternal’ – 485
- Eleanore Stump and Norman Kretzmann: A modern defence of divine eternity – 505
- Paul Helm: A different modern defence of divine eternity – 519
Questions for discussion – 531
Advice on further reading – 532
Introduction – 533
- Thomas Aquinas: A classic defence of divine simplicity – 539
- Thomas V. Morris: Problems with divine simplicity – 545
- Brian Davies: A modern defence of divine simplicity – 549
Questions for discussion – 565
Advice on further reading – 566
Part V The problem of evil
Introduction – 571
- J. L. Mackie: Evil shows that there is no God – 581
- Augustine of Hippo: What is evil? – 592
- Richard Swinburne: Evil does not show that there is no God – 599
- Herbert McCabe: God, evil, and divine responsibility – 614
- Thomas Aquinas: God and human freedom – 625
Questions for discussion – 628
Advice on further reading – 629
Part VI Morality and religion
Introduction – 633
- Immanuel Kant: God as a ‘postulate’ of sound moral thinking – 639
- H. P. Owen: Why morality implies the existence of God – 646
- Illtyd Trethowan: Moral thinking as awareness of God – 659
- Kai Nielsen: Morality does not imply the existence of God – 668
Questions for discussion – 682
Advice on further reading – 683
Part VII People and life after death1
Introduction – 687
- Steven T. Davis: Philosophy and life after death2: the questions and the options – 691
- Plato: Life after death3: an ancient Greek view – 708
- Bertrand Russell: Belief in life after death4 comes from emotion, not reason – 721
- Peter Geach: What must be true of me if I survive my death? – 724
Questions for discussion – 732
Advice on further reading – 733
Index – 735
"Davis (Stephen T.) - Philosophy and Life After Death: The Questions and the Options"
Source: Davies (Brian) - Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology, Chapter 33 (pp. 330-336)
"Descartes (Rene) - Descartes Defends an Ontological Argument"
Source: Davies (Brian) - Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology, Chapter 32 (pp. 327-329)
- Certainly, the idea of God, or a supremely perfect being, is one which I find within me just as surely as the idea of any shape or number. And my understanding that it belongs to his nature that he always exists is no less clear and distinct than is the case when I prove of any shape or number that some property belongs to its nature. Hence, even if it turned out that not everything on which I have meditated in these past days is true, I ought still to regard the existence of God as having at least the same level of certainty as I have hitherto attributed to the truths of mathematics.
- At first sight, however, this is not transparently clear, but has some appearance of being a sophism. Since I have been accustomed to distinguish between existence and essence in everything else, I find it easy to persuade myself that existence can be separated from the essence of God, and hence that God can be thought of as not existing. But when I concentrate more carefully, it is quite evident that existence can no more be separated from the essence of God than the fact that its three angles equal two right angles can be separated from the essence of a triangle, or than the idea of a mountain can be separated from the idea of a valley. Hence it is just as much of a contradiction to think of God (that is, a supremely perfect being) lacking existence (that is, lacking a perfection), as it is to think of a mountain without a valley.
- However, even granted that I cannot think of God except as existing, just as I cannot think of a mountain without a valley, it certainly does not follow from the fact that I think of a mountain with a valley that there is any mountain in the world; and similarly, it does not seem to follow from the fact that I think of God as existing that he does exist. For my thought does not impose any necessity on things; and just as I may imagine a winged horse even though no horse has wings, so I may be able to attach existence to God even though no God exists.
- But there is a sophism concealed here. From the fact that I cannot think of a mountain without a valley, it does not follow that a mountain and valley exist anywhere, but simply that a mountain and a valley, whether they exist or not, are mutually inseparable. But from the fact that I cannot think of God except as existing, it follows that existence is inseparable from God, and hence that he really exists. It is not that my thought makes it so, or imposes any necessity on anything; on the contrary, it is the necessity of the thing itself, namely the existence of God, which determines my thinking in this respect. For I am not free to think of God without existence (that is, a supremely perfect being without a supreme perfection) as I am free to imagine a horse with or without wings.
- And it must not be objected at this point that while it is indeed necessary for me to suppose God exists, once I have made the supposition that he has all perfections (since existence is one of the perfections), nevertheless the original supposition was not necessary. Similarly, the objection would run, it is not necessary for me to think that all quadrilaterals can be inscribed in a circle; but given this supposition, it will be necessary for me to admit that a rhombus can be inscribed in a circle—which is patently false. Now admittedly, it is not necessary that I ever light upon any thought of God; but whenever I do choose to think of the first and supreme being, and bring forth the idea of God from the treasure house of my mind as it were, it is necessary that I attribute all perfections to him, even if I do not at that time enumerate them or attend to them individually. And this necessity plainly guarantees that, when I later realize that existence is a perfection, I am correct in inferring that the first and supreme being exists. In the same way, it is not necessary for me ever to imagine a triangle; but whenever I do wish to consider a rectilinear figure having just three angles, it is necessary that I attribute to it the properties which license the inference that its three angles equal no more than two right angles, even if I do not notice this at the time. By contrast, when I examine what figures can be inscribed in a circle, it is in no way necessary for me to think that this class includes all quadrilaterals. Indeed, I cannot even imagine this, so long as I am willing to admit only what I clearly and distinctly understand. So there is a great difference between this kind of false supposition and the true ideas which are innate in me, of which the first and most important is the idea of God. There are many ways in which I understand that this idea is not something fictitious which is dependent on my thought, but is an image of a true and immutable nature. First of all, there is the fact that, apart from God, there is nothing else of which I am capable of thinking such that existence belongs to its essence. Second, I cannot understand how there could be two or more Gods of this kind; and after supposing that one God exists, I plainly see that it is necessary that he has existed from eternity and will abide for eternity. And finally, I perceive many other attributes of God, none of which I can remove or alter.
- But whatever method of proof I use, I am always brought back to the fact that it is only what I clearly and distinctly perceive that completely convinces me. Some of the things I clearly and distinctly perceive are obvious to everyone, while others are discovered only by those who look more closely and investigate more carefully; but once they have been discovered, the latter are judged to be just as certain as the former. In the case of a right-angled triangle, for example, the fact that the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the square on the other two sides is not so readily apparent as the fact that the hypotenuse subtends the largest angle; but once one has seen it, one believes it just as strongly. But as regards God, if I were not overwhelmed by preconceived opinions, and if the images of things perceived by the senses did not besiege my thought on every side, I would certainly acknowledge him sooner and more easily than anything else. For what is more self-evident than the fact that the supreme being exists, or that God, to whose essence alone existence belongs, exists?
COMMENT: Hard copy filed in "Various - Heythrop Essays & Supporting Material (Boxes)".
"Descartes (Rene), Gassendi (Pierre) & Caterus (Johannes) - Descartes Replies to Critics"
Source: Davies (Brian) - Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology, Chapter 33 (pp. 330-336)
Pierre Gassendi: reply to Descartes
- You next attempt to demonstrate the existence of God, and the thrust of your argument is contained in the following passage:
When I concentrate, it is quite evident that existence can no more be separated from the essence of God than the fact that its three angles equal two right angles can be separated from the essence of a triangle, or than the idea of a mountain can be separated from the idea of a valley. Hence it is just as much of a contradiction to think of God (that is, a supremely perfect being) lacking existence (that is, lacking a perfection) as it is to think of a mountain without a valley.But we must note here that the kind of comparison you make is not wholly fair.
- It is quite all right for you to compare essence with essence, but instead of going on to compare existence with existence or a property with a property, you compare existence with a property. It seems that you should have said that omnipotence can no more be separated from the essence of God than the fact that its angles equal two right angles can be separated from the essence of a triangle. Or, at any rate, you should have said that the existence of God can no more be separated from his essence than the existence of a triangle can be separated from its essence. If you had done this, both your comparisons would have been satisfactory, and I would have granted you not only the first one but the second one as well. But you would not for all that have established that God necessarily exists, since a triangle does not necessarily exist either, even though its essence and existence cannot in actual fact be separated. Real separation is impossible no matter how much the mind may separate them or think of them apart from each other—as indeed it can even in the case of God's essence and existence.
- Next we must note that you place existence among the divine perfections, but do not place it among the perfections of a triangle or mountain, though it could be said that in its own way it is just as much a perfection of each of these things. In fact, however, existence is not a perfection either in God or in anything else; it is that without which no perfections can be present.
- For surely, what does not exist has no perfections or imperfections, and what does exist and has several perfections does not have existence as one of its individual perfections; rather, its existence is that in virtue of which both the thing itself and its perfections are existent, and that without which we cannot say that the thing possesses the perfections or that the perfections are possessed by it. Hence we do not say that existence ‘exists in a thing' in the way perfections do; and if a thing lacks existence, we do not say it is imperfect, or deprived of a perfection, but say instead that it is nothing at all.
- Thus, just as when you listed the perfections of the triangle you did not include existence or conclude that the triangle existed, so when you listed the perfections of God you should not have included existence among them so as to reach the conclusion that God exists, unless you wanted to beg the question...
- You say that you are not free to think of God without existence (that is, a supremely perfect being without a supreme perfection) as you are free to imagine a horse with or without wings. The only comment to be added to this is as follows. You are free to think of a horse not having wings without thinking of the existence which would, according to you, be a perfection in the horse if it were present; but, in the same way, you are free to think of God as having knowledge and power and other perfections without thinking of him as having the existence which would complete his perfection, if he had it. Just as the horse which is thought of as having the perfection of wings is not therefore deemed to have the existence which is, according to you, a principal perfection, so the fact that God is thought of as having knowledge and other perfections does not therefore imply that he has existence. This remains to be proved. And although you say that both existence and all the other perfections are included in the idea of a supremely perfect being, here you simply assert what should be proved, and assume the conclusion as a premiss. Otherwise I could say that the idea of a perfect Pegasus contains not just the perfection of his having wings but also the perfection of existence. For just as God is thought of as perfect in every kind of perfection, so Pegasus is thought of as perfect in his own kind. It seems that there is no point that you can raise in this connection which, if we preserve the analogy, will not apply to Pegasus if it applies to God, and vice versa.
Descartes's reply to Gassendi
- Here I do not see what sort of thing you want existence to be, nor why it cannot be said to be a property just like omnipotence—provided, of course, that we take the word ‘property' to stand for any attribute, or for whatever can be predicated of a thing; and this is exactly how it should be taken in this context. Moreover, in the case of God necessary existence is in fact a property in the strictest sense of the term, since it applies to him alone and forms a part of his essence as it does of no other thing. Hence the existence of a triangle should not be compared with the existence of God, since the relation between existence and essence is manifestly quite different in the case of God from what it is in the case of the triangle.
- To list existence among the properties which belong to the nature of God is no more ‘begging the question' than listing among the properties of a triangle the fact that its angles are equal to two right angles.
- Again, it is not true to say that in the case of God, just as in the case of a triangle, existence and essence can be thought of apart from one another; for God is his own existence, but this is not true of the triangle. I do not, however, deny that possible existence is a perfection in the idea of a triangle, just as necessary existence is a perfection in the idea of God; for this fact makes the idea of a triangle superior to the ideas of chimeras, which cannot possibly be supposed to have existence. Thus at no point have you weakened the force of my argument in the slightest.
Johannes Caterus: reply to Descartes
- Let us then concede that someone does possess a clear and distinct idea of a supreme and utterly perfect being. What is the next step you will take from here? You will say that this infinite being exists, and that his existence is so certain that ‘I ought to regard the existence of God as having at least the same level of certainty as I have hitherto attributed to the truths of mathematics. Hence it is just as much of a contradiction to think of God (that is, a supremely perfect being) lacking existence (that is, lacking a perfection), as it is to think of a mountain without a valley.' This is the lynchpin of the whole structure; to give in on this point is to be obliged to admit defeat. But since I am taking on an opponent whose strength is greater than my own, I should like to have a preliminary skirmish with him, so that, although I am sure to be beaten in the end, I may at least put off the inevitable for a while.
- I know we are basing our argument on the reason alone and not on appeals to authority. But to avoid giving the impression that I am wilfully taking issue with such an outstanding thinker as M. Descartes, let me nevertheless begin by asking you to listen to what St Thomas says. He raises the following objection to his own position:
As soon as we understand the meaning of the word ‘God', we immediately grasp that God exists. For the word ‘God' means ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived'. Now that which exists in reality as well as in the intellect is greater than that which exists in the intellect alone. Hence, since God immediately exists in the intellect as soon as we have understood the word ‘God', it follows that he also exists in reality. (Summa Theologiae, P1, Q2, Art. 1) This argument may be set out formally as follows. ‘God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. But that than which nothing greater can be conceived includes existence. Hence God, in virtue of the very word or concept of "God", contains existence; and hence he cannot lack, or be conceived of as lacking, existence.' But now please tell me if this is not the self-same argument as that produced by M. Descartes? St Thomas defines God as ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived'. M. Descartes calls him ‘a supremely perfect being'; but of course nothing greater than this can be conceived. St Thomas's next step is to say ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived includes existence', for otherwise something greater could be conceived, namely a being conceived of as also including existence. Yet surely M. Descartes' next step is identical to this. God, he says, is a supremely perfect being; and a supremely perfect being includes existence, for otherwise it would not be a supremely perfect being. St. Thomas's conclusion is that ‘since God immediately exists in the intellect as soon as we have understood the word "God", it follows that he also exists in reality'. In other words, since the very concept or essence of ‘a being than which nothing greater can be conceived' implies existence, it follows that this very being exists. M. Descartes' conclusion is the same: ‘From the very fact that I cannot think of God except as existing, it follows that existence is inseparable from God and hence that he really exists.' But now let St Thomas reply both to himself and to M. Descartes. ‘Let it be granted', he says,
That we all understand that the word ‘God' means what it is claimed to mean, namely ‘that than which nothing greater can be thought of'. However, it does not follow that we all understand that what is signified by this word exists in the real world. All that follows is that it exists in the apprehension of the intellect. Nor can it be shown that this being really exists unless it is conceded that there really is something such that nothing greater can be thought of; and this premiss is denied by those who maintain that God does not exist. My own answer to M. Descartes, which is based on this passage, is briefly this. Even if it is granted that a supremely perfect being carries the implication of existence in virtue of its very title, it still does not follow that the existence in question is anything actual in the real world; all that follows is that the concept of existence is inseparably linked to the concept of a supreme being. So you cannot infer that the existence of God is anything actual unless you suppose that the supreme being actually exists; for then it will actually contain all perfections, including the perfection of real existence.
- Pardon me, gentlemen: I am now rather tired and propose to have a little fun. The complex ‘existing lion' includes both ‘lion' and ‘existence', and it includes them essentially, for if you take away either element it will not be the same complex. But now, has not God had clear and distinct knowledge of this composite from all eternity? And does not the idea of this composite, as a composite, involve both elements essentially? In other words, does not existence belong to the essence of the composite ‘existing lion'? Nevertheless the distinct knowledge of God, the distinct knowledge he has from eternity, does not compel either element in the composite to exist, unless we assume that the composite itself exists (in which case it will contain all its essential perfections including actual existence). Similarly even if I have distinct knowledge of a supreme being, and even if the supremely perfect being includes existence as an essential part of the concept, it still does not follow that the existence in question is anything actual, unless we suppose that the supreme being exists (for in that case it will include actual existence along with all its other perfections). Accordingly we must look elsewhere for a proof that the supremely perfect being exists.
Descartes's reply to Caterus
- St Thomas asks whether the existence of God is self-evident as far as we are concerned, that is, whether it is obvious to everyone; and he answers, correctly, that it is not. The argument which he then puts forward as an objection to his own position can be stated as follows. ‘Once we have understood the meaning of the word "God", we understand it to mean "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". But to exist in reality as well as in the intellect is greater than to exist in the intellect alone. Therefore, once we have understood the meaning of the word "God" we understand that God exists in reality as well as in the understanding.' In this form the argument is manifestly invalid, for the only conclusion that should have been drawn is: ‘Therefore, once we have understood the meaning of the ward "God" we understand that what is conveyed is that God exists in reality as well as in the understanding.' Yet because a word conveys something, that thing is not therefore shown to be true. My argument however was as follows: ‘That which we clearly and distinctly understand to belong to the true and immutable nature, or essence, or form of something, can truly be asserted of that thing. But once we have made a sufficiently careful investigation of what God is, we clearly and distinctly understand that existence belongs to his true and immutable nature. Hence we can now truly assert of God that he does exist.' Here at least the conclusion does follow from the premisses. But, what is more, the major premiss cannot be denied, because it has already been conceded that whatever we clearly and distinctly understand is true. Hence only the minor premiss remains, and here I confess that there is considerable difficulty. In the first place we are so accustomed to distinguishing existence from essence in the case of all other things that we fail to notice how closely existence belongs to essence in the case of God as compared with that of other things. Next, we do not distinguish what belongs to the true and immutable essence of a thing from what is attributed to it merely by a fiction of the intellect.
- But to remove the first part of the difficulty we must distinguish between possible and necessary existence. It must be noted that possible existence is contained in the concept or idea of everything that we clearly and distinctly understand; but in no case is necessary existence so contained, except in the case of the idea of God. Those who carefully attend to this difference between the idea of God and every other idea will undoubtedly perceive that even though our understanding of other things always involves understanding them as if they were existing things, it does not follow that they do exist, but merely that they are capable of existing. For our understanding does not show us that it is necessary for actual existence to be conjoined with their other properties. But, from the fact that we understand that actual existence is necessarily and always conjoined with the other attributes of God, it certainly does follow that God exists.
- To remove the second part of the difficulty, we must notice a point about ideas which do not contain true and immutable natures but merely ones which are invented and put together by the intellect. Such ideas can always be split up by the same intellect, not simply by an abstraction but by a clear and distinct intellectual operation, so that any ideas which the intellect cannot split up in this way were clearly not put together by the intellect. When, for example, I think of a winged horse or an actually existing lion, or a triangle inscribed in a square, I readily understand that I am also able to think of a horse without wings, or a lion which does not exist, or a triangle apart from a square, and so on; hence these things do not have true and immutable natures. But if I think of a triangle or a square (I will not now include the lion or the horse, since their natures are not transparently clear to us), then whatever I apprehend as being contained in the idea of a triangle—for example that its three angles are equal to two right angles—I can with truth assert of the triangle. And the same applies to the square with respect to whatever I apprehend as being contained in the idea of a square. For even if I can understand what a triangle is if I abstract the fact that its three angles are equal to two right angles, I cannot deny that this property applies to the triangle by a clear and distinct intellectual operation—that is, while at the same time understanding what I mean by my denial. Moreover, if I consider a triangle inscribed in a square, with a view to attributing to the square properties that belong only to the triangle, or attributing to the triangle properties that belong to the square, but with a view to examining only the properties which arise out of the conjunction of the two, then the nature of this composite will be just as true and immutable as the nature of the triangle alone or the square alone. And hence it will be quite in order to maintain that the square is not less than double the area of the triangle inscribed within it, and to affirm other similar properties that belong to the nature of this composite figure.
- But if I were to think that the idea of a supremely perfect body contained existence, on the grounds that it is a greater perfection to exist both in reality and in the intellect than it is to exist in the intellect alone, I could not infer from this that the extremely perfect body exists, but only that it is capable of existing. For I can see quite well that this idea has been put together by my own intellect which has linked together all bodily perfections; and existence does not arise out of the other bodily perfections because it can equally well be affirmed or denied of them. Indeed, when I examine the idea of a body, I perceive that a body has no power to create itself or maintain itself in existence; and I rightly conclude that necessary existence—and it is only necessary existence that is at issue here—no more belongs to the nature of a body, however perfect, than it belongs to the nature of a mountain to be without a valley, or to the nature of a triangle to have angles whose sum is greater than two right angles. But instead of a body, let us now take a thing—whatever this thing turns out to be—which possesses all the perfections which can exist together. If we ask whether existence should be included among the perfections, we will admittedly be in some doubt at first. For our mind, which is finite, normally thinks of these perfections only separately, and hence may not immediately notice the necessity of their being joined together. Yet if we attentively examine whether existence belongs to a supremely powerful being, and what sort of existence it is, we shall be able to perceive clearly and distinctly the following facts. First, possible existence, at the very least, belongs to such a being, just as it belongs to all the other things of which we have a distinct idea, even to those which are put together through a fiction of the intellect. Next, when we attend to the immense power of this being, we shall be unable to think of its existence as possible without also recognizing that it can exist by its own power; and we shall infer from this that this being does really exist and has existed from eternity, since it is quite evident by the natural light that what can exist by its own power always exists. So we shall come to understand that necessary existence is contained in the idea of a supremely powerful being, not by any fiction of the intellect, but because it belongs to the true and immutable nature of such a being that it exists. And we shall also easily perceive that this supremely powerful being cannot but possess within it all the other perfections that are contained in the idea of God; and hence these perfections exist in God and are joined together not by any fiction of the intellect but by their very nature.
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