Friday, May 27, 2011

The Aesthetic Argument

A simple version:

1. There is the music of Bach.
2. Therefore, God exists.

"You either see that one or you don't," half-jests Peter Kreeft.

A more sophisticated version of the argument will unpackage some of the intuitions many of us feel when connection music to reverence of God. The argument, which for now I will simply designate as *the* Aesthetic argument for God's existence.

Music is beautiful if it exhibits melody on top of repetition.

By analogy, nature is beautiful if it exhibits diversity among repetition.

The parity between the two cases is that there is some intelligent composer/designer who is able to translate their beautiful thought into something tangible. As great as Bach's music is, just think of how much great and more wondrous the entire cosmos is! We can, then, quite naturally infer that the designer of the cosmos is that much greater than Bach. Bach, of course, took his inspiration from this designer - the being we call "God."

I prefer the argument from order, since it's premises and conclusions are so clear and impossible to reject on pain of irrationality. There is obviously order in the world and, depending on your additional presuppositions, God is either order itself, or else the entity that causes order within the cosmos. However, why should we limit our mode of inquiry to what is logically and mathematically airtight? Arguments like the aesthetic argument simply tap into a different realm of inquiry that may be known with just as much certainty, just not in the same dry manner.

It's something to think about, at least.


  1. This it 'Ilíon' -- I can't seem to post as myself (blogger seems to be fritzing, again).

    "I prefer the argument from order, since it's premises and conclusions are so clear and impossible to reject on pain of irrationality."

    I prefer the 'Argument from Reason,' or, at any rate, or, at any rate, the stronger version of it I'd formulated before I knew about Victor Reppert and his efforts to extend Lewis' idea, and for the same reason: its premises and conclusions are so clear and impossible to reject on pain of irrationality. Well, that and the fact that so-called atheists always do reject it and retreat into irrationality, right in front of God and everybody.

  2. Ilíon again --

    A possible difficulty was any 'Argument from Order' must depend upon how carefully it is expressed and how carefully its key term ('order,' or, alternately, ‘disorder’) is defined and used. I say this because we (all) use the term 'order' equivocally; and, frequently, use it in equivocal senses simultaneously. Some atheistic arguments rely upon making use of, and keeping obscure the nature of, this equivocation.

    The term ‘order’ is used to denote a type of simple repetition, which may be described by a formula or “compressed” by an algorithm; for example: the molecular structure of crystals; or some uniformly homogenous bit of matter (I don’t mean that the matter must be all of one single of element, but rather that it isn’t “lumpy,” such that any given volume of it is elementally/molecularly identical to any other); or some series of binary digits which may be “compressed” by an algorithm and then represented by “tokens” generated by the algorithm, such that an algorithm for translating the “tokens” back into the original string and the “tokens” themselves together require less storage space than the original string.

    The term ‘order’ is *also* used to denote a type of organized, and generally, “work-based,” complexity which is quite different from the simplicity denoted by the prior use, and cannot (at least, cannot easily/simply) by described by a formula or “compressed” by an algorithm; for example: biological processes, which are themselves quite contrary to the general direction in which natural process run; or, the ‘order’ imposed upon a messy (i.e. ‘disordered’) hotel room by the hotel staff after the spring-break celebrants have returned to their colleges; or, a work of prose or poetry (*).

    (*) Now, it’s true that the prose or poetry may be represented by some inherently meaningless symbols (i.e. the letters customarily used to represent the spoken words of its language), and that these inherently meaningless symbols may be represented by *other* inherently meaningless symbols (i.e. a computer binary code), and that these inherently meaningless symbols may be “compressed” by an algorithm; and it may even be the case the compressed representation and the de-compression algorithm together require less storage space than the uncompressed representation of the work. However, while in this compressed state, any meaning meant to be conveyed by the original work cannot be conveyed.

  3. By "order," I refer to uniformity, patterns of regularity among diverse (and composite) objects. Even throughout instances of chaos (or, what you call "disorder"), this chaos is still intelligible. Since intelligibility presupposes order, it follows that there is order even behind elements of chaos.

    For example, it may be difficult to decipher the meaning of the symbols in your algorithm. Yet, without order being imposed onto this observation, there would be no way to distinguish between obviously ordered algorithms and ambiguously ordered algorithms.

    What I think this illustrates is a conflation between order-as-ontology versus order-as-epistemology. The fact that we are unable to find meaning in some set of sentences does not imply that there really is no meaning, e.g. the Rosetta Stone. And, if there is no meaning at all, we still only come to that conclusion because of ordered processes, e.g. it was carved using order, it is intelligibly dismissed as nonsensical using order, and they are contrasted with those with that are obviously ordered using order.

    Good thoughts, as always, Ilion.