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BOOK REVIEWS 317 On the Nature and Existence of God. By RICHARD M. GALE. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Pp. 422 + viii. $44.50 (hardbound). Is there a rational justification for believing that God, as understood by traditional Western theism, exists? Richard M. Gale uses the tools of analytic philosophy to address some aspects of this question. He intentionally avoids any discussion of inductive arguments which would try to show that the existence of God is the " only possible explanation " of some observable feature of the universe, and concentrates instead on arguments which more generally discuss whether or not belief in God is rationally justified (pp. 3, 241). His book is in some ways a response ,to philosophers such as William Alston and Alvin Plantinga who have used analytic philosophy in defense of the theistic claim that God exists. Gale offers a more sbptical account of the ability of reason to justify belief in God. He views his work as beneficial to theism, however, in that it may lead believers to adopt a conception of God which is " more adequate " for inspiring worship and obedience than the traditional notion (p. 3) . Before considering " theological arguments " in favor of the existence of God, Gale analyses a number of " atheological " arguments against it. The arguments fall into two categories, epistemological and pragmatic. Epistemological arguments are concerned with justifying any claim to knowledge that God does or does not exist. Pragmatic arguments try to show that belief (or disbelief) in the existence of God is justified by the moral benefits that accrue from it. With the exception of the last chapter, the entire book is devoted to epistemological arguments. Gale views his atheological arguments as " thought experiments " which test the internal consistency of the traditional understanding of various divine attributes and so lead us to improve the logical consistency of our understanding of God. When the traditional underĀ· standing of some divine attribute is shown to involve logical incongruities , the theist is invited to go " back to the drawing board and redesign the particular divine attribute that is the focus of the argument " (p. 3). Atheological arguments are presented first so that the redesigned divine attributes can inform the subsequent analysis of theological arguments in favor of God's existence. Gale is willing to redesign a good number of divine attributes on the basis of often familiar and sometimes rather shaky atheological arguments . The traditional understanding of divine omnipotence, for inĀ· stance, is tested in Chapter 1, using Gale's version of the well known 318 BOOK REVIEWS dilemma of whether an omnipotent God could create a stone so heavy that God could not lift it. Since it is necessary that God ls omnipotent and since it is necessary that an omnipotent being can do anything, it is necessary that God can do anything. Thus, " it is necessary that God can create a stone so heavy that God cannot lift it." But if it is necessary that God can create a stone so heavy that God cannot lift it, then it is possible that there is something that God cannot do. So it is not necessary that God can do anything. Thus we come to the contradiction that it is both necessary and not necessary that God can do anything (p. 18). Gale sees that his premise, " it is necessary that God can create a stone so heavy that God cannot lift it," itself involves a self-contradiction and is equivalent to saying that the omnipotent God can act in such a way that the omnipotent God is simultaneously not the omnipotent God (20). What he fails to see is that attributing to God any action that falls short of perfect activity (e.g., immoral action) involves the same self-contradiction. Nor does he seem to realize that self-contradictory statements of this sort are simply nonsensical. Being devoid of meaning, they can tell us nothing about what God can or cannot do, and so in no way require us to restrict or qualify God's omnipotence. Not seeing the senselessness of self-contradictory statements, Gale embarks on a program of reforming or qualifying the traditional notion of divine omnipotence...


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pp. 317-321
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