Alexander Pruss on the Argument from Beauty

In my view, this is a compelling argument. Richard Swinburne gives an argument from beauty in chapter 6 of his book The Existence of God.

Dr. Pruss distinguishes four varieties:

The argument from beauty, it seems to me, can come in four varieties, each asking a different “why” question, and each claiming that the best answer entails the existence of a being like God.

1. Why is there such a property as beauty?

This argument is the aesthetic parallel to the standard argument from morality. For it to work, a distinctively theistic answer to (1) must be offered. Parallel to a divine command metaethics, one could offer a divine appreciation meta-aesthetics. I think this gets the direction of explanation wrong—God appreciates beautiful things because they are beautiful. Moreover, if what God appreciates does not modally supervene on how non-divine things are, then divine simplicity will be violated. A better answer is that beautiful things are all things that reflect God in some particular respect, a respect that perhaps cannot be specified better than as that respect in which beautiful things reflect him (I think this is not a vicious circularity).

2. Why are there so many beautiful things?

The laws of physics, biology, etc. do not mention beauty. As far as these laws are concerned, beauty, if there is such a thing, is epiphenomenal. So, it does not seem that a scientific explanation of the existence of beautiful things can be given. But, perhaps, a philosophical account could be given of how, of metaphysical necessity, such-and-such physical states are always beautiful, and maybe then we can explain these entailing states physically. Or maybe one can show philosophically that, necessarily, most random configurations of matter include significant amounts of beauty, and then a statistical explanation can be given. But all that is pie in the sky, while a theistic explanation is right at hand. (Continue)

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