International Society for Philosophers

International Society for Philosophers

Wisdom begins with wonder

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728


Issue number 128 13th August 2007


I. 'The Argument from Design as Proof of Intelligent Designer?'
   by Martin Jenkins

II. 'Bergson and Russell: Two Positions on Being and Nothingness'
   by D.R. Khashaba

III. 'We (I and you) as Daseins? Reply to Jurgen Lawrenz' by Archana Barua



In this issue, Pathways Mentor Martin Jenkins takes a sceptical look at the venerable 'Argument from Design', which has recently undergone a revival as a result of recent discoveries in physics showing just how improbable the existence of intelligent life is. Even tiny changes in the laws of nature would have produced a universe where the required complex structures could not exist. His answer to this point is, simply, 'We wouldn't be asking the question if we weren't here.'

Daoud Khashaba looks at the different views of Bertrand Russell and Henri Bergson on the question, 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' and makes a plea for respecting the ultimate mystery of existence, as a vital overlooked third alternative to the usual theist and atheist responses.

Archana Barua gets the chance to respond to Jurgen Lawrenz's comments on her article, 'Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence: a Heideggerian approach'. The question, 'What is intelligence?' and the question, 'What is it to be the kinds of being that we are?' are not necessarily the same. Therein lies the possibility of fruitful work in artificial intelligence which leaves open the question of what more is required for an intelligent entity to be 'one of us'.

Finally, hearty thanks all those who responded to my recent call to resubscribe to Philosophy Pathways. Don't forget to spread the word!

Geoffrey Klempner



I understand the Argument from Design as that argument which seeks to infer the existence of a creative intelligence -- usually the Abrahamic God -- from the apparently designed phenomena of universe. Phenomena are taken to have been designed, as there is no other explanation to account for their complexity, for their intricate yet purposeful coherence.

The argument is succinctly stated in David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Cleanthes, one of the interlocutors says:

     Look around the world: contemplate the whole and every
     part of it: you will find it to be nothing but one great
     machine, subdivided into a infinite number of lesser
     machines, which again admit of subdivisions, to a degree
     beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and
     explain. All these various machines, and even their
     minutest parts, are adjusted to each other with an
     accuracy, which ravishes into admiration all men, who have
     ever contemplated them. The curious adapting of means to
     ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it
     much proceeds, the production of human contrivance; of
     human design, thought, wisdom and intelligence. Since
     therefore the effects resemble each other, we are led to
     infer by all the rules of analogy that the causes also
     resemble; and that the author of nature is somewhat similar
     to the mind of man, though possessed of larger faculties,
     proportioned to the grandeur of the work which he has
     executed. By this argument a posteriori do we prove at once
     the existence of a deity and his similarity to the human
     mind and intelligence.[1]

The world is complex yet coherent. It resembles the products of human contrivance and design. They are similar. Similar effects invoke similar causes. As the cause of human products is an intelligent designer, so the cause of all the effects of the phenomena of the world is also an intelligent designer. The intelligent designer is traditionally ascribed as being God.

Recently, the ascription has been to 'intelligent design'.[2] The objections to the design argument still pertain and the latest manifestation of the design argument fails. Let's examine this.

Argument from Analogy

Firstly, the analogy of human created products with the phenomena of the universe is fallacious. Taking complex products as effects of human production is one thing. We observe this every day. We create products ourselves everyday. I can observe a house and without any problem, conclude that human beings -- architect, bricklayers and so on -- created it. It is safe to conclude a posteriori, on the grounds of observed experience that a house needs the combination of land developers, planning departments, architects and builders without which it would not be built; that human complex contrivances presuppose human design. This conclusion is reached from the experience of such things. It is not safe to extend this a posteriori reasoning to what is unobserved -- to the creation of the phenomena of the universe -- which the argument from design does.

So upon and within the grounds of observed experience, it is safe to conclude that complex designs of a car, a house, a hammer presuppose human designing intelligence; for it has been observed that the former cannot exist without the latter. It has not been observed of the phenomena in the universe that they cannot exist without a designing intelligence. So, the argument from design is resting on a conclusion extending from an observed premise to an unobserved premise and this does not follow. A premise is fallacious making the conclusion unsound. Applying thinking 'inside the box' of human experience to what is 'outside the box' of human experience, is not conclusively sound.

Secondly, the argument from analogy rests on complex human artefacts requiring a human designer. But it doesn't follow that all human artefacts are complex in character. Some are simple, like the whittled stick or the stone used to make markings. As such, the analogy doesn't hold as human artefacts are not always complex. If not all complex then the example of created human objects as complex being analogous for complex phenomena of the universe doesn't follow.

Thirdly, contrary to its claims, the argument from design does not remain within observed experience. Remaining within a posteriori reasoning alone permits the conclusion only that human designer's create artefacts, products of complexity. Contrary to a posteriori reasoning, its limits are transgressed and something not observed within experience is introduced as the cause of what is empirically observed. This appears to commit the fallacy of Petitio Principi -- assuming the truth of that which has yet to be proven.

Like effects prove like causes?

Yet it is retorted that like effects must follow from like causes. We conclude the complex yet coherent innards of a watch are effects of a designing cause. Likewise, the complex yet coherent phenomena of the universe are an effect of a cause -- a designing cause. The like effects of complexity arise from like causes. For all complex coherence there must be a designing intelligence. Again, that P leads to Q does not entail Q leading to P. That a designer P leads to designed complexity Q does not logically entail that complexity Q entails a designer P. This is borne out when we observe human designers create artefacts and products of complexity but is not borne out by observing non-human phenomena and inferring they likewise require a designer. It can be concluded only that human designing intelligences entail complex, designed artefacts.

So the phenomena of the universe if perceived as complex yet purposive in their manifestation, do not logically or empirically entail an intelligent, designing cause. There may be other explanations and/ or none.


Contrary to the a posteriori, empirical based reasoning of the Design argument, complexity and purposiveness might be perceptions reducible to human cognition and not an objective character of the universe.[3] If not objective characteristics of the world 'out there' then a central premise of the argument from design -- that the universe displays complexity and coherence -- is not sound and the desired conclusion of a creative intelligence of such complexity etc. will not follow. Additionally, what is understood by purposive and coherent is problematic. Socrates keeps what appears to be a shambles of a filing system compared to Immanuel whose files are labelled and appropriately placed under definite categories and cabinet draws. Yet Socrates knows were everything is and can retrieve requested information as quickly as Immanuel. So complexity and purposiveness display an ambiguity. With the ambiguity no sure inference can be drawn from complexity to a creative intelligence.

I will now assume that the universe does display a complex coherence of means to ends. Assuming there is an objective complexity 'out there' independent of human cognition where means cohere into ends. Is complexity alone evidence of the necessity of a designing intelligence? No. For even if there is objective complexity it does not escape the fallacy of analogy objection discussed above. Complexity does not require or necessitate a designing intelligence. It just doesn't follow that non-human complexity must require a designing intelligence for its existence.

Even if it were admitted that the complex coherence displayed by phenomena could be accounted for by intelligent design, then the nature of intelligent design itself would have to be accounted for. The agency of intelligent design must itself possess complexity in order to create complexity. If as the argument for intelligent design maintains that complexity has to be explained by an intelligent designer then the complexity of the designer likewise has to be explained. If not, it is being maintained that the intelligent designer does not possess complexity. If not complex it has no understanding of complexity so cannot intentionally design complex creations. So if it designs complex creations, it must possess complexity and this has to be explained in terms of the design argument, in the existence of an intelligent designer of the intelligent designer and so on ad infinitum.

Goldilocks and Intelligent Design

Another approach in the argument for intelligent design is to propose that the conditions for life to exist are so delicate, so intricate that they could not have occurred by chance alone. Neutrons are slightly heavier than protons. If it were the other way round, atoms could not exist, as they would have decayed into neutrons after the 'Big Bang'. No protons, no atomic nucleuses and no atoms. No atoms then no chemistry. No chemistry then no life. That there is life at all is due to the condition of slightly heavier neutrons. In the story of Goldilocks where unlike Father and Mother Bear's porridge, Baby Bear's porridge, is 'just right' -- so the conditions in the universe are 'just right': just right to allow life to exist, This so-called 'Goldilocks enigma' cannot have arisen from chance.[4] If not from chance then there must have been a creative intelligence designing the phenomena of the universe.

The immediate response to the Goldilocks enigma is that it is precisely because such delicate conditions pertain that life exists. Without these delicate conditions, life could not exist -- as we perceive in the solar system. We are the lucky strike in the cosmic game of dice -- no god or deliberate design is necessary.

Furthermore, an intelligent designer could not have been that intelligent. If it had, it would have loosened up on the conditions necessary for life so that they weren't so stringent. Such conditions for life reduce the chances of life rather than necessitate it. A change of a few degrees in temperature can decide the existence or not of life. An intelligent designer would have made conditions more flexible ensuring greater survival conditions for life.


The argument from Design whether to the Abrahamic God or to an Intelligent Designer fails. It primarily fails because it is based on analogous reasoning which is fallacious. Whilst human beings create complex products it does not follow that a designing intelligence is required to create the universe. This undermines the Argument from Design and its modern derivative of arguments for Intelligent Design.


1. P. 53. David Hume. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Penguin 1990.

2. Intelligent Design. This can be construed as a contemporary manifestation of The Argument from Design originating particularly in the USA. Intelligent design is defined as:

     'the claim that 'certain features of the universe and of
     living things are best explained by an intelligent cause,
     not an undirected process such as natural selection'. It is
     a modern form of the traditional teleological argument '.

3. This epistemological point is made by philosophers David Hume (1711-1776) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). In other words key terms of the Argument from Design such as cause, effect, teleology, purposiveness are not objective characters of the world but are human constructs. David Hume questions whether causality is an objective constituent of the universe or rather the customary conjunction of events by made human beings.

Immanuel Kant argues that causality and purposiveness are a constituent of the phenomenal world as it appears to us created by the Transcendental Categories of human cognition. It is not a constituent characteristic of the noumenal world in itself. For both see:

David Hume Inquiries Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford University Press. 2006.

Immanuel Kant. Critique of Pure Reason. Everyman 1987.

4. Paul Davies. 'Yes, the Universe Looks like a Fix. But that doesn't mean a god fixed it.' The Guardian. (UK) Tuesday 26 June 2007.

Further Reading

Anthony Flew Theology and Falsification. Reason and Responsibility. (ed: Joel Finberg) Belmont Publishers. 1968

Anthony Flew. Arguments to Design: Why Life's Complexity does not prove the Existence of God. Atheist Notes. http:---

J.L. Mackie The Miracle of Theism. Oxford University Press. 1982

JCA. Gaskin. The Quest for Eternity. Penguin Books 1988

(c) Martin Jenkins 2007




Bertrand Russell and Henri Bergson were veritable antipodes. Russell early shed off his youthful Platonism in favour of a thoroughgoing empiricism. Bergson discarded his early interest in mathematics, turning to psychology, then progressing from biology to high mysticism. The contrast is clearly illustrated in their respective approaches to the notions of being and nothingness.

In 'Why I Am Not A Christian'[1] Russell shows the inanity of the First-Cause argument for the existence of God. He says, 'If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God...'. The argument from First Cause does not tell us anything about the nature of the First Cause: call it God or Nous or Big Bang, that, in itself, does not tell us anything about the character or nature of that First Cause.

Thus far I go fully along with Russell. But when he goes on to say, 'There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed', I think Russell is wrong in implying that these two alternatives stand on an equal footing. I find the suggestion that the world could 'have come into being without a cause' simply unintelligible. If we begin with nothing, I find it utterly inconceivable that anything should then have come to be.

To my mind, being -- that there should have been anything rather than nothing -- is the ultimate mystery. It is unexplainable and that's that. The idea of God does not explain it. If we begin by assuming the existence of God, then that may explain the existence of our actual world, but it leaves the being of God unexplained; so we are back where we were.

It is true that Russell goes on to say, 'There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all.' That I accept. But Russell immediately adds, 'The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination.' I do not feel easy about that. It damps the sense of the mystery of being, and I believe it is this sense, when heightened, that gives birth to philosophic wonder, without which there is no genuine philosophy.

Now to Bergson. In The Two Sources of Morality and Religion Bergson writes, 'We have shown elsewhere that part of metaphysics moves, consciously or not, around the question of knowing why anything exists -- why matter, or spirit, or God, rather than nothing at all? But the question presupposes that reality fills a void, that underneath Being lies nothingness, that de jure there should be nothing, that we must therefore explain why there is de facto something. And this presupposition is pure illusion, for the idea of absolute nothingness has not one jot more meaning than a square circle.'[2]

Let us just recall in passing that Plato also in the Sophist[3] says that absolute nothingness is unthinkable. But does not Bergson's dismissal of the question deflate the sense of the mystery of being which I hold to be valuable? No. The human intellect inevitably poses the question Why and inevitably raises the chimera of Nothingness, and so we are not wrong when we say that for the human intellect Being will remain an ultimate mystery and that mystery unfolds in the profoundest reflections on the meaning and value of our own being.


1. 'Why I Am Not A Christian', a lecture delivered by Russell to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall, on March 6, 1927, available online at http:---

2. Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, translated by R. Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton, with the assistance of W. Horsfall Carter, 1935, 1954, p.251.

3. Plato, Sophist, 237b-239c.

(c) D. R. Khashaba 2007


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I appreciate the opportunity to respond to Jurgen Lawrenz's response to my article, 'Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence: a Heideggerian Approach', which appeared in Philosophy Pathways Issue 123. Jurgen Lawrenz lets us know that he is basically out of sorts with the idea that a piece of metal might have intelligence, 'however defined'.

I don't think there is special need for re-defining intelligence in order for it to potentially apply to machines. Some of the existing definitions of intelligence will very well encompass machine intelligence. There are plenty of examples where a computer can already surpass people at solving problems, making decisions, or carrying out other 'thinking' tasks. Shane Legg and Marcus Hutter at the Swiss Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Manno-Lugano have drafted an alternative test that will allow the intelligence of vision systems, robots, natural language processing programs or trading agents to be compared and contrasted despite their broad and disparate functions. Although there is no consensus on what exactly human intelligence is, most views appear to cluster around the idea that it hinges on a general ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments, says Legg. The same can be applied to an AI system. If we want to hold that human intelligence or consciousness will always be special or different in some way than that of machines, that's a different argument.

Nowhere in my article I have argued that one can ask a simple 'yes or no question', 'Is this piece of metal intelligent or not'? While quite a few people working in AI doubt that the common sense reasoning problem will eventually be solved, there are others for whom computer intelligence has been a fact at least since 1956, when LT found a proof that was better than the one found by Whitehead and Russell, or when the engineers at Westinghouse wrote a program that designed electric motors automatically. As per one operational meaning for 'intelligence', an act or an entity is intelligent if it accomplishes something that, if accomplished by a human being, would be called intelligent. That way if someone or something that can play chess pretty well, or can 'keep a car on the road', can diagnose symptoms of a disease and so on, are intelligent.

The fact that AI can be both more and less than human intelligence does not amount to saying that they can be 100% equivalent. As George Johnson rightly points out: 'There will be properties of human intelligence that may not be exhibited in an AI system (sometimes because we have no particular reason for doing so or because we have not yet gotten around to it). Conversely, there will be capabilities of an AI system that will be beyond the reach of human intelligence. Ultimately what AI will accomplish will depend more on what society needs and where AI may have a 'comparative advantage' rather than by philosophical considerations' (George Johnson The New York Times May 9, 1997).

Are human beings 'Daseins'? For Heidegger, we are not Daseins in our thing-like mode of existing. Heidegger terms this fundamental 'be-ing' in experience Dasein or, in English, being-in-the-world. As concernful beings we are Dasein-like for whom 'his own mode of being is problematic. ' Otherwise we are just 'be-ings' among 'beings', the fallen Daseins. We as humans can be treated as Daseins if we are beings in the world continuously engaged in concernful activities. In order to look for the very meaning of 'Being' in general and in the meaning of Human Being in particular, one may very well begin with the individual 'Dasein' as a starting point. This, I believe, will reveal the way of being, a 'being that is peculiar to humans. ' This unique way of looking primarily at our own unique way of being, the individual Dasein that is personalized as 'I' or 'you', could be just one initial starting point that sets forth to reveal more primordial and deeper ways of being that may eventually transcend the very intimate and personalized way of being that is peculiar to humans. Ultimately the 'being question' amounts to: 'what is the most general way to understand and how it is possible to intend something?' (Okrent 1996, online).

Are human beings Daseins? We should rather ask: 'is human being a 'thinking entity?', or, 'what type of entity is a thinking entity?' What a 'thinking being' means is to be determined by investigating that which characterizes that type of entity. Heidegger has made a shift from an articulation of the question of being to an articulation of the character of intentionality. The crux of the question is: what conditions must be satisfied when some event is correctly described in intentional terms? The meaning of an intentional entity is related to the meaning of that general entity, that being, in Heidegger's terminology, Dasein, which has that intentional state and also some other states. The essential character of Dasein is its 'being-in-the-world', acting purposefully in a goal directed way, and using tools as tools in pursuing its goals. My initial question was: 'beginning with this outline of Heidegger's Dasein, could one ascribe Dasein like character to a cyber being'?

For Dreyfus and others, computers would never be able to act intentionally since these act only in a programmed way and it would be impossible for a computer or for a cyber being to successfully cope with its environment unless all the variables of a context are programmed. Contrary to what Dreyfus says, with the advances made in technology and also in the field of AI, a robot of the most sophisticated construction could be programmed to display better coping abilities than humans. If that is what characterizes human intentionality then these robots are better qualified to be Heideggerian 'Dasein' in terms of better coping skills, better than any human grandmaster could ever display.

Whether the machine or the man ultimately wins the rematch between Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov, it is probably just a matter of time before a computer prevails. What is far less certain is just what to make of such a victory. How to define intelligence and decide who or what has it remains among science's unsolved, and possibly unsolvable, problems. Whether a machine like Deep Blue, combining lightning-fast search power with a growing database of chess knowledge, can be said to think depends on one's philosophical prejudices.

That a machine could attain a Dasein like character is now no longer an issue for me. What I am interested in finding is what is that which is distinctively human, that which would have made Kasparov look for a human face, which could not come from his opponent displaying all coping abilities and all the known techniques of a skilled player? Why that stone face of his opponent could make him so unsure of himself? For me, this is related to a more vital question regarding another dimension of meaning of Being. My question now is, 'What makes our coping abilities distinctively human?' We as humans have the capacity to learn from our mistakes, we can commit wrongs and can repent for those wrongs, we may continuously ask the being question in order to redefine our stand and to remake ourselves, the qualities which humans alone are required to possess in a match for equality between humans and machines. 'This is what makes our being distinct, this specific style of coping. It is a style consisting of unknowns and knowns, of past and future, of stumbling not gliding. It is our combination of Heidegger's big words, disclosed and undisclosed that characterize our way of coping our being. Confusing gibberish it is, but in many ways it is confusing gibberish that dominates what we are and therefore is a major part of what it means to be a Dasein' (Frey 1999).

For us the real defeat comes not from machine acting smarter than us, it is a defeat that comes when we surrender our distinctively human style of coping imbibing a style that is alien to us. Heidegger's late philosophy was a move toward a mystical dimension, more for mechanical submission to the moods of the commune than to reflect and research, more with an urge to be seized than to seize, for a kind of conversion than rational persuasion. His ideal Dasein became more machine-like with blindness to those emotions, which are necessary for us to cope with a style that is distinctively our own. The real threat comes if Dasein attains a machine-like character wearing a mask of a sinister stone face which is a real threat to its own being and to its authentic mode of being in the world. The focus is on human existence as the route to understand Being in general (Barua 2003).

(c) Archana Barua 2007


Dr. Archana Barua Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati

© Geoffrey Klempner 2002–2020