Explain Paley’s Teleological Argument

The Watch Analogy

In order to explain his teleological argument, Paley offers an analogy of finding a watch on a heath. He argues thusly:
1) you find a watch on an abandoned heath, far from any human interaction. Surely, Paley suggests, that such an intricate and complex object could not come about by chance or accident.

2) Thus, the existence of the watch implies a watchmaker.

3) The universe is intricate and complex, like the watch, and could not have come about by chance.

4) Thus, the universe implies an intelligent designer.

This is the fundamental basis of Paley’s argument, but he separates this into two areas: Design qua Purpose and Design qua Regularity.

Design qua Purpose

Paley suggests that we must look at the purpose of many intricate things in the universe as evidence for a designer. For example, he suggests that we look at the intricate purpose of the human eye. He argues that something so complex, with such a specific purpose (to see), that it is logical to believe that they must be a result of an intelligent designer, and not chance.

Design qua Regularity

Paley further states that the regularity of the universe is also evidence of a designer. He points to such regularities as Newton’s Laws of Physics and Keplar’s three laws of planetary motion as such evidence. He argues that the fact the planets move so regularly and so mechanically perfect, like the cogs of a watch, is further evidence that there must be an intelligent designer behind it.

Further Reading and next topics:

* Swinburne’s Teleological Argument

* Hume’s Criticisms of the Teleological Argument (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779):

Proportional effect to cause

Uniqueness of the universe

Infinite regression

Multiple deities

Comparison to machine


Signs of disorder

* Kant’s Criticisms of the Teleological Argument (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781)

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