Helen De Cruz at Prosblogion has just returned from a philosophy of religion workshop (where arguments for and against theism are erected and tested for structural integrity, presumably) at which the Common Consent Argument for the existence of God was revived. In its simplest form:

1. Most people believe in God

2. Therefore, God exists.

Cruz reports that the argument has fallen on hard times among philosophers recently. One wonders how it ever enjoyed good times:

The proposition that the mere popularity of a belief might constitute evidence for its truth may strike us as odd. Mill, for instance, argued that common opinion might be OK for the common folk who are unable or don’t feel entitled to form their own opinion, but to us, thinkers “the argument from other people’s opinions has little weight. It is but second-hand evidence; and merely admonishes us to look out for and weigh the reasons on which this conviction of mankind or of wise men was founded.”

Most would (and should) smirk at the crude formulation of the Common Consent Argument above, particularly those interested in proving its conclusion false. But the comparison between the reasoning of the argument and that of society’s moral culture is eerily accurate. Replace “exists” with “is morally neutral,” and “God” with anything that’s fashionable.

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