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The Existence of God Paperback – June 3, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0199271689 ISBN-10: 0199271682 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (June 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199271682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199271689
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.7 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #435,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


`Review from previous edition This impressive book ... deserves the serious attention of theologians ... Anyone seriously interested in philosophy of religion or systematic theology should read it. ' Basil Mitchell, Journal of Theological Studies

`It is ... the best and most philosophically interesting among recent defences of theism.' Elonore Stump, The Thomist

`He has ... set a highwater mark for inductive discussion of the existence of God.' Richard E. Creel, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

`A first-rate contribution to philosophical theology.' William Rowe, Philosophical Books

`Considered the most important contribution of the philosophy of religion by an author who is respected and read by whoever researches in this area in the contemporary English-speaking world, this new edition brings important improvements to the original version, issued in 1979 and revised in 1991.' Journal of Religious Studies

About the Author

Richard Swinburne is formerly Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, University of Oxford.

More About the Author

Richard Swinburne is a British philosopher. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and was Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at Oxford University from 1985 until 2002.His latest book Mind. Brain and Free Will argues that humans consist of two parts, body and soul, and that humans have free will. He is best known for his trilogy on the philosophy of theism (The Coherence of Theism, The Existence of God, and Faith and Reason). The Existence of God (2nd edition, 2004)claims that arguments from the existence of laws of nature, those laws as being such as to lead to the evolution of human bodies, and humans being conscious, make it probable that there is a God. He has written four books on the meaning and justification of central Christian doctrines (including Providence and the Problem of Evil); and he has applied his views about what is made probable by what evidence to the evidence about the Resurrection of Jesus in The Resurrection of God Incarnate. Is there a God? and Was Jesus God? are short books summarizing the arguments of the longer books. He has written at various lengths on many of the other major issues of philosophy (including epistemology, the study of what makes a belief rational or justified, in his book Epistemic Justification). He lives in Oxford, and lectures frequently in many different countries.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Maxwell Goss on April 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Swinburne is perhaps the leading figure in contemporary natural theology and _The Existence of God_ is his most important work. In it, he employs the tools of modern confirmation theory to develop a sustained argument for theism.
Swinburne views himself as part of the long tradition of Christian evidentialism that seeks to give rational reasons for belief in God. However, unlike, say, Anselm, Aquinas, or Paley, Swinburne thinks that every deductive argument for theism rests on premises that could rationally be rejected by the skeptic. Thus his arguments are inductive; he treats theism as a large-scale explanatory theory on a par with, say, quantum theory or Newton's theory of motion. He takes several classical arguments (the cosmological and teleological arguments, the argument from religious experience, etc.) and recasts them in terms of Bayesian probability theory, arguing that each of them confirms God's existence, i.e. raises the probability that He exists.
This is, I think, a brilliant strategy: it means that Swinburne's case does not rest on the cogency of any one argument and that none of his arguments depends on such controversial grounds as the principle of sufficient reaon or the claim that existence is a "real predicate." Rather, his premises generally reflect obvious features of the world (such as its existence and complexity) together with a set of widely accepted principles of scientific reasoning. Moreover, he establishes a rational framework applicable to any inductive arguments for theism, making it easier for other philosophers of religion to offer their own inductive arguments. (I'm surprised more of them have not done so!)
Of course, the book is open to criticism.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jason A. Beyer on February 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
Swinburne's book adopts the strategy of defending theism as the best explanation for a wide range of phenomena. By doing so, Swinburne brings to the philosophy of religion a new and innovative epistemology, one which focuses on the importance explanation plays in our quest for knowledge. As a result, his defense of theism is clearly the best out there. Much of _The Existence of God_ is devoted to the topic of explanation, making this book a key text not only for those working in philosophy of religion but in epistemology and philosophy of science as well. Swinburne's methodology is, I think, clearly on the right track; and as a result there is little doubt that his arguments for theism are powerful and deserve serious consideration.
I do not, however, find Swinburne's defense of theism to be successful. Swinburne focuses too much on simplicity as what determines the best explanation. If we take into consideration other elements of good explanations, such as explanatory depth, Swinburne may not be able to make many of the arguments he does. Also, many of Swinburne's arguments are based on what God has *reasons* to bring about; a consideration which may simply beg the question against the atheist. Swinburne's main critic, J.L. Mackie, says nothing about explanation in his response, _The Miracle of Theism_, and thus lets Swinburne get away without being challenged at the heart of his defense.
However, despite its flaws, Swinburne's book is the most powerful use to date of the new explanationist methodology applied to the question of God's existence. No one interested in this issue can afford to pass this work up.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Reader From Aurora on December 15, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Published in 2004 this is an updated version of the "The Existence of God" - originally released in the 1970's. Unlike many updates, however, that incorporate relatively minor changes this text has a significant amount of new and reworked material. Through examination of arguments for and against theism Swinburne makes a cumulative probabilistic argument for the existence of God. I offer the following thoughts for potential buyers.

The text provides a solid examination of the classic arguments for and against the existence of God. At the outset Swinburne lays out some of the basics of philosophical argumentation, i.e. what is an inductive argument, what is a deductive argument, etc. This approach may be helpful to readers new to philosophical discussion. I also thought the discussion of the argument from evil and the hiddeness of God to be quite well handled. His discussion of the other arguments, while not bad, were not noteworthy. I say this not because of the author's particular views (indeed I think share many of them) but, rather because of approach. His arguments seemed to oscilate between being excessiving accommodating to popular thought and being theologically bloated and rambling. While Swinburne has his followers, his writing is not at the level of a Craig or Plantinga.

With respect to shortcomings, I was surprised by the amount of typos that I noticed - this type of editorial minutia is not normally my forte. Also from a general perspective the text struck me as a bit too self-referential. In light of the tremendous amount of excellent contemporary material in this area it came across as either a bit lazy or even egotistical. Although by no means a terrible book, my strongest impression was - why?
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