Volume 77, Issue 3, Summer 2003
Common Sense, Metaphysics, and the Existence of God
Being dedicated to the memory of the great Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, who died in the month it was given, this Aquinas lecture begins with some reflections on the relationship between the anti-scientistic, anti-Cartesian position argued for by Anscombe and her teacher Wittgenstein, and the outlook of Thomas Aquinas. It then proceeds to explore the familiar Thomistic idea that philosophical reflection provides the means to establish the existence of God. Drawing in part on Aquinas, but also and perhaps unexpectedly on the idealism of Berkeley and on the semantic intuitionism of Michael Dummett (a former student of Anscombe), I argue that theism follows both from the assumption of realism and from the assumption of anti-realism, and that this fact reveals something of the complexity involved in the claim that God both creates and knows the world. Finally, I examine the relationship between Aristotelian-Thomistic pluralistic realism and the attempt by John McDowell to fashion a position that lies between Platonism and reductive naturalism.