My Rebuttal to Philo’s Rebuttal to Cleanthes’ Design Argument

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Humans have a limited understanding of the world. As a result, they lack the ability to fully comprehend God, the universe’s creator and designer. The creator, God, and the creation, which includes living things like people, are not the same thing. The purpose of this paper is to examine Philo’s criticism of Cleanthes’ design argument. I will argue that when designers create a human artifact, they are not at fault or responsible for the human artifact’s possible imperfection or poor quality if the human object is misused and damaged by the individual. Similarly, God is not responsible for what he has created, and thus for the evil that people do. People are accountable for their actions. Therefore, if God’s creation or living things turn out wrong or imperfect, then humans cannot conclude that God is also imperfect. God is beyond the imperfection and evil of humankind’s acts. Philo states God cannot be good and wise because of the evil perceived in the world, but this is comparing God to human-like qualities to prove God is imperfect. Philo’s design argument here is then considered a ground level discussion.

Philo’s Argument

Philo starts by objecting to the analogy used by Cleanthes between the universe and the machine. Cleanthes had likened the world to a great machine and perceived that the universe is under the governance of reason. Philo believes that a substantial similarity delivers a strong argument, but it is not the case here. The analogous phenomena need to be independent of each other. However, the universe and the machine are not independent, rather, the universe is the whole, and a machine is part of it.

Philo criticizes Cleanthes’s design argument and concludes that the universe is imperfect. He bases this on the premise that the human artifact is incomplete, which thus implies that the designer of the human relic must also be imperfect. Further, since the universe is flawed, this indicates that the designer of the universe is imperfect too.

The Analogy

I find the argument by Philo unconvincing because he bases this argument on the argument from design, which shows that imperfect human artifacts are the result of imperfections in the maker. It underlies the cause and effect idea. The case of cause and effect extends to human artifacts and their makers. A manufacturing scenario can help explain the rule of cause and effect. Let’s take note of the manufacturer, the processing plant, and the final product. Faultiness in programming the machine codes as a result of system error can lead to undesired end products. We cannot then conclude that this is a perfect analogy to comparing the final product and the manufacturer. The system error subject to the processing machinery is now what defines the end product. It is a desire for the manufacturer to produce quality products but the manufacturing system is what disrupts the production process.

The Imperfection of a Product

One must also understand that a designer might have perfect intentions when designing something but they could fail in the end product. The designer cannot be assumed imperfect. Further, when a developer makes several products, not all of them ends up fulfilling their desired intentions. Some products may lose the perfection throughout time and become defective. The products can even be misused and damaged by the owner of the product.

Similarly, an ant can only understand one aspect of the life of someone building an ant farm. The ant will only know the person while in the room, and even then, the ant will not fully understand what the person does. Also, irrespective of whether the person had peaceful intentions while building the ant farm, this will not prevent the insects from fighting in future just like humans do. The ant has the zeal towards territory dominance, and by doing this, its territorial protection becomes necessary.

Imperfections of a Product to the Evils in the World

Philo compares the shortcomings of a product to the evils of the world. The universe faces challenges like natural disasters, people with bad intentions and all the unimaginable crimes. Philo finds these atrocities as something that could not have been the design of a perfect God. However, I don’t find this argument stable because, even today, manufacturers intend to make excellent products, but in the end, some of them end up being defective.

In various forms of religion, God is as a supernatural being, and we cannot say that God exists naturally just like humans for example. God is termed to be Omnipresent, and more diverse in complexity; It is quite difficult to understand God. SSuch a conception needs to hold since it implies how God is not human-like.

Religious Books Present a God who is perfect and gives Guidance on being Good.

The holy books, for example, the Bible, Torah, and Koran show a perfect God who encourages goodness. The teachings in these religious books advocate on creating a perfect universe without evil. We can thus conclude that God is perfect and God intends that God’s creation is perfect too. However, people have a free will of God where they can choose between good and evil. When they choose the evil, the maker is not considered also to be wrong. People and the human artifact are imperfect, then several generalizations that the creator is imperfect too cannot hold. God gives people a free will, and we do not have a full understanding of the reason for this.

The maker is not responsible for the defects in the human artifact. Perpetration actions by humans do not have to associate directly to the maker given that the people are usually given a free will to choose their action. Humans cannot then say God is responsible for the way his people turn out since God, with good intentions, created humanity superbly, but the people themselves have lost their perfection and became immoral.

Human Mind, which is Limited, Thinks God is Imperfect

The human mind has limitations and cannot be said to have a full understanding of God. The human brain does not have the complete understanding of the universe as well. To this end, the mind makes a judgment depending on the information that it has. Such an implication suggests that when humans say that God or the universe are imperfect, it is only out of imagination because they don’t have a full understanding of either God or the universal set. Because humans lack proper knowledge of the universe and God, it thus implies that the conclusions it makes are partial and fragmentary. Humanity cannot also comprehend the reasons why God gave them a free will.

Designer cannot face blame for the Imperfection of a Product

God’s perfection nature is not ideal and subject to being associated with the recognized evil nature of the universe. The question about perfection revolves around some of the identified product models created by God. Therefore, evil may be committed entirely by the God’s creation, and this alone does not form the locus as to why such imperfections are to associate with God.

Humans Cannot Understand the Nature of God

Philo paints a bleak picture of the universe where he calls the universal domain a miserable place. He suggests that if the world is a machine, its goal is the mere survival of the species and not that the species live happily. Philo alleges that this infers that we cannot make conclusions that God is infinitely good, wise or even powerful. He supports this by highlighting the many evils that are present in the universe. I find this argument weak because Philo was attributing moral values to God.

We cannot understand the nature of God, and thus it would be wrong to assign him human-like characteristics, yet we do not understand his nature. People, themselves, make other human artifacts or products that have certain attributes but their features are not necessarily human-like. The features that the people have cannot thus associate with the maker. The maker could have some entirely different elements that are not comparable to those of the human beings or that people themselves cannot even comprehend. It is clear that the imperfection of a human does not substantiate the fault of God. Both the creation and Creator are separate entities.

Humans cannot fathom the nature of God through reason because God’s nature is inherently beyond what the human can comprehend. We cannot then know the reasons God has for making the creation the way they are. How people act later is independent of the creator’s intention of creating people ideally without any form of fault. People can make evil decisions, but God cannot be held accountable. The responsibility of human’s actions is a must for placement on the individual with particular imperfection. Meanwhile, no claims are to be placed back on the creator.


If the human artifact is imperfect, it is incorrect to automatically conclude that the designer is perfect since the human artifact can lose some of its perfection if the owner of the human handiwork damages the product. Even though God gave people free will, God, the designer of the universe, cannot be blamed for the imperfection of the people if people choose to do evil when God, with good intentions, wanted to create a perfect universe. Attributing God to the human-like qualities that Philo attributes is not accepted, and therefore, this disproves Philo’s belief that God is imperfect. Philo’s design argument is then considered a ground level case hence not likened to Cleanthes’s design argument since it contradicts it.

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