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My philosophy textbook was asking to make a reconstruction of his argument to avoid his logical error where he basically says that there is 1 being that makes sure that natural things do their functions. I made the reconstruction allowing for the possibility of there being more than 1 designer.

I said: Unintelligent things always act in the same to get the best result.

If a thing always acts in a way to achieve the best result, then that thing does a function.

Therefore unintelligent things do a function.

If a thing does a function, it does so through design.

Therefore unintelligent do their functions through design.

If an unintelligent thing does a function by design, then there is at least one or more intelligent beings that make sure that it performs this function.

There exists at least one or more intelligent beings that ensures that natural objects do their functions.

Do you think this reconstruction is correct?

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    I think your first premise is too strong, you do not need "always". It is enough that some unintelligent things do that. Aquinas only says "We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end", not that all of them do, and he even qualifies "or nearly always".
    – Conifold
    Sep 10 '20 at 22:39
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    "If a thing does a function, it does so through design." This does not follow. I heightened my pc screen to avoid back pain by putting it on top of two large books. Those books were never designed for this purpose, yet they perform a function.
    – armand
    Feb 9 at 4:29
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    The "get the best result" part is also very suspect and requires clarification imho. The human eye, though it is not intuitive, does a very poor job at detecting patterns of light (blind spot, unnecessarily convoluted processing of the information, etc). It is so inefficient at what it does it is difficult to consider it was designed. But of course, this realization requires anatomical knowledge that was unavailable to Aquinas.
    – armand
    Feb 9 at 4:38
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Dr. Ed Feser's Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide (ch. 3, § "The Fifth Way") summarizes Aquinas's Fifth Way to prove God's existence (with Freddoso's better, 2018 translation substituted):

The proof from finality starts with the observation that [1a] “things lacking cognition, viz., natural bodies, act for the sake of an end. This is apparent from the fact that they always or very frequently act in the same way in order to bring about what is best” (ST I.2.3). From this it is plain that they act [1b] “not by chance (non a casu), but as the result of a tendency (ex intentione)” (ST I.2.3). [2] But whatever lacks intelligence can only act for an end if it is directed by something which has intelligence [directa ab aliquo cognoscente et intelligente], “in the way that an arrow is directed by an archer” (ST I.2.3). [3] “Therefore, there is something with intellective understanding by which all natural things are ordered toward an end—and this we call a God.” (ST I.2.3).


Unintelligent things always act in the same [way] to get the best result.

This is different from Aquinas's statement [1a]. Aquinas says "they always or very frequently act in the same way in order to bring about what is best".

If an unintelligent thing does a function by design, then there is at least one or more intelligent beings that make sure that it performs this function.

Aquinas's statement [2] uses the singular ("directed by something", not "directed by somethings").

I think you need to explain more how multiple intelligent beings (not subordinated to each other in a single causal series) can direct a single unintelligent thing to its end.

For example, you'd have to explain how multiple builders could direct the construction of a cathedral to its end without the guidance of a single architect. Or how multiple people can shoot one arrow without where the arrow is being shot determined by any single person. Etc.

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    This video shows a spontaneous way in which a group of intelligent beings can intelligently guide something (paddles in a video game similar to Pong), with another similar one about multiple people coordinating the same video game body here (not hard to see how a group of archers could control a single sim-archer this way). With less spontaneous activities like planning a cathedral, you could have a more formal procedure like proposing diff. plans followed by a vote.
    – Hypnosifl
    Sep 10 '20 at 22:49
  • @Hypnosifl The computer programmer in both those examples is the single directing intelligent being. "you could have a more formal procedure like proposing diff. plans followed by a vote." The winner of the election is a single agent there, too.
    – Geremia
    Sep 10 '20 at 23:09
  • Why is the designer of a computer program that coordinates collective action, but who doesn't have any influence on the actual choices made by the players, any more the "directing intelligence" than the person who designs a voting system, but doesn't actually vote in the election or run? They are both just creators of frameworks that allow others to pool their preferences.
    – Hypnosifl
    Sep 11 '20 at 1:03
  • @Hypnosifl I deny that the programmer through his program has no "influence on the actual choices made by the players"; isn't the program influencing them, at least somewhat? Analogously to how an architect influences his builders, he gives them some freedom on how exactly to implement the details of his designs.
    – Geremia
    Sep 12 '20 at 0:09
  • OK, we can say the programmer is "influencing" the voters in some way, but I'm asking why you would say that makes the programmer the "directing intelligence" on the vote, and why you wouldn't also say the person who designed a non-computer-based voting system was the "directing intelligence". Say a group are having trouble picking a plan and one of them says "let's have a vote on the different plans, everyone write down their vote and put it in this box, then at at the end we'll count them and whichever plan has the most votes wins".
    – Hypnosifl
    Sep 12 '20 at 1:57

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