HABERMAS: You very kindly noted that our debates and discussions had
influenced your move in the direction of theism. (11) You mentioned that this initial
influence contributed in part to your comment that naturalistic efforts have
never succeeded in producing “a plausible conjecture as to how any of
these complex molecules might have evolved from simple entities.” (12) Then
in your recently rewritten introduction to the forthcoming edition of your
classic volume God and Philosophy, you say that the original version of that
book is now obsolete. You mention a number of trends in theistic argumentation
that you find convincing, like big bang cosmology, fine tuning and Intelligent
Design arguments. Which arguments for God’s existence did you find most
FLEW: I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence
are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries. I’ve
never been much impressed by the kalam cosmological argument, and I don’t
think it has gotten any stronger recently. However, I think the argument to
Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it.
HABERMAS: So you like arguments such as those that proceed from big
bang cosmology and fine tuning arguments?
HABERMAS: You also recently told me that you do not find the moral argument
to be very persuasive. Is that right?
FLEW: That’s correct. It seems to me that for a strong moral argument,
you’ve got to have God as the justification of morality. To do this
makes doing the morally good a purely prudential matter rather than, as the
moral philosophers of my youth used to call it, a good in itself. (Compare
the classic discussion in Plato’s Euthyphro.)
HABERMAS: So, take C. S. Lewis’s argument for morality as presented
in Mere Christianity. (13) You didn’t find that to be very impressive?
FLEW: No, I didn’t. Perhaps I should mention that, when I was in college,
I attended fairly regularly the weekly meetings of C. S. Lewis’s Socratic
Club. In all my time at Oxford these meetings were chaired by Lewis. I think
he was by far the most powerful of Christian apologists for the sixty or more
years following his founding of that club. As late as the 1970s, I used to
find that, in the USA, in at least half of the campus bookstores of the universities
and liberal art colleges which I visited, there was at least one long shelf
devoted to his very various published works.
HABERMAS: Although you disagreed with him, did you find him to be a
very reasonable sort of fellow?
FLEW: Oh yes, very much so, an eminently reasonable man.
HABERMAS: And what do you think about the ontological argument for the
existence of God?
FLEW: All my later thinking and writing about philosophy was greatly
influenced by my year of postgraduate study under the supervision of Gilbert
Ryle, the then Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy in the University of Oxford,
as well as the Editor of Mind. It was the very year in which his enormously
influential work on The Concept of Mind (14) was first published. I was told that,
in the years between the wars, whenever another version of the ontological
argument raised its head, Gilbert forthwith set himself to refute it.
My own initial lack of enthusiasm for the ontological argument developed
into strong repulsion when I realized from reading the Theodicy (15) of Leibniz
that it was the identification of the concept of Being with the concept of
Goodness (which ultimately derives from Plato’s identification in The
Republic of the Form or Idea of the Good with the Form or the Idea of the
Real) which enabled Leibniz in his Theodicy validly to conclude that an universe
in which most human beings are predestined to an eternity of torture is the “best
of all possible worlds.”
HABERMAS: So of the major theistic arguments, such as the cosmological,
teleological, moral, and ontological, the only really impressive ones that
you take to be decisive are the scientific forms of teleology?
FLEW: Absolutely. It seems to me that Richard Dawkins constantly overlooks
the fact that Darwin himself, in the fourteenth chapter of The Origin of Species,
pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed
reproductive powers. This is the creature the evolution of which a truly comprehensive
theory of evolution must give some account. Darwin himself was well aware
that he had not produced such an account. It now seems to me that the findings
of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new
and enormously powerful argument to design.
HABERMAS: As I recall, you also refer to this in the new introduction
to your God and Philosophy.
FLEW: Yes, I do; or, since the book has not yet been published, I will!
HABERMAS: Since you affirm Aristotle’s concept of God, do you think
we can also affirm Aristotle’s implications that the First Cause hence
knows all things?
FLEW: I suppose we should say this. I’m not at all sure what one should
think concerning some of these very fundamental issues. There does seem to
be a reason for a First Cause, but I’m not at all sure how much we have
to explain here. What idea of God is necessary to provide an explanation of
the existence of the universe and all which is in it?
HABERMAS: If God is the First Cause, what about omniscience, or omnipotence?
FLEW: Well, the First Cause, if there was a First Cause, has very clearly
produced everything that is going on. I suppose that does imply creation “in
HABERMAS: In the same introduction, you also make a comparison between
Aristotle’s God and Spinoza’s God. Are you implying, with some
interpreters of Spinoza, that God is pantheistic?
FLEW: I’m noting there that God and Philosophy has become out of date
and should now be seen as an historical document rather than as a direct contribution
to current discussions. I’m sympathetic to Spinoza because he makes
some statements which seem to me correctly to describe the human situation.
But for me the most important thing about Spinoza is not what he says but
what he does not say. He does not say that God has any preferences either
about or any intentions concerning human behaviour or about the eternal destinies
of human beings.