Thursday, June 24, 2021

The argument from vocation

  1. I have a calling.

  2. If I have a calling, someone with authority over me calls me to a particular form of life.

  3. No human being with authority over me calls me to a particular form of life.

  4. So, an authoritative non-human being exists.

Different people vary as to whether they think they have a calling or vocation in the sense relevant to the argument. Note, however, that for the argument to work, it is enough for there to be someone in whose case (1)–(3) are true.

I think the most problematic premise in the argument is (2). There is an alternate account of calling, on which one’s duty to take on a particular form of life, when one has such a duty, is determined by one’s pattern of strengths and weaknesses as combined with opportunities available to one and the needs of others. But it seems intuitively unlikely that such circumstantial facts are sufficient to determine a particular form of life, except in the case of persons in emergency situations or with limited opportunities.


El Filósofo said...
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El Filósofo said...

And God would be the being of the conclusion?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think so.

James G said...

"If I have a calling, someone with authority over me calls me to a particular form of life."

Surely that presupposes that the thing that calls you is an authortitive being. You cannot know that the brain chemicals that make you believe you have the subjective feeling of a "calling" is infact from an objective "authortitive" being.

"If lighting strikes my house, that means zeus is angry with me, therefore zeus exists...?"

This argument doesn't work as it presupposes premises which cannot be proven within the argument. In order for my argument to work I first must know that (a) Zeus Exists & (b) Zeus would strike my house if he was angry with me.

Benjamin Stowell said...

My worry would be that "I have a calling" would be a thought inspired by the stories of the Bible and the grand story they together imply. So premise 1) is coming from a belief that God exists, rendering the argument circular.

Alexander R Pruss said...


A subjective feeling of a calling isn't a calling. So I think you're objecting to premise 1 rather than premise 2. You can do that, of course: you can say that the feeling of a calling is an illusion. But that sets us on the road to scepticism.


It could be, but I think the idea that they have a calling is something a lot of people have apart from religion. Think of how hard people struggle to figure out what they are personally supposed to do with their lives.