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Paley’s analogy Essay



The “watchmaker analogy” that outlines the argument with regard to timepiece dates back to Cicero. In reference to the argument, Voltaire once commented “if a watch confirms the existence of a watchmaker, but the universe fails to demonstrate the presence of a great Architect, then I consent to be labeled a fool.” Today, the analogy is credited with William Paley who outlined the argument in his book Natural Theology (1802).

Paley argues that, if one was to find a watch laying on the ground and was to be asked how the watch happened to be in that position, it would be inapplicable to assert that the watch has lain in that position forever. By just gazing at a watch and all its complex components working in concert uniformly, one can derive that the watch was designed by a watchmaker (Engel, et al. 200-250). Hence, by exploring the intricacy of the eye and the way it aligns its function so well (to see), the eye ought to be designed by a Divine Watchmaker (God).

Teleological Argument

This analogy can be classified as the teleological argument, also referred to as “the argument from design.” The teleological argument is grounded in the character of the world and the universe. The argument stipulates that the world is a place filled with such novel interlocking intricacy to the extent that the sole rational justification centers on the existence of an intelligent designer (Engel, et al. 200-250).

The intricacy of life on earth together with the harmonious association of living organisms demonstrates evidence of intelligent design. A design demands the existence of a designer (the designer being God).


The analogy advanced by Paley is weak; this is because it presumes, devoid of any justification, a manifest similarity between objects occurring naturally such as the eye and objects designed by humans (such as a watch). There is no strong correspondence between the two suffice to reinforce the analogy.

This flows from the uniqueness of the universe; hence, one cannot employ an analogy to explain it. Secondly, the notion that the universe was designed prompts one to wonder who designed the designer. One can acknowledge the existence of God as the sole basis of the world and subsequently recognize God’s existence as necessary (always existing). Alternatively, one can just stop at the universe and embrace its existence as necessary (always in existence) devoid of positing God to explain it (Engel, et al. 200-250).

Thirdly, the argument advanced in the analogy avails little information concerning God with the exception of the assertion that God is a design-producing being. As a result, the argument fails to avail a window for one to draw any conclusions regarding God’s nature or character beyond that. Similarly, the analogy fails to confirm the existence of only one God as there may be numerous designers (watchmakers).

Bad Premises

The analogy presented by Paley can be faulted based on some premises. To start with, if a person had not been aware of anyone with the capability of making a watch, or seen a watch, one will have no basis to conclude that there is a watchmaker. Secondly, if a person knows nothing regarding the watch, it would not be possible to come up with any conclusions regarding the existence of the watch.

Thirdly, the reality that the watch is so complex does not provide evidence that the watch was constructed; besides, some stone could equally be puzzling as a watch (Engel, et al. 200-250). The critical difficulty existing in Paley’s watch argument flows from the fact that the argument flows from an analogy. As asserted by most logicians, analogical arguments tend to manifest several constrains because nothing in an analogy can either verify or falsify the analogy.

Weak Reasoning

The analogy of the watch maker suffers from weak reasoning. Even though Paley focuses on features of a watch that he specifies as referring to an impartial observer designed as per the watch, most of the features fail to confirm anything at all. They only confirm when one uses external information, which point out that watches are designed.

The analogy’s overriding belief is that the universe indicates organization and purpose, which is itself an assumption (Engel, et al. 200-250). The characteristics of both the world and the watch cannot be termed as truly shared; as such, the analogical argument is unsound.


Paley’s analogy of the watchmaker is not adequately strong to reinforce his conclusion. The argument does not display the complex nature because highly complex systems can originate from small steps that are randomly-generated. Paley’s analogy has several flaws; the most significant includes that no collection of empirical evidence can reinforce the analogy. The analogy does not portray whether design can be regarded as true, or whether the design is justified.

Works Cited

Engel, Morris, Soldan Angelika and Durand Kevin. The Study of Philosophy. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "Paley's analogy." September 13, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/paleys-analogy/.


IvyPanda. "Paley's analogy." September 13, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/paleys-analogy/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Paley's analogy." September 13, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/paleys-analogy/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Paley's analogy'. 13 September.

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