David Hume and the Argument from Design

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay
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David Hume and the Argument from Design

"The Argument From Design was thoroughly discredited by David Hume 250 years ago."

That claim is repeated in so many places, with exactly the same tone(essentially as an argument from authority) and with such virtually identicalwording that it creates the powerful impression that the person making the claimhas never actually read Hume, but is merely parroting an assertion he orshe read somewhere else.

Hume criticizes the Argument from Design in his Enquiry Concerning HumanUnderstanding (best known as his essay on miracles) but his most completeanalysis is in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, published shortlyafter his death in 1776.

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is an imaginary conversation betweenthree persons (The "di" in dialogue actually is part of the Greek root"dia" ("through") and has nothing to do with the number two.It is perfectly possible to have a dialogue among any number of people). In contrast to Galileo's famous Dialogue Concerning the Two ChiefWorld Systems, the characters and positions in Hume's Dialogue are much lessclearly defined. Hume's three characters are:

The infirmities of our nature do not permit us to reach any ideas, which in the least correspond to the ineffable sublimity of the divine attributes.

In addition there are two background characters, Pamphilus the observer andHermippus, the intended reader. "Natural Religion" refers to what canbe known of God from wholly natural phenomena, not preconditioned by priorbeliefs or influenced by revelation.

In his analysis of the Dialogue, Norman Kemp Smith believes Philo mostclearly represents Hume's views, but Cleanthes definitely reflects some ofHume's formative thinking as well. Hume certainly uses Philo as a vehicle toexpress some of his more abrasive views. On the other hand, Hume was never fully able to reconcile the results of complete skepticism with the reality that some things are known for certain even if the basis for the knowledge cannot be clearlyarticulated, and Cleanthes most clearly reflects that side of Hume.

Outline of the Book

In the prologue, Pamphilus explains to Hermippus why he has adopted adialogue format for his discourse. By the mid-1700's this approach had largelyfallen into disuse, but Pamphilus explains it is well suited to dealing withcomplex topics that would be intolerably dry if approached in a more didacticstyle.

Part I     The three players lay out their basic positions with regard toreligion. Demea notes that he would not teach theology at all until late in achild's upbringing until after an instinctive devotion had been ingrained (amodern skeptic would call this brainwashing). Philo sarcastically endorses thisposition because he feels that, once we leave the realm of common experience, somany philosophical positions become defensible that it is impossible to choosebetween them (In other words, it does no harm to delay because it's allworthless anyhow). Cleanthes notes that extreme skeptics nevertheless do not live upto their own statements because they continually behave is if some position orother were really more valid. Philo notes that theologians at various times haveembraced or opposed reason as it suits their purposes, to which Cleanthesreplies, so what? Everyone makes use of the ideas that best supports hisposition.

Part II    Philo and Demea both assert that any real understanding of God isunattainable, Demea because God is so inscrutable, Philo because none of ourconclusions can be trusted. Cleanthes basically lays out the Argument fromDesign. Demea is mortified at the comparison of God to a human artisan. Philoargues that we cannot validly argue by comparing what we observe in a small partof the universe to the universe as a whole. [In Hume's day, even the existenceof the planet Uranus was unknown. Galaxies were visible in telescopes as fuzzypatches but were not known to be distant star systems. Spectroscopy, with itsincredible power to probe the nature of stars, was a century in the future. Theonly laws of nature that were really known in rigorous quantitative terms wereNewton's laws of motion and gravitation. It never occurred to Hume or anyoneelse that we might one day have ways of testing whether the laws ofnature on Earth applied through the cosmos. In modern terms, Philo is deadwrong.]

Part III    Cleanthes continues to argue for Design. He points out that if wewere to hear a voice coming from the clouds, we would not hesitate to ascribe toit intelligence, and if books grew on trees like fruit, we would certainlydeduce from their contents that there was an intelligence behind their design.Although these are rather weird and contrived arguments, Cleanthes points outthat what is actually observed in nature could hardly be more surprising, ormore clearly indicative of intelligence. Demea continues to flog the dead horseof being unable to ascribe humanly comprehensible attributes to God.

Part IV    Cleanthes demolishes Demea by pointing out that a mind which hasno thought is not a mind, and a view of God that makes him utterly unknowable isnot very different from atheism. Philo, meanwhile, has caught his breath andwades back in. He attacks the idea of reasoning from earthly particulars to theuniverse as a whole, and pretty well lays out the modern skeptical opposition tothe Argument from Design, asking why, if ideas in God's mind organize themselveswithout cause, why matter couldn't do the same thing. Cleanthes retorts that,regardless of Philo's "abstruse doubts, cavils and objections," thechain of inference from order to designer is too clear and straightforward todoubt.

Part V    Philo fires a broadside against Cleanthes. He points out that thethen-new discoveries in astronomy and under the microscope undermine Cleanthesby making the universe less and less like human design. He points out thathumans are in no better position to judge whether the universe is well designedthan an illiterate peasant is to evaluate the Aeneid. He argues that we have noway of knowing whether the universe might not be the work of a team of deities,or perhaps a discarded trial run [positions that run counter to orthodoxChristianity, of course, but not to the idea of intelligent design]. Cleanthes replies that not one of thesearguments successfully refutes the fact of design itself.

Part VI    Philo presses on, urged on by Demea, who sees all these contradictory views of Godas further proof of his own position. He argues that, if weare going to argue by analogy, then the universe is much more like an organismthan a machine, with God as its soul, so that Cleanthes' design is tantamount toanthropomorphism (or perhaps pantheism). Cleanthes retorts that Philo's viewsuggests that the universe is infinitely old, a claim that he refutes. [Sincethis all happens before there is any real understanding of the age of theuniverse or the earth, the arguments are pretty much irrelevant to modern ears.]

Part VII    Philo continues, arguing that if the universe resembles anorganism, it is much more likely to have originated by generation from matteritself. "Wait," says Demea, "I'm lost. Explain." Philospeculates that perhaps comets are seeds of solar systems, to which Demea asks whatdata there is to support such a view. Philo replies, "my point exactly.There are no data to allow any theories of cosmogony." [Again, thisargument is hopelessly dated] Philo cites theexamples of plants creating order from seeds, and rather cavalierly dismissesthe possibility that the entire process might be proof of design. [One wondershow Philo would deal with DNA and the genetic code.] Cleanthes isnot impressed and says "such whimsies as you have delivered, may puzzle,but can never convince us."

Part VIII    Philo argues that the appearance of orderin nature could simply derive from the nature of matter itself. Cleanthes arguesthat the features of nature that are advantageous to humans proves the existenceof a benevolent intelligence. [This is obviously a pre-Darwinian outlook, andatheists pounced with glee on natural selection as an answer to this argument.]Philo points out "thought has no influence upon matter except where thatmatter is so conjoined with it, as to have an equal reciprocal influence uponit. No animal can move immediately any thing but the members of its ownbody." to argue that pure intelligence could not manipulate matter.

Part IX    Demea argues that since arguments aposteriori are inconclusive, the only way to go is an a priorideclaration of faith. Cleanthes points out that the usefulness of anapproach doesn't make it valid, then, to anticipate Philo's arguments, attemptsto show that one cannot demonstrate the existence of God a priori.

Nothing is demonstrable, unless the contrary implies a contradiction.Nothing, that is distinctly conceivable, implies a contradiction. Whatever weconceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no Being,therefore, whose non-existence implies a contradiction. Consequently there is noBeing, whose existence is demonstrable.

Philo adds that some patterns in mathematics that appear like wonderfuldesign can be shown to arise from the nature of numbers themselves; maybe theorder in nature is similarly merely a result of the nature of matter.

Part X    Demea argues the instinctive nature ofreligious belief, the wretched state of humanity and the universal hope of abetter world. Philo counters by asking why the world is so wretched if it iscontrolled by a benevolent intelligence. Demea argues that the pains of thislife might be balanced by rewards somewhere else, a position that Cleanthesrejects as unprovable. He states "the only method of supporting divinebenevolence is to deny absolutely the wickedness and misery of man." Philoshreds this argument, noting that pains are far more intense than pleasures andthat the natural state of man offers no grounds whatever for deriving moralprinciples.

Part XI     Cleanthes explores the idea thatperhaps evil is the price of achieving some greater good. Philo asks if theworld is the sort of thing a rational, impartial observer would picture as thework of a benevolent Being. [C.S. Lewis makes very similar arguments in MereChristianity with quite different ends in mind.] Philo ascribes the miseryin the world to four causes:

Philo goes on to argue that we can frame four hypotheses about the firstcauses of the Universe: it was all good, it was all evil, it was both good andevil, or it is neither good nor evil. We can dismiss the first two outrightsince we see both good and evil in the Universe. The third is essentiallyManichaeanism, and seems hard to reconcile with the uniformity of general lawsof nature [a fairly dubious line of reasoning] so he opts for the fourth. Demearealizes to his horror where Philo is going with all this and leaves.

Part XII    Philo and Cleanthes conclude on a morecordial note, with Philo admitting that his hatred of superstition and corruptedreligion sometimes carries him to extremes, while Cleanthes argues that evencorrupted religion is better than none. At theend of the book, Pamphilus observes:

I cannot but think that Philo's principles are more probable than Demea's, but those of Cleanthes approach still nearer the truth.

That Puzzling Final Remark

It's clear from the flow of the book and other writings by Hume that this remark does not represent Hume's views, as many commentators of the 18th and 19th centuries liked to comfort themselves. The purpose of this particular comment has perplexed generations of scholars. Philo pretty much has Cleanthes on the ropes in the last few chapters of the book. If the book is a chronicle of Hume's own evolving views, it's clear that toward the end he has come to regard the Argument From Design as seriously flawed. If Hume always regarded the Argument from Design as flawed, then he first allows Demea free run at the beginning in order to dismiss the idea that we cannot reason about God, next he allows Cleanthes to take his best shot, then he allows Philo to dismantle the Argument From Design while Cleanthes offers progressively more feeble counter-arguments. 

Remember that even on its own terms the Dialogue is a work of fiction,in which Pamphilus spends some time defending the use of a dialogue formatbefore telling the story. So why have Pamphilus toss in this comment? Is it a pro forma sop to religiousbelievers? Or is Hume perhaps saying that the Argument from Design may have somemerit but is not nearly as conclusive as its proponents tended to believe? Is hesaying that the Argument from Design is a possible interpretation but not theonly one consistent with what we observe?

In any event, simple intellectual honesty would demand that people whobelieve Hume dismantled the Argument From Design should at least acknowledgethis statement and deal with its implications. And they rarely do.

The Case Against the Argument From Design


Philo emerges as the winner. Frequently Cleanthes and Demea are allowed todismantle each others' arguments so that Philo is spared the onus. However, thefact that an author writes something doesn't necessarily make it true,and the fact that Philo wins the debate (as stage directed by Hume) doesn'tnecessarily prove his position is valid. The way many people cite Hume suggestsstrongly that they think Philo's winning the debate proves something,whereas it merely reflects the way Hume wanted the debate to come out. WhetherPhilo's arguments are actually valid depends on their own logical consistency,which Hume may or may not have analyzed rigorously.

Philo wins because Hume writes it that way. We might just as well say that Moby Dick proves whales are evil. Furthermore, it's an intellectually dishonest approach. Hume makes Demea a simpleton instead of having a foil on a par with, say, Thomas Aquinas or Augustine. (I guess we could level the same charge against Galileo for making Simplicio a caricature, as well.)

Science Then and Now

The nature of science has changed dramatically since Hume's day, and thechanges illustrate some holes in Philo's reasoning that probably would not havebeen apparent to Hume or anyone else at the time.

A Sample With N = 1

When two species of objects have always been observed to be conjoinedtogether, I can infer, by custom, the existence of one wherever I see theexistence of the other. And this I call an argument from experience. But howthis argument can have place, where the objects ... are single, individual,without parallel, or specific resemblance, may be difficult to explain..... Toascertain this reasoning, it were requisite that we had experience of the originof worlds...

Here's another case where Hume utterly (and nobody can blame him) failed toforesee the growth of science. He would doubtless be astonished at how much wecan infer about the origin of the universe.

But let's look at the validity of the argument even in Hume's day. The Frenchmathematician Laplace would publish the first speculation on the origin of thesolar system shortly after Hume's death. It simply is not true that we cannotreason about a unique event.

Hume's Central Circularity

The issue to be decided is whether the order in nature is the result ofintelligent design. If it is, then the properties of matter (the color, lusterand density of gold, for example) are also the result of intelligent design.Postulating a dichotomy between intelligent design and the properties of mattertherefore amounts to postulating a priori that there is no design innature. Hume (and all who follow him) essentially follow a grand circularity:

Nowhere is the circularity more blatant than Jacques Monod's Chance andNecessity. Monod starts by asking what criteria one would use for decidingsomething was intelligently designed and defines two criteria: repetition andgeometric regularity. But, he hastens to add, these criteria apply only at themicroscopic level. The distinction is entirely ad hoc because, if weapplied it at the microscopic level, the Argument from Design would followautomatically. In any case, the distinction is nonsense, since macroscopicnon-biological structures like crystals, cloud patterns and orbital resonancesin the Solar System display repetition and geometric regularity, and microscopicstructures like computer chips are of clearly intelligent origin (the bug in thefirst Pentium chip notwithstanding).

Lacuna Matata (Don't Sweat the Holes)

There's probably no greater lacuna in Hume's reasoning than in Part IX. Demeaasks why there should be something rather than nothing, and why the universe weknow instead of something else. By definition there can be no external cause,hence the only explanation is a logically necessary Being who "carries the Reason of hisexistence in himself, and who cannot be supposed not to exist without an expresscontradiction." (I run into people who quite literally cannot conceiveof their religious beliefs being wrong, for whom the very concept of the Bibleor the Koran being wrong is a logical contradiction.)

Hume puts the reply in the mouth of Cleanthes, who says it only to forestallPhilo. Hume presumably assigns this role to Cleanthes to spare Philo the burdenof attacking every religious doctrine and thereby alienating readers, but it'squite definite here that Cleanthes is voicing Hume's own convictions. He says:

Nothing is demonstrable, unless the contrary implies a contradiction.Nothing, that is distinctly conceivable, implies a contradiction. Whatever weconceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no Being,therefore, whose non-existence implies a contradiction. Consequently there is noBeing, whose existence is demonstrable.

This is essentially disproof by outright denial. We can conceive of God asnon-existent, hence God cannot be logically necessary. The only thing missing isany proof that the conception of God as non-existent is valid even in principle.Cleanthes shortlycites the idea that 2 + 2 = 5 as an example of a logical contradiction. By thelogic above, if I say I can conceive of 2 + 2 = 5 not being a contradiction,that makes it non-contradictory, since I can conceive of the contradiction beingnon-existent. 

Cleanthes (Hume) goes on to say that the universe might well contain hiddenattributes that would make its non-existence seem as contradictory as thenon-existence of God.  Considering how hard Hume hammers elsewhere at theunproven nature of religious conjectures and their ad hoc nature,postulating wholly unknown properties for the universe is a nice case of the potcalling the kettle black.

But there's more. Cleanthes (Hume) says the only argument that persuades himthe universe (rather than God) is not the necessarily existent entity is thefact that we can validly conceive of it being different. "But it seems agreat partiality not to perceive, that the same argument extends equally to theDeity." Let this soak in. The entire thrust of Hume's arguments up tillnow, mostly as voiced by Philo, have been that we cannot reason from our knowledge ofdesign on earth to design in the universe. Now Hume uses Cleanthes to assertthat because we can conceive of matter being different than it is, we arejustified in conceiving of God being different than he is. If there is somethingabout God that makes him logically necessary and immutable, it must beattributes we do not know, and we have no way of knowing whether the samequalities might not reside in nature. We're back to proof by postulating unknownhypothetical properties of the universe.

Hume essentially gets away with using mutually contradictory arguments byputting them in the mouths of two different characters, but nothing could beclearer than that Cleanthes, in this section, is relating Hume's ideasexactly.

A Truly Weird Argument

In Part VII, Philo describes that in Indian mythology, the universe was spunby a great spider, and goes on to say:

And were there a planet wholly inhabited by spiders (which is very possible)this inference would there appear as natural and irrefragible as that which inour planet ascribes the origin of all things to design and intelligence, asexplained by Cleanthes.

This argument is so wonderfully naive and blatantly anthropomorphic onehardly knows where to begin. A good starting point is to say duh..., anyprimitive intelligent species is likely to picture God as a larger version ofitself. Spiders on this planet don't, as far as we know, have any conception ofGod so we don't need to worry about what they think, if indeed they have anymore cognition than a personal computer.

So Philo's hypothetical spider planet would have to be inhabited byintelligent spiders. Just as human thinkers in Hume's day had long sinceconcluded that it was mere imagination to picture God in human form, by the timePhilo's spiders reached a similar level of development, the more intelligentones should have gotten over their primitive arachnomorphism and reached thesame conclusion. No doubt their artists would still picture God as a spider, butthey would realize that was an image, not necessarily reality. (The only peopleon our planet who really seem to believe God is an old man with a long whitebeard are cartoonists and atheists.)

Spider webs, of course, are a matter of biology rather than conscious effort,but a race of spiders that remained at that level would be unlikely to haveenough consciousness to speculate about God. Who knows what sorts of websintelligent spiders might spin? (Just imagine the webs a spider mathematicianmight weave!) And even if we postulate a race of spiders that did nothing butspin webs and engage in philosophy while waiting for hapless flies, thisargument still embodies the fundamental circularity of assuming that complexityin nature (spinnerets and spider webs in this case) are not the result ofdesign, then using their "naturalness" to "prove" that thecomplexity is not the result of design.

The Problem With Disproofs Of Design

When I was attending geology field camp, a favorite pastime was hunting forarrowheads. There was no doubt about their authenticity. They were exquisitelychipped on both sides (in contrast to the clumsy modern ones sold in touristtraps) and made of obsidian, a rock not found in our field area. Most of myclassmates did well to find one or two. I found dozens. In fact it got downrightobscene. I found arrowheads in camp along trails that people had walked everyday for weeks. The most surreal case was finding an arrowhead in my shoeone morning. I presume it was the gift of a pack rat because I guarantee none ofmy classmates would have given up a nice arrowhead for a practical joke!

I also found quite a few chips of red and yellow chert. They occurred inbatches, and this rock, too, was foreign to the area, but I never found afull-fledged artifact of these materials. All things considered, I think it'ssafe to assume they were left by Indians.

At the opposite extreme of probability, the late anthropologist Louis Leakeyspent a number of years excavating a site in the Calico Hills, California,convinced that he had discovered artifacts that pushed the arrival of humans inthe Americas back to 100,000 years or more. The purported artifacts includedflakes and crudely chipped pebbles. The problem is that the claimed artifactscome from an alluvial fan, not the gentlest depositional environment. Withfist-sized pebbles being carried by flash floods, it would be surprising ifthere weren't a few that got chipped en route in a manner reminiscent of anartifact. Most geologists and anthropologists are convinced that's exactly whathappened. (You'd never know this to look at most of the Web sites on thesubject, which start at taking the artifacts at face value and drift off to thefringe from there. Very few pictures of the claimed artifacts are on line,something that hardly speaks well for their status as revolutionary discoveriesor the confidence of their backers.)

So here we have chips, flakes, and chipped rocks. Are they artifacts ofintelligent origin? In one case circumstantial evidence suggests they are, in the othercase, not. But they're ambiguous. Maybe some single band of early humans got toCalico through some improbable series of adventures, lived for a while, thendied out. We can never rule out the hypothesis short of a time machine.

Moral: If something looks complex enough to be of intelligent design, onepossible interpretation is always that it is of intelligent design.It may not be, but in the absence of disconfirming evidence, intelligent designis always a viable hypothesis. We can say that it's not the only possibleexplanation, maybe even that it's not the most likely explanation, but it'sextremely hard to dismiss the idea entirely. Intelligent design is alwaysa possible interpretation of any sufficiently complex object.

Why Try to Disprove Design?

In his Enquiry, Hume accurately described the Argument From Design as"useless" because in and of itself it can never "establish anynew principles of conduct and behavior." The Argument From Design onlyshows at best that there is intelligent design in the universe; it tells usnothing about whether the entity cares about human beings, communicates withthem, or has moral scruples. Of itself, intelligent design does not validate anytheology beyond deism.

On the other hand, intelligent design does not violate any known facts orlogical principles. So why does it meet with such fierce opposition? True, manypeople leap immediately from the notion of intelligent design to the theology oftheir particular sect, but the proper response by anyone who claims intellectualrigor is to show the hidden assumptions in that leap of reasoning.

Still, it's legitimate to raise the possibility that order in the universearises solely from the properties of the universe itself. Or is it? We knowthat some cases of complex order are the result of intelligent design. We donot know that any other origin for complex order is possible. What basis dowe have even for postulating such a possibility?  The bottom line is thatnone of the criticisms of the Argument From Design are compelled by anyempirical or logical evidence; they are inspired solely by the desire todiscredit the Argument From Design for the sake of discrediting it.

The Red Herring

Parts X and XI are given over to a debate about suffering and itsimplications for a benevolent intelligence. Although any discussion about thenature of God has to confront this issue, it is completely premature in a debateabout the existence of God. Most of Hume's readers, of course, would havethought in terms of either the God they pictured in their own theology,or no God at all (other conceptions of God being merely spurious fantasies).They would have considered Cleanthes' arguments for a benevolent intelligenceinseparable from the issue of design in general. But that's no excuse for amodern reader to conflate the two issues. 

Where Should We Look For Design?

It's worth looking at a list of what was not known in Hume's day:

So, although science was making thrilling progress in understanding theworkings of the world, the "laws of nature" in Hume's day were mostlyrestricted to empirical descriptions of phenomena, and therefore the argument for andagainst design was waged mostly in the realm of complex natural phenomena. Forevery case Cleanthes can cite of two natural phenomena meshing smoothlytogether, Philo can cite a counter-example where the feedback fails. A centurylater Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection would pretty muchdemolish this line of reasoning.

However, a modern day Cleanthes (as opposed to his semi-literate wannabes)wouldn't point to the way a hummingbird's bill is precisely shaped to fit acertain flower (or vice versa). He would point instead to the symmetries foundin physics and the way a relatively small set of fundamental laws give rise tosuch a vast range of complex phenomena (the Cleanthes wannabes are mostly tooilliterate even to have any idea of physics). He would also point to the factthat a very slight change in some fundamental constants would either haveprevented complex atoms from forming at all, or would have allowed the stars toexhaust their nuclear fuel before life could evolve.

By way of analogy, consider a chess board well into the game. Is this aproduct of intelligent design? The pieces might very well look randomly arrayed,although a skilled player could easily spot that some arrangements cannot beachieved in normal play. For example, one side cannot lack a king, or have apawn in its own back row. There is a checkmateposition involving a king and two knights against a lone king, but it cannotbe achieved in normal play (the lone king can always evade checkmate). But therewould be many positions that are ambiguous. For every masterful positionCleanthes cites as clear evidence of intelligence, Philo cites one with twopassed pawns. Cleanthes suggests that some positions are artificially created asproblems; Philo accuses him of creating ad hoc excuses to avoidacknowledging failures of the design hypothesis. Cleanthes argues the pieces areclearly of intelligent manufacture; Philo notes that seashells are even moreintricate and are wholly natural. Cleanthes points to the geometric regularityof the board; Philo cites crystals and honeycombs as equally regular but naturalstructures.

The reason chess has been played as long and seriously as it has is notbecause people like the pieces and the board (a nice chess board and set hasesthetic appeal because of our reverence for the game), but because a very sparse set ofrules leads to a fantastic variety of possible outcomes. And it's in the rules,not in the pieces, the board, or any particular arrangement on the board, thatwe must look for intelligence. (Chess isn't a perfect analogy. There are ad hocrules like capturing en passant. The Japanese game Go might be abetter analogy for pure intelligent design, but chess is more familiar.)

Philo, of course, has not been asleep at the wheel. He would point out thatthe beauty of chess is rooted in the underlying laws of logic and mathematics inthe universe. He would also point to hypotheses that perhaps there are manyuniverses, and we merely occupy one where the laws of physics allow matter toevolve into complex forms.

Cleanthes would wonder, in turn, why it's valid to criticize theologicalconcepts as ad hoc, while it's simultaneously permissible to postulate theexistence of universes whose existence is entirely unproven and which may beforever untestable. He'd also wonder why the order in the universe is such apressing scientific problem as to justify postulating a vast number of alternateuniverses but not to justify postulating an intelligent designer.

That Chess Position

This surprised me when I first found it, and I've never seen it in any chessbook. X is the checkmated king. It's possible to achieve this position withoutviolating the rules but impossible to force it. The two knights always leaveholes the lone king can slip through. The losing player has to be very cooperative or very dumb to end up in this position.
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