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Ontological Argument

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Bill Maloney

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« on: May 09, 2007, 07:24:15 pm »

I’m posting here because this thread has no posts, and I think that makes a point in and of itself.  Most non-philosophers such as me don’t like the ontological argument.  It sounds like word play in search of an argument.  Obviously some philosophers like it so there must be something there; I just don’t know what it is.  I have also noticed in debates it is rarely used.  Are there any “OA” fans here?


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Øystein Nødtvedt

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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2007, 10:40:35 am »
I personally think (wihtout being a professional Philosopher) that all the ontological arguments are not sound. I guess philosophers love to discuss the argument because of the technicality.

   

   Richard Swinburne for example also thinks that no ontological argument is sound.

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Will

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« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2007, 11:52:52 am »
Assuming this premise...


I personally think (without being a professional Philosopher) that all the ontological arguments are not sound.



I don't think I have formed a complete opinion on the value of Ontological arguments yet, but I definitely understand the concept that it appears as "word games" etc...

Nonetheless, for sake of inquiry, assuming the Anselm argument, what are some people's views as to why it is logically inconclusive or lacking?

To follow Craig's summary of it...

1. God is the greatest conceivable being (by definition).

2.  It is greater to exist in reality than merely in mind.

3.  Therefore, God exists.  


I agree that there probably isn't even a handful of atheists, if they could be persuaded, would be persuaded, by this line of reasoning.  (maybe not, I don't know).  

Nonetheless, how is it logically broken?  I heard one once say, "Well, I can conceive of a unicorn, does that mean it exists?"  But, this doesn't follow the logic as I saw it, for a unicorn does exist; but it doesn't have to necessarily exist in reality based on your conception of it, but only in the mind, since it doesn't have the property of being the greatest conceivable being (and thus has the lesser quality of only existing in non-reality (or your mind).

Further, does someone have a similar argument of ontology that is logical but arrives at an erroneous conclusion?  Another words, does ontological arguments only work on God, or can one make them work logically on some other being and make a vaild point but arrive an irrational conclusion.    


Will

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Mango

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« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2007, 05:41:15 pm »

1. God is the greatest conceivable being (by definition).

2.  It is greater to exist in reality than merely in mind.

3.  Therefore, God exists.  


My problem with the Ontological Argument (as far as I understand it) is that it seems to beg the question. I know that there is some debate about premise 2 and what exactly it means to be “greater” because you exist, but I assume that the premise is true in some sense. My problem is in premise 1. If you say that God is the G.C.B., and if part of your definition of greatest entails existence, then premise 1 assumes the conclusion. That’s my take on it.




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Will

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« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2007, 10:42:56 am »
I know that there is some debate about premise 2 and what exactly it means to be “greater” because you exist, but I assume that the premise is true in some sense.


Anslem gives the example of a painting existing first in the mind but then in reality when actually painted on the Canvas, and states the latter is the "greater."  This I think is fairly sound, for the painting would still exist in the mind, and when it exists in reality as well, it has to by definition then be "greater."  


My problem is in premise 1. If you say that God is the G.C.B., and if part of your definition of greatest entails existence, then premise 1 assumes the conclusion. That’s my take on it.


I suppose you could argue that the following premises 2 or 3rd are rather a clarification, and the entire argument stems from, or rests on, premise 1, with the concept being assumed that actual existence entails being the greatest conceivable being.  

1.  God is the G.C.B.
2. Therefore, God does not not exist.

Will

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demurph

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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2007, 02:59:37 am »

Øystein Nødtvedt wrote: I personally think (wihtout being a professional Philosopher) that all the ontological arguments are not sound. I guess philosophers love to discuss the argument because of the technicality.

Richard Swinburne for example also thinks that no ontological argument is sound.

  I think that many variant forms of OA are not sound, some versions are, but that their premises are too controversial to convince any atheist of their truth.  For example, the modal ontological argument strikes me as very sound, but ultimately unconvincing, crazy as that may sound.  The gist of this argument is that if God is a possible being, as a logically necessary being, he has to exist in all possible worlds including the real one.  Since God is possible (the arguer will claim), then he has to exist.  But, the claims that God is a necessary being and that God is even a possible being are controversial.  Swinburne doesn't think that God is a logically necessary being (which is why he has to say that no version of the ontological argument can work), and many atheists have tried to claim that the idea of God is incoherent, and therefore impossible.  So, I don't think that the ontological argument is a useful piece of natural theology, even though it is fun to toy around with for kicks.

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William Demsar

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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2007, 07:08:58 pm »
I've done a lot of work on the ontological argument and the contemporary modal arguments. I think that there are versions of it that could work. The traditional rebutals of Anslems formulation usually have to do with existence not being a predicate-you will find this from Kant until Hartshorn. THe revolution began with Hartshorn and Malcolm who alleged that there were actually two arguments in Anselms work.ONe involved 'existence' as a predicate, and the other did not. Hartshorn alleges that while existence is not a predicate-necessary existence is, and that necessary existence is a greatmaking property, ie God (the greatest concievable being) must have it. Plantinga picks it up from there and he is able to formulate it in a way that there is no problem with question begging.He does this by talking about properties instead of possible beings. See "The Nature of Necessity". Here is how I like to think of it. PLantinga, for the reasons that I will here cover begs off the argument as a proof, claiming only that it establishes the rationality of belief in God.
  (1) Either it is impossible that God exists, or contingently God exists or does not exist, or necessarily God exists.
  (2) It is not the case that God exists contingently or does not exist contingently.
  (3) It is either impossible that God exists, or it is necessary that GOd exists.
  (4) It is not impossible that GOd exists.
  (5) Therefore God exists necessarily.
  (6) Actually God exists.
 I think that for many, many reasons whatever the truth is about God's existence, it is no matter of contingency. And I think that there is general agreement about this.
   The problem comes in at 4. WHy think that it is possible for God to exist. I think any intuition to affirm it rests on our tendency to conflate two different notions of 'possibly'. What is needed, I think, is a possibility proof. I think I see a way to do it. But this is where I left off with it.It is a good argument. Only it lacks a premise or two.
   Mylan Engel has a good article written on this topic called "The possibility of maximal Greatness: a reexamination of Plantingas ONtological argument"or something like that.



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Meunier

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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2007, 05:57:06 pm »
To William Demsar,

Hello. I would be very interested to hear your argument(s) that God is possible. I think that we should not confuse possibility as meaning "not shown to be impossible" and possibilty as meaning "what can be made in reality".

I think that a further criticism of the OA would be that we can make any being exist, if we define it a priori as existing. Especially beings such that we cannot find them nonexistent. The property "existing" (or "existing necessarily") is deduced from more basic properties of the concept of God, but nothing prevents us including existence among the basic, definitional, properties of a being, so that its actual existence need not be deduced. We must understand that a being from whose concept existence is deduced is no more solid than a being in whose concept existence is included from the outset. For in the former case, the definitional properties of the being are arbitrarily put together in the first place.

Meunier