Ontological Argument

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Greater than Anselm
« on: October 29, 2018, 12:55:54 pm »
I looked over the ontological arguments on Wikipedia, and I apologize but they all looked trivial to me. Perhaps someone can recommend one that is not trivial. In the meantime I thought I’d refute Anselm’s version, that is one I encountered in college. Anselm’s proof also ends up rather trivial, but at least it’s a little interesting to untangle.

Quote from:
1. It is a conceptual truth (or, so to speak, true by definition) that God is a being than which none greater can be imagined (that is, the greatest possible being that can be imagined).
2. God exists as an idea in the mind.
3. A being that exists as an idea in the mind and in reality is, other things being equal, greater than a being that exists only as an idea in the mind.
4. Thus, if God exists only as an idea in the mind, then we can imagine something that is greater than God (that is, a greatest possible being that does exist).
5. But we cannot imagine something that is greater than God (for it is a contradiction to suppose that we can imagine a being greater than the greatest possible being that can be imagined.)
6. Therefore, God exists.

Proposition 1 forces God inside the human mind, disallowing existence beyond man. As it’s written there’s a gross presumption that God must be within human ability to grasp by ideation. The proper way to word it might be, “If God exists, he’d certainly surpass our imaginations.” But then you lose any correspondence to the human conception, and the proof falls apart. It all depends on a link from the mind to reality, that is not established.

You can imagine Alexander with his army, facing a major battle. He reasons, “God is a being greater than which I can imagine nothing. A God that would aid me in this battle would be greater than a God that did not. Having imagined a greater God, that God must exist. Charge, O chariots, we cannot fail!” Obviously this is 100% in his imagination.

You can say Proposition 1 puts a “cap” on things that is not valid, insisting that God exists as a being than which none greater can be imagined before the case is proved. It begs the question, presuming an existing God has been successfully imagined. Proposition 5 comes in insisting you can’t imagine something greater than the greatest thing you imagined, not that you had successfully seen God through the imagination, as the proof supposes.

You could put it this way too, in (1) the theologian has merely forgotten to include, “also exists,” in his imagined greatest entity. Then you see more clearly that as with Alexander, it is 100% imagination. Anselm says, “I’ve thought of an additional greater property,” but a more clever theologian says, “I’ve already included that, and it’s still all in my head.”

Proposition 1 also falls in that it’s really easy to imagine a being greater than the real God. However this does not mean such a being exists. For instance if God is behind evolution than He’s certainly having trouble with parasites and genetic diseases. We can imagine a God that would not have such trouble, but there aren’t any real beings like that, only the actual God, “Creator of Heaven and Earth,” some of whose limits we can see.

Proposition 2 relies on the possibility humans could form right ideas about God. God only exists as an idea in the mind, to the degree that the entity can form a right idea about God. There’s no inherent reason the mind of man should be capable of forming a right idea about God, without experience of God or hearing about God. Any ideas about “big guys in the sky with tons of powers,” can be total fabrications, concepts from thin air.

Proposition 3 really depends on 2, which is not proved. Instead you’d have to write, “A fabrication that exists in the mind while God exists in reality unrelated to this idea,” and so on. The rest of the propositions are similarly torn apart. Men see God in their own image; and if rational, they should admit this image is only torn from their own bosoms.

In short it is not proved humans can form ideas about what God is, what God is like or what God can do. That they have a habit attempting it is not a sign of knowledge in them. To say, “I know,” and really to know, are quite different things. I’m not saying God doesn’t exist, only that He may exist and not be known by humans. In general this would be a proper idea about the Creator, that He is too great to be known. Then you come back to Jesus, who said, “No man comes to the Father, but through me.”