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#574 The Ontological Argument Once More

April 15, 2018
Q

Hello Dr. Craig, my question is in regards to the Ontological Argument. If the proposition there is no maximally excellent being is a non-modal sentence, then wouldn’t it follow that maximal greatness can’t possibly be exemplified?

Patrick

United States

Dr. craig’s response


A

It would follow if it is true that “There is no maximally excellent being.” But it wouldn’t follow if it is false.  

A maximally great being must exist in a maximally excellent way in every possible world.  So if there is no maximally excellent being, then obviously a maximally great being does not exist. If a maximally great being’s existence is even possible, then it exists in every possible world, including this one.  So if it does not exist, it is not possible that it exist.

I wonder if there is some confusion on your part about what a modal sentence is. A modal sentence includes some sort of modal operator like “Necessarily, . . .” or “Possibly, . . . .” But a non-modal sentence can still be necessarily true or necessarily false.  For example, “2+2=4” is non-modal sentence, as is “Gold has the atomic number 79,” but both are necessarily true. So the non-modal sentence “There is no maximally excellent being” may still be necessarily false. Indeed, if a maximally great being is even possible, that non-modal sentence is necessarily false.

The problem of evil aside, there’s no good reason to think that a maximally excellent being does not exist. Perhaps the more interesting question is whether it’s possible that a maximally excellent being does not exist.  You might think so. But our modal intuitions on that question will be parasitic on whether we think it’s possible that a maximally great being exists.  Proponents of the ontological argument think that it is possible and, accordingly, that the sentence “Possibly, a maximally excellent being does not exist” is false. 

- William Lane Craig