The Instigator
Rational_Thinker9119
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Ore_Ele
Con (against)
Winning
11 Points

A Maximally Great Being Exists In No Possible World

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Ore_Ele
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/9/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,081 times Debate No: 24201
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
Votes (3)

 

Rational_Thinker9119

Pro

As Pro, I will be arguing that the existence of God (with "God" being specifically defined as a "maximally great being") is not possible, and exists in no possible world.

First round for acceptance.
Ore_Ele

Con

I accept the challenge and will only briefly take the time to clarify some definitions and point out the BOP.

Maximally [1] - "the greatest or most complete or best possible"
Great [2] - "remarkable or out of the ordinary in degree or magnitude or effect"
Being [3] - "a living thing that has (or can develop) the ability to act or function independently"

My opponent has stated in their opening round that the MGB (or God if we prefer to call it, I'm good either way) "is not possible...in no possible world." This means my opponent must show that it is actually impossible, not just highly unlikely.

With definitions and BOP clarified, I'll allow my opponent to make their argument.

Thank you

[1] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...
[2] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...
[3] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
Rational_Thinker9119

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate, especially considering the fact that she has such an intimidating win percentage. Regardless, the concept of a maximally great being is internally incoherent for many reasons (I will delve into at least two of these reasons in this debate). In this round specifically however, I will be defending one reason for this conclusion at hand.

Argument From Incoherence

P1: It is greater to be perfect than imperfect

P2: If it is possible for a maximally great being to exist, this being is perfect
P3: It is greater to be unlimited than limited.
P4: If it is possible for a maximally great being to exist, this being is unlimited.
P5: If it is possible for a maximally great being to exist, this being is perfect and unlimited.
P6: If it is possible for a perfect being to exist, this being improves upon its greatness in no possible world.
P7: If it is possible for an unlimited being to exist, this being improves upon its greatness in some possible world.
P8: There cannot be both no possible world where a maximally great being improves upon its greatness, and some possible world where a maximally great being improves upon its greatness.
P9: A maximally great being exists in no possible world.
P10: A maximally great being does not exist in the actual world.

Support For Premise 1

I believe this premise to be self-evident, and this concept is also strongly accepted by theists who adhere to the Modal Ontological Argument. If I am incorrect about my assumptions, and the first premise of my argument needs continued argumentation, then I am sure that my opponent will let me know that this is the case.


Support For Premise 2

If it is greater to be perfect than imperfect, then a maximally great being must be perfect. William Lane Craig (a major proponent of the modal ontological argument) agrees with the obvious notion that a maximally great being would be a perfect being.

"To say that I tacitly endorse Anselmian Perfect Being Theology is an understatement...I am an
enthusiastic proponent. As I explain in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, I see the
conception of God as the greatest conceivable being as one of the guides for systematic theology’s
formulation of the doctrine of God" - William Lane Craig [1]

Support For Premise 3

Similar to my support for premise 1, I believe this premise to be self-evident, and this concept is also
strongly accepted by theists who adhere to the Modal Ontological Argument. If I am incorrect about my
assumptions, and the third premise of my argument needs continued argumentation, then I am sure that
my opponent will let me know that this is the case.

Support For Premise 4

If it is greater to be unlimited than limited, then a maximally great being must be unlimited. Norman
Malcome (a major proponent of the modal ontological argument) agrees with the obvious notion that
a maximally great being would be an unlimited being.


"God is usually conceived of as an unlimited being. He is conceived of as a being who could not be
limited, that is, as an absolutely unlimited being.…” - Norman Malcome [2]

Support For Premise 5

This logically follows from P1 to P4.
Support For Premise 6

The very essence of perfection is that which cannot be improved upon. The very idea of "improving"
"perfection" is logically incoherent:

Perfect (per·fect) "excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement:" [3]

Thus, a "perfect" being "improves" upon it's greatness in no possible
world.

Support For Premise 7


A being who is unlimited is not limited in greatness (if the being was limited in greatness, we wouldn't be
talking about an unlimited being). Thus, an unlimited being has no limit to his greatness, and it would
therefore be possible for this being to improve upon it's greatness.Thus, an unlimited being improves
upon it's greatness some possible world.


Support for Premise 8

Similar to my support for premise 1 and premise 3, I believe this premise to be self-evident. If I am
incorrect about my assumption, and the first premise of my argument needs continued argumentation,
then I am sure that my opponent will let me know that this is the case.
Support For Premise 9 

This logically follows from P1 to P8

Support For Premise 10

This logically follows from P1-to P9
Conclusion

"In order for the ontological argument to fail, the concept of a maximally great being must be incoherent,
like the concept of a married bachelor." William Lane Craig [4]

I have proven in this debate that concept of a maximally great being is internally incoherent. A being
cannot both improve upon it's greatness in no possible world and in some possible world, so a maximally
great being exists in no possible world. If God is defined a "maximally great being" then theism is
negated.


Sources

[1] http://www.reasonablefaith.org...
[2] http://www.iep.utm.edu...
[3] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[4] http://www.reasonablefaith.org...
Ore_Ele

Con

I would like to thank my opponent for his quick argument, even though some parts were hard to read because of the formatting (I'm guessing they were C/P'd for word, or another program). I shall also point out that my opponent has not disagreed with any of my definitions, and so we shall assume that they are all accepted for this debate.

Due to the 5,000 character count, I will focus on one single, albeit, vital flaw with my opponent's reasoning. Since we are arguing Ontological arguments, everything is based on logic and reasoning, rather than observations of the world. As such, sources are not important (since any source would likely just be an appeal to authority and there is no legitimate authority on this topic) [1].

My contention will be with P1 and P2 (and the same can go against P3 and P4, but I only need to show that one has a flaw). My opponent suggests that if the MGB exists, it must be perfect because perfection is greater than imperfection. This sounds accurate at first glance, however we must remember that the definition of maximally is "the greatest or most complete or best POSSIBLE."

Therefore, if such level of greatness is not possible, it is not the maximum, and some lower degree of "greatness" will hold the title of "maximally great."

To explain in a more mathematical manner, lets take a basic math formula, f(x) = 7 - x^2. The maximum for this equation is f(0) = 7. Of course, we all know that 8 is greater than 7, but 7 is still the maximum for f(x) simply because it is the maximum possible for that formula.

This shows conclusively that just because one can imagine something greater, it does not mean that some less great is not the maximally great.

Now, to move on to my own argument. Since "maximally" is defined as the greatest possible,then a MGB must be possible. Lets call the set of everything that exists, set E, and everything that is possible, set P. Now, of course, not everything that is possible, does exist. But everything that is possible, is possible by definition [2]. So the greatest within set P will be the MGB, and this thing is possible. While there is the chance that this MGB may not also have a summer home in set E, that is not the point of this debate.

I will pass back to my opponent for their next round.

Thank you,

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu... LOL, yes, I used a source to show that sources are not important.
[2] http://www.mathwords.com...
Debate Round No. 2
Rational_Thinker9119

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for her response, however it's not hard to see where she utterly fails in her attempts to refute my argument.

Refuting My Opponent's Argument

"My opponent suggests that if the MGB exists, it must be perfect because perfection is greater than imperfection. This sounds accurate at first glance, however we must remember that the definition of maximally is "the greatest or most complete or best POSSIBLE."

Yes, perfection would be the best possible. This is because, the very essence of perfection is that which cannot be improved upon. If you could improve this perfection in question, then the entity in question is not perfect. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my assumption in this aspect, and it is supported by virtual every proponent of the Ontological Argument. The problem is, the unlimited aspect, this is what makes a maximally great being impossible.


"Therefore, if such level of greatness is not possible, it is not the maximum, and some lower degree of "greatness" will hold the title of "maximally great."

Any degree lower than perfection, is imperfection. Imperfection is incompatible with the essence of a maximally great being is supposed to be. If this being is any degree lower than perfect, then this being imperfect and thus, we have stopped talking about a maximally great being. Maximally is also defined as "being an upper limit" , which of course clearly contradicts the notion of an unlimited being. Regardless, it doesn't matter what level of greatness this being is at, if this being is at a perfect level of greatness, it cannot be improved upon even if it's level of greatness at an extremely lower level. However, it is greater to be unlimited than limited, and any degree less than unlimited, is limited, thus a maximally great being must be absolutely unlimited (to deny this, is to deny the very support for why this being has the ability to jump from some possible world to every possible world), thus there is no contradiction in this being improving his greatness. This is a direct contradiction to the idea of a maximally great being existing all together however, because a being cannot be both perfect and unlimited but this being must have these qualities in order to have the title of maximally great. If its possible for this being not to be unlimited, then it's possible for this being to only be great enough to occupy almost every possible world (which means, this being doesn't necessarily exist in the actual world). Thus, the theist must accept that a maximally great being is necessarily perfect and unlimited.


"lets take a basic math formula, f(x) = 7 - x^2. The maximum for this equation is f(0) = 7. Of course, we all know that 8 is greater than 7, but 7 is still the maximum for f(x) simply because it is the maximum possible for that formula."

My opponent's little math equation here was also nothing more than a straw-man that really had nothing to do with my argument. If a being is unlimited, then there is no maximum and it would make sense to go from 7 to 8 if there was no preceding criteria (of course, an unlimited being wouldn't have to follow any criteria). However, if a being is perfect then my opponent would be right, going from 7 to 8 would make no sense if 7 is the best possible. This is why I'm saying a maximally great being is impossible, because the necessary qualities a being must have to be maximally great (being perfect and unlimited) contradict each other. William Lane Craig has said that the only way to falsify the ontological argument is to show that the idea of a maximally great being is incoherent, and I have done this successfully.

"Now, to move on to my own argument. Since "maximally" is defined as the greatest possible,then a MGB must be possible."

This completely ignores the fact that to be maximally "great" the being must be unlimited, because it is greater to be unlimited than limited, thus in some possible world a being improves it's greatness due to having no limit or "maximum". If this being is unlimited, then any level of greatness is possible, if it wasn't, then this being wouldn't be unlimited. To deny a maximally great being the ability to be unlimited, is to deny him the ability to jump from some possible world to all. An unlimited being is a crucial aspect to the ontological argument as well as perfection.


Conclusion

Well, it seems my opponent barely scratched the surface of my argument. If the being is perfect, then this being's greatness cannot be logically improved upon (my opponent seems to agree, with her math example illustrating my point). However, if this being is unlimited, it's greatness being improved upon is necessarily possible. Now, if the being is anything less than unlimited, then its possible for a maximally great being to not occupy every possible world.


Thus, I have pointed out a clear contradiction in the idea of a maximally great being and my opponent didn't even come close to adequately refuting it I'm afraid.
Ore_Ele

Con

I thank my opponent for their response and shall move quickly through this next round. I'll break this down into two segments, first, a summary of the important parts of my opponent's argument, and second, a continuation of my argument.

First, I thank my opponent for clarifying the word "perfect." There are many different views of the word, ranging from nothing greater is possible, to nothing greater is imaginable. Of course, there is a vast difference between "possible" and "imaginable." Since my opponent has clarified that perfect is only regarding what "could" be greater (meaning "possible"). Of course, with the "maximally" qualifier, this is redundant, but either way.

Now to move on to the continuation of the argument. If we go back to my R2, I said, "the same can go against P3 and P4," so lets go into that. A maximally great being is only as great as is possible (because of the definition of maximally). Therefore, a maximally great being is only as unlimited as possible, but not necessarily absolutely unlimited. Because the MGB is not absolutely unlimited, it can still have limits.

It is easy enough to see that absolute unlimitedness is not logical. It would require one to have an unlimited net positives and, at the same time, have unlimited net negatives. So again, since absolute unlimitedness is not possible, it does not fit within "maximally great."

Thanks to the qualifier "maximal" that is in MGB, we can replace "perfect" with "most perfect possble" and replace "unlimited" with "most unlimited possible." Since both options fall under the set of possible, then the MGB itself is possible.

Since the definitions of the words dictate "possible" I will let this end and move into our final round.

Again, I thank my opponent.
Debate Round No. 3
Rational_Thinker9119

Pro

Rebutting My Opponent

"Of course, there is a vast difference between "possible" and "imaginable.""

I would disagree to a certain extent. A sphere is the most round object anyone can imagine but it is also the most round object possible. Also, a perfectly round square is unimaginable and it is also impossible. Thus, to act like what can be imagined and what is "possible" is mutually exclusive, seems to be an error on the behalf of my opponent. If something is imaginable (assuming there are no internal contradictions involved) then it is "possible" in some context.

"A maximally great being is only as great as is possible (because of the definition of maximally). Therefore, a maximally great being is only as unlimited as possible, but not necessarily absolutely unlimited. Because the MGB is not absolutely unlimited, it can still have limits."

This is of course, absurd. A being with limits, is by definition, limited. The idea of a being who is as unlimited as possible but still has limits is extremely incoherent because if a being has limits, we are talking about a limited being and not an unlimited being because unlimited is defined as "without limits". Even a being with one limit (assuming no contradictions), is by definition a limited being.

Since anything less than unlimited, is limited (as I already explained earlier), then we can dismiss my opponent's argument here.

"It is easy enough to see that absolute unlimitedness is not logical. It would require one to have an unlimited net positives and, at the same time, have unlimited net negatives. So again, since absolute unlimitedness is not possible, it does not fit within "maximally great."

Obviously by unlimited, this means unlimited in regards to all qualities which don't contradict eacht other. As I already stated, if it can be imagined and it has no contradictions, then it is "possible" in some context. As far as "possibility" is concerned in general, there seems to be some confusion.

"Thanks to the qualifier "maximal" that is in MGB, we can replace "perfect" with "most perfect possible" and replace "unlimited" with "most unlimited possible." Since both options fall under the set of possible, then the MGB itself is possible."

I think there is some equivocation going on with the word "possible". Lets say I have two dice in my hand and you don't know how many sides each one has. There is no logical contradiction based on this information that if I rolled these two dice, I could roll an 18, thus, rolling an 18 is "possible". However, what if there were just regular 6 sided dice in reality? This means that the highest number that can be rolled is 12 in reality, thus rolling an 18 would be impossible. Basically, something could be "possible" simply based on lack of knowledge of it's negation. In reality, the highest possible roll using these two dice is a 12, however, due to lack of knowledge it was magically "possible" that I could roll an 18. So my opponent needs to enforce which type of "possible" she is referring to in her rebuttals.

"Since the definitions of the words dictate "possible" I will let this end and move into our final round."

Again, my opponent needs to explain what she means by "possible". Something could be "possible" due to lack of knowledge of it's negation, when it reality it's impossible (like rolling an 18 with two dice is "possible" if you don't know how many sides the dice has). Or, something could be actually possible based on knowledge of all possible outcomes in reality (we know the exact range of the dice, 1 - 12, thus rolling a 12 is actually possible).

Continuing My Case

We can still assume my opponent's definitions, however here is a common definition of maximally:

"max·i·mally

An element in an ordered set that is followed by no other[1]

If it's possible for a maximally great being to exist, he is neccessarily the element of an ordered set of greatness that can be follwed by no other in greatness. Thus, there exists greatness that cannot be followed by more greatness if a maximally great being exists (thus, limit to greatness would exist).

However, a being who exists in 2 possible worlds is greater than a being who exists in only 1, and a being who exists in 3 possible worlds is greater than a being who exists only in 2 ect... There can always be more greatness without a limit when dealing with occupying and unlimited amount of possible worlds. This means that for a being to occupy an unlimited (potentially infinite) amount of possible worlds, there must necessarily be no limit to greatness, and greatness necessarily always has to have the ability to be followed by more greatness. Hence the contradiction.

Conclusion

The debate boils down to:

"Can a being be maximally great, if he is not great enough to occupy every possible world?"

If the answer is "yes" then the debate seems to be leaning in my opponent's favor. If the the answer is "no" then this debate seems to be leaning in my favor.

Source

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Ore_Ele

Con


Well, this is the final round and traditionally, no new arguments are allowed, because it would be unfair to my opponent since they could not respond to them. However, since my opponent did bring up new arguments, I am forced to address them. So I shall address some of them (but keep it short) and then summarize the debate, before passing on to the voters.


The important thing to note is that, while in R3, my opponent concluded that "Perfect" was limited to what is possible in that it only applies to what is possible to improve. However, in R4, my opponent holds that "unlimited" is absolutely unlimited (which I shall shorten to "AU" from now on). Because of this, my opponent must concede his P4 from his R2 "If it is possible for a maximally great being to exist, this being is unlimited."

This is because, as I have said from the beginning, "maximally" means "the greatest or most complete or best possible" and since AU is not possible, it is not part of the MGB.

QED.


My opponent makes two attempts to refute this and I will address them here.

1) "due to lack of knowledge it was magically possible"

This is an equivilcation fallacy and an appeal to ignorance. For one, if we apply this absurd view of "possible" to my opponent's original argument, then we can simply say that a lack of knowledge makes the MGB possible and therefore, my opponent is wrong, a MGB is possible because I am ignorant.
Now, the voters can either accept this argument by my opponent, in which case, I am right and they need to vote for me because PRO's own argument can be used against him. Or they can reject his argument and accept mine.
So, either way, it does not support my opponent.


2) " however here is a common definition of maximally"

First, I would like to state how poor it is that for this entire debate, my opponent did not question the definition even once, then in the last round he simply brings forth a completely different definition and asks us to accept it.

Again, this is up to the voters. I encourage, out of proper conduct, not to accept this. However, if you wish only to dock conduct and allow the definition to stand as far as arguments go, then lets look a little closer, namely, at his source [1].

If you actually open the link and take a look, you'll see that the definition he provided is NOWHERE in his source. However, what is in his source is this, "being an upper limit." Yes, his only link supports that "maximally" cannot be unlimited, again, striking down his P4 from his R2 and proving his own argument wrong.

QED.


So, since my opponent's own arguments are actually striking down his initial "proof" there is nothing left to do but vote.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...


I thank my opponent for this debate, and all the viewers who have taken the time to read, comment, and vote.

Again, thank you.
Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Reason_Alliance 4 years ago
Reason_Alliance
Pro had a large burden of proof- I remain convinced that a MGB isn't even in the least bit incoherent. Naturalism is a rationalist jump from an empiracle basis at best- so it simply cannot be used against metaphysical possibility.
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 4 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
Also, something can have no logical contradictions and be completely impossible. If I have two dice in my hands, and how many sides each die has is unknown, it would not be logically contradictory based on this information to say that I could roll an 18, it's "possible". However, the dice are regular 6 sided dice, this means that in reality, rolling an 18 is impossible, because 12 is the highest number anyone can roll with two 6 sided dice.

So something can be logically possible, and be completely impossible in reality. This is one reason why the idea of possible worlds, doesn't seem to be too solid even though it can be useful.
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 4 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
"@RT so if I understand correctly you object to the first premise in the ontological argument is that it is impossible for a MGB to exist in any possible world?"

As I already asked in Round 4:

"Can a being be maximally great, if he is not great enough to occupy every possible world if he exists in one possible world?"

If the answer is "yes", then no I don't have any problems with the first premise of this Ontological Argument because it's It's possible that naturalism is true, and it's possible that there are no extraterrestrials. Therefore, it's possible that a maximally great being is necessarily a human being. However, if the answer is "no" then I object to the first premise by arguing that a maximally great being exists in no possible world.
Posted by stubs 4 years ago
stubs
@RT so if I understand correctly you object to the first premise in the ontological argument is that it is impossible for a MGB to exist in any possible world?

@Bluesteel But isn't that because in philosophy a possible world is one that is not logically contradictory? You also said that, "So what I meant was, if you prove enough logical contradictions in omnipotence and the theist keeps backing off, you're left with an MGB that is no more powerful than a common man." But I don't think that addresses my original statement that an MGB is metaphysically necessary. There is no logical contradiction of being metaphysically necessary. And it still holds that humans are not metaphysically necessary so the MGB could still not be a human correct?
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 4 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
"Therefore a MGB could not be a human being"

It's possible that naturalism is true, and it's possible that there are no extraterrestrials. Therefore, it's possible that a maximally great being is necessarily human.
Posted by bluesteel 4 years ago
bluesteel
I just meant it's a copout. The arguments against the Ontological argument must be rooted in logic. One of the only ways to disprove it is to show that there is a logical contradiction in the definition of a MGB. Yet, theists then instead define a MGB as one who has traits that don't logically contradict. The argument becomes basically a tautology:

1) An MGD is defined as something with no logical contradictions contained in it and if it exists, must exist in all possible worlds.
2) It is possible that an MGD exists.
3) If it is possible, then an MGD must exist in at least one possible world.
4) If an MGD is in one possible world, it must be in all.
5) An MGD exists.

It's a tautology because "possible" is defined as "not logically contradictory," so the key premise is proven true by definition.

So what I meant was, if you prove enough logical contradictions in omnipotence and the theist keeps backing off, you're left with an MGD that is no more powerful than a common man.
Posted by stubs 4 years ago
stubs
@bluesteel I have a question about your statement, "This has always been an infuriating argument to me because if MGB is only "as great as possible," then the best person in the world could be a MGB"

Human beings are homo sapiens which are able to be killed. A MGB, by definition, would be metaphysically necessary in its existence. Therefore a MGB could not be a human being because human beings can die.

If any of what I said was wrong I would like for someone to point it out because I am trying to better understand the ontological argument.
Posted by bluesteel 4 years ago
bluesteel
RFD: this was a difficult debate to judge. After my first read, I had thought Pro had won. It seemed Con did not have an answer to the definition of unlimited being "without any limits." However, after reading through again, it became clear that Pro's only proof that a MGB is unlimited is because of maximal greatness and Pro didn't have a good response to maximally great meaning "as great as possible." This has always been an infuriating argument to me because if MGB is only "as great as possible," then the best person in the world could be a MGB (which doesn't prove God). If anyone has a good refutation to this argument - "best possible" - PM me because I'd like to read it. But regardless, it seems that whoever has the BOP with the Ontological argument should usually lose because the reverse argument is equally as valid. That happened in this case, but not because Ore_Ele used the reverse argument. S&G points because Ore_ele's arguments were way easier to read - both because of formatting and writing style. Pro needs to be more concise and to the point.
Posted by Khana 4 years ago
Khana
Wish I could vote! This was a fun one. I agreed with Pro to start with, and thought the original argument was fantastic, but then... well, Con stole it away, haha. Really hard to argue with his logic. *applauds*
Posted by stubs 4 years ago
stubs
I think Con did a really nice job of showing that a MGB does not have to be truly unlimited, even pointing it out in Pro's source.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Reason_Alliance 4 years ago
Reason_Alliance
Rational_Thinker9119Ore_EleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: <--
Vote Placed by KRFournier 4 years ago
KRFournier
Rational_Thinker9119Ore_EleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con reduced Pro's notion of "unlimited" to absurdity, showing that such a use of that term is inherently meaningless. Pro also needs to verify his formatting before submitting rounds.
Vote Placed by bluesteel 4 years ago
bluesteel
Rational_Thinker9119Ore_EleTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments