The Instigator
1z3
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Nac
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Can the existence of God be proven a priori?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Nac
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/3/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 691 times Debate No: 72858
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)

 

1z3

Pro

An a priori proof of the existence of God is one which claims that God's existence can be proven with the use of reason and hence independent of experience. As a result the role of my opposition will be to state and explain the logical flaws in my argument, hence arguments such as 'the problem of evil' are not relevant to this debate.

Let us argue with the notion that the God we refer to is the God of classical theism.

I'll be using an ontological argument and it goes as follows:
1. God is the greatest possible being
2. An atheist, who believes there is no God in reality, can understand that God is the greatest possible being.
3. The atheist believes God only exists in one's understanding.
4. It is greater to exist in one's understanding as well as in reality.
5. The greatest possible being must therefore also exist in one's understand as well as in reality.
6. Therefore God exists both in one's understanding and in reality.

Let the debate begin:)
Nac

Con

I thank Pro for proposing this topic. I wish him good luck in this debate.

Since my opponent explicitly stated that the criteria for our debate should be my ability to show how this argument is erroneous, I will go point by point through the argument, with the recreation I supplied below. My opponent has also stated that I should begin arguing in the first round in the comments, so I shall do precisely that.

1. God is the greatest possible being.

There is a noteworthy discrepancy regarding this premise, which actually lies in the problem of evil. If the problem of evil is correct than God's perfection is in jeopardy. I do realize that my opponent stated that he does not wish to argue with the problem of evil, but this premise relies on the dilemma being faulty, which should be shown. For those unfamiliar with this concept here is an explanation about it: http://www.iep.utm.edu... I hope my opponent sees how this is relevant in his response. If the problem of evil is undisputed, then God's perfection is in question.

However, in the case that he does not, I shall object to this claim in an alternative fashion. This premise leaves out a very important piece of information: The idea of God is the idea of a maximally great being. This information will only become relevant in relation to another premise.

2. An atheist, who believes there is no God in reality, can understand that God is the greatest possible being.

Same objection as above.

3. The atheist believes God only exists in one's understanding.

I am unsure what "understanding" means in this context. I will work based off of the assertion that it only exists in one's own mind. However, the general claim which an gnostic atheist, the type of atheist the second premise is referring to, makes is the claim that a God only exists in one's flawed perception of the universe, which is to say a delusion. This does not actually lead to an existence, only a belief in the idea of a concept's existence.

4. It is greater to exist in one's understanding as well as in reality.

This view is honestly subjective, as many can see an idea as greater in their own understanding. God would be seen as worse by many who believe he does not exist if he reveals himself to exist, because than the problems of the world would draw his nature into question. As such, if an perfect idea exists in a world people believe is sordid, then this premise would be doubted on those grounds, since this could pervert the idea in reality.

5. The greatest possible being must therefore also exist in one's understand as well as in reality.

This is where the delineation I explained earlier comes into play. The idea of a god is that of a maximally great being. As such, his existence must be proven for this line of reasoning to take effect. If it is not proven, it remains solely as an idea. For an idea to be linked to existence, it must itself be maximally great. This excludes this subject, since the idea itself is not maximally great, merely the entity it focuses on.

6. Therefore God exists both in one's understanding and in reality.

This conclusion cannot be drawn without the issues I proposed above being rectified.

As an alternative route, the argument's implications must be shown. If this argument has no issues, you can use it to conclude the existence of any idea you may have that is maximally great. It can contradict the ideals of others*. It can be an idea that is completely absurd. If one can link any idea in their mind to a maximally great trait, then you could prove its existence. In order to avoid concluding that all of these ideas must exist, we must acknowledge that this criteria is faulty.

Before a claim is made that the existence of a God has more empirical proof than these concepts, please keep in mind that the resolution of this debate is that God can be proven without sense experience. As such, using this information, which is known as a posteriori knowledge, would violate the premise.

* Subjectivity is a very evident factor in ideals. For the existence of this to be proven, I simply need to delineate a single difference, since this would not exist if ideals were objective. Gay marriage, Gun rights, and abortion show how views on individual subjects can differ from person to person, and the existence of Hitler's and Stalin's ideals show how an entire worldview can differ from the norm.

With this the resolution has been successfully nullified, and I wait for my opponent's response.

I would like to thank him again for this topic, as writing this rebuttal has been exceedingly fun.
Debate Round No. 1
1z3

Pro

1. I understand the problem of evil can question whether God is perfect (as he allows evil to exist in the world). That being said, I could use many theodicies to argue that evil is part of God's plan (e.g. the freewill defence and the soul-making theodicy etc) and hence conclude that God's perfection is possible. I asked to not talk about the problem of evil as arguing this will detract from the original debate.
3. The purpose of the 2nd and 3rd premise is to show that someone who does not believe that God exists is wrong. The argument can still work to prove the existence of God if we omit the 2nd and 3rd premise.

I believe a better way to respond to my opponent's criticisms of premises 4,5 and 6 and the implications of my whole argument if it is sound is to reformulate my ontological argument so it is immune to these criticisms.

Firstly let's discuss the 4 possible states of God's being.
1. God's existence is necessarily false " it is logically impossible for any being that has God's properties to exist.
2. God's existence is contingently false " it is possible that a being with the properties of God could exist but it just so happens that such a being doesn't exist.
3. God's existence is contingently true " it possible that a being with the properties of god could exist and it just so happens that such a being exists.
4. God's existence is necessarily true " it is logically necessary that any being with the properties of God exists.

Being X has a (contingent) existence then it depends on something else for its existence. Being Y has a (necessary) existence that does not rely on anything for its own existence. It makes sense to conclude that that being Y is greater than X. Hence God, the greatest possible being, would have a necessary existence. Therefore 2 and 3 cannot be states of God's being and we're left with 1 and 4.

As God's existence is necessary then either:
1) He has to exist necessarily.
4) It is impossible that he exists.

For God's existence to be impossible then the idea of him existing must be a contradiction. This is because we're dealing with a necessary being and not a contingent being. Therefore to say "God exists" should be a contradiction of terms in order for God to not possibly exist. However it is not contradictory to believe that God exists and therefore (4) cannot be true. Therefore we're left with option (1). Therefore God exists necessarily.

This version of the argument cannot be used to show that other maximally great objects exist. God cannot be conceived of as not existing (as he exists necessarily according to my argument). The greatest possible cake or door can be conceived as not existing (you can imagine the cake being trod on, the door being broken). You cannot conceive of God as not existing as then you are not conceiving a maximally great being. Therefore you haven't been conceiving of God all along.
Nac

Con

Before I respond, I see it as pertinent that I ensure that we both have the same understanding of the rules in this debate, since this was not established before.

1. Burden of Proof lies on my opponent, as the criteria he established for judging this debate is my ability to prove this argument false.

2. I reserve the right to propose new arguments, since the opponent's revision to his argument leaves no trace of his first draft. Therefore, it would be unreasonable to force me to maintain only the arguments I have already proposed.

Now I will begin the argument

1. I still view the problem of evil as a massive detractor to this argument, but I will assent to my opponent's claim that it will circumvent the argument. Therefore, I will no longer argue with the problem of evil in the first premise, but I still hold that it disproves the argument outside of this debate.

However, my contention against the fourth argument still stands, since the subjectivity of values does not require this point.

3. My opponent did not respond to my criticisms, and admits that these two premises are peripheral in the context of his argument, so I do not see it as necessary to discuss them further.

My opponent's argument to God's necessary existence has a notable flaw. He states that if God created us, then we are contingent beings, thus making him necessary. Though this line of reasoning is valid in the since that its premises lead to its conclusion, the first premise must be proven, which requires a posteriori knowledge, since it cannot be deduced by logic alone.

On a side note, I will ensure my opponent does not use the cosmological argument to fix this hole. The cosmological argument is a God of the Gaps fallacy, in that it states that we need a necessary intelligence simply because we do not understand something. By this logic, melting ice would have required God before we fully comprehended the process. We cannot conclude that God is necessary to explain any natural phenomena unless we have the knowledge that we can never understand the phenomena, which would require absolute knowledge.

I apologize if this seems like a tangent, but I saw it as necessary to exclude that topic from discussion.

My opponent's second argument seems to create a special pleading fallacy. If he states that my ability to conceive of God not existing implies I was not thinking of God at all, why is the same conclusion not made. As he stated, if you can conceive of something with the property of being maximally great not existing, you were not conceiving of that thing all along. Thus, we are back to square one.

I thank my opponent for continuing to provide intellectually challenging arguments. I await his rebuttal with bated breath, as this topic has been extremely enjoyable so far.
Debate Round No. 2
1z3

Pro

I believe that "the first premise must be proven, which requires a posteriori knowledge, since it cannot be deduced by logic alone" is flawed and God's existence can be deduced by logic alone. This argument only applies to beings with contingent existence. If this argument does apply to God then one is stating "It is possible that God doesn't exist". However if we accept that God exists necessarily then "It is possible that God doesn't exist" is necessarily false.

My last paragraph in round 2 aims to show that my argument cannot be used to prove the existence of any maximally great object. My opponent states that my explanation of why is using a special pleading fallacy. I will accept that this criticism shows that I poorly explained why my ontological argument cannot be used to prove any maximally great being. I therefore will attempt to explain again why without using a special pleading fallacy:

I aim to show there is something incoherent with thinking that the greatest conceivable being (God) doesn't exist. On the other hand I aim to show it is coherent to think of the greatest conceivable door (or any object) as not existing. Doors have the essential property of being able to open and close, to be solid etc. However doors do not have the essential property of being (maximally) great like God does. However God does have this essential property. Hence my argument only applies to God.
Nac

Con

In my opponent's first claim, explains how my argument only applies to beings with a contingent existence, and that it therefore has nothing to do with the idea of a God. However, he seems to have misunderstood what my claim implied. My claim was that if God did not create us, then the means by which we derived his necessary nature is fallacious. He must prove that God is a necessary existence by some other means or defend his claim. If this is not done, then his necessary being cannot be derived and the argument ends there. I apologize that I was unable to explain this in a way my opponent understood in the last round, and I hope that this clarification helps.

I admire my opponent for his graceful concession, as it is always difficult to perform this action.

In my opponent's revision to his claim, he established that doors can not have the property of being maximally great. However, it appears to me that this contradicts the definition of maximally great. This property implies to me that it possesses the greatest conceivable quality of every trait of said entity, object, idea. The door cannot possess properties of other types of objects in the same way that God, as a being, cannot possess the qualities of said door. Therefore, a door of this nature would have the same argument applicable to it.
Debate Round No. 3
1z3

Pro

I will quite happily accept that I have lost the argument.

For the sake of improving my own knowledge, if it isn't too much to say, I would like you to explain more "My claim was that if God did not create us, then the means by which we derived his necessary nature is fallacious. He must prove that God is a necessary existence by some other means or defend his claim".

I am very grateful to debate with someone who doesn't argue for the sake of one's own ego but to argue to develop another's knowledge. I have never argued with another in such a way before and I must say thank you.
Nac

Con

I thank my opponent for this wonderful debate. I reciprocate his every notion regarding the respect I have for the opposing side. He did splendidly well in this debate.

My intention when saying "My claim was that if God did not create us, then the means by which we derived his necessary nature is fallacious. He must prove that God is a necessary existence by some other means or defend his claim". was to show how the argument you made for God existing necessarily begins with stating that God created us. You then stated how, based on this claim, his existence is necessary, since a contingent being cannot create another contingent being. I agreed that this line of reasoning was valid if all the premises have been proven. However, it seemed to me that the first premise assumed that God created us. The reason why this needed proof was because, without it, the opposite could just as easily be the correct answer. This means that no conclusion could be drawn on the validity of this premise and, similarly, on your argument. If you would like to discuss this further, we could use the comments thread on this debate.

This argument was very fun, and I wish the best to my opponent in his future debates.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Nac 1 year ago
Nac
This is going to be a weird debate to have on Easter Sunday.
Posted by 1z3 1 year ago
1z3
I may be changing my Ontological argument to respond to criticisms.
Posted by Nac 1 year ago
Nac
Is this version of the ontological argument the only one which will be used?
Posted by Fkkize 1 year ago
Fkkize
I'd love to debate this, unfortunately I don't have the time..
Posted by 1z3 1 year ago
1z3
Argument beings directly after the debate is accepted.
Posted by Nac 1 year ago
Nac
Will the first round be acceptance and definition of terms, or would the argument begin directly after the debate is accepted?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by FuzzyCatPotato 1 year ago
FuzzyCatPotato
1z3NacTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: concession
Vote Placed by jzonda415 1 year ago
jzonda415
1z3NacTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Graceful concession by Pro.