Does God Exist: An Ontological Argument
I would like to take the affirmative position in respect to the topic of this debate. However, to first note, the topic of the debate is in one sense "perspective neutral"; namely that a negative position could challenge my affirmative position or even an agnostic position that doesn't necessarily know whether or not God exists but in fact rejects the argument that I am presenting.
This argument which I will be using is known as the Ontological Argument. This argument has had a rich history since it was first presented in St. Anselm's Prosologion (1077-78) found in chapters 1-4. Thus, to be clear, I will be presenting an Anselmsian scheme of the Ontological Argument as seen in Robert Maydole (2012), but will allow the thurst of the argument to take place in its reinterpretation of Anselm's argument under Alvin Plantinga (1974).
The Argument Stated (1.1)
William Lane Craig once wrote in regards to Anselm’s formulation of particular arguments for the existence of God and his dissatisfaction with them. According to his essay on the Ontological Argument, "Anselm remained dissatisfied with the complexity of his demonstration and yearned to find a single argument which would on its own prove that God exists in all his greatness” . This would later set up what Anselm would call [according to his conception of God] as "the greatest conceivable being."
As Anselm writes:
According to Anselm, the greatest conceivable being is one who exists in the understanding alone - or so as he begins the argument. However, noticeably along with other Middle Age philosophers, properties regarding existence-in-reality, power, goodness, completeness and so forth were all apart of a great chain of being, where "God is an upper bound to the great chain of being" . Anselm writes in his Monologion:
Thus, saying that a being existing in reality is greater than the greatest conceivable being existing in the understanding emerges as a contradiction. Since, the greatest conceivable being can have no "ontological superiors." Especially, according to Anselm, as existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone. Therefore, this being must have existence in the understanding as well as in reality. Thus, we can schematize Anselm's argument as such:
In regards to conceivable, I simply mean to say that “there is no logical impossibility in the supposition that it obtains” . In other words, there is nothing logically hindering something from being the case – indeed, it is conceivable. Furthermore:
Anselm’s argument is thence suggesting that (2) existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone. This isn’t simply a matter of intuition that the adherent of the argument hopes his interlocutor agrees with, but denotes Anselm’s idea regarding the chain of being that we saw back in his statement in the Monologion. Thus, an acceptance of (2) leads us to a consideration of premises (3)-(6), where, taken along with (1) and (2), collectively make the contradiction that a being existing in reality is greater than the greatest conceivable being, which exists in the understanding. Therefore, God exists in reality.
This argument avoids the previous dilemmas of necessary existence being a perfection (Anselm), since, a being cannot be omnipotent (or all-knowing, wholly good, etc.) in a given world unless it exists in that world. With (1), (3), and (4) taken collectively, you receive the conclusion that such a being who is omniscient, omnipotent and morally perfect actually exists. I think the argument becomes interesting once we consider (3) and (4) as consequences of a definition. Plantinga explains thus:
Therefore, the defender of the ontological argument is only left to deal with premise (1): that it is possible that such a being so defined exists. However, premise (2) which follows from (1), speaks of a possible having such characteristics of maximal greatness. Hence, we are left to address the concerns of what exactly it means to be a possible being.
Hence, with the conjunction of (6) and (7) we no longer have the problem of dealing with possible but nonexistent beings. As Plantinga finishes: “if (5) is true, then there is a possible world W such that if it had been actual, then there would have existed a being that was omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect; this being, furthermore, would have had these qualities in every possible world. So it follows that if W had been actual, it would have been impossible that there be no such being” . Hence, if W had been actual,
would have been an impossible proposition. Furthermore, impossible propositions are not only impossible in one world, but in every world. Therefore, there actually exists a being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect, and who exists in every possible world.
These are what I consider the sronger versions of the ontological argument. By all means, I am not using this argument so as to coerce religious belief, but I do think that the conclusion of the argument has considerable merit for theism. Interlocutors are welcome to challenge my argument.
Hello and thanks. In this debate I will be arguing that the OA is not a sufficient argument for God’s existence.
The ontological arguments presented essentially boil down to, God must exist by definition. God is defined as the greatest conceivable thing, and God can’t be great unless it exists. Kant pointed out the problem with this. You can’t just claim existence is an attribute, existence is something that allows attributes, not an attribute in and of itself. For example, I can define a “Realicorn” with all the properties as a unicorn, but existing. It has one horn, it is a magical equine, and it exists. However, this isn’t adding a property. Kant’s point becomes clear, existence is not a predicate.
One can argue that the modal ontological argument presented isn’t touched. However, in order for God to exist in all possible worlds, he must be great, because existing is what it means to be great. William Lane Craig himself admitted this [video ]
The arguments must assume a standard of what is great in order to state God is the greatest. The problem is an objective standard of what is and isn’t great can’t fit with God. If the standard of great is subjective, then the argument can’t objectively prove God exists, since subjectivity is only in the mind.
So, a simple question, where does the standard of great comes from to say that God is the greatest possible being?
I can think of 2 ways
1. The standard is above God
2. The standard comes from God/God’s nature/created by God.
Both ways can’t fit with the Ontological arguments.
1. The standard is above God
This can’t be true under a theistic world view, because it would undermine a God, by saying there’s something above him that he’s subject to. It also means the source of such a standard must be the ultimate of great thing, which God is suppose to be. For example, if great is set by a tree, it must be the greatest thing, because it’s the compass of which we determine what is great.
The alternative option is,
2. The standard comes from God/God’s nature/created by God.
This however would mean the arguments are committing the fallacy of begging the question. Since God, being the greatest must necessarily exist, but “great” is set by God. It’s like trying to prove a maximally fast car exists, but you say “fast” is set by how fast the car you’re trying to prove is going. If “great” is set by the being, then saying God necessarily exists because it is the greatest, is saying God must necessarily exist, because God is most like himself. Which assumes its existence in the first place.
Modal Argument for the Impossibility of God.
At best this argument demonstrates it’s impossible for God to exist (meaning the OA is wrong) and at the very least it shows the OA is equal to this argument, thus is not sufficient evidence.
This was proposed by philosopher Ryan Stringer [http://www.infidels.org...]
A. It is possible that p.
B. Necessarily, if it is possible that God exists, then it is necessary that God exists.
C. Necessarily, if God exists, then it is not the case that p.
D. Therefore, it is not possible that God exists. (from A, B, & C)
We can use various plugins for P, like
1. Minds can only exist in the physical world.
2. An evil deity exists
3. Omnipotence is impossible
4. Being morally perfect is impossible
5. Omniscience is impossible
The only way to try to defeat this argument is to use the Modal Ontological Argument. However, Ryan Stringer writes
“P = It is possible that God exists
...contesting our A-premises by appealing to the modal ontological argument fails to defeat modal arguments for atheism. First of all, P and any given A-premise are, at best, equally plausible—it would be absurd to claim that P is more plausible than any of the A-premises. For even if P is intuitively plausible, and God is a conceivable, coherent thing, the same can be said of the objects or states of affairs said to be possible in the A-premises. Now the equal plausibility of P and any given A-premise implies that the modal ontological argument and any given modal argument for atheism are on an equal footing—…”
This would make the ontological argument insufficient evidence, thus my case is proven. However, Stringer also says since there is more A premises, then A is more plausible than P.
I have given three objections that show the Ontological arguments are insufficient evidence for the existence of a great being. Existence is not an attribute, great is either objective or subjective, and the modal argument for atheism shows at very least; there’s an equal argument.
I'd like to thank my opponent for participating in the debate and providing his critique of my affirmative case.
The Ontological Argument and Kant (1.1)
My opponent pointed out that "God is defined as the greatest conceivable thing, and God can’t be great unless it exists." Furthermore commenting that "Kant pointed out the problem with this." However, various philosophers have written extensively on Kant's critique of Anselm's argument (Clark 1973, Rowe 1974, Plantinga 1967, Maydole 2012, etc.) in a spirit of disagreement. Notably I want to consider the general problem regarding the "existence is not a predicate" objection.
This line of criticism (stemming from Kant to even A.J. Ayer) has gone on to say that if existence were a predicate, then certain existential propositions are either tautologies or are self-contradictory. Considering the difference between (1) affirmative existential propositions (x does exist) and (2) negative existential propositions (x does not exist), x is still a given thing that we presuppose to exist. Thus, affirming x’s existence would just be redundant, and denying x’s existence would be self-contradictory – since, in predicating x we are presupposing that x exists: why would we say then that x does not exist? This is obviously problematic since this objection wrongfully presupposes that concepts must apply to the actual world. As William Rowe explains:
More so, Kant's critique is ultimately irrelevant. As E.J. Lowe (2007) writes, "Nothing in… the ontological argument implies that… existence… must be a divine attribute or property, in the way that omniscience or omnipotence are… [T]he Kantian objection… is just a red herring with no real bearing on the soundness of the ontological argument." (Lowe 2007, 337)
Furthermore, Alvin Plantinga criticizes Kant on the same grounds:
Thus, Gordon Clark (1973) summarizes three problems with Kant's critique to which I will finish with:
My Opponent, William Rowe, and Begging the Question (1.2)
Robert Maydole (2012) critiques Rowe on the grounds that he equivocates the word "grant" to mean "assume" and "implies." We assume (grant) the premises of an argument, and in granting these premises, we are in fact granting (implying) its conclusion if the argument is valid. According to Maydole, "Surely, the fact that the premises of an argument imply its conclusion does not mean that the argument begs the question" .
Seems to show that first conjunct is true by definition, while the second is introspectively true. As Anselm even suggests: "[M]any people appear to understand it when they hear it - even the fool." Thus, this point by Maydole I think is respectively important:
The point I think becomes more important once Maydole finishes:
Thus, I think the point I drew in my first affirmative from Anslem's Monologion (1077) is still relevant for my opponent's consideration.
Pro quotes William Rowe saying predicates don’t need to refer to existing objects. However, this is a strawman against Kant’s objection. It’s not stating predicates can only be given to existing objects, it only says existence itself isn’t a predicate. All that has been pointed out by Rowe is that we think of things differently when we know they exist. This doesn’t mean existence can be a predicate, because things such as nouns do the same thing. If I state Hawaii is a place, this changed the way we think of it, but it doesn’t add any predicates.
He then claims Kant’s objection is irrelevant to Anselm's argument. This is a misunderstanding of the philosophy of language Anselm used in the argument. Consider premise one,
(1) God exists in the understanding but not in reality
This is from the Meinongianist idea of negative existentials.
Meinongianism is an ontological thesis, or set of theses:
(i) There are two kinds of existence: existence in reality and existence in
(ii) Some things exist in the understanding without existing in reality;
other things exist both in reality and in the understanding.[http://spot.colorado.edu... Page 8]
However, this means the the argument is stating that existence is a property. Philosopher Chris Heathwood formed Kant's objection like so [ibid],
P1 If Anselm’s ontological argument is sound, then Meinongianism (or
some theory relevantly like it) is true.
P2 If Meinongianism (or some theory relevantly like it) is true, then
existence in reality is a real property.
P3 But existence in reality is not a real property.
C Therefore, Anselm’s ontological argument is not sound.
Pro then quotes someone who summarizes his argument. It’s interesting the straw man here, because Kant is attacked because his objection didn’t disprove the existence of God. This is a blatant strawman fallacy, because Kant was simply objecting to the ontological argument, not attempting to disprove God. It’s like criticizing the free will defense because it doesn’t prove God.
The argument is relevant and my objection stands.
I don’t know why Pro attacked William Rowe’s objection. I never made such an objection, nor ever read any of Rowe’s work on the argument.
Perhaps Pro saw that my objection was somewhat similar to Rowe’s, in the sense of pointing out question begging. However, I’m objecting the argument on the grounds of standards of greatness, while Rowe is objecting to it on the grounds of God being possible means it’s necessary; thus stating his possibility is granting its existence. I agree that Rowe’s objection fails, it’s making a common mistake of confusing question begging for simple deductive argumentation. Rowe’s argument clearly wasn’t my argument, thus Pro has again committed the logical fallacy of the strawman.
Next Pro says the description of God is definite. I never argued it wasn't! My argument isn't one of semantics, it relies on the definition of God given. Then Pro goes onto quote Maydole rebutting an objection to the meaningfulness of “is greater than”. This is yet another strawman fallacy. My argument couldn’t care less about what theories of greatness exist, it let’s the argument’s proponent assume a perfect theory of greatness all they want. It doesn’t change a thing.
My second objection is still standing strong. We’ve seen nothing but strawmen from Pro with this one.
Modal Argument for the Impossibility of God.
Pro’s objections have already been answered in my previous round. He claims these are just counterfactuals to theism, then states it’s absurd. He does exactly as Stringer said he would do, claim that since God is possible, an evil deity is impossible. The funny thing here is, Pro is demonstrating why this argument is on equal footing with the OA. We could take Pro’s statements in this argument and claim the exact same thing in favor of atheism. We could say since an evil being can exist in a possible world, Anselm’s God isn’t possible. Pro is just assuming the ontological argument more plausible without demonstrating it to be the case.
This objection still stands
My objections are still standing. Pro’s quotes don’t deal with many of my objections. Kant’s objection is relevant and standing, my greatness objection was completely misunderstood by Pro and thus he commits many strawmen fallacies, and Ryan Stringer’s argument still shows the ontological argument fails to provide sufficient evidence for God’s existence.
Reviewing Con's arguments and rebuttals to my arguments, we can say that he is not very reluctant in his distribution of straw man fallacies. However, anyone with an appropriate knowledge of the Ontological Argument (Anselm's Proslogion, Kant's Criticism, Negative Existentials, etc.) can see that Con is confused in several areas regarding not only the preliminaries of the Ontological Argument but also my defense of the argument.
For instance, Con (1) doesn't understand the consequences of Kant's criticism. Not only that, but (2) he does not understand Kant's criticism itself. In respect to (1), we must understand what it means when Kant says that "existence is not a predicate." For, the problem of saying that existence is a predicate has been suggested to produce a number of problems (I pointed this out in my first rebuttal) according to several philosophers (see Ayer, 1952 ).
Kant's Criticism (1.1)
Where Anselm suggests that "If something exists only in the understanding and might have existed in reality, then it might have been greater than it is," we seem to have two points of consideration for this claim:
Someone may of course accept (1) but object to (2). However, Kant in boldness objects to (1). As Kant writes in "On the Impossibility of An Ontological Proof" in his Critique of Pure Reason (trans. 1922),
Kant's criticism contains a somewhat similar example regarding the 100$ in his pocket: "A hundred real dollars do not contain a penny more than a hundred possible dollars. For as the latter signify the concept, the former the object and its position by itself, it is clear that, in case the former contained more than the latter, my concept would not express the whole object, and would not therefore be its adequate concept" .
However, this entity is not maximally great. To say that there is a maximally great entity is to say that it is necessary that G is true. In the formal notation of modal logic, `33;G. Thus, the first premise is saying that it is possible that it is necessary that G is true. In formal notation this proposition is expressed as ◊`33;G. The conclusion thence follows to `33;G.
Poythress goes on to explain the premise-to-conclusion dilemma that we seem to have:
Pro more or less repeats himself. His argument simply is, we can’t deduce something as existing just by the notion, if said thing is physical, however with God, you can. I see no reason why we can’t do the same with extra-physical things. Even if Kant was only objecting to deducing existence from things in space-time, existence simply means to have actual being, so we can still use the same objection. Nothing really changes when we apply it to non-physical objects, only its physical existence. The problems with having being as a predicate still hold if the thing in question is physical or not. Take abstract objects; we could state “x” is an abstract object that is defined as existing. Defining it as non-physical changes nothing, the tautological and negative existential problems are still there. Pro’s response seems to be a special pleading fallacy.
Furthermore, Pro has dropped his rebuttal that this objection is irrelevant. Yet he still claimed it. He ignores my argument pointing out the Meinongianist philosophy of language in the Ontological argument, making Kant’s objection relevant.
The objection still stands.
Pro still commits a strawman fallacy here. He claims this issue is irrelevant. Pro is unaware that he gave evidence of his strawman. This issue can't be irrelevant, it attacks the concept of a great being. If my argument is true, then you couldn't define God as the greatest maximally being, or state it is possible for a MGB to exist. This would obviously be a huge problem for the ontological argument. How in the world can this be irrelevant? Pro does not see the irrelevance in his response. It doesn’t matter if Maydole gave us understanding of “greater than” because that’s not the argument. Pro then asks, if I let the OA proponent assume a perfect theory of greatness, why did I use it? This again, is more evidence of of Pro’s strawman fallacy.
I want everyone to notice, Pro dropped his original 1.2 response titled ,“My Opponent, William Rowe, and Begging the Question” in which he clearly strawmanned my argument.
Modal Argument for the Impossibility of God.
Pro yet again repeats himself without responding to my objections. In fact, Pro is responding to nothing here. He’s just presenting the Ontological argument again, without trying to touch Ryan Stringer’s argument.
“My argument suggests that if God is possible, then God (so defined) must exist.”
I know that, Stringer’s argument suggests if it is possible that minds can only exist physically, then God cannot exist. Pro then goes onto say the conclusion follows. This is utterly irrelevant. It doesn’t matter that the conclusion follows because the premises have not been demonstrated.
This objection clearly stands.
Kant’s objection still stands. Pro claimed it was irrelevant, I showed the philosophy of language used by Anselm makes it relevant. Pro ignored that. Pro claimed that we can deduce existence from the definition of God, but not physical things. Pro never demonstrated that was the case, as it’s a special pleading fallacy. Pro repeatedly committed strawman fallacies with my greatness objection. With Ryan Stringer’s argument, he just repeated the Ontological argument, without responding to it. All of my objections still stand, I have demonstrated that the Ontological argument isn’t sufficient evidence for the existence of God.
I want to point something out here. Pro in his last round repeatedly called me ignorant. In one section he called me “unbelievably ignorant”. Is this really proper conduct? I feel it’s unfortunate that we began the debate with friendly thanks, but Pro had to end it with bad conduct like this. I’ll leave it up to the voters to decide if I should get the conduct point.
Thanks for the debate.
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