The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
3 Points

God is existant

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/16/2015 Category: Religion
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,368 times Debate No: 73609
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (32)
Votes (1)




i will let my opponent define God, since it can be a very complicated thing. something along the lines of a generally believed god (powerful, creator, etc.) seems fair. I always wanted to do this!


I will argue that God exists.

Argument 1

God = a maximally great being

This definition accords with what people generally understand God to be, if my opponent disputes this definition, then he is free to explain why.

My argument has the following premises, followed by a conclusion.

P1: God is defined as a maximally great being
P2: There exists at least one possible world where God exists (i.e it is possible that God exists).
P3: A being that exists in all possible worlds (a necessary being) is greater than a being that exists in only some possible worlds (a contingent being).
C: God, by definition, must exist in all possible worlds.

If God must exist in all possible worlds, then he must exist in the actual world, since the actual world is possible.
Therefore, God exists in our world.

To explain the argument, consider that, if God is defined as a maximally great being, then it is contradictory to assert that God is not maximally great.
We have two possibilities; either God exists in some possible worlds and exists contingently, or God exists in all possible worlds and exists necessarily.
The first option is contradictory, because if God was only contingent then he wouldn't be maximally great (as it is greater to exist necessarily) - so this contradicts his definition.

As the negation of an absurd conclusion must be true, the second option must be correct. This entails that God exists in the actual world.

In order for this argument to be refuted, my opponent must demonstrate that God does not possibly exist.

Argument 2

We know that millions of people claim to have had religious experiences, nearly half of Americans. (1)

For each individual claim, we have only three possibilities:

1. The mystic (the person who had the experience) is lying
2. The mystic is deluded
3. The mystic is telling the truth

Whilst it is probably the case that many mystics are either lying or deluded, it is a huge assumption that this is the case with every single claim. The likelihood of people lying is low because people only really lie if there is sufficient reason to do so; yet there is often no reason why someone would fabricate a religious experience.

The likelihood of people having been deluded is low because those who have religious experiences mostly have stable mental health and have no history of mental disturbances.

If God was proved to be impossible or extremely unlikely then this would increase the probability of the mystic having been deluded, yet there is no such proof and there are many other arguments that suggest that saying that God exists is a plausible proposition.

Therefore, the likelihood that every single claim, out of millions, is either a lie or a delusion is an unjustified assertion and a very unlikely circumstance.
The conclusion is, therefore, that there are some mystics who are telling the truth, and that they actually did experience God.
As God must exist to be experienced, an experience of God proves that he exists.

Therefore, God exists.

Debate Round No. 1


I’ll accept Pro’s definition of “God”. For the purposes of this debate the definition of God is not set in stone, all arguments must affirm this.

With the argument from non-cognitivism I will show that the statement “God exists” is as coherent as the statement “Fod exists” or “Jill sleeps furiously”. The term “God” does not refer to a coherent concept, and as such attributing existence to it is impossible.

The reason this is possible with “God” in this debate is precisely because of Pro’s definition, which Pro sets as “Maximally Great Being”. “Greatness” is an inherently subjective term, with qualities that determine greatness dependant on the subject – while this obviously extends to specific characters of God, it also applies to commonly held attributes of God, for example omnipotence, omniscience, etc. To make the statement that “something is great” requires a standard by which said statement becomes meaningful.

For example, if we imagine a universe with absolutely nothing in it except a bowling ball. We cannot coherently give relational attributes such as “a heavy bowling ball” or “a large in volume bowling ball” or “a spinning rapidly bowling ball” since we have nothing by which we can apply this relational attributes against. Similarly, “greatness” is also a relational attribute and consequently runs into two problems:

1. A standard is required for the term “greatness” to become meaningful
2. The content of what “greatness” is an inherently subjective

For a being which is defined according to being great, then #2 renders God’s very nature a matter of subjective decision. #1 renders God meaningless unless an objective standard exists by which God can be said to be great. This renders a dilemma:

1. The standard is internal to God
2. The standard is external to God

The former would beg the question, and lead to God being self-defined, which is a vacuous definition – and hence cannot be meaningfully said to exist since the label “God” simply means “God is himself”. The latter would lead to God being contingent on an external standard, and would also beg the question as to what this standard is/means – since we cannot coherently say that the being exists since the standard is not necessarily metaphysical in nature. For example having a standard by which numbers are “large” does not grant ontology to a “maximally large number”. Similarly, a “maximally great being” doesn’t entail that greatness has anything to do with ontology. If greatness is non-ontological then the definition of God becomes incoherent.

An example to illustrate this is the notion of a “squareroot apple”, the concept is incoherent because “squareroot” is non-ontological.

My arguments are linear, thus each step is a stopper for God.
1.The definition & content of “Greatness” is subjective, and hence cannot lead to ontology
2.For something to be “great” requires the existence of a standard
a.An internal standard leads to a vacuous definition which cannot be said to have ontology (God is God)
b.An external standard entails God being contingent (rendering common subjective notions of God incoherent). If the external standard is
subjective then point #1 entails. If the external standard is objective, then Pro needs to provide this standard so “God” becomes
cognitive/coherent, and the standard renders God of questionable coherence due to it necessarily being metaphysical.

Argument 1 – Modal Ontological Argument
Pro’s argument is a modal ontological argument, with God being defined at least minimally as a “necessarily existing being”. This definition is required otherwise the conclusion doesn’t follow from 2 “There exists at least one possible world where God exists”. Thus to rephrase Pro’s argument without changing the content:

P1: There exists at least one possible world where God exists
P2: If God exists in at least one possible world, then God exists in all possible worlds
C: God exists in all possible worlds

This argument is logically valid if and only if Pro is arguing from possible world semantics and S5 modal logic axiomatic system. As such I will address the argument from this system.[]

Objection 1- Maximally Great Being = Necessary Existence
Pro is incorrect in his dichotomy that God either “exists contingently or necessarily”. To clarify why I will provide the modal definitions of “contingent” and “necessary” which Pro must accept if he is arguing from the S5 modal logical system with possible world semantics:

necessary if and only if it is not possibly false; and
contingent if and only if it is not necessarily false and not necessarily true (i.e. possible but not necessarily true).”[]

There are two other options, 1. “God necessarily doesn’t exist” and “God is incoherent”. The coherency of God I have already affirmed in non-cognitivism, the necessary non-existence is also an option and in fact is true for most entities one can define with “would exist necessarily”.

The problem here is that “greatness” is a subjective definition, which begs the question on many fronts, and as such it is impossible to say that a “maximally great being” would exist necessarily, contingently, etc. pro’s only attempt to argue that a “maximally great being” must exist necessarily appears to be an argument/appeal to intuition (“first option is contradictory, because if God was only contingent then he wouldn't be maximally great”), which is a complete philosophical failure. It doesn’t follow that a contingent God wouldn’t be maximally great, Pro needs to provide the standard by which he is defining “great” by before he can coherently make that argument. Objects can be maximally large, maximally slow, maximally dark, maximally cold etc. without requiring the added attribute of “necessary existance”. Thus even using Pro’s dubious-at-best intuitive argument he is left exercising special pleading to grant God “necessary existence” within the definition.

Objection 2 – “There exists at least one possible world where God exists”
Pro does not even attempt to demonstrate that this premise is true. Because this argument is a modal argument using possible world semantics, then he is required to uphold that God is metaphysically possible. It is very different to epistemological possibility – and Pro has conveniently not defined what he means by “possible” in his opening argument. I will provide the two definitions below, and show how these are different:

Epistemic Possibility – “how the world may be, for all we know”
Metaphysical Possibility – “how the world may actually be, metaphysically”[]

One example is Godbach’s conjecture, which is an unproven theorem in mathematics. Because it has not been proven to be true or false it is epistemically possible. However it doesn’t follow that it is metaphysically possible. It is widely accepted that mathematical truths are necessary truths, thus IF the Godbach’s conjecture WAS true in at least one possible world, then it must be true in all possible worlds. Thus, using Pro’s implicit logic, we can prove mathematical theorums based on mere epistemic possibility![]

P1. The Goldbach’s conjecture is true in at least one possible world
P2. If the Goldbach’s conjecture is true in at least one possible world, then it is true in all possible worlds
C. The Goldbach’s conjecture is true in all possible worlds

Clearly we cannot solve mathematical theorums this way (the entire world cohort of mathematicians would be out of a job if it were this easy), they must be proven from ground up. The mere epistemic possibility is insufficient to demonstrate metaphysical possibility. Thus we can reject P1 of this argument without being needed to commit to actually disproving the theorem.

Objection 3 – Reverse modal ontological argument
The reverse argument shows that there is a dichotomy between the premises:

1. God exists in at least one possible world
2. God does not exist in at least one possible world

These premises CANNOT BOTH be true. The follow reverse argument shows this clearly:

1. God does not exist in at least one possible world
2. If God does not exist in at least one possible world then God does not exist all possible worlds
3. God does not exist in all possible worlds (from 1 & 2, modus ponens)
4. If God exists, then God exists in all possible worlds
5. God does not exist

2 follows from modal definition in the S5 system (If possibly not, then not necessary), and hence cannot possibly be contested by Pro, and premise 4 is a necessary premise/assumption of Pro’s modal ontological argument, and hence also cannot be contested. Thus Pro can only contest premise 1.

Thus, why should we believe the “There exists at least one (metaphysically) possible world where God exists” over the “There exists at least one (metaphysically) possible world where God doesn’t exist”. At best Pro has a stalemate here.

I assert my premise is correct, and state in my opponent’s own words:

“In order for this argument to be refuted, my opponent must demonstrate that God does not possibly not exist”

Argument 2 - Religious Experiences
It is not in dispute that people genuinely have religious experiences, what is in dispute is the source of these religious experiences. We have hundreds of thousands of photographs of UFO’s, and people’s own testimonies to alien abduction. An identical argument can be made that aliens really have visited the Earth in recent years. Clearly thousands/millions of people aren’t lying with their experiences, however it is the attribution of those experiences to real/actual entities where the mistake is made.

Such a claim is an epistemological claim, or an inference to the best explanation, which is a simple matter of what best explains the fact that millions of people have an experience they associate with “God”. I will expand on this in later rounds.



My opponent makes the following main arguments that argue against the coherency of a maximally great being.

1. The definition and content of greatness is subjective
2. Greatness requires a standard

I will refute these arguments before defending my own.


The first argument posits that the definition of greatness is subjective. Yet this can easily be dismissed by the existence of an objective definition of greatness, namely:

'being such in an extreme or notable degree' (1)

Granted, what constitutes 'notable' could be construed as subjective. But our intuitive awareness of the intrinsic (and therefore objective) greatness of various properties (knowledge, power, beauty etc...) lends inference to the notion that there exists properties that are intrinsically and objectively great; they are great in essence. Of course our intuition should be taken sceptically, but it should not be ignored entirely - and in the absence of rational argument for or against the objectivity of greatness, the fact that our intuition suggests that it is objective can constitute evidence in favour of this proposition.

Therefore, if one asserts that God is maximally great, then this maximum greatness is an objective property insofar as God possesses all properties that are objectively great. For example, knowledge, power and love are all objectively great (this is inferred by intuition), so to say that 'God is maximally great' is to say that 'God is maximally knowledgable, powerful, loving and so forth'.

Con goes on to suggest that being great is subjective because it is a relational attribute. For example, saying that a person is tall is subjective dependent on the height of other people.
However, the flaw in this argument is that it would only refute the notion of saying 'God is great', not saying that 'God is maximally great'.

Being maximally great is not relational, as maximal properties are not relational. For example, being maximally tall is not dependent on other people's heights. Even if nothing else exists, saying that a being is maximally tall is a coherent statement because it makes the coherent proposistion that it has the greatest possible height. Hence there is no incoherency in asserting that something is maximally great even if there is no standard to compare its level of greatness to.

To conclude my rebuttals:

'Greatness has a subjective definition'

This is a bare assertion - it has not been demonstrated that greatness is subjective. So in the absence of any rational arguments for or against the subjectivity of greatness, the fact that our intuition suggests the intrinsic greatness of some properties can be taken as evidence that greatness is indeed objective.

'Asserting that a being is great requires a standard'

I agree, but only if the assertion is 'X is great'. As this is a relational assertion, it requires some external standard to compare to if it is to be a coherent assertion.
Yet the assertion 'X is maximally great' is not relational because it is qualified. Something can have a maximal property even if there is no external standard, for example something can be maximally large even if there is nothing in existence to compare its largeness to.

Defence of the Ontological argument

CR1 - Maximally Great Being = Necessary Existence

My opponent states that I present a false dichotomy between contingent and necessary existence. He postulates impossibility (necessary non-existence) and incoherency as alternatives.

Yet these alternatives have been refuted above, by my rebuttals of Con's arguments regarding the supposed incoherency of God. So my dichotomy remains valid, as the other two options have been refuted (even though the two options are essentially the same).

Next, Con argues that necessary existence is not entailed by maximal greatness.
I will remind voters of the implications of 'maximal greatness'. A maximally great being is a being that is such that it is incoherent to conceive of a greater being. This is true by definition.

So we have two options:

1. A contingent being that could not have existed
2. A necessary being that could not have not existed

All other things being equal, it is self-evident that the latter being is greater. As the former being is contingent, it is subject to something external for its existence. In contrast, a being that exists necessarily and is not subject to an external cause is greater. This is self-evident.

Therefore, a maximally great being must necessarily exist in order for it to be maximally great.

CR2 - possibilities

I apologise for not defining possibility in round 1 - I was not aware of the level of philosophical knowledge my opponent had so I did not want to dive into sophisticated modality right from round 1.

To clarify, the ontological argument and its possible-worlds framework is based around logical possibility, not epistemic possibility; as epistemic possibility cannot be used to reach an ontological conclusion.

Although Con talks a lot about metaphysical possibility, his source containing its definition admits that metaphysical possibility does not have an agreed definition. Nonetheless, there is no need to discuss metaphysical possibility because the ontological argument is based on logical possiblity - whether or not metaphysical possibility is equivalent to logical possibility is irrelevant.

So, applying this to possible worlds, a possible world is a world containing any logically possible circumstance or entit(ies). If something is logically possible, then there exists at least one possible world where it exists. If something is logically impossible, then it does not exist in any possible world. If something is logically necessary, then it exists in all possible worlds.

The ontological argument uses logical possibility when it asserts in P2 that 'God is possible'. Con seems to argue that the argument is fallacious because I supposedly assert that God possibly exists in an epistemic sense. But this is a strawman because I use logical, not epistemic possibility, in P2.

CR3 - Reverse argument

This objection is no more than a bare assertion that there is no possible world that God exists. My opponent's reverse argument begins with the premise:

'God does not exist in at least one possible world'

Yet this would only be the case if God was logically impossible, which has not been demonstrated.

As this premise is unwarranted, the entire reverse argument is unwarranted.

Furthermore, the conclusion of my argument (that a necessary being exists) entails that there is no possible world in which this being does not exist. So there is no possible world where God doesn't exist.

Defence of the argument from religious experience

My opponent's attempt to refute this argument consists of a parody with alien abductions: many people have witnessed alien abductions, so surely they must exist?

The reason this is a poor parody of the argument is that we have solid arguments against the proposition that alien abductions have happened; namely that any alien life would be hugely far away across the cosmos and would be very unlikely to have reached earth. In contrast, we do not have solid arguments against the existence of God, so evidence of people claiming to have experienced God is evidence that God probably does exist.

But if there were not good arguments against the existence of alien abductions, then eyewitness testimonies would indeed lend proof to the reality of alien abductions.


I have refuted Con's claims that God is an incoherent concept, as well as defended the ontological argument and the argument from religious experiences.


Debate Round No. 2


Pro’s entire defence of non cognitivism is plagued with the following words:

“an extreme”


intuitive awareness

our intuition

“our intuition(again)


These buzzwords constitute I estimate over half of Pro’s defence of non-cognitivism. Pro’s argument is a blatent appeal to intuition/subjective opinion – one I am not impressed in the least by. Self-evidence is evidence of nothing except possibly consciousness itself, something is only self-evident to the individual, thus relies on an individual’s intuition. Intuitions are notoriously unreliable in determining anything about reality beyond our medium day-to-day experiences. Fundamental questions of ontology, philosophy, physics, mathematics, etc. etc. require much more than intuition to be sound, as our intuitions blatantly fail virtually every time. If you push an object, our intuitions say it will go faster. If you push an object near the speed of light, it will go faster than the speed of light – our intuitions will say. Well done, you have just disproven one of the most well-established theories of science with your intuition!

Intuition has no place in philosophical/scientific enquiry except as a starting point for enquiry.

Pro is partially correct in that maximal is cogent in an empty universe, but the very notion of “greatness”, and what makes something “more great” is not cogent. Since to say something “is greater” than something else is to have a cogent definition of what entails ”more” greatness. Pro has yet to provide a coherent definition of what greatness is, and what entails more or less greatness. His provided definition ‘being such in an extreme or notable degree’ simply begs the question of the nature of greatness, what would be entailed by an ‘extreme’ or ‘notable’ degree. Degree of what?

When one asks for what a rabbit is, and one answers "10 lbs", the obvious question is "10 lbs of what", the reply “well, just 5 lbs” is clearly insufficient to elucidate the nature of what a rabbit is. Pro is attempting to define the relational attribute of greatness, with more relational terms. It is blatently question-begging.

Possibility of God’s Existance
Pro concedes that he did not define his terms properly in round 1. I find this an admission that the original presentation of the argument was misleading.

Logical vs Metaphysical Possibility
Pro’s assertion that the modal ontological argument uses logical possibility is flat out false, it is false because he is using “possible world semantics”, which mandates the use of metaphysical possibility. It would be pure logical possibility if we had an entirely a priori understanding of what being is. But the notion of “being” is clearly not understood from first-principles. Pre-ontologies such as Heidegger’s dasein implicitly concede that we simply do not have an a priori understanding of being, and can only make if and then statements grounded on our subjective experience.

If Pro has an a priori framework of “being”, or “existence”, then he is welcome to rewrite metaphysics, but until then he must argue for metaphysical possibility, since we do not have the gap bridged between pure logic to metaphysics.

Logical Possibility of God
Note that I wasn’t arguing that the argument itself uses epistemic possibility, only that Pro was implicitly using epistemic possibility as a justification for metaphysical possibility. The jump here is deceivingly large. Even assuming logical possibility, Pro has still not even attempted to demonstrate this. He has not even attempted to show that God’s existence (as defined as a necessary being) is logically possible. He has flat out ignored my points that we cannot just assume things to be logically possible, such as mathematical propositions, since it entails absurd conclusions.

For pro to show God is logically possible, then he needs to show via. some purely deductive process that God as a necessary being is a coherent proposition. Appeals to intuition are not sufficient to do this.

Thus until Pro demonstrates that God is logically possible, then his entire argument is a bare assertion. Good luck to Pro in accomplishing that!

Reverse Modal Ontological Argument
The reverse argument is intended to show that Pro’s premise “There exists at least one possible world where God exists” is itself unsound, and that the premise is no more likely than the conclusion is without this argument.. It is not intended to demonstrate God doesn’t exist, since I acknowledge that it is dubious to assert anything is metaphysically/logically possible without rigorous deductive justification. The reverse premise “There exists at least one possible world where God doesn’t exist” is just as deceivingly “innocent”, let it is diametrically opposed to Pro’s premise. Why should we prefer the original premise over the reverse premise> I see no reason to based on the context of this debate, and in fact every single argument Pro has made can be mirrored to support the reverse premise.

For example:

God does not exist in at least one possible world'
Yet this would only be the case if God was logically impossible, which has not been demonstrated.”

This can be flipped:

‘God exists in at least one possible world'
Yet this would only be the case if noGod was logically impossible, which has not been demonstrated."

Clearly Pro isn’t going to get anywhere with this line of defence. The premises are diametric mirrors. Pro’s next statement can be mirrored:

"Furthermore, the conclusion of my argument (that a necessary being exists) entails that there is no possible world in which this being does not exist. So there is no possible world where God doesn't exist.”

Mirrors to..

“Furthermore, the conclusion of my [reverse] argument (that a necessary being doesn’t exist) entails that there is no possible world in which this being exists. So there is no possible world where God exists.”

Pro simply begs the question in every single one of his defences, he privileges the conclusion of his argument as a refutation of the reverse argument, ignoring that the same can be said from the perspective of the reverse argument. Clearly we have no method of discerning between the two possibility premises – both are not, and I argue cannot be demonstrated to be true due to modal scepticism. God’s existence or non-existence would first need to be provide in order to demonstrate the possibility premises. Similarly, Goldbach’s conjecture, or any other mathematical theorem would first need to be proven outright before one could say “it is logically possible”.

Summary of MOA
Until Pro actually makes any progress in demonstrating the “possibility premise”, then his argument is not even an argument. I hold it is impossible to do so. I would actually be excited to see if Pro could demonstrate the possibility premise, since he would essentially also find a way to solve virtually every mathematical problem we have in doing so!!

Religious Experience
The argument form religious experience essentially “embeds” the epistemological claim of “I saw God” (or something of the like) with the claim “I experienced something I label God”. I argue that doing so is an unjustified epistemological leap.

Experiences of various things occur to us every day. Often we will have experiences of weightlessness, or the world spinning around, etc. However it would be foolish to conflate the experience of such with the event of such. Otherwise people would literally be flying in their dreams, or when they are disoriented. The world would literally be spinning like a top when one is dissy.

Thus when it comes to religious experiences, the experience of “God” needs to be separated from the epistemic claim that they “experienced God himself”. Similarly superstitions such as aliens I posited last round, or people seeing dead relatives in their bedrooms need to be judged on their relevant inferences (such as inference to best explanation).

It doesn’t follow that there is an epistemic chance of each being “correct”. This is absurd reasoning. By this line of reasoning all the millions of people who believed that the Earth was flat each carried a “small chance” of being correct, thus after millions of examples it is unlikely that all of them are incorrect, hence the Earth is flat! Pro would need to demonstrate that God is the best explanation for religious experiences, rather than just positing that “Whilst it is probably the case that many mystics are either lying or deluded, it is a huge assumption that this is the case with every single claim.”.

I assert - IF there is a general explanation that gives rise to religious experiences, then it would be hardly surprising that all mystics were mistaken (Pro attempts to paint me with the requirement to argue that mystics were either lying or deluded, but this is a false dichotomy, I argue they are simply mistaken in their epistemological claim). Given we already know of (natural) mechanisms that do exist by which experiences can be induced, then arguing God is the cause is premature.[]

Counter Rebuttal

Pro’s rebuttal here completely misses my point, since my argument demonstrates a methodological problem with Pro’s line of reasoning. Aliens were deliberately picked as an example precisely because it is an absurd example. If Pro’s line of reasoning entails absurd propositions, such as aliens have visited and abducted people, then there must be a problem with Pro’s line of reasoning.

Pro implicitly argues that all false beliefs would have good arguments against them, but has given no reason why we should believe this. Also, if the concept (such as God) is simply incoherent, then it is impossible to construct an argument against it (except one from non-cognitivism) since it isn’t a coherently discussable concept to begin with. Also Pro’s argument from distance of aliens is based on no evidence or argument whatsoever, aliens would be many centuries, millennia, etc. ahead of humans, thus travel would be easier.



Thanks Con!

Incoherency of God?

My opponent's entire argument here consists only of an attempt to attack the credibility of intuition. He claims that intuitive epistemology has no place in a philosophical discussion. The argument he uses is that intuitions can sometimes be misleading such as when considering behaviour of physical objects around the speed of light.

I accept that intuitions can be misleading, but so can rational and empirical data, yet this does not mean that rational thought and empirical data don't constitute evidence.

Granted, reason and empiricism are generally more reliable than intuition, but in the absence of reason and empiricism then intuition can still count as evidence. So if a proposition has no rational or empirical evidence that can determine its veracity, then intuition can assist us.

In Con's example, he posits an example of our unreliable intuitions regarding pushing an object that is moving at the speed of light - our intuition suggests that it will go faster despite this not actually being correct.
Yet all this shows is that rational/empirical evidence outweighs intuitional evidence - it does not invalidate the latter entirely.

The proposition in this example is:

'If I push an object traveliing at the speed of light, it will go faster'.

There is intuitional evidence for this proposition, and empirical evidence agaisnt it. As empirical evidence is generally more reliable, then it outweighs the intuitional evidence and we can hence conclude that the proposition is false.

Yet if there was no empirical or rational evidence for or against this proposition, and there was intuitional evidence for the proposition, then we can conclude that the proposition is most likely true.

In other words, intuitional evidence may not be as reliable as rational/empiricial evidence, but in the absence of the latter it can still constitute valid evidence.

Applying this to my proposition:

'Power, love and knowledge are objectively great'

We do not have any empirical or rational evidence that pertains to this proposition, yet we do have intuitional evidence in favour of it. Therefore we can conclude that it is most likely that power, love and knowledge are actually objectively great.

Hence the content and definition of greatness is not subjective - and so it is a cogent property that is not dependent on an external source.

Therefore, 'a maximally great being' is a coherent proposition, since 'great' is objectively defined by virtue of intuition and the fact that it is 'maximally' great entails that it is not relational to any external being, so the coherency of God is not dependent on the existence of other beings that share His properties to differing degrees.

Possibility of God's Existence

The round 1 argument was not misleading, just not as detailed as I could have put it. From my perspective, my opponent was a relatively new member of this sight who could have either been an expert in philosophy or just one of the wannabe militant atheists that reside all over the internet but are philosophically ignorant. I had no idea that my opponent actually knows a fair bit about modality.

Besides, generally when people say 'X is possible', they are saying 'X is logically possible', as this is the form of possibility most people refer to.

Logical vs Metaphysical possibility

Con states that the system of possible worlds mandates the consideration of metaphysical, not logical possibility. He argues that this is the case because we don't have 'an entirely a priori understanding of what being is'.

But the link between our lack of a priori understanding of being and our inability to consider possible worlds from a logical possibility standpoint is tenuous and not made clear.
Agreed, logic is purely a priori, but it does not follow that we cannot make meaningful and verifiable statements regarding logical possibility.

My argument stands that when one considers 'possible worlds', what one means by 'possible' is logical possibility (1). There is nothing invalid, fallacious or incoherent about talking about possible worlds being representative of logical possibilities.

Furthermore, Con has failed to provide an agreed definition of what metaphysical possibility actually is - so his claim that possible world semantics is based upon metaphysical possibility is meaningless.

Logical Possibility of God

Con's argument here is bizarre; he is attempting to shift the burden of proof onto myself that I prove that God is logically possible. This ignores the fact that logical possibility is the default modal state - for if there is a proposition that we have no knowledge of pertaining to its possibility, then we assume it is logically possible until persuaded otherwise.

For example, if my brother came up to me and claimed he saw a pink swan, the logical possibility of a pink swan is assumed by default. It is absurd that I would be justified in concluding that a pink swan is logically impossible without any evidence for this conclusion.

This is because an entity is only logically impossible if that entity has an essential contradiction or absurdity - viz. something inherent to the being that causes a logical contradiction. An example would be a married bachelor.
If there is no essential contradiction then we have no grounds to assert it is logically impossible, so we are left with the conclusion that we can validly assert that it is logically possible.

We do assume things to be logically possible all the time, and it does not entails absurd conclusions. I'm not sure where Con is coming from with this argument.

My argument then, to justify God's logical possibility is:

P1: Something is only logical impossible if it contains an essential absurdity or contradiction (2)
P2: God does not contain an essential absurdity or contradiction
C1: God is not logically impossible
C2: God is logically possible

I cannot prove P2 because it is impossible to prove a negative. The burden of proof therefore is on Con to demonstrate an essential contradiction contained within God. If he fails to do so, then God is logically possible.

Reverse Argument

I agree with Con that the reverse argument's and the ontological argument's first premises are equally plausible (if we use the conclusion of the latter to refute the premise of the former or vice versa, we are begging the question). But if we look further along both arguments, an absurdity arises in the reverse argument yet none arises in the ontological argument.

The absurdity is in P3:

'God does not exist in all possible worlds'

Given that:

'God' = greatest possible being (by definition)


'does not exists in all possible worlds' = impossible

This premise is essentially saying:

'The greatest possible being is impossible'.

Yet this is a contradiction, an absurdity. Therefore we can conclude that this argument is absurd since it reaches a point of absurdity (so we are prudent to doubt the validity of its logic).

To summarise, although both of the arguments have apparently equally innocent first premises, it is the reverse argument that leads to an absurdity, so we are prompted to accept that it is the ontological argument that is valid.

Therefore, the reverse argument is absurd and hence my ontological argument is not refuted.

Religious Experience

Con claims that often our epistemological claims have no valid link to actual reality, such as in cases of people feeling weightless or the world spinning around them.

However, remember the three possibilities that exist in regards to an experience claim:

1. The experiencer is lying
2. The experiencer is deluded (mistaken)
3. The experiencer is correct

If there is no sufficient reason for possibilities 1 or 2, then we are rational to accept the likelihood of possibility 3. This is the case with religious experiences; most mystics have no sufficient reason to lie and there is no reason why they are mistaken (most are in sound mental health). Of course if there was a good reason why mystics would lie or be mistaken then the argument would be a poor one; yet the fact remains that this is not the case.

In the cases of experiences of weightlessness, we have a good reason why we are justified in concluding possibility 2 (the experiencer is mistaken). Namely that being weightless is a nomological impossibility.

When an experience claim is made, we should deduce the best explanation. In the case of ghosts the best explanation is not that ghosts exist, simply because there are valid arguments that ghosts do not exist.

In other words, if X is experienced, then X's existence is the best explanation unless we have prior reason for asserting that X does not exist.

We do not have a prior reason for asserting that God does not exist, so God's existence is the best explanation for experiences of God.

It is not valid that we posit naturalistic explanations for religious experiences because we have no reason to propose that these explanations are actually the case. Whilst it might be true that an experience has a naturalistic explanation, it does not follow that this is the actual explanation. Furthermore, it is a hugely unwarranted assertion that every single religious experience is veridically explained naturalistically.

Con then goes on to claim that the example of alien abductions only serves to demonstrate absurdities. But the problem with this claim is that parody arguments only work at demonstrating absurdities if their parody is sufficiently similar to the initial argument. Alien abductions and the existence of God are not sufficiently similar because there are valid arguments against the former but not against the latter. So this does not succeed at parodying the argument.

In response to Con's final paragraph, I accept that not all false beliefs have good arguments against them. But this raises the question of what grounds we have to call them false beliefs if we have no good arguments against them.

Debate Round No. 3


I will leave my final arguments against religious experiences until next round.

Pro’s Case
The concept of a “longest ruler” is coherent, since the concept of “length” relates only to objective features of the universe (the quantity of space between two points on a one dimensional axis), moreover the concept of “longer” is also, cognitive and objective, since it is defined as the larger quantity of space between two points on said axis.

We clearly do not have this when it comes to “maximally great being”. To clarify this debate I will provide the definitions of objective and subjective (taken from Wikipedia):

Objective:- “Generally, objectivity means the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject's individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings.”
Subjective:- “Some information, idea, situation, or physical thing considered true only from the perspective of a subject or subjects.”

Thus when one is attempting to provide an objective definition, they must relate it to brute deductive logical concepts, or features of the universe. Now we move on to Pro’s absurd strategy in affirming what greatness is.

“But our intuitive awareness of the intrinsic (and therefore objective) greatness of various properties (knowledge, power, beauty etc...) lends inference to the notion that there exists properties that are intrinsically and objectively great; they are great in essence.

Pro is appealing to something that is necessarily subjective (our intuition) in affirming something that must be objective. It simply doesn’t get any more self-contradictory than this! Pro only helps affirm my case by continually appealing to our intuitions to delve what the content of what “greatness” entails. IF Pro was simply able to define “greatness” in terms of objective features, with an impartial method of determining what is “more great”, then we would not be running into issues of non-cognitivism right out of the gate.

What constitutes a “great(er) being” is subjective
I will grant very quickly that people have a general subjective concept of what they mean by “great” – however that is exactly my point – the term “great” is necessarily subjective, since different people will perceive “great” to mean very different things. One person may feel a “great president” entails a president who rules by force, and another may feel said president should rule by pacifism. These are contradictory statements which can only be consistent IF “greatness” is a subjective concept.

Intuitional “Evidence”
I find Pro’s following statement striking, shocking even:

"but in the absence of reason and empiricism then intuition can still count as evidence”

Surely if your position cannot be reasoned to, and lacks any evidence, then it is a bad position to be holding? Our existing theories of physics are notoriously counter-intuitive – so much so that they frequently draw incredulous statements from even the most respected of scientists:

“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics” – Richard Feynman

Our intuitions are biological devices we have evolved to adapt to our middle-sized environment. As such they are only good for said environment. Intuitions on where a stone will land when it is thrown, or how hot or cold something is are generally useful, however going outside of this environment into realms of pure physics, philosophy, logic, ontology etc. is clearly far removed from the environments our intuitions are derived.

Pro attempts a tu quoque fallacy in attacking rational and empirical data. Two points here:

1. Its a fallacy and hence invalid point
2. Pro conflates the interpretation of data with the data itself. The integrity of rational and empirical data is light years more sound than intuitions since they are objective.

Modal Ontological Argument
Pro’s statement:
“Besides, generally when people say 'X is possible', they are saying 'X is logically possible', as this is the form of possibility most people refer to."

.. is flat out false. Most people when you ask if “is this unproven mathematical conjecture (e.g. Goldbach’s conjecture, PvsNP Problem, etc.) possible”, the virtually unanimous answer would be “yes, so long as it hasn’t been disproven”. Clearly colloquial use of “possible” is very different to the modal use of “possible”.

Modal Skepticism & Modal Collapse
Pro’s arguments from possible world semantics that it is logically possible for the world to be any other way that it is now, however this is not necessarily the case. If we assume that something modally necessary exists by which other entities are produced (even if we assume this being was God), then if we assume some form of strong-PSR then it would follow that the world would occur in exactly the same way, every time. Thus everything would be necessary since there is no other way for the world to have come about (since the necessary entities in each possible world are identical, by modal definition). Thus we end up with something called “modal collapse”, where we cannot even say that “it is possible for a world to exist where I did not exist” or “it is possible for that chair to be two inches to the right instead” etc. Hard determinism would entail.[]

Thus, if modal collapse is correct, then appeals to possibility are necessarily unsound, since there are no real possibilities except those that are already known to exist in the actual world. Thus Pro needs to affirm that modal collapse does not occur even if God does exist, since this argument is a reducio.

Logical vs Metaphysical possibility
Pro’s statements here are a complete misunderstanding of my points. I welcome Pro to present an a priori framework of what “being” and “existence” is, until then he must affirm metaphysical possibility since his arguments deal with existence.

An example of the difference is water before we discovered it was H2O. It is (according to Pro’s logic) logically possible that water is not H2O (since it entails no contradiction of terms). However it would have been metaphysically impossible for water to not be H2O, since water not being H2O would contradict reality/metaphysics.

Thus, logical possibility is not synonymous with metaphysical possibility, even if we do not have well-established concept of what metaphysical possibility entails. Regardless, affirming something is logically possible is not soundly transferred to metaphysical possibility. The synonymy would need to be proven by Pro before using it to justify metaphysical possibility

Logical Possibility of God
I am essentially going to extend my previous arguments since Pro has completely ignored them. You cannot just assume logical possibility. It is Pro’s argument, thus it is Pro’s burden of proof to demonstrate all his premises are true. I would like to know where Pro gets his “the fact that logical possibility is the default modal state” – is this yet another appeal to intuition? Let’s just assume mathematical theorems are possible (since possibility is the default state) and immediately solve them accordingly!

A: Logical Possibility is more likely than Logical Impossibility (assumption for reducio ad absurdum)
1. If A, then the logical possibility of God’s existence is more likely than the logical possibility God’s non-existence
2. If A, then the logical possibility of God’s non-existence is more likely than the logical possibility God’s existence
3. A entails a contradiction (A&1, A&2), hence A must be false
C. Logical Possibility is not more likely than Logical Impossibility

If that is not enough (and I could make these arguments all day long) I will present the modal collapse reducio:

A: Logical Possibility is more likely than Logical Impossibility (assumption for reducio ad absurdum)
1. If A, then the Logical Possibility of Modal Collapse occurring is more likely than the Logical Impossibility of Modal Collapse occurring
2. If modal collapse is possible, then at least one world has undergone modal collapse
3. If modal collapse has occurred in at least one world, then all propositions are necessary
4. If all modal propositions are necessary, then asserting hypothetical logical possibilities is impossible

Pro can only refute this argument by a. rejecting his original assertion that logical possibility is the default state or b. by asserting that modal collapse is logically impossible.

Logical impossibility
Pro would actually need to prove P1 of his argument too, since logical impossibility of something ontological (metaphysical) entails contradictions in reality. Thus P1 is already false. Moreover it is Pro’s argument, thus he needs to prove P2 at well. Blatant shifting of BoP is not sufficient to uphold his argument.

Reverse Argument
Pro is equivocating between the definition of God provided in this debate “A Maximally Great Being” with “Greatest Possible Being”. These definitions are not synonymous - Pro would need to demonstrate that a maximally great being is synonymous with his new definition. Simply defining God with “logical possibility” begs the question of metaphysical coherence of the concept. If we are going to start defining things with logical possibility then why not just define anything into existence?

E.g. let’s define an imaginary word e.g. “Fod” as “A million pounds in my bank accounts that exists”, to state that it doesn’t exist contradicts the definition. However the definition of “Fod” is only coherent if it is metaphysically consistent with reality. Similarly the definition of “Greatest (logically) possible being” is only coherent if metaphysically consistent.

Thus logical possibility is not a predicate, just like existence is not a predicate. If we define Goldbach’s Conjecture as a “Logically possible solution to the divisibility of even numbers” then we have literally defined the conjecture as true. Clearly we cannot do this soundly.



Coherency of God

My opponent begins by attacking the idea that we can intuitively know the intrinsic greatness (and hence objective greatness) of certain properties. He does so by arguing that intuition is 'necessarily subjective'.

Whilst our actual faculty of intuition may be subjective inasmuch as it can recognise different intuitive truisms than someone else's intuition, but this is not to say that the intuitive truisms themselves are subjective.

We know, intuitively, many things that are objectively true (even if we do not know them for certain) despite there being a lack of empirical or rational, deductive, evidence.
For example, the Brain in a Vat hypothesis postulates that whole world could be an illusion stimulated by a supercomputer, and that in reality we are merely 'brains in a vat' connected to the computer by a series of cables and probes. There is also the concept of philosophical zombies, in which it is suggested that we are the only real people and that everyone else we see behaves like us, but is actually a "zombie" that is, mentally, nothing like us.

There are many hypotheses like these, in which we have no empirical or rational evidence to verify them. So why do we take them to be false? Because of intuition.
In other words, intuition is epistemologically valid in the absence of empirical data or rational deduction. Hence, since we have no empirical/rational evidence for or against the proposition of the objective greatness of certain concepts, our intuition can tell us that some concepts are actually objectively "great".

If Con believes intuition cannot be used as evidence, then I would ask him why he accepts the validity of empiricism or rationalism. There is no empirical or rational evidence for or against the proposition "rationalism and empiricism is epistemologically valid" (as this would be self-justification); but I would hazard that Con intuitively knows that they are valid.

Con's next point is essentially this:

Premise: People have different perceptions of greatness
Conclusion: Greatness is not objective

This isn't a sound argument. Just because people perceive greatness differently, it does not follow that there is no objective definition of greatness. People often perceive science differently, but it is absurd to conclude that science is therefore not objective.

Anyhow, there are certain concepts such as power, moral integrity and knowledge that are perceived to be great by all people of sound cognition. It is absurd for one to perceive these as being not great. So it would seem that seem that it is not greatness itself that is perceived differently, but the application of the concepts that are intrinsically great.

Ontological Argument

Con begins by asserting that logical possibility is not always referred to when people consider whether something is "possible" per se, such as with unproven mathematical relationships.

I agree with this; in different situations people refer to different considerations of possibility. With unproven mathematical relationships, when people say "it's possible", they are essentially saying "it's epistemically possible". With physical feats such as walking on water, considerations of possibility are considerations of nomological possibility.

But with ontology, in which the question is "could X possibly exist?", people take "possibly" to mean logical possibility. For example, if asked "could Superman possibly exist?", people would generally say yes (as there is no incoherency in Superman existing), despite it being nomologically impossible for a man to fly unaided.

As possible world semantics is ontological, it therefore considers logical possibility.

Modal Collapse

Con's argument here essentially states that, if God exists, modal collapse entails and hence one cannot use modality to prove that God exists in the first place.

The problem with this argument, as conceded by Con, is that is assumes some form of strong PSR (principle of sufficient reason). There is no reason to suggest that modal collapse would happen if God, as a sentinent being with free will, simply chose to create the world with slightly different laws. Secondly, a necessary being can choose to create a contingent system (such as evolution), that would go on to contingently produce contingent entities (that could have not existed).

For example, God could have created a system of evolution that would produce certain biological entities through a system of random mutations. These products would not exist necessarily because they are products of random events (i.e mutations).

In this way, there are other possible worlds and they are compatible with a necessary creator, inasmuch as this creator could create circumstances that could go on to create something else contingently (for example, a scientist could create a random number generator, but the numbers generated are not determined by him).


Con yet again fails to give an accepted definition of metaphysical possibility, so it is meaningless for him to claim that modal logic mandates considerations of metaphysical, not logical, possibility. He yet again asserts that use of logical possibility is unsound because I have not presented an "a priori understanding of being", yet it has not been logically demonstrated that this is actually required in order to discuss logical possibility.

The distinction presented by Con to give an example of metaphysical impossibility is all well and good, but metaphysical possibility is still not defined conclusively and nor is it cogently argued why we should use metaphysical possibility instead of logical possibility. The 'a priori understanding of being' argument doesn't cut it - why do we need an 'a priori understanding of being' in order to talk about logical possibilities? It's non-sequitur.

Con's presentation of metaphysical possibility appears simply to be another way of expressing nomological possibility (physical possibility). Since nomological possibility considers how propositions accord with actual reality, the water = H2O analogy seems to do exactly that. In other words, metaphysical possibility only seems to say 'water = H2O, so it is impossible that water is not H2O'. But this is not a discussion of possibilities or possible worlds, but simply a description of the world as it is, not what it could be.

Therefore, Con's attempt to bulldoze metaphysical possibility into the argument is irrelevant and just distracts from the argument itself.

Logical Possibility of God

I have not ignored Con's arguments, I have soundly argued that we can, and we do, assume logical possibility. I will reiterate the rational argument:

P1: X is only logically impossible if it contains an essential absurdity
P2: X does not contain an essential absurdity
C1: X is not logically impossible
C2: X is logically possible

This argument is absolutely sound. The only point of contention when asserting something's impossibility comes in at P2. But God has no essential absurdity, so he is not logically impossible.

Con's next two reductio ad absurdum arguments are strawmans. I never asserted that:

'Logical Possibility is more likely than Logical Impossibility'

All I argued was that if something does not have an essential absurdity, it is not logically impossible. This is analytically true. I never made any claims regarding the likelihood/probability of modal states, just that logical possibility is the default state from an epistemological perspective, not a probabilistic one.

Logical impossibility

I am surprised that Con is contesting P1, as this premise is proved by the very definition of 'logically impossible'. If he disputes it then I recommend he takes it up with the dictionary.

For P2, if it cannot be demonstrated that there is an essential absurdity in the existence of a being, then we can safely assume that none exists, as ontological absurdities are self-evident (such as a married bachelor, or a square circle), their absurdity is obvious so if we see no absurdity in being's existence, then there probably is none.

Reverse Argument

Contrary to what Con thinks, a 'maximally great being' is essentially synonymous with 'greatest possible being'.
This is because a 'maximally great being' is that which is great to the maximally possible extent. This is because if something is greatest, then it is not possible that anything is greater than it.

Therefore semantically, a being that is 'great to the maximally possible extent' is just a 'greatest possible being' with different wording.

The problem with Con's next argument is that we can predicate things with logical possibility, but of course that is not to say that we can predicate things with existence. Logical possibility is a common predicate, for example the 'smallest possible particle' or 'the fastest possible train' has the implicit property of logical possibility.

Therefore, Con's analogy of defining 'a million pounds in his bank that exists' as 'Fod' is a straw man, as I never attempted to use existence as a predicate. Instead, I used logical possibility as a predicate, which is perfectly sound (unlike using existence).

Finally, Con states:

'If we define Goldbach’s Conjecture as a “Logically possible solution to the divisibility of even numbers” then we have literally defined the conjecture as true. Clearly we cannot do this soundly.'

If we define Goldbach's Conjecture as logically possible, then the result would be logically possible, but it would also no longer necessarily be Goldbach's Conjecture.
The definition is simply referring to 'a logically possible solution of the divisibility of even numbers'. This may actually be Goldbach's Conjecture, or it may not, dependent on whether Goldbach's Conjecture is actually logically possible.

I think the problem here is that Con is insistent in applying ontological possibilities to mathematical problems, which just muddys the waters. If we stick to ontology, in which we discuss the logically possible existence of beings or events, then it all becomes quite clear.
Debate Round No. 4



I thank Philocat for what has been a fun debate on my part – best of luck to him in the voting! I will spend this round mostly summarising my case and voting issues with the exception of the argument from religious experience, for which I will provide a full rebuttal.

Summary &Voting Issues

Definition of God

Pro clearly defined from the outset, and we agreed that the definition of God is “a maximally great being” – thus to win Pro needs to affirm that a being of this definition exists. So note that any affirmation of a being of a different definition is non-topical to this debate e.g. his affirmation of a “greatest possible being” etc. do not affirm the resolution.

Priority of Arguments

If my argument form non-cognitivism of God is upheld, then one must vote Con, since any argument that affirms God’s existence necessarily presupposes that the concept of “God” is cognitive. It is impossible to affirm anything’s existence if the concept itself it not cognitive since it can not form a coherent metaphysical object. Thus, even if my rebuttals to his modal ontological argument, or his argument from religious experience fail, then Pro will lose, since it will not affirm a God as defined within this debate. It may well be the case that a “God” of another definition (that is cognitive) is true which explains those arguments – but it would lose for the purposes of this debate.

Furthermore, IF all of our arguments fail (non-cognitivism, modal ontological argument, religious experience), then again one must vote Con, since Pro has failed to uphold his burden of proof on a positive resolution.


Modal Ontological Argument

I will summarise by outlining the major red flags within the argument:

  1. 1. A maximally great being existing entails modal necessary existence
  2. 2. Logical Possibility vs Metaphysical Possibility
  3. 3. Subjunctive Possibility
  4. 4. A maximally great being is logically possible

Any of these flags outright renders Pro’s entire argument unsound.

1. A maximally great being existing entails modal necessary existence

Pro’s entire defence of this has been one big appeal to intuition. I have argued at length at how using this “magical power” is absurd in these contexts, and how modal necessity is clearly not something we can ever claim to have any intuitive grasp of – since modal logic plays virtually no role in our everyday lives. Bad evidence is not sufficient evidence for something to be true – one should not need to appeal to bad evidence in order to make a case which rests on the assumption made on bad evidence – its a house built on sand – liable to crumble. My arguments have been along the lines of an argument from unreliability – which I provide the following quote:

“1. One is justified in believing on the (sole) basis of a putative source of evidence only if it is reliable.

2. Intuitions (or intuitions of type T) are not reliable.

C. Beliefs based (solely) on intuitions (or intuitions of type T) are not justified.“[]

Pro would first have needed to affirm intuitions are generally reliable outside of everyday contexts in order to make a good case. I digress with my plethora of examples from physics and mathematics (from which modal logic is strongly derived).


Pro has spent this entire argument affirming logical possibility, but this is all moot given that metaphysical possibility is the required mode for the argument to be valid. The world isn’t brute logic, it is physical, it contains “stuff”. Thus contradictions in the physical world depend on the state of physical reality. Pro has failed to appreciate this important distinction – hence even if one buys his (non-existant) arguments for logical possibility – it is insufficient to sustain the resolution.

I have upheld my case with examples where this distinction applies, with many more being readily made on the whim .

3. Subjunctive Possibility

Pro still blatantly misunderstands the differences in subjunctive possibilities and much of his affirmation of the logical possibility of God assumes the equivalency of epistemic possibility with logical/metaphysicial possibility. This is asinine, and a blatant fallacy of equivocation. Thus based on this alone, the argument fails.

4. A Maximally Great Being is Logically Possible

I have demonstrated at length how one simply cannot just assume anything is logically possible by:

  1. i. Possibility of modal collapse
  2. ii. Reverse possibility premise is mutually exclusive
  3. iii. Assuming this for other well-established purely logical propositions such as mathematical theorems entails absurd conclusions

Virtually all of Pro’s rebuttals to ii can be reversed, or rely on fallacies of equivocation/appeals to intuition. Pro’s case here has completely collapsed. Moreover, I assert – that a world without a maximally great being is very intuitive, since one only needs to consider a possible world with absolutely nothing within it, or a world with a single particle and nothing else, obeying basic physical self-contained laws in order to satisfy this premise. I assert that these are infinitely more plausible than a world with a “necessary maximally great being” within it – thus by both brute logical, and intuitive counts, this premise spectacularly fails for Pro.

Religious Experience

Sound mental health =/= most likely not being mistaken. If this was true then the field of astrophysics would have been completely solved by now with the abundance of hypothesis that are continually being proposed everyday. Pro is constantly skipping over the important epistemological step – which is the inference to best explanation.

1. Person has an experience associated with God

2. Experience associated with God – is an experience caused by God

Pro’s arguments here are a mere shifting of the burden of proof (“no reasons to believe mystic is mistaken”), and thus not remotely impressive as an argument in favour of anything’s existence, let alone God’s. I double dare Pro to provide evidence against the Higg’s Boson’s existance, otherwise it exists by default. Clearly we didn’t build a multi billion dollar collider because we can just “shift the BoP something into existance” – the argument isn’t remotely compelling.

One must make an inference to the best explanation to provide an explanation for religious experiences (which for the sake of debate – I will affirm they do exist, albeit of a range of flavors expected if it was an entirely natural phenomenon).

I would actually like to see provide these arguments that ghosts etc. do not exist anyway, especially since one can assert these ad infinitum. The lack ofrefutation in practice does not translate to a lack of refutation in principle – and these examples were deliberately chosen to show that Pro’s method of argumentation is inherently deficient. Pro has simply not responded to the fact that Pro’s method of argumentation does entail absurd conclusions without further arguments – thus Pro’s route of argumentation is insufficient for reliable results.

Natural Explanation

Pro baldly asserts it’s absurd to think all religious experiences have a natural explanation – but gives no reason to believe this is not the case. If there is a common mechanism for religious experiences – then we would expect numerous religious experiences to occur anyway. Much like there is a common mechanism for virtually any physical process – we do not make the argument that any other physical process is divinely caused (would it be absurd to posulate that ALL times it rained, it rained due to natural causes – of course not, we have a common mechanism). We already know of extant mechanisms by which religious experiences occur (hallucenations, drugs, dreams, daydreams, etc. etc. etc.) thus to conclude that God is the best explanation is quite frankly absurd.

Until Pro addresses the inference to best explanation by considering factors such as consistency with background knowledge, explanatory power, simplicity, and predictive power then it simply fails as a good explanation.


I present virtually Pro’s entire defence as my own evidence for non-cognitivism.

1. The concept of a “maximally great being” must be objective

2. Greatness must be coherent

Pro’s arguments in favour of what “maximal greatness” entails is laced from beginning to end in subjectivity. He appeals constantly to intuition, yet this is by definition subjective, since it is dependent on individual biases and preference. Pro has provided no non-question begging objective definition of “greatness” within this debate, and clearly it cannot be defined objectively given that “greatness” is so closely tied to anthropomorphic desires. The intuitive argument in fact works against Pro on every turn here.

I presented an argument that the differences between people in what “greatness” entails is only consistent and coherent if greatness is a subjective concept – we all have different concepts of what entails greatness. For anything to be cognitive must entail a primary nature which relates to objective or even subjective features of reality – and where Pro has not appealed to intuition to define greatness, he has instead appealed to other relational terms which beg the question. Thus we do not have a concept of what “maximal great being” is, and hence affirming such a being’s existence is impossible.


I thank pro again for this debate, I apologise if this round is rushed, I have had three job interviews this week. Wish me luck!



First I would like to thank Multiculturalism, he has performed very well in this debate and he has my respect for that. Good luck in getting the job you wanted!

In this round I will clarify my position, and present the reason why my arguments succeed in proving that God exists, or that it is at least probable that he does.

Ontological Argument

Definition of God

The starting point for the argument is the definition that I have presented, which is a 'maximally great being'. Note that this is also synonymous with 'greatest possible being', as if something has the property of being 'maximally X', then it has the property of X but to the greatest possible extent.

For example, a 'maximally small particle' is synonymous with a 'smallest possible particle'. The wording is all that differs between them.

So, throughout any arguments I make, these two definitions of God are effectively interchangeable.

Is this definition non-cognitive?

Con's only argument against the resolution is that the definition of God is incoherent, which would refute any notion of God being logically possible (which the ontological arguments relies upon).

First I affirmed that, as a logical implication of the definition, a maximally great being would possess all 'great' qualities to a maximum extent. But are 'great' qualities objective or subjective? It seems that we cannot know by reason or empirical evidence, so I propose that the fact that we intuitively know that certain qualities, such as love, power or knowledge, are objectively great, lends credence to the conclusion that 'great' qualities are great objectively, not subjectively.

Of course, intuition is often unreliable, but this does not mean that it can give an insight as to the veracity of claims. This is how reductio ad absurdum arguments work; if we find that a proposition is absurd (absurdity is an appeal to intuition), then we can reasonably discount it. So, in the absence of reason or empiricism, our intuition can assist us - we would be naive to ignore it.

Con makes a valid point that intuition is inapplicable to modality, higher scientific principles and the like, because such concepts transcend our everyday lives that cultivate our intuitive sense. However, this does not refute my point because the nature of love, knowledge, power etc.. are part of our lives, inextricably so. I do not even attempt to use intuition to affirm scientific, mathematical or modal propositions because, as Con said, such applications are beyond the sphere of intuitive knowledge. But our intuition is valid when assessing concepts we are inherently connected to because our intuition if fairly reliable when dealing with our being and fundamental concepts surrounding it (such as love, power or justice), despite intuition being inapplicable outside our personal existence and being.

My opponent also drops my arguments regarding hypotheses as the Brain in a Vat or Philosophical Zombies, in which we intuitively conclude that these hypotheses are false. This implies that intuition is epistemologically valid, and so an inductive argument built upon intuition is not a poor one.

Of course, intuition cannot be epistemically certain of such knowledge, but it at least suggests the truth of certain propositions in the absence of conflicting empiricism or rationalism. As inductive arguments are valid as well as deductive ones, I need not deductively 100% prove that the contents of greatness are objective, but I at least need to infer that they are (which I have done).

Therefore, intuition infers that the essence of a 'maximally great being' is actually objective, which refutes the notion that such a being is incoherent.

Metaphysical vs Logical possibility

I agree that the world is metaphysical, insofar as the actual content of the world is of a metaphysical/physical nature. But if we are looking at ontological possibilities (in other words, the possibility of things' existence), then logical possibility is what we use. This is because the only thing limiting something's possibility of existing is whether it is logically sound. If something is illogical, then it could not have possibly have existed and hence exists in no possible world. Yet if something does make logical sense then it is possible that it could exist, so there is at least one possible world in which it exists, even if this is not the actual world.

Throughout the entire debate, Con has been unable to actually give an agreed definition of metaphysical possibility, nor is there one (from my research). So bringing it up is meaningless and a red herring.

Subjunctive possibility

I never even brought up epistemic possibility, nor did any of my arguments rely upon it, so it is just another red herring. At no point did I equivocate epistemic possibility with logical possibility.

Logical possibility of God

In this sub-debate, Con brings up three main points:

'Possibility of modal collapse'

Modal collapse may be logically possible, but it we have no reason to suspect that it is actual, since there are no circumstances that could bring it about.

'Reverse possibility premise is mutually exclusive'

It seems that way, but the premise of the reverse argument entails an absurdity ('the greatest possible being is not possible'), whereas the premise of the ontological argument does not. From this basis, we have grounds to reject the reverse argument's premise. On these grounds, the entire reverse argument fails.

'Assuming this for other well-established purely logical propositions such as mathematical theorems entails absurd conclusions'

This forgets that I am only assuming ontological logical possibility; which is whether or not something possibly exists. Assuming logical possibility to mathematical theorems becomes convoluted and confusing, which is unnecessary since we are discussing ontology and so we need not discuss whether we can assume logical possibility with mathematics.
Therefore, this objection is a red herring.


Cons states that:

'Pro has provided no non-question begging objective definition of "greatness" within this debate'

But the reason that the content of greatness is question begging is because 'great' qualities are intrinsically great. They are great in and of themselves (affirmed by intuition) and so it is misguided to enquire for an external criteria.

Next, Con claims:

'we do not have a concept of what "maximal great being" is'

But we do, quite clearly. A maximally great being is that which possesses all intrinsically great qualities to maximal extent. We know which qualities are intrinsically great by intuition, but even if we didn't know what these qualities were, it still does not follow that these qualities do not actually exist.

Hence we do have a clear concept of what a 'maximally great being' is, so the argument from non-cognitivism fails.

Religious Experience

Con states that one can still be mistaken and yet remain in sound mental health. I agree if we are talking about all propositions, but if we are focusing on experiences, especially those as vivid as religious experiences, then if one has a religious experience that was not caused by any God, but instead by a mental event, then this surely does imply poor mental health.

For example, if someone claims to have been abducted by aliens then if their experience is not veridical, then they are probably at least slightly mentally unstable since their experience would have been a hallucination.

In short, given that the mystic is not lying, we have two options:

1. The mystic is right
2. The mystic is mistaken

The latter implies some sort of hallucination, and hallucinations are a characteristic sign of mental instability.

The implication is, therefore, that most religious experiences are not cases of the mystic being mistaken, because most mystics report sound mental health.

Con continues to deny that the sceptic has the burden of proof. I maintain that the burden of proof is on the sceptic because people generally tell the truth unless sufficient reason is given that they have lied. Likewise, if people believe that they have experienced something, then they probably have experienced that something unless we have sufficient reason why they may be mistaken.

The burden of proof is on Con to give a sufficient reason why all religious experiences are either the result of a delusion or a lie, because the default position is that people generally tell the truth and that people generally have veridical experiences.

Con claims that my assertion that 'it’s absurd to think all religious experiences have a natural explanation' is unsupported. This is incorrect. The assertion is based on probability (which an inductive argument depends upon).

Let us suppose that in a given religious experience, the probability that it has a naturalistic explanation is ~99% (a very generous estimate). So if all religious experience out of millions (let us say 10 million) have a naturalistic explanation, then the probability that they all have a naturalistic explanation is:

0.99^10000000 ~ 0

So my assertion is not unsupported - it is mathematically supported by probability.

The example of rain does not apply to religious experiences, because we have good grounds for supposing that the probability of rain being caused naturalistically is 100%, because, as Con says, there is a common mechanism that we see every time that it rains.

Con opines that religious experiences also have common mechanisms, but they simply do not:

Hallucinations: No, because most mystics have sound mental health

Drugs: No, because most religious experiences aren't drug-induced

Dreams/daydreams: No, because people do not claim to believe their dreams, yet they do believe religious experiences. Religious experiences are also much more life-changing and profound than dreams.

Therefore, I have fulfilled my burden of proof which is to assert that the best inference for religious experiences is that they are actual experiences of God. Ergo, God exists.

Thanks for the debate!
Debate Round No. 5
32 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by tejretics 1 year ago
Nah, Im just kidding. You have a point.
Posted by tejretics 1 year ago
That doesn't matter, it's still misconducted.
Posted by Philocat 1 year ago
I did, but since Multiculturalism declined to set out the rules of the debate then he effectively conceded that advantage to me.
Posted by tejretics 1 year ago
@Philocat, didn't you get an additional round to argue?
Posted by Philocat 1 year ago
Thanks for the feedback :) to be honest this is up there in one of the hardest debates I have ever done - I literally had to google a lot of what Con said because it was so advanced :P
Posted by orangutan 1 year ago
If Con had responded to the brain in the vat argument and given his response to the argument for religious experiences slightly more rebuttal/strength, then Con would have won the debate.
Posted by orangutan 1 year ago
RFD Part 4

I encourage anyone to challenge me if they think that this RFD is bad, since I almost give the arguments to Con and BARELY give them to Pro, due to reasons I explained previously.
Posted by orangutan 1 year ago
RFD Part 3

As for the religious experiences argument, the debate is very close. I am unsure about whether to weigh Pro"s last round rebuttals that highly since Con was unable to respond to it. But this makes voting trickier for me. I think Pro could have argued a little stronger if, in response to the comparison of religious experiences being like the experiences of aliens, Pro might have compared them to the veridical experience of looking at his computer. I am tempted to give this argument to Pro based on his last round, but I think if Con had had one more opportunity to rebut them he would have won the argument. Again, this is in part attributed to Con"s mistake to put off discussing the argument from religious experiences for a round- then he would have had another chance to argue against Pro on this argument. So although I am still very uncertain about this, I think I give the argument from religious experiences to Pro.

This means that Pro wins one of his two arguments and, solely because Con did not respond to the brain in the vat argument (otherwise he would have won his argument), Con loses his argument. So I think Pro wins the arguments by the skin of his teeth. Conduct, sources, etc. are otherwise equal.
Posted by orangutan 1 year ago
RFD Part 2

But Con makes two HUGE mistakes- 1 was not being able to keep up and having to skip a round of arguing against Pro"s religious experiences argument, 2 was that other than arguing against religious experiences, most of his final round is a summary of his points. That might be useful in a live debate, but here, what that basically meant was that most of Pro"s wrong rebuttals in round 4, including Pro"s brain in a vat argument, were dropped. Also, it basically gave Pro another round to extend these arguments and continue rebutting claims. Since he didn't challenge Pro"s brain in a vat argument, that basically concedes the argument around intuitions to Pro, which shows that intuition can be used to define maximal greatness. But that absolutely DESTROYS Con, since his argument was completely based on showing that maximal greatness was incoherent, and a large part of his refutation of the ontological argument was based on this. So from this point alone we establish that Con"s argument fails. Burden of proof was never specified to be on Pro; it was shared equally. So I THINK Pro beat his argument from incoherence by the skin of his teeth due to this point ALONE- otherwise Con would definitely have won this argument. Which just goes to show that Con should have rebutted more points in the last round, including Pro"s new argument, rather than focusing on writing a summary of what he said in the debate.
Posted by orangutan 1 year ago
RFD Part 1

This vote is tricky for me, because although I think Con could have expressed his objections clearer, I agree with the substance of almost all his objections on the modal ontological argument. Honestly, I think Con understands the modal logic behind this better than Pro. However, Pro literally cited a source that gave the common interpretation of modal logic as being logical possibility (that being said, Con is completely correct about how modal possibility works, regardless about whether we label it logical possibility or metaphysical possibility). So it is hard for me to judge this- Con did, after all, make mostly correct arguments about how modal possibility works. Actually, I think his math example is pretty conclusive at showing what is wrong here in Pro"s argument, though he could have explained it better, by saying, for example, "If mathematical principle X is true, then it is necessarily true." So Con wins the modal argument.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by orangutan 1 year ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments