The Instigator
KeytarHero
Pro (for)
Winning
16 Points
The Contender
Typhlochactas
Con (against)
Losing
7 Points

The Ontological Argument is a sound argument for God's existence.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
KeytarHero
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/14/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,160 times Debate No: 30280
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
Votes (5)

 

KeytarHero

Pro

I wish to thank Con for taking up this challenge. We will debating the proposition "The Ontological Argument is a sound argument for God's existence." The formulation of the OA I will be defending is as follows:

P1: It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
P2: If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
P3: If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
P4: If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
P5: If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
C: Therefore, a maximally great being exists. [1]

Con seems to understand the concepts as laid out in the Ontological Argument, but for the benefit of the reader I will clarify a few terms.

Maximally-great Being -- This is how God is understood in this argument. God is a maximally-great Being, meaning that he has all great-making properties to their maximal extent. A great-making property is any property in which it is better to have it than not have it (e.g. power, honesty, etc.). God has no lesser-making properties, which are properties that are worse to have than not have (e.g. corruption).

Possible worlds -- This is a world in which it is logically possible that a certain state of affairs could exist. This does not mean another planet in our universe, or another universe. So when we say that unicorns exist in some possible world, we are not saying they exist on another planet or in another universe. They exist in some possible worlds because there is nothing logically incoherent about a horse with a horn.

Actual world -- The actual world is the world in which we live. The world in which we live now is a possible world. So humans exist in some possible worlds, which includes this one. But to distinguish between this world and some possible world that hasn't been actualized, the term "actual world" is employed.

There are three types of entities to distinguish:

Impossible entities
-- These are entities that exist in no possible world, because they are logically incoherent. For example, square circles.

Contingent entities -- These are entities that exist in some possible worlds, but not others. It is possible that they could not exist. Humans are contingent entities.

Necessary entities -- These are entities that must exist by their own nature, and must exist in every possible world. Numbers are necessary entities, and the Ontological Argument argues that God is a necessary entity.

That should do it. I look forward to our debate.

[1] Craig, William Lane, "The Ontological Argument," in To Everyone An Answer, Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig, and J.P. Moreland ed., (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 2004), p. 128.
Typhlochactas

Con

Ave.

Introduction
This is actually my first attempt at debunking the ontological argument. I decided that I would ignore typical atheist counter-arguments and create my own. If this argument has been made before, then I am not aware of it.

Please forgive me if this argument comes across as sophomoric, or as if I don't understand the argument. I haven't debated the argument over and over like Pro has, so I am at a disadvantage here. I hope that I can make this debate interesting at the very least.

Stating the Argument
P1: Maximal greatness is a quantity.
P2: You can always add to a quantity.
C: Maximal greatness can not actually exist, because you can always think of something greater.

Maximal Greatness is a Quantity
'Quantity is a property that can exist as a magnitude or multitude. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more", "less" or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value in terms of a unit of measurement.' [1]

When we talk about a maximally great being, we are dealing with quantities. A maximally great being has more great making properties than other beings. A maxially great being has zero lesser making properties. All other beings are less great than the maximally great being. A maximally great being has more greatness than anything else. A maximally great being is equal to itself.


[1] http://tinyurl.com...

A quantity can always be added by one.
Consider the number one. I can add one to this, and get the number two. I can continue to add one for an infinity. If I reach the number seven hundred thousand, I can keep adding one. No matter how high a number is, I can always add one to it.

Maximally Great Being and Infinite Regress
Pro asserts that a maximally great being exists. Let's call this maximally great being A. I've shown in my first premise that maximal greatness is a quantity, and therefore, can be added onto. I can think of a being that is '1' greater than A. We'll call it B. B is now one greater than A, so B is the maximally great being. However, I can think of a being that is '1' greater than B. We'll call him C, and it becomes the maximally great being. Notice that I could continue this exercise on forever. The idea of a maximally great being leads to infinite regress, because one can always think of a being that is more maximal than the maximally great being.

Vale.




Debate Round No. 1
KeytarHero

Pro

I wish to thank Con for taking up this debate against me.

The Ontological Argument is certainly difficult to understand without a background in philosophy. It took me a while to begin to grasp it, and I'm still not sure I completely understand it (though I think I've gotten close). I am also not aware of this argument having been made before, so I am engaging it for the first time.

The Ontological Argument follows logically from its first premise, following the rules of modal logic. It is uncontroversial in the field of philosophy, so the only way to truly refute the argument is to show that God's existence is not just improbable, but impossible. For as long as God's existence is possible, then using the Ontological Argument, we can see that God's existence is assured.

Con's Conclusion shows the nature of God, that he is the greatest conceivable entity. For if you could conceive of a greater entity, that entity would be God.

Let's look at the argument:

P1: Maximal greatness is a quantity.
P2: You can always add to a quantity.
C: Maximal greatness can not actually exist, because you can always think of something greater.

Technically, the argument is invalid. The most you could get would be "C: Therefore, you can add to maximal greatness." In order to reach the conclusion, Con would need to add a third premise, something like "P3: Maximal greatness cannot be added to." Then you could reach a similar conclusion, "C: Therefore, maximal greatness cannot exist, since every quantity can be added to."

So let's look at Con's premises and see if they add up.

Premise 1 -- Maximal greatness is a quantity.

I don't see anything wrong with accepting this premise, with one caveat. Greatness would be the quantity, whereas "maximal" would be the amount contained in the quantity.

Premise 2 -- A quantity can always be added by one.

Here's a premise where we run into trouble. A quantity can't always be added by one. Say you're holding a box that can hold 12 rubber balls. You can fit the 12 rubber balls inside the box, but you wouldn't be able to fit any more rubber balls inside the box. Similarly, if God contains maximal of any quantity (that is, great-making property), that just means he has the most amount of it that one can have -- he has it to their maximal extent. He literally cannot contain any more of the quantity.

Conclusion -- Maximal greatness can not actually exist, because you can always think of something greater.

Technically, the argument is invalid. But even if we adjust it as I indicated earlier, the argument is unsound. This is because premise two fails. If you have a maximal quantity of something, then nothing more can be added to it.

I thank Con again for his argument, and look forward to his rebuttal.
Typhlochactas

Con

Ave.

Stating the Argument
I don't want to bore the audience with a debate about logical formulation. Pro says that if I reworked my formulation, it would still be wrong because premise two is not correct. If premise two were correct, then the reworked formulation would be correct as well. From this, it seems to me that the most important topic of this debate will be the second premise of my counter-argument.

For the rest of this debate, this will be the counter-argument, per Pro's suggestions.

P1: Maximal greatness is a quantity.
P2: You can always add to a quantity.
P3: Maximal greatness cannot be added to.
C: Maximal greatness cannot exist.

Pro recommended that I add that third premise into my argument. I didn't think it was nessecary when I first typed it, as premise three is obvious. I still feel that it's a better formulation with the third premise added, though.

P2 and the False Analogy
Pro presents us with an analogy. He talks about a box that can hold twelve rubber balls at maximum capacity. In the same way that you could not put in a thirteenth ball, you could not 'put in' more greatness in the maximally great being.

I think this analogy is flawed. The fact that the box cannot hold more balls is a limitation on that box. Limitation is a lesser-making property. If the maximally great being cannot 'hold' more greatness, than that is a limitation upon that being, in the same way that the box's capacity is limited. Pro's analogy would lead us to believe that a maximally great being has lesser-making properties, and that is impossible.

If a maximally great being can not more great, then it is limited. Ergo, it cannot be maximally great, because it has a lesser-making property.

Vale.
Debate Round No. 2
KeytarHero

Pro

I wish to thank Con for his rebuttal and for keeping me on my toes, as this is an objection I have not yet encountered.

Since premise two is the crucial premise, that will be the premise I interact with here in my rebuttal.

Premise 2 -- You can always add to a quantity.

To reiterate, my analogy shows that you can't always add a quantity to something. If a box can only hold twelve rubber balls, once you fill the box to capacity you can't add any more boxes. In the same way, God has the maximal quantity of every great-making property, so that he can't have any more of that property added to him.

Now, Con argues that it's a false analogy because as only being able to hold 12 rubber balls is a limitation on the box, so not being able to hold more of any quantity is a limitation on God. A limitation is a lesser-making property, God can't have any lesser-making properties, therefore God can't exist.

However, I would argue that a limitation, in and of itself, is not a lesser-making property. For example, by virtue of the fact that God is a maximally-great being, he already has limitations. God is all-good, so he can't do anything that goes against his nature (e.g. God can't lie, be tempted by evil, etc.). He is also omnipotent, which means almighty in power. Omnipotence does not entail the ability to do the logically impossible, so God can't create a square circle, a stone so heavy he can't lift it, etc.

A limitation is not a lesser-making property in the way that I used it in my analogy. If God's power were limited (e.g. if God couldn't do absolutely anything that was logically coherent, such as create the universe), then God would not be God, because he would not be omnipotent. He would not have power to its maximal extent. But God, as defined in the Ontological Argument, is omnipotent.

So in this respect, a limitation is simply stating another logically incoherent quality that God cannot have -- namely, since he has all great-making properties to their maximal extent, he can't have anything added to him. This is not a lesser-making limitation, this is simply a logically coherent limitation.

Conclusion

I have shown that the Ontological Argument is a logically valid and sound argument for God's existence. It follows necessarily by the rules of modal logic. The only way to disprove the Ontological Argument is to show that God's existence is not merely improbable, but impossible. Con has not succeeded in doing that, so the Ontological Argument succeeds as a sound argument for God's existence.

I look forward to Con's final rebuttal.
Typhlochactas

Con

Ave.

Premise Two
Imagine the box that holds twelve balls. Now imagine a box that could hold thirteen balls. Clearly, the box that can hold thirteen balls is greater than the box that can hold twelve balls. We could keep thinking up boxes with larger capacities, and more greatness, ad infinitum. Why would this thought experiment change when we start dealing with beings rather than boxes?

I don't expect the maximally great being to be capable of doing things that are not logically possible. As many advocates for the ontological argument have pointed out, omnipotence is not the ability to do anything. It is the ability to do anything that is logically possible. From this, Pro argues that a maximally great being that could not be greater is not limited, because it is simply a logically coherent limitation.

I think that Pro makes an assumption here. The fact that we have no answers in principle does not mean we have no answers in practice. If a maximally great being cannot be greater, then logically, how could we add any more greatness to him? This is only a limitation on human understanding. If the maximally great being is maximally great, then surely it must know a logical way to become greater even though it is already maximally great. Humans may not know of any way for this to be possible, but this does not mean there is no logical way to do it.

My point here is that while we cannot think of becoming greater when you are maximally great, it does not mean that such a thing is logically impossible. It only means that we lack the nessecary epistemic position to think of such a thing. Pro assumes that because humans cannot think of this as being logically possible, it must not be logically possible for a maximally great being. This assumption requires justification, or else his rebuttal cannot stand.

Furthermore, my argument is not based on the idea that all limitations are lesser-making. For my argument to work, only the limitation of not being able to add to your greatness must be lesser-making. It's possible to think of limitations that are not lesser-making, and Pro shows that quite well. Despite Pro's skill in that area, he does not actually prove my argument wrong. I only need one case of limitation being equal to a lesser-making property. I don't need to prove that all limitations are lesser-making.

Vale.


Debate Round No. 3
KeytarHero

Pro

I got a little ahead of myself last round, forgetting that we still had another round. Anyway, off we go.

Supporting premise two:

The problem with the analogy regarding boxes and a Maximally-Great Being is that a box is a contingent entity, and God (as defined in the Ontological Argument) is a Maximally-Great Being, a Necessary Entity. The analogy was merely meant to show that it is not true that we can always add to a quantity. A box that can only hold 12 rubber balls can not have any added to it. And if God is a Maximally-Great Being (that is, a Being that has all great-making properties to their maximal extent), then no more of any "quantity" of the property can be added to God. That would be a logical impossibility.

Con says he accepts that an Omnipotent Being can't be expected to do the logically impossible, but then in his very next paragraph he says that God (a Maximally-Great Being) should be able to logically think of a way to do the logically impossible. But this doesn't follow: if an act is logically impossible, then there is no logical way to do it, even from an Omnipotent Being (which Con even accepted is a Being that can't do the logically impossible). So if a square circle is logically incoherent (meaning that it is an impossible entity, or an entity that exists in no possible worlds), then there is no way for God to create one. This is not a limitation on his power, it is simply because they can't exist.

Conclusion:

I have supported the Ontological Argument against Con's counter-argument. The argument is logically valid, and sound as long as there is the metaphysical possibility of God's existence. Since God's existence is not impossible (in other words, God's existence is not logically incoherent), then it is possible for God to exist. If it is possible for God to exist, then since he is a Necessary Entity, he exists in all possible worlds, including this one (the actual world). Con's argument has not succeeded in showing God's existence logically impossible.

Thank you for reading, and thank you to Con for his arguments.
Typhlochactas

Con

Ave.

Point of Clarification
I'm sorry if I didn't articulate myself clearly in the latest round. I did agree that a maximally great being cannot do the logically impossible. However, I put forward the idea that while humans cannot think of a logical way of doing something, it does not mean that a logical way of doing that action does not exist. Using that idea, I tried to show that a maximally great being could add to his greatness in a logical way, even if we can't think of a way for that to be logical. Pro, in his last round, seemed to have the impression that I was arguing a maximally great being could do the logically impossible. That wasn't the position I attempted to defend in the latest round.

Other than this correction, I have nothing left to say for the debate. This debate is too short to give a general summary on, and I don't want to bring up new arguments or rebuttals in the very last round, as it's rude.

I want to congratulate Pro for a very interesting and thought provoking discussion. Personal communication between the two us supports the idea that this was a new and original take on the ontological argument. I hope that anyone who reads this shares the same feeling.

With that, I leave everything in the hands of the voters.

Vale.
Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by BennyW 3 years ago
BennyW
Think about the fact that you can cut infinity in half and it is still infinity.
Posted by Archangel35 3 years ago
Archangel35
I know that. But if you read what Qopel wrote, Xerge counters that... Nvm. I get it
Posted by KeytarHero 3 years ago
KeytarHero
Archangel, it's called a counter-votebomb. He's essentially bringing the debate back to where it was before Qopel votebombed.
Posted by Archangel35 3 years ago
Archangel35
@Xerge, if you are counter of Qopel, doesn't that mean you just vote bombed?
Posted by KeytarHero 3 years ago
KeytarHero
No worries. I certainly understanding being busy. Feel free to challenge me when/if your workload lessens.
Posted by x2MuzioPlayer 3 years ago
x2MuzioPlayer
@KeytarHero- I'm perfectly willing to debate it with you. Right now, though, I'm preparing for finals so I'm afraid I don't have enough time. I'd rather wait until my exams are over before jumping into a new debate. If I remember, I'll send a challenge your way once my exams are over.
@qopel- Please read the debate, and then vote fairly. Even if you were convinced Con gave the superior argument, that leaves four points undeserved. Your condescending attitude makes all atheists look bad.
Posted by Typhlochactas 3 years ago
Typhlochactas
Please don't vote bomb.
Posted by KeytarHero 3 years ago
KeytarHero
While I appreciate the two voters voting honestly, it's easy to call an argument "absolute dribble" when you're not called upon to back up your statements. I'd be more than willing to debate the Ontological Argument with either of them.
Posted by KeytarHero 3 years ago
KeytarHero
No, it's not defining God into existence.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 3 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
But saying that god is necessary is essentially defining god into existence. Why must all concepts that are necessary be called "god?"
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by KingDebater 3 years ago
KingDebater
KeytarHeroTyphlochactasTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Arguments to Pro, as Con's argument was countered.
Vote Placed by Xerge 3 years ago
Xerge
KeytarHeroTyphlochactasTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: counter qopel
Vote Placed by qopel 3 years ago
qopel
KeytarHeroTyphlochactasTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: Unlike some people, I actually READ the debates before I vote on them.
Vote Placed by x2MuzioPlayer 3 years ago
x2MuzioPlayer
KeytarHeroTyphlochactasTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con really missed the mark here. It's a valiant effort to come up with new refutations, but there's a problem with it. When Pro argues "maximal greatness," he isn't necessarily quantifying God's greatness. This formulation of the ontological argument gives parameters (hence, "maximally") to God's greatness, so the paradox of an actual infinity is moot. Pro's saying all that can be considered a property of God that would increase his greatness is a property of God, so long as it isn't logically incoherent. While the ontological argument for God's existence is terrible and the resolution can be negated, Con's arguments don't do that, so arguments to Pro.
Vote Placed by TheSaint 3 years ago
TheSaint
KeytarHeroTyphlochactasTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Before I write my reasons I want to point out that the Ontological Argument is a pile of dribble and should never be used again, with that said the only argument that con made was essentially against the concept of infinity. Pro does not recognize this and instead says that a maximally great being has a limit upon it's greatness, similar to a box that can only hold a certain number of balls. Con countered this effectively by saying limitation means a being is not maximally great. This point could have been won by con except for the fact that pro points out that maximally great does not mean no limitations, con if he had pushed in the final round probably could have recovered the point but failed to do so. So, pro wins. All in all con failed to recognize the fact that simply because something CAN exist, (which a maximally great being logically cannot) but if it CAN exist that doesn't mean it does in the actual world. If con had made this point he would have won.