The Instigator
JohnT
Pro (for)
Winning
12 Points
The Contender
shift4101
Con (against)
Losing
2 Points

The Ontological argument is not a valid argument for God

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
JohnT
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/5/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,648 times Debate No: 19676
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (14)
Votes (5)

 

JohnT

Pro

First off I'd like to say that I do believe in God, but that I don't believe the Ontological argument is a valid proof for God. My opponent must be a theist who holds that the ontological argument is valid.

In the first round the opponent will present the argument, in the second I'll present my objections and the opponent can then respond to them. In the third round we'll sum up our arguments.
shift4101

Con

I accept. I argue the OA can be percieved as sound.

1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

A relatively modest claim.

2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

Itterating possibility. If you look at an icecream truck, there is a chance they have stawberry icecream. Since it is not impossible that the icecream truck has strawberry icecream, in two (or more) worlds the truck does and does not have the desired icecream.

3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.

A maximally great being cannot exist in a limited number of possible worlds. So it either exists or does not exist in all worlds. From P1, an MGB exists in at least one world. An MGB exists in every possible world.

4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.

Our world must be one of the possible worlds, and since there are no worlds where a MGB doesn't exist, there has to be an MGB.

5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.

No brainer.

6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

Debate Round No. 1
JohnT

Pro

Thank you to my opponent for accepting this debate. Below I've listed several problems I have with the above argument.

1.
In premise 1 you stated that it is possible that a maximally great being exists. Since at this point it is only a possibility, we must agree that it is also possible that this being does not exist.
You stated in premise 2 "If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world." If that's true then it is also true that in some other possible world this being does not exist. If in at least one possible world this being does not exist, then surely it cannot exist in all possible worlds.

2.
In premise 3 you said that "A maximally great being cannot exist in a limited number of possible worlds." I assume this is because if it didn't exist in all possible worlds then it wouldn't be maximally great.
When we talk about a "possible world" we are either talking about the real world or an imaginary world.
If we are talking about a being in the real world then surely existing in an imaginary world would not make it any greater. If we are talking about a being in an imaginary world, then it's maximal greatness as part of it's nature is imaginary just like it.

Therefor I don't think that the Ontological argument proves God's existence.
shift4101

Con

"At the heart of David Lewis' modal realism are six central doctrines about possible worlds:
  1. Possible worlds exist – they are just as real as our world;
  2. Possible worlds are the same sort of things as our world – they differ in content, not in kind;
  3. Possible worlds cannot be reduced to something more basic – they are irreducible entities in their own right.
  4. Actuality is indexical. When we distinguish our world from other possible worlds by claiming that it alone is actual, we mean only that it is our world.
  5. Possible worlds are unified by the spatiotemporal interrelations of their parts; every world is spatiotemporally isolated from every other world.
  6. Possible worlds are causally isolated from each other." (1)
Since the OA is based on Modal Realism, it is safe to say the argument does not state that an MGB exists in an imaginary world. The worlds in the OA are very real, and not so differnt from our own, if at all.

Moral Realism is a philosophical version of the long though idea that for every action you could possibly make, a world exists where you could have or did not chose to do something. Some other philosophers claim this leads to countless paradoxes, but I think I will leave that up to my opponent.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 2
JohnT

Pro

I think the problem is that the argument relies on Modal Realism, a view that not many people hold. For the ontological argument to prove God's existence, you first would have to prove that Modal realism is correct.

The other problem I see is that all these possible worlds would be of the same origin and type. Therefore the only things that could exist in them would be things that could have existed in our world, had events gone differently. This doesn't leave any room for spiritual beings to exist in some worlds, as spiritual beings couldn't form through natural events.

In conclusion I don't think that we can use the Ontological argument as a proof for God.
shift4101

Con

It is reasonable to believe that modal realism is true irrespective of evidence. It is common in mathematics to postulate that abstract entities, such as sets, exist as real objects simply because they are useful constructs. Since there is no reason to doubt the existence of mathematical sets, they can be accepted uncritically for pragmatic reasons. The same is true of modal realism, which is useful for understanding possibility, probability, contingency, necessity, counterfactuals and other important concepts in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind.

My opponents next objection is quite silly, it infers that an MGB, a spiritually being, must have formed naturally, even if he had made the Universe. An MGB would have existed forever, and will go on to exist forever. Anything less would be a sort of Demi-God, which most likely don't exist.

Vote Con
Debate Round No. 3
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
Shift, I'm glad you like my phrasing better than Pro's, but he did make the argument.

Pro wrote:
: In premise 1 you stated that it is possible that a maximally great being exists. Since at this point
: it is only a possibility, we must agree that it is also possible that this being does not exist.
:
: You stated in premise 2 "If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally
: great being exists in some possible world." If that's true then it is also true that in some other
: possible world this being does not exist. If in at least one possible world this being does not
: exist, then surely it cannot exist in all possible worlds.

You cannot deny that
1. his argument is essentially as I have represented it,
2. it is a defeater of your version of the cosmological argument, and
3. you never responded, didn't try to contest this line of argument.

You lost this debate fair and square, Shift. You can admit this.
Posted by shift4101 5 years ago
shift4101
Personally, I think the votes on this debate are a little bit biased. (Especially wilpoc's, you were putting words into con's mouth).

I could have delved more into how scientific conclusions are actually formulated and such, but I wasn't really into this debate. Oh well.
Posted by modivarch 5 years ago
modivarch
@wiploc, you stated - "The ontological argument "proves" god exists only as well as it proves god does not exist. In other words, it is worthless. An argument that proves something is both true and false is an argument that weighs zero in the scales of persuasion."

You may be correct in your assessment of con's formulation (I'm skeptical). However, a more robust version of the OA is not susceptible to the quote above. You have missed an important element of the OA in that a maximal being includes all maximal properties, e.g. existence. (A being that exists is "more maximal" than a being that does not.) This is the basic claim so that to argue that the OA can also prove that a maximal being does not exist is false. To argue that it can also prove a maximal being does not exist would require re-defining maximal being by claiming that non-existence is "more maximal" than existence. Good luck with that...

Note that I think the OA doesn't work, but for an entirely different reason.
Posted by modivarch 5 years ago
modivarch
I just found con's argument to be ironic considering that Lewis is a modal realist, but actually rejects the argument (you can read about it in his article "Anselm and Actuality")[1], but Plantiga supports it (Con's formulation looked kind of like Plantiga's) and he is certainly not a modal realist. I just don't know why you would conflate the issue by bringing modal realism into it.

@shift4101: A thought for the future - one should never argue/propose more in an argument than is absolutely required. It just opens one up for more criticism and tends bury the primary issue as it did here.

[1] (Of course, just because Lewis is a modal realist and rejects it doesn't mean that one needs to reject the argument to be a modal realist.)
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
I think you're right, modivarch, though Con may know (or think he knows) some version that depends on modal realism. But, if his argument does depend on modal realism, he should have explained how it works. You can't win a debate by hinting that you may know a secret argument.
Posted by modivarch 5 years ago
modivarch
The OA in no way relies on modal realism.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
: This is Con's own logic, and it backfires on him totally.

Which Pro pointed out in the debate, and so should win hands down.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
@maverick
The ontological argument "proves" god exists only as well as it proves god does not exist. In other words, it is worthless. An argument that proves something is both true and false is an argument that weighs zero in the scales of persuasion.

1. MGB may not exist.
2. Therefore, there are some possible worlds in which MGB does not exist.
3. Per Con's stipulation, MGB does not exist in any possible world unless it exists in all possible worlds.
4. Therefore, MGB does not exist in any possible world.
5. Therefore, MGB does not exist in the actual world.
6. Therefore, MGB does not exist.

This is Con's own logic, and it backfires on him totally.
Posted by Mavirick 5 years ago
Mavirick
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel like the ontological argument does, indeed, prove the existence of a MGB, and that it is more the definition of a MGB that should be up for debate. Does this argument not simply prove that SOMETHING exists in all possible worlds? This does not necessarily mean that that something is a supernatural being--it is simply a truth, arguably the only truth.
Posted by JohnT 5 years ago
JohnT
Sorry for not being more specific. To be honest I have problems with all the versions of the argument that I've seen, so I'm happy to present my problems with whichever version my opponent would like to use.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by Boogerdoctor 5 years ago
Boogerdoctor
JohnTshift4101Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro showed why the ontological argument is not valid. Con made a good attempt at showing it is valid. However, unfortunately for con, I don't think it's possible.
Vote Placed by Stephen_Hawkins 5 years ago
Stephen_Hawkins
JohnTshift4101Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: JohnT's objections were not defended, but they weren't well criticised. However, shift's argument was based on an idead which not only do I think is wrong, but was unjustified in the first place, based on a poor understanding of modal realism - and realism itself - in the first place.
Vote Placed by logicrules 5 years ago
logicrules
JohnTshift4101Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: arguments unrefuted
Vote Placed by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
JohnTshift4101Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro refuted the ontological argument absolutely: Since it's possible that MGBs do not exist, there are some possible worlds where they do not exist. And, therefore, since Con stipulates that MGBs cannot exist at all unless they exist in all possible worlds, it follows that MGBs do not exist at all. Con never responded to this refutation, but instead started talking about how real or unreal possible worlds are. So the refutation was both sound and unchallenged. Victory: Pro.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 5 years ago
16kadams
JohnTshift4101Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: both arguments where ok, not great but pretty much even, but con did have a source, even though it wasn't a great one, at least he had one. So he gets that.