The Instigator
socialpinko
Pro (for)
Losing
14 Points
The Contender
KRFournier
Con (against)
Winning
19 Points

The modal ontological argument is not sound

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 10 votes the winner is...
KRFournier
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/19/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,538 times Debate No: 24351
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (26)
Votes (10)

 

socialpinko

Pro

This is for Phantom's 99th Percentile tournament. The debate will focus on whether or not the modal ontological argument is sound. I as Pro to the resolution will argue that it is not while my opponent as Con will argue that it is. The relevant terms are defined as follows:

Modal ontological argument-

(P1) It is possible that that God exists.
(P2) God is not a contingent being, i.e., either it is not possible that God exists, or it is necessary that God exists.
(C1) Hence, it is necessary that God exists.
(C2) Hence, God exists.

God for all intensive purposes is defined as a being which is transcendental, maximally perfect, and necessarily existent.

Sound- An argument is sound if it is both valid and all of its premises are true. An argument is valid if its premises logically necessitate its conclusion

First round is for acceptance, argumentation begins in R2.
KRFournier

Con

Accepted.
Debate Round No. 1
socialpinko

Pro

My refutation of the argument in question will not rest on arguing against the validity of the argument, but will focus on refuting the proposition that all of the premises are sound. I concede that if all of the premises are true then the argument itself is true as per its validity. Since I agree with the validity of the argument and P2 is contained within the definition of God agreed for the purpose of this debate, my argument will concern itself with the validity of P1 alone.


My refutation will take the form of a rival counter-argument highlighting the problems with using modal logic to prove non-contingent existence. My argument will be brief in this round and will expand on the argument in the later rounds depending on where my opponent's refutation lies specifically.


(P1) A maximally great being is one that necessarily exists and necessarily is omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good. (Definition)
(P2) It is possible to conceive of a possible world where a maximally great being does not exist.
(C1) Therefore, possibly an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being that, if it exists, exists necessarily, does not exist in some possible world.
(C2) Therefore, it is true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being does not exist in every possible world.
(C3) Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being does not exist.


C3 is derived from the fact that the being, even if it existed in every other possible world, would cease to be necessarily existence. Thus God would not be able to exist by its agreed upon definition. I pass the debate back on to my opponent. *The argument can be found in the same basic version here (note that it is a DOC): http://www.google.com...
KRFournier

Con

I would like to thank socialpinko for this interesting debate topic and Phantom for administering this debate tournament. I look forward to the outcome.

Much to the delight of our very busy readers out there, this round will be brief.

My opponent's counter-argument is logically incoherent. In premise 1, he defines a maximally great being as one "that necessarily exists." In modal logical, a being that necessarily exists is one that exists in all possible worlds. Yet, in premise 2, he says it is "possible to conceive of a possible world where a maximally great being does not exist." If we substitute Pro's own definition of a maximally great being into P2, we get the following assertion (with the substitution indicated in brackets):

It is possible to conceive of a possible world where a [being that necessarily exists] does not exist.

Now, let's substitute "necessarily exists" with its modal logic definition:

It is possible to conceive of a possible world where a [being that exists in all possible worlds] does not exist.

I daresay, it is not possible to conceive of a being that simultaneously exists in all possible worlds and does not exist in a possible world. My opponent's contention is logically invalid, and it therefore fails to refute P1 of the original version of the ontological argument posted in his first round. Therefore, my opponent has yet to logically prove that the modal ontological argument is not sound and the resolution remains negated.

Debate Round No. 2
socialpinko

Pro

My opponent's rebuttal against my argument can be summed up basically as follows: He argues that P2 is incoherent in that it doesn't make sense to say we can imagine a world in which a being who must exist in all possible worlds does not exist. This is because it necessarily exists in all possible worlds. Thus, my opponent argues, we cannot imagine such a thing because it would go against how we conceive of God.


There is a problem though in my opponent's argument. It equivocates being able to entertain an idea with assuming its truth. We are not assuming that it is true that a necessarily existent being exists for this debate. We are also not assuming that it is true that there could exist a world in which no God existed. The point of the argument is that any attempt to arrive at necessary existence through entertaining an idea is incoherent. It literally depends on which premise we start with.


For instance, let's say we start with the premise that it's possible that God doesn't actually exist The fact that it would exist necessarily only has causal relevance over the argument if we assume its truth in formulating the argument. However, this would be simply begging the question. My opponent formulates his refutation simply as the fact that (when incorporating the definition of God) the proposition itself of my P2 is logically contradictory. He puts it as follows:


It is possible to conceive of a possible world where a [being that exists in all possible worlds] does not exist.


Now I admit that this does seem contradictory. But the distinction that must be made is the fact that we haven't actually established the existence of the necessary being yet. This is what my opponent has set out to prove in the first place. What we are using the premise for is a kind of thought experiment. Is there a clear contradiction between a God not existing and anything else BUT the simple definition of God needing to exist in all worlds? The short answer is no and it is why the modal argument fails.


My opponent is begging the question in assuming that anything which contradicts the agreed conception of God is false. Why does he believe this? There is certainly no more reason to believe that the contradiction between the possible world of God not existing and the definition of God as non-contingently existent is due to one or the other being false. Therefore there is no reason to accept the premise arguing for the possibility of a necessarily existent God as true anymore then there is to assume my own P2 is true.
KRFournier

Con

I thank socialpinko for his analysis of my last round, but I'm afraid his latest rebuttal doesn't actually make his Round 2 argument any less of a logical contradiction.

All I did was take Pro's own definition of a maximally great being (one that exists necessarily) and show how it directly renders his P2 as logically incoherent thereby rendering his entire Round 2 argument as void since the conclusions were not soundly proven.

Let me be clear on this: Pro provided a logically unsound syllogism in support for his position.

Pro does say that his P2 "does seem contradictory," but the fact of the matter is that it is absolutely contradictory given his own terms. It clearly violates the law of non-contradiction. It's meaningless. It's a non-starter. It's null and void. He keeps calling it a thought experiment, but how is such an experiment even plausible in the first place? It's like asking me to experiment with the idea of a married bachelor or square triangle. Such things are intrinsically unthinkable.

It appears to me that my opponent does not understand how modal logic operates. He insists that I'm not allowed to assume the truth of God's existence even though I never did assume such a thing. Neither does the Modal Ontological Argument. Instead, it makes a powerful proposition:

P1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.

In modal logic, "possible" simply means that the entity is logically coherent whereas "impossible" means it's logically incoherent. A square circle is impossible and therefore exists in no possible world, but a unicorn is logically coherent and can therefore exist in some possible world, even though it doesn't exist in the actual world. P1 of the Modal Ontological Argument claims that the notion of a maximally great being is logically coherent and therefore possible.

That's it. P1 is does not assume anything, beg the question, or reason in circles. It simply proposes that God is—as defined in this debate—conceivable in our minds. From there, the Modal Ontological Argument rationally concludes that such a conception must exist in the actual world. Here is Platinga's version of the argument:

1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

Pro's asks, "Is there a clear contradiction between a God not existing and anything else BUT the simple definition of God needing to exist in all worlds?" If God is a defined as a maximally great being, then the answer is yes, there is indeed a clear contradiction. Consider two possible beings: one that exists in some possible worlds and one that exists in all possible worlds. The first one cannot possible be the maximally great being because clearly such a being is lesser than the one that exists in all possible worlds.

Now, the criteria for what makes a being greater than another is certainly up for debate, but that ball is my opponent's court. In the meantime, he cannot escape his Round 2 blunder. He has not shown the Modal Ontological Argument to be unsound because his only argument against it is logically invalid. The resolution remains negated.

Debate Round No. 3
socialpinko

Pro

I would first like to begin by thanking my opponent for this swift and stimulating debate on an admittedly unique argument for God's existence. On the points of argument though, it appears my opponent still does not fully grasp my point. My opponent argues that my point is false because it contradicts my own definition. However, my point was that we don't see a necessary contradiction if we disregard the truth value of the necessary being's existence as inapplicable at that time.


In order for it to actually have any effect on our logic we must assume it's truth. Let me explain it this way. Consider the idea of a pink unicorn A and consider the idea of another pink unicorn B. They're identical in every way except for the fact that unicorn B only exists if unicorn A does not exist. As my opponent himself admitted a unicorn is not an incoherent concept and thus could exist in some possible world. Now just like as with the modal argument, the two concepts in question cannot exist at the same time. But we can still conceive of the existence of unicorn A since we have not assumed into existence unicorn B.


In the same sense, we can conceive of our maximally great being not existing precisely because we haven't actually proved its existence yet. Consider any other idea. Consider the idea of a necessarily existent cup. We can easily conceive of such a thing, but it creates no logical contradiction to think that there is also a conceivable world in which no such necessarily existent cup exists. My opponent is attempting to argue against my point by assuming the truth of his argument and thus begging the question.


God is a maximally great necessarily existent being. (definition)
It is possible for God to exist.
Therefore God exists.
Therefore God exists in all possible worlds.


Some cup A is necessarily existent in every possible world. (definition)
It is possible (conceivable) for such a cup to exist.
Therefore the cup exists.
Therefore it exists in every possible world.


As we can see there is nothing contradictory in my cup argument unless we assume another necessarily existent being from the beginning. My opponent's point against my Godless world example is that it's impossible to conceive a world in which something which necessarily exists does not exist. Of course my point was that we could conceive of a world in which no God existed period. As in it's not some square circle notion. We can conceive of it. My cup argument however I think more clearly brings out the underlying point.

The underlying point I am trying to make is this. Deriving existence from the hypothetical characteristic of necessary existence leads to mutually contradictory conclusions and thus is insufficient as proof of existence. We cannot derive the existence of a necessarily existent cup through simply conceiving it and for the same reason we cannot derive the existence of a necessarily existent maximally great being.


Again I thank my opponent KRFournier for this debate and wish him the best of luck in the voting period.
KRFournier

Con

I would like to express my gratitude one last time to both socialpinko and Phantom for this lively discussion.

It's not that I misunderstand Pro's point or even his intent. The problem is that he is using something he thinks is modal logic, but in the end turns out to be something wholly fallacious. Take this telling quote from Pro's last round:

"In the same sense, we can conceive of our maximally great being not existing precisely because we haven't actually proved its existence yet."

Now who is begging the question? Pro is trying to refute the Modal Ontological Argument, whose conclusion is that God exists, but arguing that it fails because we haven't already proven God's existence. The fallacy at play here is that of equivocation. In modal logic, "possible" means logically coherent, but Pro uses the term to mean "proven to exist." Pro rests on a misuse of terms. He says elsewhere:

"In order for it to actually have any effect on our logic we must assume it's [sic] truth."

This is absolutely wrong, especially within the context of modal logic. Modal logic was designed especially to deal with metaphysical issues, and as such, does not (and should not) assume the truth of anything. Modal logical is only concerned with the possibility, impossibility, necessity, and contingency of existence.

The necessarily existent cup, unfortunately for Pro, commits the fallacy of false analogy. You see, a necessarily existent cup is not at all analogous to a maximally great being. Why? I put forth that there is possible world in which there is only a singularity. Such a world is logically coherent. Yet the necessarily existent cup would have to exist—as a cup—in that infinitesimally small singularity, which is impossible since matter is infinitely compressed. Since I can conceive of at least one possible world in which the cup cannot possibly exist, then the cup cannot be necessarily existent and Pro's parody of the ontological argument falls flat.

All I had to do was show that Pro's maximally great cup could not exist in at least one possible world. Pro could have done the very same thing with God, or he could have shown that God's attributes are logically incoherent and therefore not possible in any possible world. Instead, Pro's arguments redefine the terms of modal logic, provide us with false analogies, and argue with logically contradictory syllogisms. He has simply failed to meet his burden of showing that a maximally great being is not modally possible.

Therefore, Pro has not shown the Modal Ontological Argument to be unsound and the resolution is negated.

Given that this is a single-elimination tournament debate, I respectfully ask the readers to read thoughtfully and vote responsibly. Thank you.

Debate Round No. 4
26 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by warpedfx 4 years ago
warpedfx
the argument boils down to "if god exists, he exists necessarily". the whole point hinges on that if though, and any attempt to obfuscate this only heightens the problem of attempting to define god into existence.
Posted by InquireTruth 4 years ago
InquireTruth
I have to fix this, it will bug me forever. Parody should obviously be *Parity.
Posted by InquireTruth 4 years ago
InquireTruth
I think you may be supplying meaning where neither context nor content warrants. That is to say, you may be guilty of eisegesis in this regard. With respect to Pro's argument, he stated, "It is possible to conceive of a possible world where a maximally great being does not exist." The problem is, of course, that this is actually not possible to conceive. Since a maximally great being would necessarily occupy every conceivably possible world, there cannot, by parody of the law of non-contradiction, be a joint conceiving of a maximally great being and a possible a world where such a being does not exist. Thus the premise is a non-starter as Con correctly identified. The correct premise would have to be that there is NO CONCEIVABLY POSSIBLE WORLD where there is such a being that exhibits the quality of maximal greatness. This premise /= to the premise supplied by Pro and thus cannot be credited to Pro without eisegesis.

Or am I perhaps missing something?
Posted by DanteAlighieri 4 years ago
DanteAlighieri
Actually, my first post had a typo in it. I meant to write <>~[]G, which is exactly what Pro wrote.
Posted by DanteAlighieri 4 years ago
DanteAlighieri
I think that interpretation by both you and Con is being unduly uncharitable w.r.t. Pro's point. I read it as referring to the symmetry argument that Pro explicitly outlined in the first post. Namely, if you think it is possible that an MGB exists, then obviously it exists and must exist. But likewise, if you think it is possible that an MGB fail to exist, then it doesn't and cannot exist. That was the point of the argument and not addressed at all by Con, except via the strange argument he gave that conceiving of an MGB failing to exist is self-contradictory or something. I thought this was a fairly uncontroversial point in phil. rel., which is why I found it bizarre that Con argued that Pro was somehow contradicting himself. By the same non sequitur, one could reason that you cannot conceive of a necessary cup failing to exist, since that would be conceiving of a cup that exists in all possible worlds fail to exist in one. Obviously, this is a bad argument and does not address Pro's point, which isn't that controversial to begin with; there exists a symmetrical argument to show that the MGB is impossible. The argument from there could proceed into more substantive territory i.e. we have to reason to believe that an MGB is possible or something like Maydole's argument or whatever. But Con's insistence on this strawman struck me as bizarre. Furthermore, the entirety of the argument was working in the wrong modality; this is in the space of metaphysical possibility, not merely strict logical possibility. I felt both sides just ended up talking past each other and nothing substantive was really advanced. That's my 2 cents on it anyway.
Posted by InquireTruth 4 years ago
InquireTruth
Dante, I think you may be reading your or argument into what socialpinko actually wrote. Your stated version reflects Nelson Pike's criticism, not pinko's. I'll use real language, so that we invite more people into the conversation.
There is a possible world where maximal greatness is exemplified or it is possible that it is necessary that... (your statement) is different than the assertion, "there is a possible world where a necessarily existent being does not exist" (socialpinko's assertion). So you cannot judicially reduce his argument to ~<>[]G (which states that there is no possible world where maximal greatness is exemplified). Instead, his argument would be <>[]~G'. Where G' = a being that exists in all possible worlds. But this more accurate representation of socialpinko's argument cannot be asserted without necessary contradiction, as its English expression shows: there is a possible world where a being who exists in all possible worlds does not exist. While your stated version entails the negation of the first premise, socialpinko's acts without deference to it.
Posted by DanteAlighieri 4 years ago
DanteAlighieri
It seems to me that Con failed to appreciate the symmetry transformation Pro presented earlier. Let G = "maximal excellence is exemplified." Then, Plantinga's argument is simply <>[]G, hence []G. But, as Pro points out, ~<>[]G, hence ~[]G. Con argues that one cannot cannot conceive of a being who exists in all possible worlds fail to exist in one, but that fails to appreciate that asserting []G is to assert that ~<>~G, which can be contested. Indeed, Con makes this argument when addressing the parody Pro elicted that, for U = "something is a unicorn", <>[]U, hence []U. Con correctly notes that one can conceive of ~[]U coherently, since []U entails ~<>~U, which s plainly false as he notes. But, the same can be said of the original argument to which Con and Pro are engaged. There is also the more pressing issue that in S5, every world can access every other world in its equivalence class, so <>[]G <-> []G, such that Plantinga's argument begs the question. Con doesn't really address this objection well, and seems to miss Pro's point. That said, Con had more impressive rhetorical style.
Posted by phantom 4 years ago
phantom
The debate is about whether it is a sound argument. I think the one viewing it as sound should demonstrate that. I always take the BOP in God debates when I'm the contender. Some people view BOP different than others. It's like when you voted against me for using semantics. I view semantics as a legitimate way to win a debate but some don't so I accepted it.
Posted by KRFournier 4 years ago
KRFournier
@phantom - I'm unsure how I have BoP since socialpinko is both Pro and Instigator. He set out to prove that the argument was unsounds and I rebutted his arguments. If you feel I failed in that rebuttal, so be it, but I fail to see how I was obligated to do more than that.

@socialpinko - "...two necessarily existent entities can't exist at the same time." How so?
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
...two necessarily existing entities can exist at the same time. And your objection has more to do with modal epistemology than modal logic itself.
10 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by Rational_Thinker9119 4 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
socialpinkoKRFournierTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro didn't sufficiently come back from the point about the logical incoherence of a necessary being not existing in all possible worlds. Pro's cup analogy wasn't very good either, however Con's rebuttal regarding the singularity failed because I can imagine a possible world where naturalism is true, and thus we would have a possible world where a supernatural maximally great being didn't exist according to the same logic regarding the singularity and cup. Either way, Con was more convincing.
Vote Placed by TUF 4 years ago
TUF
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Reasons for voting decision: Not really fond of the arguments/case used by the pro in the case, yet I will concede that he did a great job at arguing the position despite the obvious contradiction pointed out by the con. Pro's arguments going off of "therefor's" and "Thus's" usually annoy me in debates as string contingencies often provide plenty of fallacies. That said, what KRF said did make sense about the Pro's arguments. Simply re-wording a lot of those words, flips the point around completely. Good job to both of you
Vote Placed by phantom 4 years ago
phantom
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Reasons for voting decision: Comment #14
Vote Placed by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
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Reasons for voting decision: Con said, "Since I can conceive of at least one possible world in which the cup cannot possibly exist, then the cup cannot be necessarily existent and Pro's parody of the ontological argument falls flat." He's effectively endorsing Pro's argument: Pro conceived of a world without gods, thus proving that there are no necessary gods, and therefore proving that the modal ontological argument has a false premise, and is therefore unsound.
Vote Placed by InquireTruth 4 years ago
InquireTruth
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Reasons for voting decision: I am very familiar with Modal logic and can therefore say with some authority that KRFournier expressed a familiarity with the topic that was not similarly apparent in Socialpinko's thesis. Perhaps a more helpful opponent to have perused would have been Nelson Pike. For instance, the phrase, "we can conceive of our maximally great being not existing," seems to radically miss the implications of the first premise.
Vote Placed by stubs 4 years ago
stubs
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a very close debate all the way up to the end. In the last round I believe Con pulled away quite easily. He showed that Pro was begging the question in the last round as well as used a false analogy. The grammar, conduct, and sources were close enough to call a tie. Good debate.
Vote Placed by GenesisCreation 4 years ago
GenesisCreation
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
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Reasons for voting decision: The error is all ontological arguments is that "existence" is not a property akin to physical attributes, so arguments that treat it like other properties are false. I think Pro struggled to make this point, but got there by end of the debate. The parallels with attempting to define a cup into existence make the point. A "being" does not escape the logical problem with making existence a property.
Vote Placed by FourTrouble 4 years ago
FourTrouble
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Reasons for voting decision: Comments.
Vote Placed by Kinesis 4 years ago
Kinesis
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Reasons for voting decision: My knowledge of modal logic uh...could use some improvement. However, Con's first refutation seemed devastating and he carried it to the end of the debate. Pro failed to establish that he could conceive of the non-existence of a necessary being in some possible world.