Unfinished Conversations: The Ontological Argument

Unfinished Conversations: The Ontological Argument

Jan 24 – 25, 2019

ai:

Dude interesting thing to think about here indirectly from my logic class

bc:

What was it??

ai:

It’s kind of complicated. Too much to text lol

Actually, no it’s not. One sec…

Just to be clear I don’t agree with this argument, but it’s really hard to articulate where or why it’s wrong haha 

Oh the one part that’s not on that page is that God is defined as “the being than which none greater can be conceived”

bc:

Lol it sounds equivocational…like it’s skipping over the fact that “existence” within the mind (understanding) doesn’t correlate in the slightest with “existence” in reality

ai:

Hmm I don’t find that it’s undone so easily. But I’m not as smart as you haha so who knows. I just find it hard to point to the exact place where it commits a logical error. Seems to me like one of those arguments that are easily seen by intuition to be invalid but that are hard to actually refute 

bc:

😂get out of here with that nonsense

I get that, it is kinda hard to get at. I think there might be a couple ways to question it (maybe at #2), but the best way I’ve come up with so far is using this counterexample:

Replace “god” in all places with “an all-powerful unicorn”. Depending on how you define “greatest” (which I think is a weak point in the argument), and it fits all of the premises and the conclusion, but it’s ridiculous. I think the main issue with the argument is that it puts too much correlation between conceptualization and reality, like if you think it, it will be (as long as you’re thinking of the greatest version of that thing)

*no “and” before “it fits”

ai:

Yeah counterexamples surely show it’s invalidity because you can replace God with anything “than which nothing greater can be conceived” or actually anything “than which nothing (any comparative) can be conceived,” but that just shows that it’s invalid. To me it doesn’t satisfy why it’s invalid you know? 

But I think you’re right that 2 is shaky at best because comparing things that exist in one sense with things that exist only in another sense might not be logically possible. 

bc:

Yeah I get what you’re saying, it’s hard to put into words why it’s invalid…

Maybe the argument against it is that existence in understanding is not lesser than existence in reality (which is why “greater” needs to be defined). 

Maybe the argument against it is that existence in one’s understanding cannot have actual affect on what exists in reality…it’s possible to have false perceptions, therefore 

Maybe this is it: if one allows god to exist in their understanding, they inevitably allow god to exist in their perception of reality. 

^maybe the last two go together:

If one allows god to exist in their understanding, god must exist in their perception of reality; however, their perception of reality does not affect actual reality, and therefore cannot cause something to exist 

In order for the ontological argument to be valid, one would have to have a perfect understanding of actual reality, which I’m not sure is possible. Pretty confident that it isn’t lol

& if it was, that person could come up with a better argument than the ontological one😂

ai:

Eh it’s just from some Italian monk cerca 1000 AD. No surprise it’s no good; people were a bunch of idiots then. 

Barbarians, even 

But I think you are probably onto something with the problem of saying something that exists In reality is automatically greater than something that only exists in the understanding. If we define “greater” as “more powerful” as in “able to effect the most changes” then it’s easy to see how something that only exists in the understanding could be much more powerful (greater) (like an abstract idea) than any old object or being even if they exist in reality. 

Then again there’s probably another way to define “greater”  under which the rest of the argument is validated right? I dunno. 

bc:

😂bunch of idiotic barbarians. Just like nowadays

Yeah I think the “greater” point would be another argument altogether lol

Another interesting thought, I think that argument, if true, would also disprove monotheism lol

ai:

Interesting. In what way? 

bc:

If the fact that god exists in understanding means he exists in reality, and since (if you can conceive of one) it is therefore possible to conceive of multiple gods, it follows that multiple gods must exist in reality. As many as you could count

ai:

Well the reasoning isn’t just that whatever you can conceive of in your mind also exists in reality. If you for example replace God with “a being greater than humans” (presumably a minor god), then 1-5 are true, 6-7 have no bearing, and the argument doesn’t assert anything except that a greater being can still be conceived of. So it’s not asserting that anything we think up automatically exists in reality. The clincher is in the conflict between the comparative and the superlative (in the definition of the subject). 

bc:

I get that, but multiple gods would have the same level of greatness (the greatest), therefore the argument would apply to all of them

It would actually necessitate them, I think

ai:

I’m not sure what you mean by that. Even in polytheistic traditions there’s a hierarchy of gods; no two beings can be “the greatest.” It’s logically impossible, and I don’t think the argument would assert its possibility. 

bc:

Regardless of traditions, it’s possible to imagine two gods that are identical in every way, right?

I think “greatest”, in that context, could apply to multiple things that are better than everything else except themselves. Like the gods are the greatest beings, and all of the gods are absolutely identical. 

I also see the argument against that, in terms of the word greatest. If that is the case, that no two or more things could be the greatest, then I think that this could be another argument against the ontological argument. Since, if you can understand the existence of god, you can understand the possible existence of two or more identical gods, and if you do that, god could no longer be the greatest (in your understanding), and the argument falls apart

Idk if I explained that very well, multitasking lol

ai:

You’re getting circular man haha 

Maybe not circular, but going from the argument to the implications of the argument to the implications of that argument back to the original argument, without definitely proving or disproving any of them, except maybe the first. 

bc:

God is defined as “the being than which none greater can be conceived.” I am thinking of two beings, of equal greatness, which none greater can be conceived. Therefore, based on the ontological argument, neither of those beings can exist in my understanding and not in reality

ai:

Okay I see what you’re saying. I think that is easily enough resolved though. Just add to the definition of God “than which none greater nor equal to can be conceived,” which is surely what our monja italiano intended anyway. 

This is all from this book, God and Other Minds. Super interesting. Way over my head. Hahaha 

bc:

If that’s what he intended he should’ve said so! 

Is it all similar stuff?

ai:

Lol 

So in part I he goes through three traditional arguments for the existence of God: the Cosmological, the Ontological, and the Teleological; in part II he goes through a number of traditional arguments for the nonexistence of God like the Problem of Evil and the Omnipotence Paradox; and in part III (which I’m just barely starting) he tries exploring a different approach—the analogy between belief in God and belief in other minds. 

bc:

Dang…let me know when you find out what “other minds” are lol

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