Understanding through Discussion


Welcome! You are not logged in. [ Login ]
EvC Forum active members: 62 (9041 total)
87 online now:
Aussie, dwise1, nwr (3 members, 84 visitors)
Newest Member: maria
Post Volume: Total: 885,913 Year: 3,559/14,102 Month: 179/321 Week: 39/59 Day: 0/4 Hour: 0/0


Thread  Details

Email This Thread
Newer Topic | Older Topic
  
Author Topic:   Ontological arguments - where's the beef?
cavediver
Member (Idle past 2574 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


(1)
Message 1 of 74 (631876)
09-03-2011 4:59 PM


While still a Christian, I had no need for proofs of God - faith was central to my, well, faith. As a mathematician, I was aware of Godel's ontological proof of God; but knowing what a fruit-bat Godel had been, I never bothered to investigate.

So, following my Damascus Road conversion to atheism, I have been reading up on the ontological arguments of Anselm, Descarte, Plantinga, and of course, Godel, to find out what all the fuss is about...

My first impression was simple confirmation of something I had long suspected: logic in the hands of philosophers tends to result in the use of very precise and well defined rules to push around exceptionally nebulous and ill-defined concepts. The ideas of maximal goodness, maximal greatness, maximal perfection, etc, suggest extremely naive one-dimensional thinking, almost certainly inspired by the age-old tenets of the faith held by the philosopher in question.

My second impression, primarily from reading Plantinga and associated apologetics (e.g. William Land Craig), is just how blatently dishonest the argument appears. The bait-and-switch on the term "possible" is a text-book case. The modern Plantinga argument (put into readable english) is:

- It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
- If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
- If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
- If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
- If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
- Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

The possible of the first line looks innocuous enough, and on a generous day some of us may even make grudging acceptance. Possible is this context tends to be taken as "not definitely impossible". BUT the use of possible in the second line is very different. This is now the "possible" of modal logic, with very different meaning: something that is "possible" must occur in some plausible example of existance (the "possible world" mentioned.)

If we agree up front that the first "possible" is in the colloquial sense, then the argument fails immediately as the "possible"s of lines 1 and 2 are now different. If it is in the modal logic sense, then we have essentially begged the question, as we have essentially agreed as premise that this "maximally great being" is necessary.

And finally (for now), the "possible worlds" of modal logic are a perfectly sound concept when looking at strictly defined systems with specific parameter spaces, but their applicability is extremely questionable when it comes to considering possible examples of Existence. We even have no surety that there is any such thing as a possible example of existence that is not our own!

So, am I missing something?

Faith and belief please.

Edited by cavediver, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Phat, posted 09-04-2011 3:53 AM cavediver has responded
 Message 4 by PaulK, posted 09-04-2011 4:13 AM cavediver has not yet responded
 Message 5 by Percy, posted 09-04-2011 7:27 AM cavediver has responded
 Message 6 by nwr, posted 09-04-2011 8:48 AM cavediver has not yet responded
 Message 10 by Modulous, posted 09-04-2011 1:12 PM cavediver has responded
 Message 11 by bluegenes, posted 09-04-2011 2:23 PM cavediver has not yet responded
 Message 12 by Chiroptera, posted 09-05-2011 1:14 PM cavediver has responded
 Message 34 by Chiroptera, posted 09-06-2011 11:39 AM cavediver has not yet responded
 Message 39 by 1.61803, posted 09-06-2011 4:27 PM cavediver has not yet responded
 Message 46 by Bailey, posted 09-06-2011 6:02 PM cavediver has not yet responded
 Message 50 by caffeine, posted 09-07-2011 6:21 AM cavediver has not yet responded
 Message 53 by Buzsaw, posted 09-07-2011 6:38 PM cavediver has not yet responded

  
AdminModulous
Administrator (Idle past 1035 days)
Posts: 897
Joined: 03-02-2006


Message 2 of 74 (631878)
09-04-2011 2:49 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Ontological arguments - where's the beef? thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Phat
Member
Posts: 15442
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 3 of 74 (631881)
09-04-2011 3:53 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by cavediver
09-03-2011 4:59 PM


All Things Possible
quote:
- If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
Is this referring to the whole multiverse idea, where all possible worlds exist?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by cavediver, posted 09-03-2011 4:59 PM cavediver has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by cavediver, posted 09-04-2011 11:09 AM Phat has not yet responded

  
PaulK
Member
Posts: 16873
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.0


Message 4 of 74 (631882)
09-04-2011 4:13 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by cavediver
09-03-2011 4:59 PM


You've certainly nailed Plantinga's argument, which is nothing but a question-begging word game. There are less bad Ontological Arguments, but all are flawed.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by cavediver, posted 09-03-2011 4:59 PM cavediver has not yet responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20116
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 5 of 74 (631888)
09-04-2011 7:27 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by cavediver
09-03-2011 4:59 PM


Hi Cavediver

My overall reaction is, "What a bunch of hooey!" Doesn't seem worthy of any attention at all, but I understand the argument, "Some of the most famous philosophers of history have seriously studied this issue, perhaps I should take a look."

What drew my interest was this:

cavediver writes:

While still a Christian, I had no need for proofs of God - faith was central to my, well, faith...So, following my Damascus Road conversion to atheism...

Why travel all the way from faith to atheism? Perhaps it's just that all the world's religions are wrong, simply because of the unavailability of decent evidence. Maybe even the concept of God or god or gods is itself wrong. But there seems insufficient evidence to conclude that there couldn't be something out there with intentional purpose, but on the scale of all of existence rather than of personal lives. Naturally this discards the possibility of a personal God.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by cavediver, posted 09-03-2011 4:59 PM cavediver has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by bluegenes, posted 09-04-2011 9:00 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply
 Message 9 by cavediver, posted 09-04-2011 11:44 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5722
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.7


Message 6 of 74 (631897)
09-04-2011 8:48 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by cavediver
09-03-2011 4:59 PM


cavediver writes:
My first impression was simple confirmation of something I had long suspected: logic in the hands of philosophers tends to result in the use of very precise and well defined rules to push around exceptionally nebulous and ill-defined concepts.

Yes, I have the same reaction to logic use by philosophers.

Even when philosophers give logical arguments to reach correct conclusions, it often seems that the conclusion doesn't follow from the argument used, so that must really be reaching their conclusions in some other unstated way, and then simply presenting a rationalization expressed in logical form.

cavediver writes:
My second impression, primarily from reading Plantinga and associated apologetics (e.g. William Land Craig), is just how blatently dishonest the argument appears.

My own first reaction to ontological arguments is that they claim to prove, using only logic, what cannot be proved with logic alone. That makes it obvious that the arguments depend on sleight of hand, or are "blatantly dishonest" as you put it.

They are not really using logic alone. They are actually doing conceptual analysis. But there is no clear statement of what concepts they are attempting to analyze, presumably because if they were clear about that they would give the game away and admit that they were assuming what they were trying to prove.

My own second reaction is that, even if their argument were valid, it would at most be an argument for the deist's god. But they want the conclusion to be the existence of the Christian god (or the Islamic god in some variations). So that's a second sleight of hand.

cavediver writes:
So, am I missing something?

Yes. Here is what you are missing, at least according to Edward Feser:
quote:

Traditionally, the central argument for God’s existence is the cosmological argument, and (also traditionally) the most important versions of that argument are the ones summed up in the first three of Aquinas’s Five Ways. But the typical modern reader is simply not going to understand the Five Ways just by reading the usual two-page excerpt one finds in anthologies. For one thing, the arguments were never intended to be stand-alone, one-stop proofs that would convince even the most hardened skeptic. They are only meant to be brief sketches of arguments the more detailed versions of which the intended readers of Aquinas’s day would have found elsewhere. For another thing, the terminology and argumentative moves presuppose a number of metaphysical theses that Aquinas also develops and defends elsewhere.

So, to understand the Five Ways, the modern reader needs to read something that makes all this background clear, that explains how modern Thomists would reply to the stock objections to the arguments, and so forth.



Or, to put it more briefly, Feser thinks you are only seeing an oversimplified version of the Ontological argument, and that you will have to invest years of study into theology before you can hope to understand the full argument.

Of course, I don't take Feser seriously (though he makes up for that in the way he takes himself seriously). Full argument or not, it still claims to prove by logic alone what cannot be thus proved. So I take Feser as implying that they managed to conceal that sleight of hand very well, so that it is hard to point out exactly where they cheated.

Edited by nwr, : fix typo


Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by cavediver, posted 09-03-2011 4:59 PM cavediver has not yet responded

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1408 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 7 of 74 (631899)
09-04-2011 9:00 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Percy
09-04-2011 7:27 AM


Keep on the topic, mate!
Percy writes:

Why travel all the way from faith to atheism?

Are you going to give yourself a warning for taking things off topic?

Percy writes:

Naturally this discards the possibility of a personal God.

It would not even be necessary for Cavediver to discard that possibility, let alone the other possibility (general teleology) that you mentioned in order to shift from being a theist to an atheist. He would just have to cease to believe in any gods. Note that he is not disagreeing with the first premise of the ontological argument - that god is possible. He is criticising the way in which the likes of Plantinga come to their conclusion.

Which brings us back on topic, and to the use of the word "possible". The colloquial sense used in the first statement just means that we cannot know something to be impossible from the perspective of our current knowledge (or ignorance), because the proposition cannot be conclusively disproved. This is different from positively known natural possibilities like "the earth may be hit by a giant asteroid in the future" or "the Republicans might possibly win the next election".

Plantinga's argument seems to equivocate in its use of the word "possible", beginning with the "cannot be disproved sense", then continuing with the "known possibility" sense.

For all we know, reality might abhor a god. But we know that reality accepts asteroid strikes and republican victories.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Percy, posted 09-04-2011 7:27 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

  
cavediver
Member (Idle past 2574 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 8 of 74 (631907)
09-04-2011 11:09 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Phat
09-04-2011 3:53 AM


Re: All Things Possible
Is this referring to the whole multiverse idea, where all possible worlds exist?

Hi Phat - you would think so, but no. The "possible worlds" are worlds that *could* exist, but don't. Any form of physical multiverse (or even the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics) is still our actual "world" - part of our existence - even if we are forever disconnected from parts of this larger multiverse.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Phat, posted 09-04-2011 3:53 AM Phat has not yet responded

  
cavediver
Member (Idle past 2574 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 9 of 74 (631910)
09-04-2011 11:44 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Percy
09-04-2011 7:27 AM


Doesn't seem worthy of any attention at all, but I understand the argument, "Some of the most famous philosophers of history have seriously studied this issue, perhaps I should take a look."

More the point, it is something trotted out by the likes of William Lane Craig when he feels he can get away with it, and one needs to be aware of where the arguments fall apart before he attempts to steam-roller you with a gish-gallop of pseudo-logic. See here for a perfect example:

quote:
Third, you confuse logical equivalence with synonymity. To say that “Possibly, a maximally great being exists” is, indeed, logically equivalent to saying that “Possibly, it is necessary that a maximally excellent being exists.” But these statements do not mean the same thing. It is the meaning of a statement that is relevant to its epistemic status for us, not its logical entailments. A statement may seem true to us even though we are quite unaware of its logical implications. It is therefore a mistake to say that "’possibly necessary’ is the same thing as ‘necessary,’" if by “is” you mean “means.” So it is a mistake as well to think that because ◊□G ↔ □G, the first premiss of the argument “reduces” to □G. It’s not a matter of reduction but deduction!

William Lane Craig, "Does the Ontological Argument Beg the Question?", Reasonablefaith.org website

Why travel all the way from faith to atheism?

Over recent years my Christianity had been practically diluted to the point of Deism, so there was more of a protracted spiritual jouney out of Christianity than I portrayed above. The reason I dismiss Deism is that as far as I can see, intentional purpose, intelligence, awareness, etc, are products of the natural evolution of self-replicating chemical structures on one particular planet in this Universe. I cannot see any reason to imbue something else in (or "outside") the Universe with these same characteristics. Ok, it's not the same as the blatent anthropomorphic nonsense of most faiths, but it is still anthropomorphism.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Percy, posted 09-04-2011 7:27 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

  
Modulous
Member (Idle past 1035 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 10 of 74 (631918)
09-04-2011 1:12 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by cavediver
09-03-2011 4:59 PM


my short response:
It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

Is it?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by cavediver, posted 09-03-2011 4:59 PM cavediver has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by cavediver, posted 09-05-2011 4:09 PM Modulous has responded

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1408 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


(2)
Message 11 of 74 (631922)
09-04-2011 2:23 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by cavediver
09-03-2011 4:59 PM


ontological argument writes:


- It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
- If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
- If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
- If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
- If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
- Therefore, a maximally great being exists

Let's try it backwards. Plantinga would mean something like "a necessary, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and perfectly good being" by "maximally great".

- It is possible that a maximally great being doesn't exist.

-If it is possible that a maximally great being doesn't exist, then in at least one possible world no such being would be necessary.

-By definition, in order to be maximally great, the being must necessarily exist in all possible worlds.

-Therefore, a maximally great being cannot exist in any world it if could not exist in one.

-Plantinga's God doesn't exist.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by cavediver, posted 09-03-2011 4:59 PM cavediver has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 38 by Phat, posted 09-06-2011 1:21 PM bluegenes has not yet responded

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 12 of 74 (632048)
09-05-2011 1:14 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by cavediver
09-03-2011 4:59 PM


My first impression was simple confirmation of something I had long suspected: logic in the hands of philosophers tends to result in the use of very precise and well defined rules to push around exceptionally nebulous and ill-defined concepts.

I don't know enough about the practice of modern philosophy to know whether this really characterizes philosophers as a group, but it is certainly true of a large subset of philosophers -- both professionals like Platinga and armchair philosophers like contemporary creationists.

Using pure reason is a faulty method of acquiring knowledge about the real world. That's been known for centuries -- at least known outside of philosophy departments and seminaries. Logical arguments are no better than the premises upon which they are built, and we have no a priori knowledge of which premises are true and which are not. Just about every logical argument for the existence of God (and for the non-existence of God) has always been unsatisfying precisely because there were assumptions that I either disagreed with or had doubts about.

It's been know for centuries that the conclusions of one's arguments must be checked with the real world. Either God exists or it does not, regardless of one's purely logical arguments. In fact, modern science doesn't acquire knowledge by reaching deductive conclusions; rather to uses conclusions as predictions in order to test the premises (the theories). After deducing a conclusion (a prediction from an observation campaign), one then checks whether the conclusion is, in fact, true in the real world; in that way, the scientist acquires knowledge about the validity of the theories that comprise the premises.

Philosophers have it backwards. Instead of reaching the conclusion that God exists and then deciding that, yes, God must exist, they should be then checking whether or not God actually does exist in the real world. If he does not, then they have discovered a problem in their premises. If he does, then the knowledge that they have acquired is that their premises much actually be true.

--

Incidentally, evangelical Christians aren't even intellectually honest in their use of logic. Their concept of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity is logically contradictory. Most of them even admit it. If they really believed in the use of logic, then they would actually conclude that their logical system is contradictory and useless for arriving at truth values.


You measure democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists. -- Abbie Hoffman

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by cavediver, posted 09-03-2011 4:59 PM cavediver has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by cavediver, posted 09-05-2011 4:26 PM Chiroptera has responded

  
cavediver
Member (Idle past 2574 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 13 of 74 (632093)
09-05-2011 4:09 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Modulous
09-04-2011 1:12 PM


Re: my short response:
Plantinga writes:

It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

Mod writes:

Is it?

Well, Lane thinks that it is eminently more reasonable than the idea that a maximally great being doesn't exist, so Plantinga must be right, right?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Modulous, posted 09-04-2011 1:12 PM Modulous has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by Modulous, posted 09-05-2011 4:48 PM cavediver has not yet responded

  
cavediver
Member (Idle past 2574 days)
Posts: 4129
From: UK
Joined: 06-16-2005


Message 14 of 74 (632095)
09-05-2011 4:26 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Chiroptera
09-05-2011 1:14 PM


Chiroptera writes:

...

Hey, where have you been lurking? You can't just sidle in here, nonchantly trying to make it look as if you haven't taken the year out... you have responsibilities.

Incidentally, evangelical Christians aren't even intellectually honest in their use of logic. Their concept of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity is logically contradictory. Most of them even admit it.

It always gave me problems. The slow reaslisation that I had no clue what I meant by the term "god" is what took me firmly towards atheism.

Anyway, hope you stick around...


This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by Chiroptera, posted 09-05-2011 1:14 PM Chiroptera has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 33 by Chiroptera, posted 09-06-2011 11:32 AM cavediver has not yet responded

  
Modulous
Member (Idle past 1035 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 15 of 74 (632098)
09-05-2011 4:48 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by cavediver
09-05-2011 4:09 PM


Re: my short response:
Lane thinks that it is eminently more reasonable than the idea that a maximally great being doesn't exist

Heh - since when has reality had to conform to our ideas of reasonableness!?

I question the claim that it is possible that a maximally great being exists, and want to see the argument, along with the evidence which confirms it is possible. It's the old equivocation between 'possible' meaning 'could be true, but we don't know' and the meaning 'not ruled out by what we do know'.

The MGB is not ruled out by what we do know, but there is nothing that we do know that rules it in as a possibility. So hence why I question the first premise. It might be possible, but no argument or evidence has been put forward to suggest that it actually is. As proofs go, since it relies on this premise, it falls flat on its face in the most spectacular way.

I can provide proof that it is possible to draw a King of Hearts from a standard deck of cards. Can anyone provide similar proof that an MGB could exist?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by cavediver, posted 09-05-2011 4:09 PM cavediver has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by Dawn Bertot, posted 09-05-2011 9:18 PM Modulous has responded
 Message 17 by Bolder-dash, posted 09-06-2011 12:02 AM Modulous has responded
 Message 18 by Bolder-dash, posted 09-06-2011 12:13 AM Modulous has responded

  
Newer Topic | Older Topic
Jump to:


Copyright 2001-2018 by EvC Forum, All Rights Reserved

™ Version 4.0 Beta
Innovative software from Qwixotic © 2021