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.
In all fairness though, while these fellas may have been working from a seemingly primitive framework which was readily available to them in their time, albeit nostalgic, I remain more apprehensive of their intent, rather than content.
Those exceptionally nebulous and ill-defined concepts, be what they are, become most certainly useful, and especially so, when utilized in conjunction with a demonstrable use of dishonest or naïve predicates within one’s argumentation
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!
I give you a lot of credit for spending the time to review these arguments and consider whether they may be something more than simple confidence tricks. That said, there’s an overwhelming sense that a ‘bait & switch’ analysis offers this argument a bit more credit than may be due.
After all, there’s simply no path of logic to suggest the concept argued necessitates the extra-mental reality of a ‘maximally great being’. As those before me have mentioned, we can visualize the most perfect island and spectacular in every regard; however, there’s nothing about our understanding of such an island which might force us to admit or proclaim it actually exists. I think PaulK summed it up well in stating there are less bad ontological arguments, but all are flawed.
So, am I missing something?
Perhaps just the gentle reassurance that most of these arguments are antiquated parlor routines drummed up by faithless heretics searching for a means to convince themselves (through convincing others) they’re not damned, but rather you are.
For example, before Plantinga, Anselm attempted to simply define his maximally greatest being into existence, which - of course, isn't rationally legitimate. While the faults within his argument do nothing to establish there isn't a maximally great being, so to speak, the argument can not be employed to convince a non-believer to believe on logical grounds.
(peeks behind curtain) Unless we pretend existence is known as a predicate of a subject, existence isn't something we can know from a mere idea itself, which is why we call upon independent confirmation through experience. (clicks heels 3 times)
His argument simply doesn't meet a standard which assumes that the burden of proof demanding any positive claim asserting there's a being such as he and his contemporaries posit should be established by reason and evidence. Rather, the argument sets the standard that 'if i can think it, it exists', which turns out to be an epic fail.
So while agnostics, atheists, deists and theists may all employ argument's of this nature to establish the logical possibility that a maximally great being exists (as well as, often the reverse) - or at least that it's rational to believe in the possibility that there is such a being, the argument does not establish any degree of probability at all.
And so, if establishing any degree of probability whatsoever was the goal of such an argument's designer, it turns out to be another epic fail. Again, I don't think you're missing anything but some gentle reassurance - sleep well my friend
I'm not here to mock or condemn what you believe, tho my intentions are no less than to tickle your thinker. If those in first century CE had known what these words mean ... 'I want anddesire mercy,not sacrifice' They surely would not have murdered the innocent; why trust what I say, when you can learn for yourself? Think for yourself.