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The Ontological Argument for God's Existence

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Brad
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0 posted 03-11-2011 09:21 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ontological argument:

I can conceive of a being that is the greatest of all possible beings.

Something that exists is inherently greater than something that does not.

If he or she did not exist, he or she would not be the greatest of all possible beings.

Therefore, he or she must exist.

We call that being God.

Problem: This is the softball argument for Godís existence because it confuses conceptual and physical categories.  You do not think God inside your head, you think of the concept of God inside your head.  

Example 1:

Imagine pigs in a blanket.  You cannot eat that breakfast because it is not food; it is the concept of food.

Of course, that breakfast physically exists but it is neither dependent on my imagination nor is my imagination dependent on its existence.

Example 2:

Imagine a superhero with the power of ten thousand exploding suns.  Do not expect him to come to your aid in a time of crisis.   You donít imagine the superhero; you imagine the concept of the superhero.

My concept of that superhero (Marvelís Sentry) is dependent on other peopleís ideas but it is not dependent on Sentryís physical existence.  Nor is Sentry dependent on my concept of Sentry for his conceptual existence.

I donít know.  It seems to me that this argument opens up some interesting ideas about the relationship between the physical and the conceptual.  Of course maybe Iíve just muddied up a clear and simple pond so to speak(if somebody wants to clean it up, be my guest).  Any takers?

Uncas
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1 posted 03-12-2011 09:55 AM       View Profile for Uncas   Email Uncas   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Uncas


This part of your argument is flawed:

quote:
Something that exists is inherently greater than something that does not.


Surely a god that could create the universe while not existing is inherently greater than an existent god who could do the same. Think of the greatness required to overcome the handicap of non-existence and still create the universe versus that of a god that really exists - ergo non-existence is greater and therefore god must not exist.


serenity blaze
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2 posted 03-12-2011 10:34 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Good God, Man! *laughing*

I was still trying to understand the question!

(It's good to see you again, Brad.)

I'll go look up "The Ontological Argument" to make sure I even understand that part, and ask that you guys be patient with me.

Coffee. A little bit, today.
serenity blaze
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3 posted 03-12-2011 01:27 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

I am now stuck in circular reasoning.

Essorant
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4 posted 03-12-2011 01:32 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

God is an artistic confusion.   It is just as unicorn: horse (nature) + horn (nature) = unicorn (imagination).  But if we tried to make an equation like that to account for God it would surely be almost endless, so much has our art modified concepts that were originally just snapshots of nature.   In any case, it all exists  
Brad
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5 posted 03-12-2011 04:09 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
Surely a god that could create the universe while not existing is inherently greater than an existent god who could do the same. Think of the greatness required to overcome the handicap of non-existence and still create the universe versus that of a god that really exists - ergo non-existence is greater and therefore god must not exist.


Ha!  I didn't think anyone would take that route here.  Apparently, there are "sophisticated theologians" who do say something like this with a straight face.  

See Dennett:

deepities
Brad
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6 posted 03-12-2011 04:34 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Karen,

How yoo doin'? (think "Tangled" which I saw last week)

Ess,

Of course you mean the invisible pink unicorn.

Though Maximus, a horse, was the best part of "Tangled"(see above).

"Artistic confusion" is well phrased.  This is the inherent weakness in the God concept.

But actually the relationship of what you would call conceptual existence and physical existence is what interests me here:

1. The conceptual domain is dependent on the physical domain (no brains, no minds).

2. Yet, how is the relationship best expressed in cases of human creation and collapsing wave functions?

3. Can we map out a more serious "entanglement" in the social domain or is the meme viewpoint (it's not a theory) good enough?

Note: I know I started with a syllogism but I'm not really interested in stating any of this in a formal way (unless someone else wants to do that).  I just thought it was interesting.
serenity blaze
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7 posted 03-12-2011 11:30 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Oh.

Since I got a case of brain hiccups, I ducked out to play a game of "Civilization."

tsk...I built monasteries while everybody else advanced in technology. So I guess I'm in exile with the Dalai Lama...

It's very difficult to stop a bullet with a sword, but that looks way cool in the movies.



There's an option to be a deity, but I am no superhuman, much less a demi-god. dess? <--one can aspire.
Essorant
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8 posted 03-15-2011 03:13 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

quote:
This is the inherent weakness in the God concept.


I think it shows ironically confusion is  one of the things that has led us to the most enlightenment.   Some things are much worth believing because they give meaning and strength to life.; things important to people for meaning rather than objective accuracy.  If God correspond to giving subjective strength and meaningfulness to life, who should not believe in God for that, rather than demanding God live up to an objective description of Nature too?  

 
Uncas
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9 posted 03-15-2011 07:03 PM       View Profile for Uncas   Email Uncas   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Uncas


Social entanglement?

Do you mean a form of connectedness over a distance, something similar to quantum entanglement but resulting in the simultaneous and spontaneous transmission of a conceptual idea between people?

If so it might explain the alleged phenomenon of shared feelings between separated twins. It'd have to be a different mechanism than quantum entanglement though, if it were the same the feelings of one twin would be the exact opposite of each other.

Of topic slightly but is there an issue regarding whether the spooky action at a distance theorised in quantum mechanics is in fact a valid theory? For a start, if it were true, wouldn't it seem to invalidate Heisenberg's uncertainty principle - a basic tenant of the Copenhagen interpretation.

.
serenity blaze
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10 posted 03-15-2011 10:03 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Confusion leads to enlightenment?



Good news for me, indeed.
Essorant
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11 posted 03-16-2011 12:25 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

In a sense, or at least helps us appreciate it more, I think.  Consider how confusing Religion and Science can both be, and yet they are both always enlightening people too.  Love, freedom, justice, etc, can also be very confusing too, and yet pursuing them in better ways has given us enlightenment and a better civilization.  The same thing has proved true about God.
serenity blaze
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12 posted 03-16-2011 01:32 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

I could argue that many times that I have noticed confusion just leads to paranoia--but I must say, Ess, I think you are very sweet.

For you, all things lead to enlightenment...

It took me some time to appreciate that quality in you.



But I like you, Essorant! I really like you.

sandgrain
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13 posted 03-16-2011 10:37 AM       View Profile for sandgrain   Email sandgrain   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for sandgrain

I lived in a state of confused frustration, which is why I needed God to make some sense of it all.  My argument for God's existence, is in the wonderful changes I've experienced in life since believing in Him.

Even if, in the end, it was found God is non-existent, I'd still be ever so grateful to have lived a far better life by believing in Him.  It's a no-lose opportunity each has.
Brad
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14 posted 03-16-2011 05:17 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
Do you mean a form of connectedness over a distance, something similar to quantum entanglement but resulting in the simultaneous and spontaneous transmission of a conceptual idea between people?


Yes and no.  I was really just playing around with the title of a movie I had just seen.  I do think there is a kind of "simultaneous and spontaneous" transmission among people, but I don't see the need to tie it to quantum effects.  My hunch is that consciousness is not the big deal that many people think it is.  At the same time, I see good reason to believe that individual consciousness (the "I" if you will)is both created in and extends into the social domain.

quote:
If so it might explain the alleged phenomenon of shared feelings between separated twins. It'd have to be a different mechanism than quantum entanglement though, if it were the same the feelings of one twin would be the exact opposite of each other.


You're talking about the shared experience of a tragedy when one twin experiences a tragedy and the other does not?  I don't know the research on that.

Or to put it another way, I don't know.

Stuart_Hameroff would argue that quantum effects do have a necessary place in consciousness, but I don't know what he would say about the twins problem.

quote:
Off topic slightly but is there an issue regarding whether the spooky action at a distance theorised in quantum mechanics is in fact a valid theory? For a start, if it were true, wouldn't it seem to invalidate Heisenberg's uncertainty principle - a basic tenant of the Copenhagen interpretation.


Well, if I remember correctly (a dubious assumption), entanglement's "proof" is still probabilistic. It is statistically true but we still don't know what is going to happen at the single particle level.

Thus uncertainty is saved.

--------------------

I'll try to get to the other comments later but I will end with a point that I should have clarified in the beginning.  Showing that the OAFGE is invalid is not the same thing as showing that the God concept is invalid.

And that's part the problem.
serenity blaze
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15 posted 03-16-2011 06:52 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Excuse the intrusion.

I just wanted to tell Brad that I haven't yet seen "Tangled". (I watched the trailer just now and it seems like a good story, so thanks for the heads up.)

Funny that you'd think of me though, as when I first saw the screen adaptation of the play "The Sunset Limited"? I thought of you.



*laughing*

Do continue.
Essorant
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16 posted 03-16-2011 07:17 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Serenity,

Thanks for your kind words. I really like you too (how couldn't I?)
 
serenity blaze
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17 posted 03-16-2011 07:38 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

At the risk of totally annoying Brad, I just came back to say, "aw" and "thanks".



Brad
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18 posted 03-18-2011 04:22 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Why would I be annoyed?

I see nothing wrong with common decency, common civility, common affection.

I see nothing wrong with cultural traditions that help you get through rough times, Sandgrain.  We all need help at times.
Get it where you can.

But is that it?

Do I really need to list the problems?

And if I do, how many will argue that that's not the God I believe in or that yes, many people have distorted God for their own nefarious purposes but . . . .

And that's the weakness of the God concept.

Two quick sound bites:

One: Orwell writes somewhere that all authoritarianism is at base theocratic.  

That makes sense to me.

Two: In this world, good people will do good things, bad people will do bad things, but if you want good people to do bad things, that takes religion.

Ron
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19 posted 03-18-2011 06:33 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
I can conceive of a being that is the greatest of all possible beings.

Seems to me, Brad, that the whole argument rests on a fallacy. In point of fact, we can't conceive of a being that is the greatest of all possible beings. As we've discussed a few times in this forum, omnipotence invariably and inevitable leads to paradox. A very necessary paradox, I might add, according to Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.

Can you conceive of an omnipotent being who can create a stone too heavy for Him to lift? I can't. And of course that's just the tip of iceberg.

Sentry's power is astronomically immense (pun intended), but nonetheless finite. It is within the realm of our imagination. Obviously. Ironically, while we have words for omnipotence and omniscience, and definitions to go with the words, we really can't imagine those concepts. Not really, not concretely. Our minds balk at the paradoxes and the concepts remaining are necessarily fettered by our own human limitations.

You can't prove the existence of God. Not ontologically, nor any other way.

quote:
Two: In this world, good people will do good things, bad people will do bad things, but if you want good people to do bad things, that takes religion.

No it doesn't, Brad. It's a nice sound bite, of course, but I think we both know it's not even close to accurate.

Good people do bad things in the name of family, friendship, nationalism, even sometimes in the name of science. All it takes for good people to do bad things is the conviction they are right.


serenity blaze
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20 posted 03-18-2011 11:17 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

I just popped in to say that I now have about 15 minutes of experience as a deity.

It's really hard, Brad.

I was a total failure, but then? I was an itty bitty Malinese deity.

(Civilization again... )
Brad
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21 posted 03-20-2011 12:05 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
Seems to me, Brad, that the whole argument rests on a fallacy. In point of fact, we can't conceive of a being that is the greatest of all possible beings. As we've discussed a few times in this forum, omnipotence invariably and inevitable leads to paradox. A very necessary paradox, I might add, according to Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.


Well, okay.  But I donít think it ends with a shrug of the shoulders:

Doesnít it follow that the greatest of all possible beings is not omnipotent.

Therefore, God is not omnipotent.

I can think of some OT textual evidence to back that up, I also know that at least one rabbi, Brad Artson, has made the same claim.  Is omnipotence all that important for Godís existence?

Of course, we could also argue that God cannot exist because omnipotence is not a logical possibility, but I donít think anyone is going to go down that route.

Another way to argue is that omnipotence is defined by God.  Whatever God can do is omnipotence by definition (That may sound silly but it is used in arguments for omnibenevolence.)

quote:
Sentry's power is astronomically immense (pun intended), but nonetheless finite. It is within the realm of our imagination. Obviously. Ironically, while we have words for omnipotence and omniscience, and definitions to go with the words, we really can't imagine those concepts. Not really, not concretely. Our minds balk at the paradoxes and the concepts remaining are necessarily fettered by our own human limitations.


We also balk at quantum effects (or at least we should).  This doesnít stop us from describing probabilities in that realm.  

Christian apologists seem comfortable attributing certain qualities to God and then balking when we attempt to extrapolate from those qualities.  

If youíre going to open that door, you should be able to look in.

quote:
You can't prove the existence of God. Not ontologically, nor any other way.


Agreed, but I have different reasons for accepting that statement than you do.  

Nevertheless, it doesnít seem to stop apologists from trying to prove what you and I say they can't.

quote:

quote:
________________________________________
Two: In this world, good people will do good things, bad people will do bad things, but if you want good people to do bad things, that takes religion.
________________________________________

No it doesn't, Brad. It's a nice sound bite, of course, but I think we both know it's not even close to accurate.


True, but it does bring to light a certain dilemma:  What is the relationship between ďGod told me to do thatĒ and ďI did that because it was the right thing to do?Ē

The more synonymous the above responses become the less the need for the former; the less synonymous they appear, the less it appears that you are doing something you think is right.

I thought the sound bite expressed that more clearly.

Stephanos
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22 posted 03-23-2011 03:38 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

Anselem's Ontological argument, interpreted as some kind of obejective "proof" for God's existence, is more than weak.  As you've rightly pointed out, and idea doesn't necessarily correspond to reality.  However, most Christian apologists do not interpret it so, or use it as such.  There are many other evidences for God (the moral argument, argument from design, evidential argument, historical arguments), that converge, and make what can be considered "good reason" for believing.  But, as Ron has noted, none of these are proof.  None are incontrovertible.  Given the importance of commitment and love, in the Christian view, it seems that it was meant to be this way.  That doesn't leave us with complete fideism, however, else Christian apologetics wouldn't even be an interesting conversation. It just so happens that an atheistic view of things, a hard agnosticism, or pragmatism, or whatever you want to call it, involves a lot of ambiguity and puzzlement as well, and requires its own kind of commitment ... or postponement of commitment, whichever you prefer.  As Geddy Lee of Rush once sang, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice".


Having debunked the ontological argument along with you, I still find it interesting (Barth's interpretation is worth looking into), as it brings up the whole concept of perfection, and raises the question of why it is there in the first place.  A longing for such a being, in not a few, is an intriguing phenomenon.  Hunger denotes the existence of food, even when a man happens to be starving.

Brad, I think the goal of the best of Christian apologetics has been to open minds, not to shut mouths.  For as difficult as the synthesis of "God told me to", and "it was the right thing to do" is, that's nothing compared to the tension of believing there really is a "right thing to do" without God.  Making the two synonymous, as you said, may not be necessary, if we reflect on the human condition of having a conscience which is, in the main, reliable.  Yet it is prone to corruption (an occasion for correction by God), and even when not we are prone to ignore it or suppress it (an occasion for reiteration by God).  And so, the two may be related without being equated.

And Ron,  You and I seem to have much in common (we both believe in Christ and God, and we both think absolute proof is presently an enemy to faith and devotion).  But I've noticed that in these conversations, you argue very little corresponding reasons to believe.  Would you consider your approach one of complete fideism?  Or am I misunderstanding?      


Stephen        
Stephanos
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23 posted 03-23-2011 04:27 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

I have to insist that with Faith there must be a correspondence with reality, AND that unless there were, it would not be healthy enlightening or enriching to believe, as much as I appreciate what Sandgrain and Essorant said regarding this.  It would be a form of denial. I would have to insist that Paul touched a great truth when he wrote (in the context of the bodily resurrection of Christ, and our future resurrection) that "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (1 Cor 15:19).


Of course, this is also more in line with critics of religion, who say that it is, because unreal, rubbish.  I have to say, I respect that line of thinking better than that of a thoroughgoing unbeliever, who patronizes faith for its humanitarianism.  A bishop Spong is more lamentable than a Christopher Hitchens, in my estimation.


Do any of you who profess the faith feel this way?  If not, how would the conclusion be avoided that your faith is just another form of existentialism?


Stephen    
Brad
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24 posted 03-24-2011 01:34 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Hey, glad you stopped by.

I like calling myself an agnostic atheist these days.

Agnosticism is the method, atheism is the conclusion.  

It seems more consistent with Huxley's original intent at any rate.

On the other hand, it seems reasonable to me to find value in the religious process itself whether or not it is true. I know you don't buy that but don't misunderstand me. I don't mean that in any pejorative sense.

My original idea was to go after this one first, then take on the teleological and cosmological arguments (and if I was really feeling ambitious, attempt to deal with some version of TAG).

TAG: the transcendental argument for God's existence.

Right now, I find myself more interested in discussing some of the scenarios surrounding the Big Bang.  That's some pretty awe inspiring stuff.

We'll see what happens.

Wow, what a boring post!

Well let's end with this:

What if atheists left America?

Quiz:  Anybody else notice the grammar mistake?

 
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