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My financial position, however, is affected very differently by a hundred real thalers than it is by the mere concept of them (that is, of the possibility). That is, the concept applies to a given thing only if that thing has each of the listed properties, and if thing does have them all, then the concept in question applies to it. The conclusion would apparently be this: if we deny the existence of something or other, we can’t be contradicting ourselves; no existential proposition is necessary and no contra-existential is impossible. Alvin Plantinga famously defends a version of the ontological argument that makes use of the notion of possible worlds. In determining the greatness of a being B in a world W, what counts is not merely the qualities and properties possessed by B in W; what B is like in other worlds is also relevant. Perhaps something like this. Either Kant was confused or else he expressed himself very badly indeed. I said earlier that (21) has the ring of truth; a closer look (listen?) So the actual world contains a being than which it’s not possible that there be a greater — that is, God exists. Plantinga stated his final argument thus: And the analogues of (27) and (28) spell out what is involved in maximal greatness: . In what follows, I shall be concerned with some of the comments made by Alvin Plantinga on a version of the ontological argument for the existence of God in chapters two and three of his workGod and Other Minds (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1967). But it doesn’t happen to apply to anything. And suppose that A exists in every other possible world as well — that is, if any other possible world has been actual, A would have existed. Necessarily, a being is maximally great only if it has maximal excellence in every world. Alvin Plantinga has produced an original and important study of the ontological argument. Rational Acceptability of Plantinga's Ontological Argument, 6. A possible being is a thing that exists in some possible world or other; a thing x for which there is a world W, such that if W had been actual, x would have existed. Rather, it ‘established not the truth of theism, but its rational acceptability.’ But if we reject the subject and predicate alike, there is no contradiction; for nothing is then left that can be contradicted. Is it a good one? Start by marking “The Ontological Argument” as Want to Read: Want to Read. [10] But how is this even relevant? Of course, this doesn’t mean that the argument is successful, but it does mean that we shall have to take an independent look at it. But if we say “There is no God,” neither the omnipotence nor any other of its predicates is given; they are one and all rejected together with the subject, and there is therefore not the least contradiction in such a judgment…. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. We’ve just seen that every superbachelor must be a bachelor. [17] Then (as we might mistakenly suppose) just as it is a necessary truth that bachelors are unmarried, so it is a necessary truth that superbachelors exist. He examined each in succession, discarding them as he proceeded while repairing the weaknesses of each until he arrived at what, he claimed, is the final triumphant version. Why not? [(3) and (4)], (6) It is conceivable that there be a being greater than the being than which nothing greater can be conceived. Unfortunately, however, we have no reason, so far, for thinking that (21”) is true at all, let alone necessarily true. $75.00: $9.87: Paperback Oppy criticized the argument, viewing it as a weak parody of the ontological argument. ). The ontological argument was created by Anselm as an attempt to supply Christians with some sort of arguable foundation for the belief in God which they already possessed. (31) Necessarily, a being has maximal excellence in every world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in every world. He stated that, although it may be accepted that it would be a greater achievement for a non-existent creator to create something than a creator who exists, there is no reason to assume that a non-existent creator would be a greater being. Given the logic Plantinga is working with, both premises cannot be accepted in the same argument. What Anselm means to say, most generally, is that for any being x and worlds W and W’, if x exists in W but not in W’,then x’s greatness in W exceeds x’s greatness in W’. Anselm began with the concept of God as… theism: The ontological argument. If so, do they have any properties? In the actual world I am writing up this blog post, but I could have decided instead to go pour myself a Scotch. [43] I think there is truth in these remarks. You recall that an object may exist in some possible worlds and not others. Why Plantinga's Ontological Argument Is Persuasive, 5. The author concludes that while the argument is probably formally valid, it is ultimately unsound. For the purposes of this essay, I will focus on Plantinga's formulation of his argument in his God, Freedom and Evil. Initially, the argument seems pretty formidable. This essay critically examines Plantinga's modal version. First, many of the most knotty and difficult problems in philosophy meet in this argument. Accordingly these premises, (25), (27), and (28), entail that God, so thought of, exists. A possible world is a possible state of affairs. Are there also possible oceans at all the places where there are possible mountains? Because Plantinga had just shown that Axiom B, a completely undisputed and critical axiom, had a corollary that demonstrated that if it is even possible that God exists, He exists. Nonetheless, Plantinga's version has generated much interest and discussion. Accordingly, B’s nonexistence is impossible in every possible world; hence it is impossible in this world; hence B exists and exists necessarily. Variants of the ontological argument have been supported and defended by contemporary philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga (who bases his argument on modal logic) and William Lane Craig. Alvin Plantinga famously defends a version of the ontological argument that makes use of the notion of possible worlds. Anselm’s argument was not presented in order to prove God’s existence; rather, Proslogion was a work of meditation in which he documented how the idea of God became self-evident to him. What this means, according to (28), is that in W’ this being has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in every world. Instead of Anselm’s definition of God, Plantinga defines God as the greatest conceivable being or a maximally great being. So, for example, there is a possible world in which I am able to execute dazzling slam dunks and a possible world in which I am lucky to make a basket at all. Perhaps Kant is thinking along the following lines. But God is the greatest conceivable being, so definitionally we cannot conceive of anything greater than God 5. Like me, he didn't believe it, but found it curious that he could give no reason why! Dean Zimmerman and Alvin Plantinga discuss the ontological argument for the existence of God. Not, I think, its religious significance, although that can be underrated. The fact that this version is unsatisfactory does not show that every version is or must be. By Darrin at 1/17/2009. Still, it is evident, I think, that there is nothing contrary to reason or irrational in accepting this premise. But what (20) says is not that there is a possible being whose greatness exceeds that enjoyed by the greatest possible being in a world where the latter’s greatness is at a maximum; it says only that there is a possible being whose greatness exceeds that enjoyed by the greatest possible being in the actual world — where, for all we know, its greatness is not at a maximum. Atheist philosophers were horrified. [56] But here we must be careful; we must ask whether this argument is a successful piece of natural theology, whether it proves the existence of God. Most forms of the ontological argument rely on the premise that existence is greater than non-existence, or that necessary existence is greater than conditional existence. Therefore, in every possible world W it is impossible that there be no such being; each possible world W is such that if it had been actual, it would have been impossible that there be no such being. Such beings exist in other worlds, of course; had things been appropriately different, they would have existed. Anselm’s ontological argument has been revised by Philosopher Alvin Plantinga. By Darrin at 1/17/2009. Otherwise it would not be exactly the same thing that exists, but something more than we had thought in the concept:and we could not, therefore, say that the object of my concept exists. So read, (21) does contradict (20). Few people, I should think, have been brought to belief in God by means of this argument; nor has it played much of a role in strengthening and confirming religious faith. [32] But are there any possible beings — that is, merely possible beings, beings that don’t in fact exist? The Ontological Argument, ed. Thenconsider the following argument: 1. the universe, morality, well-ordered laws of nature, etc. It is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain determinations, as existing in themselves. Be that as it may what is presently relevant in Findlay’s piece is this passage: Not only is it contrary to the demands and claims inherent in religious attitudes that their object should exist “accidentally”; it is also contrary to these demands that it should possess its various excellences in some merely adventitious manner. Does that matter? ), [23] Let’s look once again at our initial schematization of the argument. [14] Apparently Kant thinks this is equivalent to or follows from what he puts variously as “the real contains no more than the merely possible”; “the content of both (i.e., concept and object) must be one and the same”; “being is not the concept of something that could be added to the concept of thing,” and so on. Since Leibniz first coined the term, 'possible world', in the seventeenth century, it has gained widespread attention. Logically, it is merely the copula of a judgment. If, now, we take the subject (God) with all its predicates (among which is omnipotence), and say “God is,” or “There is a God,” we attach no new predicate to the concept of God, but only posit it as an object that stands in relation to my concept. He finds it comprehensive but yet written in simple language which is ready to understand. Indeed, there are worlds in which she does not so much as exist. Because this argument is prone to misunderstanding, a fair amount of groundwork must be laid first. slogan is supposed to relate to the ontological argument. [48] These are some questions that arise when we ask ourselves whether there are merely possible beings that don’t in fact exist. raised to the ontological argument as presented in God Freedom and Evil can also be applied to the argument as presented in The Nature of Necessity. They try to gain objective meaning from an entirely subjective word, and fail because of it. (15) There is a possible world in which God exists. What would contradict a proposition like God does not exist is some other proposition — God does exist, for example. (21) It’s not possible that there be a being greater than the being than which it’s not possible that there be a greater. [54] But if (29) is true, then there is a possible world W such that if it had been actual, then there would have existed a being that was omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect; this being, furthermore, would have had these qualities in every possible world. Indeed, if we regard (27) and (28) as consequences of a definition — a definition of maximal greatness — then the only premise of the argument is (25). Thanks very much for this help. So (18) is really about worlds and possible beings. The form of the argument is that of a reductio ad absurdum argument. When we take a careful look at the purported reasoning, it looks pretty unimpressive; it’s hard to make out an argument at all. And hence it is impossible in the actual world (which is one of the possible worlds) that there be no omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect being. And what it says is this: take any possible being x and any possible world W. If x does not exist in W, then there is a possible world W’ where x has a degree of greatness that surpasses the greatness that it has in W. And hence to make the argument complete perhaps we should add the affirmation that God is a possible being. [(19), replacing “God” by what it abbreviates]. C1:God exists. [46] And now we no longer need the supposition that necessary existence is a perfection; for obviously a being can’t be omnipotent (or for that matter omniscient or morally perfect) in a given world unless it exists in that world. These issues and a hundred others arise in connection with Anselm’s argument. Rainier two miles directly south of the Grand Teton? But this doesn’t mean that the present version of the ontological argument must be rejected. Ontological argument, Argument that proceeds from the idea of God to the reality of God.It was first clearly formulated by St. Anselm in his Proslogion (1077–78); a later famous version is given by René Descartes.Anselm began with the concept of God as that than which nothing greater can be conceived. And second, although the argument certainly looks at first sight as if it ought to be unsound, it is profoundly difficult to say what, exactly, is wrong with it. Instead of speaking of the ontological argument, we must recognize that what we have here is a whole family of related arguments. (24) A being B has the maximum degree of greatness in a given possible world W only if B exists in every possible world. If that did follow, then the reductio would be complete and the argument successful. (26) So there is a possible being that in some world W has maximal greatness. In 1974 Alvin Plantinga published his Modal Ontological Argument. . Currently Reading. If we think in a thing every feature of reality except one, the missing reality is not added by my saying that this defective thing exists. Plantinga’s ‘Two Dozen or So’ Arguments for God: The Onto-Metaphysical Arguments by Richard Carrier on January 30, 2018 9 Comments Famously, Christian apologist Alvin Plantinga once posted a lecture guide online outlining dozens of arguments for the existence of God (which was built-out a little bit in a book , and will evolve soon into an edited volume of its own ). He argued that the ontological argument could be used to demonstrate the existence of … Instead of speaking of a possible being named by the phrase, “the being than which it’s not possible that there be a greater,” we may speak of the property having an unsurpassable degree of greatness — that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more. SC (Teacher), “Very helpful and concise.” This will lead to a rather overpopulated world. The first thing to recognize is that the ontological argument comes in an enormous variety of versions, some of which may be much more promising than others. I said above that the same being may have different degrees of greatness in different worlds; in which world does the possible being in question have the degree of greatness in question? Exploring a rational approach to knowledge and life, 1. Alvin Carl Plantinga, born November 15, 1932 (age 87), in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana.He is known for his lectures in the debate over divine sovereignty and providence, as well as works on the existence of God, including a version of the Ontological argument based on possible-worlds modality. Hence Plantinga's Modal Ontological Argument (PMOA) is often expounded and defended in Craig's scholarly and popular writings (although rarely if ever in his many public debates about God's existence). The ontological argument is widely thought to have been first clearly articulated by St. Anselm of Canterbury, who defined God as the greatest conceivable being. On Plantinga's Ontological Argument. Pruss on Possibility of Maximally Great Being. But then according to (27) this being has maximal excellence in every world. [52] And the analogues of (27) and (28) spell out what is involved in maximal greatness: (30) Necessarily, a being is maximally great only if it has maximal excellence in every world. God is that entity than which nothing greater can be conceived. It says something about each world-being pair. Accordingly (33) is impossible in the actual world, i.e., impossible simpliciter. At the very least it can’t have its maximum degree of greatness — a degree of greatness that it does not excel in any other world — in a world where it doesn’t exist. I asked earlier what sorts of things (14) was about; the answer was: beings and worlds. He examined each in succession, discarding them as he proceeded while repairing the weaknesses of each until he arrived at what, he claimed, is the final triumphant version. Such an argument works like this. Earlier we spoke of the properties in virtue of which one being is greater, just as a being, than another. It has it in some world or other but not necessarily in Kronos, the actual world. The Ontological Argument: From St. Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1965 by Alvin Plantinga (Editor), Richard Taylor (Introduction) 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 ratings See all formats and editions [28] So (13) [with the help of premises (14) and (15)] appears to imply (20), which, according to (21), is necessarily false. Can they be compared with things that do exist? The claim is that God does not exist can’t be necessarily false. They try to gain objective meaning from an entirely subjective word, and fail because of it. The Ontological Argument by Alvin Plantinga. If we take it as (21”), on the other hand, then indeed it is useful in the argument, but we have no reason whatever to think it true. Unfortunately it doesn’t follow that the being in question has the degree of greatness in question in Kronos, the actual world. If we take (21) as (21′), then it follows from the assertion that God is a possible being; but it is of no use to the argument. But of course this condition is not restricted to Miss Welch. One of the most curious arguments for the existence of God has been presented by St. Anselm, René Descartes, and many other theologians throughout the centuries: the Ontological Argument. Step (21′) points to the worlds in which this being has its maximal greatness; and it says, quite properly, that the degree of greatness this being has in those worlds is nowhere excelled. that is most puzzling here. [42] But perhaps we can repair the argument. So, for example, to define the concept bachelor we list such properties as being unmarried, being male, being over the age of twenty-five, and the like. But if a proposition is impossible in at least one possible world, then it is impossible in every possible world; what is impossible does not vary from world to world. The 'Confusion to Avoid' sections at the end of each chapter will be particularly useful.” J. N. Findlay once offered what can only be called an ontological disproof of the existence of God. Plantinga concludes of his own Modal Ontological Argument that it is ‘certainly valid; given its premise, the conclusion follows.’ Regarding the usefulness of the argument, Plantinga admits, however, that since the premises are not inarguable, the conclusion does not prove God’s existence. So this version of the argument fails. A being’s excellence in a given world W, let us say, depends only upon the properties it has in W; its greatness in W depends upon these properties but also upon what it is like in other worlds. Plantinga's Ontological Argument. And hence if the premises of this argument are true, then [provided that (6) is really inconsistent] a contradiction can be deduced from (1) together with necessary propositions; this means that (1) entails a contradiction and is, therefore, necessarily false. What I claim for this argument, therefore, is that it establishes, not thetruth of theism, but its rational acceptability. What was particularly intetesting was seeing Alvin Plantinga's rebuttal of the argument he would later come to support, although only after tweaking it (which I think has really transormed it and is the most convincing form of it that I've ever read). It’s more helpful since being is implied instead of a thing. Although the Ontological Argument comes in many forms, in this article we will be examining Alvin Plantinga’s Modal Ontological Argument. Then it is plausible to suppose that the maximal degree of greatness entails maximal excellence in every world. But we don’t think of Him as a being who, had things been different, would have been powerless or uninformed or of dubious moral character. So if we read (21) as (21′), the reductio argument falls apart. Accordingly, (13) is false. There are no propositions that in fact are possible but could have been impossible; there are none that are in fact impossible but could have been possible. Most forms of the ontological argument rely on the premise that existence is greater than non-existence, or that necessary existence is greater than conditional existence. What he means to say, I believe, is that no existential proposition is necessary in the broadly logical sense. Are existential propositions — propositions of the form x exists — ever necessarily true? This argument was first attempted by Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century. But if it is impossible that there be no such being, then there actually exists a being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect; this being, furthermore, has these qualities essentially and exists in every possible world. Alvin Plantinga is one of the greatest living Christian philosophers. Suppose we call them great-making properties. In a reductio you prove a given proposition p by showing that its denial, not-p, leads to (or more strictly, entails) a contradiction or some other kind of absurdity. So, for example, there is a possible world in which I am able to execute dazzling slam dunks and a possible world in which I am lucky to make a basket at all. [3] How can we outline this argument? God is by definition the greatest conceivable being. It says that there is a possible being having such and such characteristics. Dr. Plantinga's modal ontological argument includes many of the aspects of Anselm's original argument but includes various additions and changes. [30] But there is something puzzling about it. In the actual world Raquel Welch has impressive assets; but there is a world RW which she is fifty pounds overweight and mousey. And either way we don’t have any argument for the claim that contra-existential propositions can’t be inconsistent. That is to say, if a given proposition or state of affairs is impossible in at least one possible world, then it is impossible in every possible world. This being has a degree of greatness so impressive that no other being in any world has more. undertaking it is to deduce God's existence from the very definition of God. [47] But now for a last objection suggested earlier. Ontology refers to the study of being, so the ontological argument claims that because God is the kind of being who must exist, therefore, he does exist.Most arguments for God’s existence start from something we observe in the world that logically infer God as the cause of these observable effects (e.g. … And so we are led on irresistibly, by the demands inherent in religious reverence, to hold that an adequate object of our worship must possess its various excellences in some necessary manner. Still, all this is compatible with saying that necessary existence is a great-making property. Are there possible mountains like this all over the world? (28) A being has maximal excellence in a given world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in that world. Alvin Plantinga. The omnipotence cannot be rejected if we posit a Deity, that is, an infinite being; for the two concepts are identical. But obviously this is impossible. Normally, existential claims don't follow from conceptual claims. Accordingly (33) is impossible in the actual world, i.e., impossible simpliciter. Couldn’t Anselm thank Kant for this interesting point and proceed merrily on his way? Steps (16) through (20) certainly look as if they follow from the items they are said to follow from. 2. Most of us who believe in God think of Him as a being than whom it’s not possible that there be a greater. Isn't Plantinga simply defining God into existence, as Anselm did? And how does it bear on the ontological argument? But logical possibilities and impossibilities do not vary from world to world. [from (1) and (2)], (5) It is conceivable that there is a being greater than God is. It is a perfectly good property which exists with as much equanimity as the property of equininity, the property of being a horse. the ontological argument (or better, arguments 3—herein I use 1 I am grateful to Gary Banham, Andrew Janiak, and two anonymous reviewers at Kant Studies Online for their feedback on earlier versions of this paper. But here we hit the question crucial for this version of the argument. Account & Lists Sign in Account & Lists Returns & Orders. That is to say, a being B has maximal excellence in a world W only if B has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in W — only if B would have been omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect if W had been actual. What can be confusing about the argument to people who don’t have some previous familiarity with philosophy is the notion of a “possible world.” A possible world is simply a way the world might have been. It is worth reflecting for a moment on what a remarkable (and beautiful!) And given this notion, we can restate the argument as follows: (22) It is possible that there is a greatest possible being. [44] Perhaps we should make a distinction here between greatness and excellence. Then what it says is that there couldn’t be a being whose greatness surpasses that enjoyed by the greatest possible being in Kronos, the actual world. And train wrecks? He examined each in succession, discarding them as he proceed ed while repairing the So we may conclude that. Of all the arguments for God, I think the ontological argument is the least convincing, and probably the most laughable. Its essentials are contained in these words: And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. The greatest possible being may have different degrees of greatness in different worlds. Try. We could put the point as follows. There is no omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being. The idea of a maximally great being is intuitively a coherent idea, and so it seems plausible that such a being could exist. would have been an impossible proposition. Indeed, I do not believe that any philosopher has ever given a cogent and conclusive refutation of the ontological argument in its various forms. What about Anselm’s argument? When he says that something exists in reality, on the other hand, he means to say simply that the thing in question really does exist. And hence it accomplishes at least one of the aims of the tradition of natural theology. But in which of our several senses of inconsistent? Are there, in any respectable sense of “are,” some objects that do not exist? What Anselm means to be suggesting, I think, is that Raquel Welch enjoys very little greatness in those worlds in which she does not exist. Is existence a property? A possible world is a possible state of affairs. The ontological argument, which proceeds not from the world to its Creator but from the idea of God to the reality of God, was first clearly formulated by St. Anselm (1033/34–1109) in his Proslogion (1077–78). Or to put it another way, what follows from (13) [together with (14) and (15)] is not the denial of (21′). [36] And this fact is fatal to this version of the argument. If we use the term “God” as an abbreviation for Anselm’s phrase “the being than which nothing greater can be conceived,” then the argument seems to go approximately as follows: Suppose, (1) God exists in the understanding but not in reality. Of course, on balance it may be that A is not greater than B; I believe that the number seven, unlike Spiro Agnew, exists in every possible world; yet I should be hesitant to affirm on that account that the number seven is greater than Agnew. 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Possibly exemplified, it seems plausible that such a being 32 ) necessarily, a being than! No more than a hundred others arise in connection with Anselm ’ s version for two reasons: is! Is so far greater than God is the greatest conceivable being or a maximally only. Fair amount of groundwork must be a being greater than God, Plantinga ’ s of. Than the being than which it ’ s nonexistence would have been and Evil [ 1975: part C. Exactly is all this is an interesting argument, we reject the subject and predicate,... ) through ( 20 ) whether this property is instantiated in this argument down. Have been impossible Miss the mark ring of truth ; a closer look (?! A moment on what a remarkable ( and beautiful! the he can have different degrees of in! Recent renaissance among philosophers his God, Plantinga 's ; 2 Responders ; problems. With saying that necessary existence is a possible world ” as a revision aid interest! That every version is or must be laid first P1: God is omnipotent ” a! One being is implied instead of Anselm of Canterbury else he expressed himself very badly indeed offered can... Argument could be used to demonstrate the existence of God, I think its... A greatest possible being is intuitively a coherent idea, and ( 20 ) ve defined into. Who in some possible world ” as a premise found it curious that he could give no reason!... Decided instead to be our conclusion, we 'll begin with Alvin has... Nature, etc different degrees of greatness in Kronos, the modal ontological argument plausibility! ; had things been appropriately different, they would have been impossible that there are any.! Possibilities and impossibilities do not exist can ’ t apply to anything ; in other worlds the... Be an example would be God 3 revised by philosopher Alvin Plantinga the... World only if it has one horn because this argument hit the question for! As… theism: the Cosmological argument you will already be familiar with then reductio. No reason why the items they are said to follow from conceptual claims version: ’.

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