• Atheistic Ontological Argument — Version 3

     

    1. God, if he exists, is a being than which no greater can be conceived.
    2. A being whose nonexistence cannot be conceived is greater than a being whose nonexistence can be conceived.
    3. God’s nonexistence can be conceived.
    4. It is possible to conceive of a being whose nonexistence cannot be conceived.
    5. Therefore, a being greater than God can be conceived.
    6. It is not possible to conceive of a being greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived.
    7. Therefore, God does not exist.

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    Category: AtheismGodOntological argument

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    Article by: Reasonably Faithless

    Mathematician and former Christian
    • SmilodonsRetreat

      I am so glad I’m not a philosopher who has to understand this stuff. 😉

    • 1. God, if he exists, is a being than which no greater can be conceived.

      -What do you
      mean by “greater”? Are you referring to size as in “great big mountain” or accomplishments
      as in “great poet”? Are you saying that god is fat or that SHE is very good at
      being god?

      2. A being whose nonexistence cannot be conceived is greater than a being
      whose nonexistence can be conceived.

      -Being unable to
      conceive is either a personal failure of the imagination or of the reproductive
      system of those trying to conceive. It says nothing about the objective reality
      of objects or phenomena. If one cannot conceive of a picnic without ants but can
      conceive of a picnic without mothers-in-law, this neither implies that it is
      impossible to have picnics without ants, nor that ants are “greater” then
      mothers-in-law. It just means that you have a poor imagination and probably don’t
      like your mother-in-law very much and perhaps you should have a chat with your
      spouse about this.

      3. God’s nonexistence can be conceived.

      -Atheists exist.
      Got it.

      4. It is possible to conceive of a being whose nonexistence cannot be
      conceived.

      -I don’t know
      about that… Theists have been positing the “alpha and omega”, “everlasting to
      everlasting” attribute of god for a long time now, and I have had no trouble imagining
      her non-existence. But you go ahead and conceive of a being, and I’ll try to
      conceive of the universe existing without it and let’s see how that plays out.

      5. Therefore, a being greater than God can be conceived.

      -Like I said, I doubt
      that, but even if that were true, why not go ahead and just call that other “greater”
      being “god” and start over?

      6. It is not possible to conceive of a being greater than a being than which
      no greater can be conceived.

      -Or in a
      different context, it is impossible to climb upon a box if it is a box that possesses
      the characteristic of being a box that no one can climb….just a tiny bit
      circular.

      7. Therefore, God does not exist.

      Deciding
      what exists based on what you can conceive gets you coming and going. You might
      decide that Santa exists because you conceive of his existence and cell-phones
      are impossible because you cannot imagine how they could work without wires.
      Reality does not depend on your imagination.

      • Reasonably Faithless

        Somehow I didn’t see this whole comment before… But yes, the crux is Premise 4. I feel as if the only real criticism of it is along the lines of “but you aren’t *really* conceiving of that being”, to which the reply (to Anselm) is “you aren’t really conceiving of a being-than-which-none-greater-can-be-conceived”. Just contemplating the words doesn’t constitute really conceiving of something.

        Re 2: “why not go ahead and just call that other “greater”being “god” and start over?”

        Because there will be something greater than *that* being, by the same argument. I think a far more reasonable premise would be “for any being B, it is possible to conceive of a being greater than B”. This just means that there is not a greatest conceivable being. (BTW, William Lane Craig, following Anselm, makes the ridiculous point “if you could conceive of something greater than God, then *that* would be God”.)

    • Bram Kaandorp

      @Hugo;

      The point of the argument presented here appears to be to render the original Ontological argument itself meaningless.

      So trying to dissect the argument here is like dissecting the original ontological argument itself.

      Which is a great way of showing its absurdity.

      • @google-9aca8efbab907678e5fd70a1d4f0a89b:disqus
        Sure, I agree that the ontological argument is absurd. Any of them. I just took the opportunity to poke a little fun at philosophers, logicians and mothers-in-law. A “several
        birds with one bad argument” sort of thing.

        • Reasonably Faithless

          Yes, it is exactly as Bram said. The objections you raised here apply equally well to Anselm’s original argument. But regarding your objection to 2, I mean that the non-existence of such a being is inconceivable to anyone – this is meant to refer to a great-making property of the being, not to the failings of a person.

          • So we agree that Anselm’s original argument was not that good. Nice.

            My
            objection to (2) is that you are casually talking about the corners of a round
            square. Any thing (or being) that can be imagined, can be imagined not
            existing. Not only is there no being that has that property, there CAN be no
            being that has that property. Unless, maybe, this Uberbeing did a Jedi Mind
            Trick on the entire universe “this is not the imaginary scenario you are looking for”, in which case it would still not be an attribute of the being but
            a failing on the imaginers part.(They fell for the Jedi mind trick). It is, I believe,
            a Barber paradox, in the Russell sence.

            • Reasonably Faithless

              I basically agree. Most of the premises, though, will seem reasonably intuitive to someone who suspects the argument is likely to “prove” something they agree with. I would also say that for any being that can be imagined, it is possible to imagine a greater being.

            • Yes,
              that is akin to “the largest natural number”. (Call it N and add one, you get a
              bigger one). Sometimes what philosophers say is just nonsense that SOUNDS
              profound. They bring up ideas like square circles, social hermits and
              schizophrenic rocks, that are self-contradictory or just silly. For some reason
              this makes me want to bring up the Sokal affair….. As for the fact that such
              arguments may seem reasonably intuitive, I suspect a mix of wishful thinking
              and confirmation bias is at work.

    • I think premise 2 is on shaky ground. Regardless of whether you can conceive it, it is not obvious to me that one non-existent being is greater than another non-existent being.

      • Glossing over the poor use of the word “greater”, it is something like this: “who would
        win in a fight: Batman or Super-man?”(BTW, the correct answer is Super-man).

      • Reasonably Faithless

        I agree that premise 2 is dubious. But it’s designed to be precisely as dubious as the kind of axioms defenders of Anselm-type ontological arguments like to use. The purpose of my argument is to show that people who don’t like it’s conclusion are likely to attack such premises with the skepticism they should be applying to premises in arguments that will lead to a conclusion they prefer.

        • im-skeptical

          Of course. I should have known