• Ontological arguments: making your dreams come true

    I came across this image while preparing a lecture on Logic:

    3wishes

    I couldn’t help but think of Anselm’s Ontological Argument (slightly paraphrased):

    I am thinking of a being that is maximally great.  Such a being is so great it couldn’t not exist.  Therefore, this being does exist!

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    Category: FeaturedHumourOntological argument

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    Article by: Reasonably Faithless

    Mathematician and former Christian
    • im-skeptical

      The idea that existence is a component of “greatness” seems incoherent. You can imagine something that is the epitome of virtue and goodness, but that thing would be exceeded in greatness by any existing worm or evil murderer, simply because those things are not merely conceptual. If “greatness” is understood in this way, then anything that is defined as “the greatest conceivable” (or something equivalent) must exist by definition. Therefore, Anselm has defined God into existence. But the same logic could be applied to something other than God, and we know that we can’t make something exist simply because we define it as such.

      • Peter Alewine

        This was one of the very first objections to Anselm’s argument. Anselm himself wrote back and forth with some dude – I forget his name – who used “the greatest conceivable island” as a way to show how ridiculous the Ontological argument is. Anselm had a counter-argument, though, as to why God is different from anything else you would apply this to.

    • Peter Alewine

      It reminds me of the key to Xeno’s Paradox, which is to understand that it is all happening in your imagination.

      Applied here, if you imagine a Being that is maximally great, and has existence as a quality… then he exists in your imagination! But not in real life.