Reason as the Leading Motive

Ontological Argument

Posted by Jerry on June 22, 2005

Since this is quite a fascinating discussion, I've decided to continue it here as a separate post. For those of you following the posts on this site, this discussion is continued from the comment-posts under the post "Anselm's Ontological Argument" in the "Atheism" category.

I am not convinced that "God" can be treated as an a priori. Even any concept of God requires precedence. It is entirely possible to have your entire life lived completely without ever having thought about the concept of "God" or even having any need for that "God" to exist.

You said, "If you do NOT understand what is meant by the term "God" then you cannot deny the existence of God, because the word "God" has as much meaning to you as the word "AEFQF." — But this is not fully true. Just because I may not have a concept of "God" does not mean that I simply cannot deny the existence of God. I can do this: I can refuse to accept any premise that basis the existence of an entity that I am not aware of based on a concept of that entity that I am not aware of. This simply does not mean that I am NOT AWARE of an objective entity and so is my failing… it purely means that there might be an entity, or there might not be that Entity, either way, I am oblivious to its existence or Non-existence. It becomes contingent upon you to convince me to ACCEPT your concept of God (as you say, God is this and that, but what if I believe that God is really this and not that).
Thus, the proof of the Ontological Argument is contingent upon my acceptance of your concept of God, and yet, if I refuse that concept, I am not necessarily speaking of an objective Entity… because I may be speaking of a non-entity, or an unknown. You have to demonstrate to me that you somehow "know" this Entity and the qualities it possesses.

In fact, Anselm's original formulation of the argument includes something to the effect of "even a fool has some idea of what God is." Though, that is itself the greatest weakness of this argument. What if the fool truly does not have a concept of God at all? Or a radically different, "foolish" concept of God (like maybe, God has to have 10 hands for example). Thus, the entire Ontological argument is crucially dependent on the concept of God under discussion. Your job is to convince me that that is in fact the proper concept of God that I should agree to.

Using different words to define the same thing over again, that is question-begging, tautologous, and that is what the Ontological argument does. Let me show you how:

You claim (controversially, ofcourse) that your concept of "God" should have all the highest and greatest qualities, and that is an a priori. This is your first premise.
Implicit in this first premise is also your argument that since existence in reality is greater than existence only in understanding, God should have all those greatest qualities and therefore should also have the quality of existence in reality because it is greater…
What you have done is you have merely RE-STATED YOUR concept of "God" in different terms, thus repeating the premise, and thus trying to pass off your conclusions as proof supporting the premise.
Take this for example: One of the concepts of "God" would include Omniscience — a great property of being transcendentant, everywhere always at all times.
Then you say, it is greater have the property of Omniscience than to be physically bound to the grid of time and space. Then you conclude that since God has everything that is the GREATEST already, He should have the GREAT property of Omniscience.
Do you see how your premise is essentially just one a priori (so you argue) premise… and that your argument is question-begging?

And finally, just because you claim that your concept of "God" has the quality of existence in reality (which again, you controversially claim is a "greater" quality than existence in only understanding) DOES NOT NECESSARILY FOLLOW that your GOD (not the concept, but the ENTITY) is EXISTENT in ACTUALITY!

For example, I could conceive of Superman having the QUALITIES of super power, X-ray vision, real existence, whatever else… but those are merely CONCEPTUAL IDEAS, QUALITIES — DO THEY NECESSARILY TRANSLATE OR MANIFEST IN ACTUALITY? Do they have a necessity to exist OBJECTIVLY? NO! A concept of a superman does not give rise to an objective existence of Superman. A concept (that you believe) of God having such and such properties as existence, DOES NOT give rise to any necessity of that concept's objective existence.


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