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More Ontological Argument…

October 24, 2010

In a recent post I talked about the ontological arguments (“OA”) for the existence of God. My conclusion was that they are great if you’re already predisposed towards acceptance of the last line of any OA – God exists. From an anti-realist perspective then an OA is a good argument. I’ve been thinking about why exactly this is.

The version of the OA I want to look at here is as follows:

  1. A perfect being has all perfections
  2. Necessary existence is a perfection
  3. A being that has necessary existence exists
  4. Therefore a perfect being exists

Naturally the religious believer calls this perfect being God.

I think there are two interpretations that we can impose on step 1:

  • A perfect being exists that has all perfections, or
  • If a perfect being exists then it has all perfections.

If we choose the first interpretation then the argument reduces to A perfect being exists, therefore a perfect being exists, which is obviously not going to be a persuasive argument to a non-believer.

The second interpretation leads to the conclusion that the statement A perfect being exists is true whether or not a perfect being actually exists.

Neither of these is a satisfactory argument, but by combining the two in an ambiguous way (caused by the loose way in which we can use the word “a”) leads to an argument that appears to be very strong.

It isn’t.

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