Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dodgy Flaky Logic

The above, which I recently found on the web, is part of a formalisation of the ontological argument. With a few axioms and logical deductions there you have it, the holy grail of faith, a proof of God's reality! Print it out, laminate it and you'll have a pocket sized theorem for God's existence ready to pull out and read through when your faith is feeling a bit rocky or if you want to convert an atheist on the spot. 

But seriously don't bother; this formalisation is not exactly robust, in fact it is extremely flaky. The theological motivation for the argument is not in doubt: i.e. a desire to show that somehow God is a necessary being, a being with aseity - this is a highly plausible proposition for theists like myself who feel that the concept of absolute nothingness and in particular the non-existence God are probably contradictions (although we don't have proofs, of course). But the above is unlikely to be part of a sound demonstration of God's aseity. Basically this type of argument depends on sheer existence being regarded .... no make that "defined", as a "positive property". It then follows that God, as the greatest being one can conceive, must an have existence; this follows because God would fall short of being the greatest conceivable being if he lacked the "positive" property of existence.

One could no doubt write a book on ontological arguments of the above character, arguments which no doubt draw on Anselm's ontological argument of the 11th century. Below. however. are some remarks (R1 through R4) followed by conclusions and corollaries (C1, C2, Cor. 1 and Cor. 2) indicating where I would take my critical analysis:

R1:  The truth of the above line of argumentation is a logical trivialism that depends on definitions: Clearly if one is going to define "existence" as a positive property and then define God as the being with all possible positive properties it trivially follows from these definitions that necessarily God exists..... one is effectively simply defining God as an existing being. For if a being doesn't exist then that being can't be God, because God, by definition, must have the property of existence!

R2:  Axiom A2 is not axiomatic; consider for example the optimisation problem where two desired "positive" properties complete against one another:  For example, in aircraft design radar stealth can compromise performance positives.

R3:  A5 looks more like a subjective definition than an axiom. One man's positives may be another man's excrement. For example, radar stealth is positive for an attacker but not for the attacked.

R4: I'm unhappy with the treatment of extrinsic and intrinsic properties.  (See D2 above). Presumably various platonic mathematical objects stand in relationship to God in someway and therefore become extrinsic properties of God. Some of these platonic objects may be far from what we would subjectively evaluate as "positive". It follows, therefore, that God has non-positive extrinsic properties that imply God's properties. So, are these non-positive properties considered to be "essences" of God?

C1: What a mess!

C2: Better go back to the drawing board!

Corollary 1: I don't think I'll bother.

Corollary 2: Take a day off instead

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