I have been wondering about the ontological argument - isn't this a confusion on the part of its proponents regarding the use of the word attribute (or property) as opposed to a state? If we look at an example, say Water in this case, we find the following.
Water has many properties or attributes. It can be very hot or very cold. It has material weight, it is generally transparent and can bond to other elements on the periodic table in the right conditions (there's more, but I don't need a laundry list here). However, existence is not an attribute of water, it is a state that a given amount of water may or may not be in at a given moment. Water can be in the state of a solid, for example, when cold enough - yet being solid is not an attribute of water - it is a result of one of the expression of an attribute. Existence is also a state in the same vein; a body of water (like any object one can imagine) may or may not contain the state of existence. Direct or indirect evidence would be required to affirm or deny the object as containing that state.
Applied to the ontological argument, we find that the attempt here is to make perfection an attribute of a god entity and then attach existence as a part of that property. However, in both cases, these are "states" and not "properties" of items. A glass of water may be "perfect" if it meets an arbitrary set of conditions or states that we desire (it is clear, in liquid form, devoid of odor, etc). Thus, the Water, through an expression of properties that it possesses, may be in a state of perfection. Applied to a god, there must be an expression of the entities attributes for the state of perfection to be applied. That, of course, requires that these attributes become manifest, requiring that it exist. But existence is not an expression of a property and it is not one that is automatically achieved via word-smithing or definitions. Thus, the argument fails.
Am I overthinking this? (Unsigned comment written by Kijuteras 09:22, 22 June 2008)
- No, I think it's a good point, and it's kind of similar to what I was trying to get across in the proof that unicorns exist. I built "and exists" into the definition of a unicorn, thereby defining one into existence. Your explanation would probably be worth a section in the article. --Kazim 10:35, 22 June 2008 (CDT)
- Are you shure that this is the ontological argument? Because (1) this argument has much more things on it than just that 3 statements. Look to Wikipedia and you will notice that this argument requires a much greater explanation. (2) For what I remember of the argument, it not exactly like this. (3) there is no reference on this page...
- Momergil 06:30, 5 December 2009 (CST)
- No, this is the ontological argument. I just checked the different versions on wikipedia like you suggested. Although they use some different wording and add extra steps into the process, they all follow the same basic format as the three point argument at the top of the iron chariots page. And the main counterargument to those three points still applies to the different versions on the wikipedia page. However you choose to write it, just because you choose to linguistically/semantically define something as existing, doesn't actually mean it exist in reality.
- As for your point about the references, you're right. Being an argument that rests on pure semantics and logic (ie, there aren't really any empirical real world facts in the argument that have to be, or can be cross checked) i don't think references are quite as important as they would be on say, an historical article about the Jefferson bible for instance, but it would be nice if there were perhaps some references to apologetics sites which use the argument. Feel free to add them. As long as you aren't trolling or vandalizing, no body here will have a problem with that.--Murphy 01:18, 6 December 2009 (CST)
I have a different version of the ontological argument which was propounded by Descartes. I don't know if this is worth mentioning or not; if it is, maybe it should be mentioned on a seperate article. Descartes found that in his mind there is the notion of a perfect being, and somehow concluded that God exists.
1. I exist
2. I have in my mind the notion of a perfect being
3. An imperfect being, like myself, cannot think up the notion of a perfect being
4. Therefore the notion of a perfect being must have originated from the perfect being himself (from 2 & 3)
5. A perfect being would not be perfect if it did not exist.
6. Therefore a perfect being must exist (from 4 & 5)
--wissam hemadeh 06:07, 6 April 2010 (CDT)
I would say it does deserve a spot on the page, but would also need a C.A part to it as well. If you want to know how i conclude the argument is not sound, it goes as follows: Step 3 is sort of the bridge leading him to making his conclusion somewhat valid, but step 3 is not sound to begin with. Who is to say you cannot think of a perfect being, or in general - perfection. I would like to argue that perfection is in the eye of the beholder... something we've all heard before, i know... but if perfection is in the mind, then whatever we concieve is perfection as long as we can't or haven't thought of something greater, if we do, the first one becomes obsolete and the new one is considered perfect. The way I see it, is as there is no grounds for actual perfection, the greatest thing we can think of is perfect. Feel free to comment on this if you wish. --Daemonowner 00:59, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
This argument by Descartes is actually a way to use a primitive version of TAG and the ontological argument in one breath. It is not actually any stronger than either is individually because 3 and 4 don't need point 5. The main difference between this argument and TAG is that TAG generally uses concepts of "logical absolutes" to make a point whereas this one just skips past that and goes straight to using the God concept itself.
I think one way of refuting step three would be to talk about a perfect symmetry or a perfect crystal. These things are actually easier to understand than "imperfectly" symmetrical objects because they are simpler. "Perfection" is just a word we use to talk about a quality being either extreme, or at just the right value ("This water is the perfect temperature for a shower."). It doesn't mean anything special or mind-blowing about whatever is being described.
I think premise two can also be challenged. What does one mean by "perfect being"? I certainly don't have any clear idea in my head as to what the "perfect being" would be like. Those are just two very vague and abstract words put together. Even words like omnipresent or omnipotent or omniscient are really vague. What does it mean for God to be everywhere? Is God really a physical object or substance that exists in physical space? Can an omnipotent God do the logically impossible? Does an omniscient God know everything that will happen, or just about the present moment? An infinitely long sequence of letters could encode every possible statement, and therefore every possible statement about the universe. Would that string of letters be omniscient? What if every true statement was indexed and the rest left out; would someone with access to that database be omniscient?
If someone has a really foggy or even silly idea of what God is, such that there's not even a clear definition of the word (except using vapid combinations of vague words like "perfect being"), how can that person use the notion of God to prove anything? On the other hand, if one does have a specific God in mind, like the God of the Old Testament or Jesus or Zeus, how could you possibly prove that any particular one of these gods are "perfect"? --quantheory 22:55, 5 July 2010 (CDT)
The OTHER Ontological argument
There's another more complex ontological argument that I've heard from a theist friend, and it's even been refuted by Dawkins. I *can't find it on the internet!* It contains the phrase something like "a being than which nothing greater can be conceived" ... Anyone familiar with it? I think it deserves its place in the wiki more than this one.
edit: OK, I found it. http://www.princeton.edu/~grosen/puc/phi203/ontological.html
Ugh. My brain hurts.
I'm browsing through this wiki, and it's incredible how bad some of these philosophy articles are. Any discussion of how Anselm got to his point that God must exist by definition? Any discussion of Kant's point that existence is not a predicate? Nope. Any discussion of Anselm's second version of the ontological argument that is not as vulnerable to Kant's criticism? Nada.
Any discussion of Plantinga's modal version? Godel's versions? How about Robert Maydole's modal perfection argument? Negatorie.
Another article that should be trashed and completely re-written. Hammiesink 23:53, 24 March 2011 (CDT)