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 at 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)