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Cogito ergo sum

Here in the Philosophy forum we will talk about all the "why" questions. We'll have conversations about the way in which philosophy and theology and religion interact with each other. Metaphysics, ontology, origins, truth? They're all fair game so jump right in and have some fun! But remember...play nice!

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The OA: General Thoughts

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  • The OA: General Thoughts

    As a young theist with a philosophy interest, I ask my fellow TWeb philosophers for your general thoughts on the ontological argument.
    Does it work?
    Is is logically valid? Does it beg the question? Is the whole notion just a 'charming joke?'

    Those of you who accept it (or even if you just like the idea), what version do you prefer and why?
    If you don't accept it, what are the biggest issues you have with it?

    Lastly, for Christians, does the idea have any Scriptural merit?

  • #2
    It works pretty well for those with a Neo-Platonist metaphysics and epistemology, which is to say, that it does not work at all for hardly anyone else.* Personally, 'though I do not think it is valid, I love the proof, for two reasons. One, because it engages the notion of value, goodness, and therefore an element of love and affection that is usually missed (but implicit) in Aristotelian teleology. Two, more importantly, because it contains an implicit apophatic dynamic. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived.

    As for scriptural foundation, not really, but if I remember correctly, it was introduced by Anselm with a meditation on the verse from the Psalms, 'the fool says in his heart there is no God.' And therefore it is in some sense sort of grounded in scripture.

    *Though I know of one relatively well-known modern philosopher who was finally convinced of Duns Scotus' version of it.
    βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
    ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

    אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

    Comment


    • #3
      Can some one lay out ontological argument in simple terms?
      Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

      Comment


      • #4
        Try not to laugh:
        Therefore, Lord, who grant understanding to faith, grant me that, in so far as you know it beneficial, I understand that you are as we believe and you are that which we believe. Now we believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be imagined.

        Then is there no such nature, since the fool has said in his heart: God is not? But certainly this same fool, when he hears this very thing that I am saying - something than which nothing greater can be imagined - understands what he hears; and what he understands is in his understanding, even if he does not understand that it is. For it is one thing for a thing to be in the understanding and another to understand that a thing is.

        For when a painter imagines beforehand what he is going to make, he has in his understanding what he has not yet made but he does not yet understand that it is. But when he has already painted it, he both has in his understanding what he has already painted and understands that it is.
        Therefore even the fool is bound to agree that there is at least in the understanding something than which nothing greater can be imagined, because when he hears this he understands it, and whatever is understood is in the understanding.

        And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater. Therefore if that than which a greater cannot be imagined is in the understanding alone, that very thing than which a greater cannot be imagined is something than which a greater can be imagined. But certainly this cannot be. There exists, therefore, beyond doubt something than which a greater cannot be imagined, both in the understanding and in reality.

        http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/anselm.htm
        βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
        ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

        אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

        Comment


        • #5
          There are other objections, but this is the central problem, as I see it:

          Originally posted by St Anselm View Post
          ... Therefore even the fool is bound to agree that there is at least in the understanding something than which nothing greater can be imagined, because when he hears this he understands it, and whatever is understood is in the understanding. ...
          Only a fool would admit that he truly 'understands' something greater than which nothing greater can be imagined! While the words can be understood easily enough, if it truly cannot even be imagined, it also cannot really be understood in any meaningful sense, at least not by us.

          And yet, although God cannot be adequately defined, or comprehended in our intellect, he is meaningful to most of us.
          Last edited by robrecht; 05-03-2014, 06:24 PM.
          βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
          ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

          אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

          Comment


          • #6
            In case anyone is interested in the original:
            2 Quod vere sit Deus

            Ergo Domine, qui das fidei intellectum, da mihi, ut, quantum scis expedire, intelligam, quia es sicut credimus, et hoc es quod credimus. Et quidem credimus te esse aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit. An ergo non est aliqua talis natura, quia "dixit insipiens in corde suo: non est Deus" [Ps 13,1; 52,1]? Sed certe ipse idem insipiens, cum audit hoc ipsum quod dico: 'aliquid quo maius nihil cogitari potest', intelligit quod audit; et quod intelligit, in intellectu eius est, etiam si non intelligat illud esse. Aliud enim est rem esse in intellectu, alium intelligere rem esse. Nam cum pictor praecogitat quae facturus est, habet quidem in intellectu, sed nondum intelligit esse quod nondum fecit. Cum vero iam pinxit, et habet in intellectu et intelligit esse quod iam fecit. Convincitur ergo etiam insipiens esse vel in intellectu aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari potest, quia hoc, cum audit, intelligit, et quidquid intelligitur, in intellectu est.

            Et certe id quo maius cogitari nequit, non potest esse in solo intellectu. Si enim vel in solo intellectu est, potest cogitari esse et in re; quod maius est. Si ergo id quo maius cogitari non potest, est in solo intellectu: id ipsum quo maius cogitari non potest, est quo maius cogitari potest. Sed certe hoc esse non potest. Existit ergo procul dubio aliquid quo maius cogitari non valet, et in intellectu et in re.

            http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/ansel...ion.html#capii
            βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
            ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

            אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

            Comment


            • #7
              Nothing is greater than God. OK, but what is "greatness" here? It needs to be defined lest some joker says nothing is more evil than God is
              The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

              [T]he truth I’m after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by robrecht View Post
                There are other objections, but this is the central problem, as I see it:

                Only a fool would admit that he truly 'understands' something greater than which nothing greater can be imagined! While the words can be understood easily enough, if it truly cannot even be imagined, it also cannot really be understood in any meaningful sense, at least not by us.

                And yet, although God cannot be adequately defined, or comprehended in our intellect, he is meaningful to most of us.
                And that is exactly what a Christian is, a self-admitted fool who believes in a wisdom that appears to be folly to the wise. As St Paul would say:
                Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

                What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
                nor the human heart conceived,
                what God has prepared for those who love him

                —these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

                Or as Jesus says in Q:

                Ἐν [αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ // ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ] εἶπεν·
                ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι, πάτερ, κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς,
                ὅτι κρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις·
                ναὶ ὁ πατήρ, ὅτι οὕτως εὐδοκία ἐγένετο ἔμπροσθέν σου.
                πάντα μοι παρεδόθη ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου,
                καὶ οὐδεὶς γινώσκει [τίς ἐστιν] ὁ υἱὸς εἰ μὴ ὁ πατήρ, [καὶ τίς ἐστιν] ὁ πατ[ὴ]ρ εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱὸς καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν βούληται ὁ υἱὸς ἀποκαλύψαι.

                At [this/that (same) hour/time] he said,
                I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
                because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;
                yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
                All things have been handed over to me by my Father;
                and no one knows (who) the Son (is) except the Father, or (who) the Father (is) except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

                And yet a Christian theologian from the Dark Ages can say essentially the same thing without any reference to the supernatural or the necessity of revelation, except for those who need or benefit from it.
                βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
                ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
                  Nothing is greater than God. OK, but what is "greatness" here? It needs to be defined lest some joker says nothing is more evil than God is
                  Do you really believe that God can be defined?
                  βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
                  ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                  אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Theistic-Student View Post
                    As a young theist with a philosophy interest, I ask my fellow TWeb philosophers for your general thoughts on the ontological argument.
                    Does it work?
                    No it does not work.

                    Is is logically valid?
                    No.

                    Does it beg the question?
                    Yes it simply defines God in one way or another to justify the existence of God as defined.

                    Is the whole notion just a 'charming joke?'
                    possibly.
                    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                    go with the flow the river knows . . .

                    Frank

                    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I see as one of the central problems of such arguments the implicit assumption that there exists a maximum, in this case a maximum of 'excellence' of whatever. Consider say the set of positive integers. There is always a positive integer greater than a specified one, thys there is no greatest positive integer.

                      Anselm in his arguments assumes that there is a being with maximum greatness or excellence or whatever. That there exists a maximum has to be shown.
                      Last edited by Paprika; 05-04-2014, 01:18 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                        I see as one of the central problems of such arguments the implicit assumption that there exists a maximum, in this case a maximum of 'excellence' of whatever. Consider say the set of positive integers. There is always a positive integer greater than a specified one, but there is no greatest positive integer.

                        Anselm in his arguments assumes that there is a being with maximum greatness or excellence or whatever. That there exists a maximum has to be shown.
                        Agreed!!!
                        Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                        Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                        But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                        go with the flow the river knows . . .

                        Frank

                        I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by robrecht View Post
                          And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater. Therefore if that than which a greater cannot be imagined is in the understanding alone, that very thing than which a greater cannot be imagined is something than which a greater can be imagined. But certainly this cannot be. There exists, therefore, beyond doubt something than which a greater cannot be imagined, both in the understanding and in reality.[/indent]

                          http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/anselm.htm
                          Thanks, but I'm not sure how this makes sense, or how it follows.
                          Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by seer View Post
                            Thanks, but I'm not sure how this makes sense, or how it follows.
                            It makes sense, but it does not follow, at least not without Neo-Platonic assumptions.
                            βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
                            ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                            אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by robrecht View Post
                              It makes sense, but it does not follow, at least not without Neo-Platonic assumptions.
                              Neo-Platonic assumptions are almost universal and central with the monotheistic beliefs in God, ie Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Baha'i beliefs, the assumption of the universal 'One' or 'The Good'. Unfortunately it severely 'Begs the Question' in a logical argument, because the conclusion is the same as the priori assumption by definition.
                              Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                              Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                              But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                              go with the flow the river knows . . .

                              Frank

                              I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                              Comment

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