'But as SOON as you start to put attributes on God, you get religion and belief. You get a sense of personal "Greatest concievable being", not some abstract logical argument.
I indicated in a post that if they really want to know how silly the OA actually is, replace the word "GOD' with flying Spaghetti monster. It will still be logically sound and the flying spaghetti monster will therefore exist.'
I absolutely agree with your homing in on language with its capacity for abstract logic, and, relatedly, on the attribution of properties or qualities to things. So this is my ‘take’.
The Ontological Argument sets out to prove the existence of an entity conceived a priori called God. God conceived a priori has the attributes of being eternal and infinite, i.e., not subject to constraints of space or time. Apart from the case of these two attributes (and their synonyms or variants), according attributes is an empirical issue, not a logical one, because all the attributes our language allows us to use arise from human experience. That’s why, presumably, we can imagine Flying Spaghetti Monsters, or ‘green thoughts’ (courtesy of poetic metaphor), but not entities with no attributes.
As far as the attributes ‘infinite’ and ‘eternal’ are concerned, we are animals whose homeostatic regulation as living creatures is maintained within fairly narrow structures and limits of space and time. Our limitation is physiological: we can’t imagine infinite space or eternity (well, I certainly can’t – can anyone?) because they have no impact on our homeostatic self-maintenance.
I know there is a standard objection to this view which holds that people can do so in certain spiritual practices like meditation, or under the influence of drugs. However, (1) the allegedly confirmatory evidence that the person has temporarily escaped time and space constraints relies on post-experiential phenomenological reporting and is not reliable, (2) there are plausible psychological explanations for it, and (3) the states described, or something very similar, can be simulated through the deliberate external activation of neural circuits, which is again an empirical procedure. Spinoza, for example, realized (in the terms of his own philosophy) that something corresponding to the idea of ‘that than which nothing greater can be imagined or conceived’ was in fact something co-extensive with and indistinguishable from the universe or nature.
The ontological argument tries to work by confusing two lines of reasoning:
If we define the label "God" as referring to the greatest thing currently existing then, by this definition, "God" exists.
If we define the label "God" as referring to the greatest thing we can conceive of ever possibly existing, the ultimate perfection, then this says nothing about whether "God" currently exists.
It is easiest to refute by considering the following similar argument:
Suppose the word "Devil" referrs to the most perfectly scary evil being that we can conceive of ever possibly existing. It would be more scary for the Devil to exist than not. It would also be more scary for the Devil to be more powerful than God.
lI agree with you about the confusion, Pallando (see last post). It arises partly from the onus placed on the predicate ‘greatest’ to be somehow self-explanatory, which it isn’t. ‘Greatest’ is not an analytic predicate, it’s a suitcase term. It combines elements of an upper limit in material scale and power, which are physical phenomena, with some putative upper limit of psychological/moral attributes like goodness, justice, benevolence, generosity, and so forth.
Just in focusing on the physical attributes we have an epistemological problem. The human mind, although it is an admirable construction of the brain, is part of an organism which can only ‘know’ spatial and temporal limits with reference to its material experience (at least at this stage of human evolution). Imagining (or conceiving) is a cognitive function which, quite literally, involves the creating of internal, or phenomenal, images. The persuasive power and flexibility of language may lead us to assume that imagination can go beyond these spatial and temporal limits, but that’s simply illusory, because concepts such as ‘eternal’ or ‘infinite’ are linguistic/mathematical constructs unaccompanied by any image. Any attempt at imaging them nudges us towards the traditional notion that we are envisaging here something ‘ineffable’, which really means that it can be ‘effed’ only as an abstraction.
What this means in turn is that the limits of material space, however science manages to hypothesise or explain them, are equally the limits of (or co-extensive with, if you like) the capacity of the mind to imagine them. My argument, consequently, would be that the limit of what ‘is’ (i.e., an ontological limit) circumscribes precisely the same massive material entity as the most extensive one which can be imagined (including its quarks, quantum jitters, black holes and whatever). This conclusion is tantamount to saying that there is really no difference between your Line 1 and Line 2, and yes, agreed, the reasoning is indeed confused.
How do you know existence is superior to non-existence?
It would be much harder for him to be omnipotent if god does not exist than it would be if he exists. Therefore, a god that does not exist is ggreater than one that does exist. But god is the greatest of all possible beings. Therefore, god does not exist.