I came across a video on another blog that depict’s the age-old ontological argument by Anselm.
Apparently it’s been modified heavily since (I don’t really keep track of the philosophy world as I should). If you don’t care for the video, here is the argument in its syllogistic form:
- It is possible that a Maximally Great Being exists.
- If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
- If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
- If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
- If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
- Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
Something doesn’t sit right with me about the argument. I hate modal/what-if/alternate universe-and/or-world arguments. So let me see if I can dissect it a bit further.
Here is the argument turned into symbols (I know any logician reading this will be angry at me. It’s been a few years and I don’t remember what symbols I should be using. I also want to say I haven’t really slept either, so excuse me and correct me if I’m wrong in the comments below):
Q = it is possible that
P = a MGB exists
QvP = it is possible that a MGB exists
X = possible world
Z = actual world
If QvP, then P in some X.
If P in some X, then P in all X.
If P in all X, then P in Z.
If P in Z, then P.
Therefore, P actually.
The argument seems pretty tight and straight forward. However there are a few leaps of logic in the conditional statements. So let’s try to iron those out.
If QvP, then P in some X. (For QvP is logically coherent, therefore it exists actually in some way)
If P in some X, then P in all X. (For a P would not be P unless it could be in all X)
If P in all X, then P in Z. (For Z is found in the set of all X)
If P in Z, then P.
Therefore, P actually.
I think this is a good rendition of how they explain it in the video as well. Correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve been staring at this for a few hours and my brain is kinda fried.
I pointed out to the blogger that I found premise 2 at fault.
Interestingly enough, after a bit of Googling, most are either at issue with premise 1 or 3. The reasoning for the conditional statement for premise 3 does seem a bit shaky as it begs the question, and of course if everyone cannot agree to the definition of MGB for premise 1 then it falls apart altogether.
So why am I picking on premise 2 like a bully does to a nerd? Logical incoherence implies impossibility; however, logical coherence (consistency) does not imply actuality in any given world without additional reasoning/cause. Unicorns are logically coherent; that is, there is nothing within the defintion of the unicorn to contradict itself like a married bachelor. However, though it is logically coherent within the mind, it is not the same as saying it exists within a possible world.
This, I find, is the blunder within premise 2. As the video states around 1:07:
Just as this age-old argument was brought forth, I must also bring forth the age-old argument against Anselm. No, I’m not talking about Kant and whoever else. I’m talking about Aquinas:
..granted that everyone understands that by this word “God” is signified something than which nothing greater can be thought, nevertheless, it does not therefore follow that he understands that what the word signifies exists actually, but only that it exists mentally. (Summa I, Q.2, Art. 1, ad. 2)
So what do you think?
Did I do a good job? Did I mix my terms? Did I mess up a middle term somewhere? (For the longest time I thought I was). Am I wrong? I have no idea; I’m tired. Let me know.
Author’s sidenote: Just a small argument that I made myself from all of this from throwing terms all over the walls and stuff:
If it is possible, then it is not actual*; and, if it is not actual, then it is not necessary**. Theforefore all possible things are not necessary.
*For a possible thing is not actualized, rather it is in potency.
**For it is contingent thing.