Life Driven Purpose, pg 137

Jun 28, 2016

One way to show why Bertrand Russell thought the ontological argument was bad grammar is to point out its reductio ad absurdum when applied to something other than God. Anselm’s eleventh-century version of the ontological argument went something like this:
1. God is a being than which no greater being can be conceived.
2. If God exists only in conception, and not in reality, then he could be conceived to be greater than he is.
3. Therefore, God must exist in reality.
This silly argument was countered in Anselm’s day by Gaunilo, who used it to “prove” the existence of a perfect island. But we could do the same thing with nothingness:
1. Utter nothingness is a void than which no greater void can be conceived.
2. If utter nothingness exists only in conception, and not in reality, then it can be conceived to be greater than it is.
3. Therefore, utter nothingness must exist in reality.
Therefore, nothing exists. Putting the two bad-grammar arguments together, we could prove that God is Utter Nothingness.

Dan Barker, Life Driven Purpose, pg 137


Discuss!

7 comments on “Life Driven Purpose, pg 137

  • Therefore, nothing exists.

    This does not follow from the specious proof that “utter nothingness” exists, and is yet another example of woolly thinking by Dan Barker. To say that utter nothingness exists is not to say that nothing exists.

    Of course these arguments are silly, and I hope this is the last quote we see from this rather muddled ex-Christian evangelist.



    Report abuse

  • @OP – One way to show why Bertrand Russell thought the ontological argument was bad grammar is to point out its reductio ad absurdum when applied to something other than God. Anselm’s eleventh-century version of the ontological argument went something like this:

    This has been kicked around for centuries!
    Physical existence cannot be added to a mental concept simply by adding a word to the definition or a CONCEPT of existence to the original mental concept!

    There is some comment on the mental ramblings and semantic shufflings of various philosophers on this link:-

    http://stephenlaw.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/anselms-argument.html



    Report abuse

  • I am, as you all must surely know, a strong critic of religion. But if you are interested in reading a profound theologian (perhaps the only one), I’d encourage you all to read Soren Kierkegaard. He has presented the ethical-religious life as faith and as something in direct opposition to reason. He makes no bones about that. He sought to establish what he considered to be the authentic Christian mode of existence, and God is something to be understood ultimately in a moral sense. He would never try to prove anything. There are no arguments or proofs. There is faith and faith alone, and religion is a return to one’s primitivity, as he said. Christianity is a moral religion based on the premise that Man is a synthesis of body and spirit. Sin is selfishness. I have to catch a train and I am writing very fast.
    Read Kierkegaard. His essay Truth is Subjectivity is profound. (Concluding Unscientific Postscript) You will gain insight. Christianity is not scientific and will never be. I am a strong atheist, and I am opposed to all religions that claim that it can be supported by reasoned argument; but I, as a student of ideas and the experiences of the mind, am not entirely opposed to all forms of faith. I respect Kierkegaard’s conception of faith as renunciation.
    Christianity, finally, is a profound religion. Let us not kid ourselves or make the mistake of understanding Christ’s teachings or the dialectics of faith, the issue of faith, too quickly.



    Report abuse

  • 5 (cont.)

    I am not saying that I agree with Kierkegaard; nor am I defending Christianity; I am just pointing out that it is not just about proving or not proving God’s existence; that’s kind of boring. What I am saying is simply that Kierkegaard’s conception of Christian faith is highly complex, and that he was a superb and fascinating writer.



    Report abuse

  • To be honest, the ontological argument has always seemed so stupid to me, that it can simply be ignored.
    I’m not sure why so many philosophers spent time debunking or discussing it.
    It simply comes across as a way of self-proving that god exists, by saying that he does exist, based on erm…..not a lot really.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.