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Sunday, May 09, 2010


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Hi Dr. Vallicella,

I love your blog. I stumbled across it a few months ago. I am a young armchair philosopher hoping someday to make a living at it. Your blog is very insightful and I enjoy hashing out the ideas you present.

This is actually, if I am correct, what Plantinga argues in his modal ontological argument. Either God is possible and therefore exists, or He is impossible and cannot exist. But I think the strength with that lies with the seeming ridiculous notion, IMO, that it is impossible that God exist. It certainly seems possible that He exists. After all we can conceive of Him.

Equally, we can conceive of him not existing. So conceivability tells us nothing here, even if the noncontingency of God is correct.

Hi Brennon,

Glad you like the blog. Yes, it is a key ingredient in Plantinga's modal OA, but the idea is in Leibniz and first in St Anselm in Prosblogion III.

You are assuming that conceivability entails possibility. But it is not clear that it does. The fact that my concept of X harbors no logical contradiction does not suffice to show that X is really possible, thought itmight provide defeasible evidence of it.

If the conceivability of God's existence entails the possibility of God's existence, then the conceivability of God's nonexistence would entail the possibility of God's nonexistence, which would in turn entail God's nonexistence. And surely one can conceive of God's nonexistence.

I think one can conclude that conceivability is no sure guide to possibility.

I see.

But then, if we conceived of God not existing, wouldn't the notion of God being the being of which none greater can be conceived come into play? If this being does not exist, then can we not conceive of a greater being? Namely one who does exist? That would mean we aren't actually conceiving of the maximally great being until we actually conceive of Him existing.

I suppose the argument there hinges on if existence is a property that makes one "great."

You are reverting to the Proslogion II argument. (I note that above I erroneously referred to Proslogion III as ProsBLOGion III!)

You are right: the II argument hinges on whether or not existence is a great-making property.

But even if we assume that it is better to exist than not to exist, one cannot, as far as I can see, view existence as a property that could be included in anything's concept, not even the concept of "That than which no greater can be conceived."

Whether or not the maximally great being exists, the object before a finite mind will be the same. So I reject the Proslogion II argument and also the related ontol. arg. we find in Descartes. Meditation III.

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