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Wednesday, May 22, 2024


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Do you have any good references for conceivability and possibility, especially references that better exfoliate the argument you were making?

Thanks as always for sharing thought-provoking posts.

Hi Bill,

In reference to my previous question, I did some poking around on the inter-tubes and found:

Gendler, T., & Hawthorne, J. (2011). Conceivability and possibility. Clarendon Press.

Mallozzi, Antonella, Anand Vaidya, and Michael Wallner, "The Epistemology of Modality", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2024 Edition), Edward N. Zalta & Uri Nodelman (eds.), forthcoming URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2024/entries/modality-epistemology/>.

Hi, Bill. I agree with you that the MOA is not conclusive, though it helps to render theism rationally acceptable.

The MOA rests on the possibility premise. As you note, conceivability by finite minds does not entail possibility. And the deontic argument for the PP is interesting but not dispositive.

There is also the argument from Leibniz that positive attributes are logically consistent and that since God’s essential attributes are positive, they are consistent. Hence, God is possible. It does seem that God’s essential attributes are consistent, but I don’t think that we can be epistemically certain about this.

I find the MOA fascinating. For one thing, the PP prompts inquiring minds to engage in conceptual analysis regarding the divine properties, which is a major wonder-motivating activity.

There is also Nagasawa’s “Maximal God” thesis, which he argues entails the PP.

The idea is that God is, by definition, the metaphysically greatest possible being, and thus that God has the best possible, logically consistent combination of great-making attributes (whatever these attributes turn out to be). In other words, God possesses the maximally consistent set of excellent properties. Since this combination is and must be consistent, God is logically possible. Nagasawa (p. 204) puts it as follows: “In other words, the maximal concept of God is by definition internally coherent because its components are mutually consistent (and internally coherent). This guarantees the possibility of the existence of God.”

One concern I have with Nagasawa’s argument is that if the best possible, logically consistent combination of great-making attributes turns out not to be so great after all, then it’s hard to see why any being who might possess this combination would be worthy of worship. What if the best possible, logically consistent combination of great-making attributes enables the existence of a superhuman but non-divine being?


Yujin Nagasawa. Maximal God: A New Defence of Perfect Being Theism. (Oxford University Press; 1st edition, 2017).


>>n other words, God possesses the maximally consistent set of excellent properties.<<

This formulation begs the question since God cannot possess anything unless he exists.

Whether this criticism touches Nagasawa, I don't know.

Gotta go. Thanks for the comments.


Yes, it's question begging to assume that God exists and then use that assumption to defend the conclusion that God exists. I doubt Nagasawa's argument begs the question like that.

If we consider the quotation, he refers to the "concept of God" having components that are consistent and coherent. Perhaps I should have made that point clearer in my set up.

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