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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 1: Wed Mar 22, 2017 4:12 pm
Modal Ontological Argument

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Hi, welcome to what I hope will be the first of many essays on DC’n’R.
The topic for this is the Modal Ontological Argument and the recent debate I had with For_The_Kingdom on that topic.

The MOA is a fascinating argument in my eyes, but not for the reasons that its proponents might think. FtK expressed admiration for it, and I have heard other people put it forward as though it actually does prove the existence of God.
However, what these people fail to consider is that the existence of something in the real world (i.e., the world that you and I inhabit) can never be established through logical arguments alone. The MOA seeks to do that however. It says in its conclusion “Therefore, the MGB exists”, as if I the reader am supposed to nod my head.

The main problem I tackled in my debate was what I call the bait and switch. I honestly doubt that FtK did it knowingly. The bait and switch has to do with the usage of the word ‘possible’. In a preamble, prior to the argument proper, possible is explained in a contingent sense i.e. it may be true, or it may not be true.
However, once we get to the argument proper, that is no longer the case. The argument as worded doesn’t allow for the possibility that it may not be true: attempting to construct a sentence with that in mind leads to meaningless gibberish. As I said in the debate, it’s like a loaded die: you think it can roll any one of a sequence of numbers, but it can only ever give the one result. It’s the same here: the argument as worded only allows for the one result, it pretends to allow for {it may not be true}, but it actually doesn’t.

I never tackled whether or not the MOA is logically sound. I had plans to do that, but my opponent threw in the towel. While I may never have taken a formal logic class, what I have learned about logical arguments is that soundness relates to the real world, i.e., something that is actually true.
The MOA seeks to declare something true about the real world completely via an argument, which is something we tend not to do for anything else.
In fact...of what use is the MOA? What purpose is it? A non-believing skeptic like myself would never be satisfied by it. We would seek something else, some evidence from the real world. Has anyone been convinced of the existence of God via meeting the MOA?

The Maximally Great Being in the MOA is given certain properties, defined in a way and then just declared to exist. It is defined as maximally powerful, maximally knowledgable, omni-present.
The trick (apart from the bait and switch earlier that I mentioned) is that the being is defined in a way and then presumably accepted by both parties in the debate. Once the definition is accepted, the ‘A-ha!” is pulled. The person arguing against the MOA (myself in this instance) would be left powerless to do anything. How can I argue that the being in question is anywhere after having already accepted that the being, by definition, is everywhere?
So my tactic is to not accept the definition of the MGB. Readers of the debate will notice that not once in the debate did I ever actually accept the MGB as defined. I never expressed an opinion on it.
I question the omni traits given to the MGB. Is it even plausible for a being to be omniscient, that is, to know everything? I don’t know, and I honestly don’t think so. I think the problem of unknown unknowns puts a restriction on any potential entity to be actually omniscient.
The person putting forth the MOA seeks to have their opponent agree outright that these traits are plausible, even possible, when in the real world, they have not yet been established as such.
Is it even possible for us to imagine such a being? What would omniscience ‘look like’ so to speak?
A question I would have liked to ask FtK would have been to establish that something that is maximally great in a sense (any sense) is even plausible. I would have challenged him to consider a maximally great circle, or a perfect circle. Does such a thing exist in the real world? Can it exist?
FtK may have answered that he can imagine it, conceive of it, but that is a far cry from the real world. Do perfect circles exist in the real world? I don’t think so. We can attempt to construct such a circle, but if we examine it up close, we can find flaws in it.
As far as I am concerned, the definition of the Maximally Great Being is on logically shaky ground. No evidence is put forth, or even considered, to show that an entity with omni- traits of one kind or another can even exist. No, it’s just “I define it as existing everywhere, therefore it does”.
My thoughts on the debate, rather than just the argument, are a bit varied. My main criticism of my opponent is that he seemingly was unaware of what the actual topic of debate was...despite the fact that he was the one who gave the wording of it. He seemed more prepared to argue for the existence of the Maximally Great Being, than he was the logical validity and soundness of the Modal Ontological Argument (or lack thereof as I hope I successfully showed).

Criticisms of myself? I wasn’t as erudite as I could have been. Some of my responses didn’t have much thought put into them (although this is not an admission that I think they were flawed). The structure of some of my responses read like a typical post on the forum, rather than as part of a back and forth in a formal debate.

Overall, if anyone ever does dive into the world of theology or Christian apologetics, I recommend studying up on the Modal Ontological Argument. Study its flaws, study why its proponents promote it despite these flaws.

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