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SnoopDoug
Reply with quote  #1 
I think from just two premises we can establish that some necessary entity exists.  Whether this entity is God and possesses the other maximally excellent qualities is a matter of further inquiry, but I don't wish to labor on that point now.

1. It is necessarily the case that some entity exists. (Premise)

2. There is a possible state of affairs at which nothing contingent exists. (Premise)

It may be argued from these two premises alone that:

3. Therefore, a necessary entity exists. (From 1 and 2)

Assume (4): a necessary entity does not exist.  The conjunction (4) and (2) implies: (5) there is a possible state of affairs at which nothing at all exists.  After all, (4) asserts that the only entities that exist are contingent entities.  However, (5) contradicts (1).  Therefore, it is false that a necessary entity does not exist (by modus tollens).  By negation, it follows that a necessary entity exists.

This reductio ad absurdum is logically valid, but are premises (1) and (2) true?  (1) is a denial of the possibility of ontological nihilism.  It might be argued that a state of affairs at which nothing exists is self-contradictory, for then we are talking about an existing state of affairs.  (2) seems obviously true.  There is no apparent contradiction with the idea of nothing contingent existing.  Moreover, this seems to be a case in which the whole is like its parts.  Given that every contingent entity possibly fails to exist, it is only appropriate to conclude that the sum total of contingent entities possibly fails to exist.

Of course, the ontological argument sketched above may only demonstrate the existence of a necessary abstract object.  The atheist who adopts Platonism will be happy to accept the conclusion that a necessary entity exists, with the only caveat being that the necessary entity in question is an abstract object, as opposed to a concrete object.

It appears to me at least that if this particular ontological argument is sound, then the debate should turn to the nature of abstract objects.  Are abstract objects mind-independent entities (Platonism), or are they more akin to divine ideas, e.g. thoughts in the mind of God (conceptualism)?

Thoughts?

belorg
Reply with quote  #2 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoopDoug

1. It is necessarily the case that some entity exists. (Premise)

2. There is a possible state of affairs at which nothing contingent exists. (Premise)

It may be argued from these two premises alone that:

3. Therefore, a necessary entity exists. (From 1 and 2)

Assume (4): a necessary entity does not exist.  The conjunction (4) and (2) implies: (5) there is a possible state of affairs at which nothing at all exists.  After all, (4) asserts that the only entities that exist are contingent entities.  However, (5) contradicts (1).  Therefore, it is false that a necessary entity does not exist (by modus tollens).  By negation, it follows that a necessary entity exists.
This reductio ad absurdum is logically valid, but are premises (1) and (2) true?  (1) is a denial of the possibility of ontological nihilism.  It might be argued that a state of affairs at which nothing exists is self-contradictory, for then we are talking about an existing state of affairs. 


As far as I know, Snoopdoug, the possibility of ontological nihilism has never been actually proven false.  
The main question is: is 'completely nothing' really a state of affairs?
It could be a state, but it seems to me that there are no affairs, so I don't think it is accurate to say that there is a state of affairs at which nothing exists.
Furthermore, even if we grant that nothingness is a state of affairs, we can further ask whether a state of affairs is an entity. After all, you first premise does not say 'state of affairs' , it says 'entity'.


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(2) seems obviously true.  There is no apparent contradiction with the idea of nothing contingent existing.  Moreover, this seems to be a case in which the whole is like its parts.  Given that every contingent entity possibly fails to exist, it is only appropriate to conclude that the sum total of contingent entities possibly fails to exist.



I am not sure that 'the sum total' is necessarily like its parts. It might be that, although each part is contingent, the parts sustain each other, so that the sum total does not fail to exist.
Moreover, I think your argument against the possibility of ontological nihilism seems to contradict what you are saying here, because if ontologucal nihilism is impossible, then although every part may cease to exist, there would always be something left, namely the state of affairs of nothingness.
The 'sum total of everything that exists' would also include the state of affairs of nothingness (since you obviously treat this as an existing entity.)
Furthermore, since this state of affairs of nothingness is contingent (because once 'something' exists, let's say an elementary particle, the state of affairs of nothinghness ceases to exist) , you get the conclusion that it is necessary that something contingent always exists, although there is no neccesary being.

So let's reconsider your argument

1. It is necessarily the case that some entity exists. (Premise)

2. There is a possible state of affairs at which nothing contingent exists. (Premise)

(2) Does not follow if we treat nothingness as a state of affairs. Because if there is something contingent, then the state of nothingness does not exist and if that something contingent does not exist, then the contingent state of nothingness does exist.

So, there is no possible state of affairs at which nothing contingent exists.



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Of course, the ontological argument sketched above may only demonstrate the existence of a necessary abstract object. 


It may also demonstrate the existence of a necessary concrete object other than God.


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The atheist who adopts Platonism will be happy to accept the conclusion that a necessary entity exists, with the only caveat being that the necessary entity in question is an abstract object, as opposed to a concrete object.



Nowhere does your argument show that the necessary entity in question is an abstract object, Snoopdoug.

Quote:
It appears to me at least that if this particular ontological argument is sound, then the debate should turn to the nature of abstract objects.  Are abstract objects mind-independent entities (Platonism), or are they more akin to divine ideas, e.g. thoughts in the mind of God (conceptualism)?



If this particular ontological argument is sound, then the debate is about what exactly the necessary entity is. There are lots of different 'concrete' entities, so there is no need, for the time being, to narrow the debate down to the nature of abstract objects.
SnoopDoug
Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks for the reply, belorg.

The argument does commit us to states of affairs as entities.  For the nominalist, especially the one who espouses fictionalism, states of affairs do not exist at all.  I'm thinking more in terms of realism than nominalism.  I was taking a form of realism for granted when I posted the OP.  Since you ask, though, I would say that states of affairs are indispensable on any correspondence theory of truth.  Now, if something possesses the attribute of indispensability, then it must exist.  For, non-existent entities cannot possess any attributes whatsoever.

I do think the whole is like its parts in this case.  For the person who insists that nothing necessary exists, but some contingent entity or other must exist, we end up with all kinds of implausible results.  Would the non-existence of all non-unicorns imply that a unicorn exists?  Surely not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by belorg
(2) Does not follow if we treat nothingness as a state of affairs. Because if there is something contingent, then the state of nothingness does not exist and if that something contingent does not exist, then the contingent state of nothingness does exist.

So, there is no possible state of affairs at which nothing contingent exists.


As I said above, this leads to all kinds of absurd conclusions.  It's not as if nothingness is the entity being described.  Rather, it the state of affairs describing nothingness, and more specifically, the non-existence of contingent entities.  Once an elementary particle begins to exist, the state of affairs concerning that particle changes, but from this it doesn't follow that there is no necessary state of affairs.  For example, "it is necessarily the case that some state of affairs is actualized."  This state of affairs describing contingent states of affairs would be a necessary entity (again, assuming realism).

Quote:
Originally Posted by belorg
It may also demonstrate the existence of a necessary concrete object other than God.


Sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by belorg
Nowhere does your argument show that the necessary entity in question is an abstract object, Snoopdoug.


I agree.  I only brought up Platonism because it is often considered a viable alternative.

Quote:
If this particular ontological argument is sound, then the debate is about what exactly the necessary entity is. There are lots of different 'concrete' entities, so there is no need, for the time being, to narrow the debate down to the nature of abstract objects.


It's difficult for me to think of a state of affairs as anything other than an abstract object, but you're technically correct.

belorg
Reply with quote  #4 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoopDoug
Thanks for the reply, belorg.

The argument does commit us to states of affairs as entities.  For the nominalist, especially the one who espouses fictionalism, states of affairs do not exist at all.  I'm thinking more in terms of realism than nominalism.  I was taking a form of realism for granted when I posted the OP.  Since you ask, though, I would say that states of affairs are indispensable on any correspondence theory of truth.  Now, if something possesses the attribute of indispensability, then it must exist.  For, non-existent entities cannot possess any attributes whatsoever.

Well, I can accept this for the sake of the argument


Quote:
I do think the whole is like its parts in this case.  For the person who insists that nothing necessary exists, but some contingent entity or other must exist, we end up with all kinds of implausible results.  Would the non-existence of all non-unicorns imply that a unicorn exists?  Surely not.


No, it wouldn't, but I do not think my argument entails that it would.


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As I said above, this leads to all kinds of absurd conclusions. 

Well, if it does, it seems to be the logical conclusion from your argument, so if it leads to absurdities, that would be a consequence of your argument.
  

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It's not as if nothingness is the entity being described. 


It is not the entity being described, but it follows from your arguments that it is nevertheless an entity.


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Rather, it the state of affairs describing nothingness, and more specifically, the non-existence of contingent entities. 


Which, by your definition, is a contingent entity in itself.

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Once an elementary particle begins to exist, the state of affairs concerning that particle changes, but from this it doesn't follow that there is no necessary state of affairs.


But it does not follow that there is a necessary state of affairs either. 


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 For example, "it is necessarily the case that some state of affairs is actualized."  This state of affairs describing contingent states of affairs would be a necessary entity (again, assuming realism).


I see what you mean. But that would entail that the existence of some kind of contingent entity is necessary, but that no individual entity is necessary. I feel you are coming dangerously close to Russell's paradox here.
Anyway, it is still possible for the state of affairs of nothingness to be actualized.



Quote:

It's difficult for me to think of a state of affairs as anything other than an abstract object, but you're technically correct.



A state of affairs may be an abstract object, but your argument, if sound, leaves open the door for other necessery entities. It could be God, it could be a state of affairs but it could be some other entity too.
SnoopDoug
Reply with quote  #5 
I don't think I'm in danger of Russell's paradox.  I'm not talking about the set of all sets, or anything like that.  I'm simply saying that it is necessarily the case that some state of affairs or other is instantiated.  This necessity, albeit an abstract object, doesn't need to have a set of its set or anything like that.  The regress ends with the necessity of some state of affairs being instantiated.

By the way, I agree that some contingent state of affairs must be instantiated.  This is obviously of a much different breed than, "some concrete contingent entity or other must exist," but I realize you're not making that claim.  What I'm getting at is that while there must be some contingent state of affairs, that doesn't do away with there being a necessary state of affairs.

Just to clarify, premise (2) only states that there is a possible state of affairs at which no concrete contingent entity exists.  I should have included that qualification from the start.

belorg
Reply with quote  #6 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoopDoug
I don't think I'm in danger of Russell's paradox.  I'm not talking about the set of all sets, or anything like that.  I'm simply saying that it is necessarily the case that some state of affairs or other is instantiated.  This necessity, albeit an abstract object, doesn't need to have a set of its set or anything like that.  The regress ends with the necessity of some state of affairs being instantiated.

By the way, I agree that some contingent state of affairs must be instantiated.  This is obviously of a much different breed than, "some concrete contingent entity or other must exist," but I realize you're not making that claim.  What I'm getting at is that while there must be some contingent state of affairs, that doesn't do away with there being a necessary state of affairs.

Just to clarify, premise (2) only states that there is a possible state of affairs at which no concrete contingent entity exists.  I should have included that qualification from the start.


I honestly do not see how, even if your argument is sound , it states anything more than a trivial truth. It seems the conclusion is
"Some entity, whether concrete or abstract ,necessarily exists"
OK, I agree with that.
But does this contribute anything at all to the debate about the exsitence of God?
Does it refute any atheist claim?
E.g. does it refute the claim of some atheists that 'the universe just popped into existence?' No, it doesn't. Does it refute the claim that the universe itself is a necessary being? No it doesn't.

So, please don't take this personally, but this OA is not just modest, it is trivial.

Now, this isn't only a problem for your version, that I think all OA's are, if valid and sound, trivial. They do not contribudte anything substantial to the atheism-theism debate.
SnoopDoug
Reply with quote  #7 
Take a look at some nominalists', especially fictionalists', work.  They deny the existence of abstract objects.  I don't take your criticism personally, by the way.  However, whether something, anything at all, is necessary, isn't just a trivial matter.  It may be obvious to you and me, but obviousness isn't the same as triviality.

Now, when it comes to God's existence, I mentioned earlier that the argument can be used as part of the conceptualist argument.  You see, if abstract objects exist and have necessary existence, then the question is whether they are mind-independent or conceptual in nature.  If they are conceptual, as I propose they are, then they cannot be the concepts of just any mind.  For there are possible worlds in which you and I (contingent minds) do not exist.  Rather, they would have to be concepts of a necessary mind, which has significant theistic implications.

belorg
Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoopDoug
Take a look at some nominalists', especially fictionalists', work.  They deny the existence of abstract objects. 


Yes, there are good arguments against the actual existence of abstract objects, and there are arguments in favour of abstract objects. Personally I do not belive abstract objects actually exist.


 
Quote:
I don't take your criticism personally, by the way.  However, whether something, anything at all, is necessary, isn't just a trivial matter.
It may be obvious to you and me, but obviousness isn't the same as triviality.
 


I fail to see any sort of consequence for both the theist and the atheist of conceding that 'Something, whether concrte or abstract, is necessary'. That's what I mean by 'trivial', I don't conflate trivial with obvious.



Quote:
Now, when it comes to God's existence, I mentioned earlier that the argument can be used as part of the conceptualist argument.  You see, if abstract objects exist and have necessary existence, then the question is whether they are mind-independent or conceptual in nature. 


That would be true if your argument showed that abstract objects exist and are necessary. But it only says that some things, abstract or concrete, are necessary, not that abstract things are necessary.



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If they are conceptual, as I propose they are, then they cannot be the concepts of just any mind. 


If they exist necessarily, no they can't. But you will first have to prove it, and your argument does not seem to do so. 


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For there are possible worlds in which you and I (contingent minds) do not exist.


That's true.

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Rather, they would have to be concepts of a necessary mind, which has significant theistic implications.


Yes, they would have significant theistic impliciations, but there would also be significant problems. E.g. the necessary mind you are talking about, would have to be a necessary concrete entity. But if there is a necessary concrete entity, then, from your argument, it does not follow there are also necessary abstract entities.
So while I believe some case could be made for necessary abstract entities , your argument does not show they exist.

SnoopDoug
Reply with quote  #9 
I think there might be a misunderstanding here.  I call the argument modest because I'm making a very very minimal claim.  Something necessary, abstract or concrete, exists.  That's all I'm arguing.  Whether abstract objects exist, and whether they are divine ideas is interesting, but beyond the purview of the original post.  I would just assume that people would naturally associate states of affairs as abstract.

By the way, I agree that God's mind would be a concrete entity.  In fact, a large part of the ontology I adopt is that a concrete necessary mind is needed to ground abstract objects in order to make sense of how abstract objects are known by any concrete minds.  Granted, I haven't offered an argument for this, but I figure I at least owe you an explanation.

belorg
Reply with quote  #10 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoopDoug
I think there might be a misunderstanding here.  I call the argument modest because I'm making a very very minimal claim. 
Quote:

Tes, I know why you call it modest.

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Something necessary, abstract or concrete, exists.  That's all I'm arguing. 


OK, but that is trivially true and does not add much to the discussion.

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Whether abstract objects exist, and whether they are divine ideas is interesting, but beyond the purview of the original post.  I would just assume that people would naturally associate states of affairs as abstract.


I do not think that a concrete state of affairs like, e.g. 'a universe' or ' a God'' is abstract.

Quote:
By the way, I agree that God's mind would be a concrete entity.  In fact, a large part of the ontology I adopt is that a concrete necessary mind is needed to ground abstract objects in order to make sense of how abstract objects are known by any concrete minds. 


Yes, but God's mind is a concrete state of affairs, so why would anyone associate this with an abstract state of affairs? Your argument shows that some kind of entity is necessary, now, you have this kind of entity, namely, God's concrete mind, but then you cannot go on claiming that your argument also shows the neceesary existence of abstract entities, because it doesn't. 
 

Quote:
Granted, I haven't offered an argument for this, but I figure I at least owe you an explanation.


You don't have to offer an argument for conceptualism, because that's beyond the scope of this thread. If you ever want to start a thread on the conceptualist argument, however, you can expect a few replies from me, because I see lots of problems with it. 
SnoopDoug
Reply with quote  #11 
I don't know what it means to call a state of affairs "concrete."  I agree that God and the universe are concrete, but it doesn't make any sense to me to call these things "states of affairs."  States of affairs are about concrete objects.  I never set out to demonstrate the existence of a necessary abstract object, just something necessary.  Besides, I've already explained why I think this is non-trivial, but I regress.
belorg
Reply with quote  #12 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoopDoug
I don't know what it means to call a state of affairs "concrete."  I agree that God and the universe are concrete, but it doesn't make any sense to me to call these things "states of affairs."  States of affairs are about concrete objects.  I never set out to demonstrate the existence of a necessary abstract object, just something necessary.  Besides, I've already explained why I think this is non-trivial, but I regress.


'The universe is a concrete entity', this is about a concrete entity. Now, in what way does 'the universe is a concrete entity' differ from 'the universe exist?' Or just plain 'the universe'? Isn't the universe a state?  Something that exists is in a state, in the case of the universe a concrete state, in tyhe case of the number 2, an abstract state.
SnoopDoug
Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by belorg
'The universe is a concrete entity', this is about a concrete entity. Now, in what way does 'the universe is a concrete entity' differ from 'the universe exist?'


As with the propositional content of any statement, it depends on the meaning of the words used in these distinct statements.  "The universe is a concrete entity" does not necessarily imply that the universe exists.  "A unicorn is a concrete entity" is a true proposition, but surely that doesn't commit us to any claim about the ontological status of unicorns. 

Quote:
Something that exists is in a state, in the case of the universe a concrete state, in tyhe case of the number 2, an abstract state.


Absolutely, but that doesn't have any bearing on the nature of states themselves.  It might help if we talk about propositions instead.  "The universe exists" and "the number 2 exists" are both propositions.  P1 describes a concrete entity, whereas p2 an abstract entity.  Yet in both instances, the proposition is abstract.
belorg
Reply with quote  #14 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoopDoug
Quote:
Originally Posted by belorg
'The universe is a concrete entity', this is about a concrete entity. Now, in what way does 'the universe is a concrete entity' differ from 'the universe exist?'


As with the propositional content of any statement, it depends on the meaning of the words used in these distinct statements.  "The universe is a concrete entity" does not necessarily imply that the universe exists.  "A unicorn is a concrete entity" is a true proposition, but surely that doesn't commit us to any claim about the ontological status of unicorns. 

 

I don't think 'a unicorn is a concrete entity' is a true proposition, but never mind.



Quote:

Absolutely, but that doesn't have any bearing on the nature of states themselves.  It might help if we talk about propositions instead.  "The universe exists" and "the number 2 exists" are both propositions.  P1 describes a concrete entity, whereas p2 an abstract entity.  Yet in both instances, the proposition is abstract.


Yes, but we are not talking about propositions, we are talking about entities.
Your argument, if sound, shows that at least one necessary entity exists and that said entity can be concrte or abstract.
Now, let's say only one concrete object necessarily exists (call it C). This is consistent with your argument, although no abstract entity exists.
C exist necessarily and nothing else. This does not commit us to say that the abstract proposition 'C exists' also exists. If it did, it would lead to an infinite regress of entities, and that's why I was referring ro Russell's paradox.
For then there exist two entities: 'C' + the proposition 'C exists', which means there are actually 3 entities: 'C'+ 'C exist' +'"both C and 'C exists" exist', which means there are 4 entities etc.



SnoopDoug
Reply with quote  #15 
Quote:
Originally Posted by belorg
I don't think 'a unicorn is a concrete entity' is a true proposition, but never mind.


Do you at least agree that there is a difference between "a unicorn is a concrete entity" and "a unicorn exists"?

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Yes, but we are not talking about propositions, we are talking about entities.
Your argument, if sound, shows that at least one necessary entity exists and that said entity can be concrte or abstract.


I'm with you so far.

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C exist necessarily and nothing else. This does not commit us to say that the abstract proposition 'C exists' also exists. If it did, it would lead to an infinite regress of entities, and that's why I was referring ro Russell's paradox.


Obviously there's no set of all sets.  If my argument implied this, then I would indeed be suspect to Russell's paradox.  However, why do states of affairs have to imply states of affairs about states of affairs, and so on?  Why not just end the regress with a maximal description of reality, as in most theories of possible worlds?
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