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Reply with quote  #1 
Let me begin by making it clear that I am a Christian. However, I think there is value in attempting to understand a contrary position to one's own, and a good exercise for doing that, I think, is to try and construct the best possible argument for that position.

I have given careful thought to atheism and have subsequently constructed two arguments in its favor (the other argument I call the "Inverse Cosmological Argument", which I will post in the "create your own subject" section).

I have called this argument the "Inverse Ontological Argument" (for reasons I hope will be apparent), and it has a strong and weak version.

Strong Inverse Ontological Argument (SIOA)
1. God is, by definition, the greatest conceivable being.
2. A being beyond language (i.e. a being so great language cannot express anything about it) is greater than a being in which language can at express at least some truths about it.
3. A proposition which expresses at least one truth about a being of which no truths can be expressed is a necessarily false proposition.
4. God is a being beyond language.(1,2)
5.The proposition "God exists" is a proposition which expresses at least one truth about a being of which no truths can be expressed. (4)
6. The proposition "God exists" is a necessarily false proposition. (3,5)
7. Necessarily, God does not exist. (6) Q.E.D

Weak Inverse Ontological Argument (WIOA)
8. God is, by definition, the greatest conceivable being.
9. A being beyond language (i.e. a being so great language cannot express anything about it) is greater than a being in which language can at express at least some truths about it.
10. There is no logical or epistemological justification in affirming that a being which is beyond language exists.
11. God is beyond language. (8,9)
12. There is no logical or epistemelogical justification in affirming "God exists." (10,11) Q.E.D

I realize these arguments need some work, but please let me know your take on them.
Best,


Reply with quote  #2 

Quote:
2. A being beyond language (i.e. a being so great language cannot express anything about it) is greater than a being in which language can at express at least some truths about it.

This seems necessarily false. A being which is impersonal, for example, cannot be the source of moral law, be the cause of the physical universe, or anything of the sort. A being utterly beyond language can't even be said to exist, so the very concept is incoherent.
Reply with quote  #3 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charles
2. A being beyond language (i.e. a being so great language cannot express anything about it) is greater than a being in which language can at express at least some truths about it.



I agree, there's something wrong with this part.

Quote:
Originally Posted by charles
5.The proposition "God exists" is a proposition which expresses at least one truth about a being of which no truths can be expressed.



Perhaps you would have to say the same thing about the proposition "God does not exist," making premise #7 violate premise #3.

I'm not sure about that though.
Reply with quote  #4 
Quote:
This seems necessarily false. A being which is impersonal, for example, cannot be the source of moral law, be the cause of the physical universe, or anything of the sort. A being utterly beyond language can't even be said to exist, so the very concept is incoherent.


I don't understand. Why is an ineffable being (one which cannot be spoken of) necessarily an impersonal being? And why, if one cannot say of X 'X exists' does it follow that the concept of X or X itself is incoherent?

Quote:
Perhaps you would have to say the same thing about the proposition "God does not exist," making premise #7 violate premise #3.


Ah, that is a good point. I think you have something there.

I think another problem might be the notion of a greatest CONCEIVABLE being. For is something is ineffable, it is inconceivable. Hence, this argument is suggesting that the greatest conceivable being must be inconceivable. Perhaps a better way of phrasing (1) and (8) would be to use the notion of a greatest POSSIBLE being. Then, by definition, the concept is coherent.
Reply with quote  #5 
Quote:
Originally Posted by charles

1. God is, by definition, the greatest conceivable being.
2. A being beyond language (i.e. a being so great language cannot express anything about it) is greater than a being in which language can at express at least some truths about it.

The problems I have with this are the same problems I have with the ontological argument for the existence of god-
1. We are severely limiting god if he is only as great as I can conceive.
2. Why is being "beyond language" objectively greater than being within language, at least partially? 
3. This assumes there is some objective concept of greatness.
4. Specific to yours, it seems that you are actually saying that a god that is unknowable is greater than a god that is knowable and I think that might be problematic.
5. Just because you define the word "god" to mean something, doesn't mean that it does/could exist (or in this case, does not exist). ("you can't define something into existence")
6. I know there are "more smarter" rebuttals out there, but this argument has always struck me as being philosophically dishonest.  It seems to me that the whole argument, in logical garb, essentially is that "god exists (or fails to exist) because that's the way I have defined it."
Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Perhaps you would have to say the same thing about the proposition "God does not exist," making premise #7 violate premise #3.


You know I have given your criticism some thought, and I think it really does present a knock down refutation of the SIOA.

One premise is all that is needed:

(13) The proposition 'God does not exist' is a proposition which expresses at least one truth about a being of which no truths can be expressed.

From this and (3) of my argument we then conclude

(14) The proposition 'God does not exist' is a necessarily false proposition.

And from this it follows

(15) Necessarily, God exists.

Contradicting (7).

So premises (1)-(3) and (13) form an incoherent set of premises. Now here is the fatal problem: either (13) is true or it is false. If it is true, then one of the premises of the SIOA is false, and so it is unsound. But if (13) is false, then so is (4), and if (4) is false, then either (1) or (2) is false, and, again the argument is unsound. Therefore, the argument is unsound.

I think that pretty much refutes the SIOA. But what about the WIOA? Any thoughts?
Reply with quote  #7 
I am a Christian, and I find the argument valid. But I think this is definitely related to Kantian demarcators of the noumenal, and the phenomenal. If we can only speak of the phenomenal, which Carnap would have agreed with, then we can not speak of the phenomenal. Even if we use some Kantian transcendental framework for establishing the existence of the noumenal, our language would only need to be consistent and sufficient, rather than true.

The IOA can not be refuted with the use of language, without denying the argument it's epistemological right to define it's own terms. If a being can not possibly be spoken about, then all language-based arguments in all possible worlds do not speak of it. When we think we are speaking about it, we really are not.

The retort would be to invoke fundamental laws of logic such as the law of identity, and the excluded middle, but logic makes use of language. Logic is logical, but this could very well be a noumenal category which we use to make sense of the phenomenal world. It may be necessary for us to use, but we could never prove that logic is 'true'  or represents anything factual about reality, without begging the question.

The fatal flaw of the IOA is, however, that it uses words itself to define a being which can not be talked of in words. A way to make the IOA a lasting and potentially formidable argument, would be to relegate such a being to the noumenal world, and deny it's existence or provability, just as idealists deny the provability of the external world. This may not be a popular move, but there are no refutations of idealism which stand up to logical scrutiny. In effect, the IOA would be a good argument for agnosticism.
Reply with quote  #8 
I think a good topic for discussion which is somewhat related, would be the concept of a being which does not require proof for belief. Would such a being be greater than a being which does require proof for our justified belief in it? But not to hijack this thread, thanks for  this topic of the IOA. I personally find that it opens up new concepts to explore in regards to the OA.
Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
The IOA can not be refuted with the use of language, without denying the argument it's epistemological right to define it's own terms.


I'm not sure I agree. One could contest that God, classically conceived, is not a being of which we cannot speak of.

But your point about not being able to speak about an ineffable being in any possible world does demonstrate a fatal weakness in both arguments: premise (2) and (9) both say somehting about an ineffable being, namely, that it is greater than one of which we can speak! 

Quote:
A way to make the IOA a lasting and potentially formidable argument, would be to relegate such a being to the noumenal world


By "such a being" do you mean an ineffable one? If so, then any such premise would suffer the same fatal flaw as (2) and (9).

Quote:
I think a good topic for discussion which is somewhat related, would be the concept of a being which does not require proof for belief. Would such a being be greater than a being which does require proof for our justified belief in it? But not to hijack this thread


Feel free to "hijack" this thread all you want: that is an excellent suggestion. If true, then God would have to be a being that can be captured by language, otherwise it would be impossible to believe in him!

I appreciate all your comments. I can tell you are well educated in philosophy.
Reply with quote  #10 

I think that the argument can be supported, if we understand that logic is systematic, much as arithmetic is a system, and just as there are different systems of arithmetic, we can not deny the existence of different systems of logic, without imposing our laws of logic upon it. If we differentiate between an object named, and an object described, then we can call a being 'blark', which we can not deny whether it may exist in a different region of logical space. It may be seemingly meaningless or self-contradictory to refer to 'un-intensionables', just as it may be to refer to the meinongian round-square, but possibly a being can not be referred to, exists in the same world of the round-square, ie. Meinong's jungle.

Such a being would be both effable and ineffable. This is logically impossible, but only so far as our particular system of logic. In the end, what we have is akin to the question of whether the 'existent round-square' exists. Essentially it does, and existentially, it doesn't.


This would open up doors to questions of priority between analytic statements and synthetic statements. If it is analytic to say that, existent p exists, then it is also analytic to say that ineffable p is ineffable. On the other hand, if there are zero existential 'p's, then what are we to do with seemingly analytic propositions?

Personally, I think that the word 'exists' or 'existence', are as meaningful as the word 'is'.

Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Such a being would be both effable and ineffable. This is logically impossible, but only so far as our particular system of logic.


I do not think there is any system of logic worth its salt that would allow contradictions. Any such system would violate the law of non-contradiction, which is a first principle of logic, and, as such, should always be assumed in any logical system.

Quote:
If it is analytic to say that, existent p exists, then it is also analytic to say that ineffable p is ineffable.


Right, but I do not think this exonerates (2) and (9) from the fatal flaw I spoke of earlier (if this is what you are getting at with this statement). For to say that an ineffable p is ineffable is to say that 'for any p, if p is ineffable, then it is ineffable', which is a conditional that doesn't actually state anything about any particular 'p'. If we instead say 'that specific ineffable p is ineffable' then I think we have commited a contradiction, since, if something is ineffable it cannot be referred to, as the previous sentence does. We might be able to refer to a specific thing with a rigid designator, like a proper name, but even if we successfully name an ineffable thing (perhaps by saying "I use the name 'Blark' to refer to one ineffable thing"), as you correctly pointed out in your last post, there is a distinction between naming somehting and describing it. The problem is to call something ineffable is to describe it. Hence, we cannot coherently say, "Blark is ineffable."

Quote:
Personally, I think that the word 'exists' or 'existence', are as meaningful as the word 'is'.


Do you mean you do not think the word "exists" has any meaning? For I think the word 'is' does have meaning, one of which is the same meaning as 'exists'.

Quote:
It may be seemingly meaningless or self-contradictory to refer to 'un-intensionables', just as it may be to refer to the meinongian round-square, but possibly a being can not be referred to, exists in the same world of the round-square, ie. Meinong's jungle.


I'm afraid you've lost me. What are 'un-intensionals' and what is Meinong's jungle? As for an 'existent round square', I think it is a contradiction couched in seemingly meaningful garb. Remember, Russell's point in using that example was to demonstrate to Copleston that something can sound meaningful and actually be meaningless (which he thought the notion of a 'necessary being' was).
Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
If we instead say 'that specific ineffable p is ineffable' then I think we have commited a contradiction, since, if something is ineffable it cannot be referred to, as the previous sentence does. 


I definitely agree with you that it would be a contradiction, but it wouldn't be meaningless. It would be a predicate of any particular ineffable being, that it be incoherent. I use the example of the existent round square because Russell's arguments concerning it, with Meinong, are relevant to our discussion. Meinong's reply to Russell, is that the law of contradiction can only apply to existent objects, and not to non-being, therefore the law of contradiction is actually an argument for the existence of the round-square, and in our case, of the ineffable blark. The concept of a non-existent being is itself self-contradictory.

My basis for affirming the possibility of a different system of logic, comes from the 'Uniqueness Of Conceptual Framework Objection' of Kantian transcendentals. Even if it is necessary for us to believe in the external world, it does not preclude that it is the only possible model of thought. The concept of cause/effect may be necessary and inescapable for us, but necessary function of mind, can not dictate whether one's thoughts are true or not. The law of contradiction, as well as all of logic, may be necessary to us, and the thought of discarding them absurd, but this is irrelevant.
Just as we can not prove the reality of a world external to our minds, we can not prove that logically necessary propositions are true, without begging the question.
Reply with quote  #13 

I would maintain that synthetic propositions, such as our describing an ineffable being, are in a different sphere of thought, to analytic propositions -- just as induction is different to deduction. Analyticity is strictly determined by semantic rule, not by experience.


 
Reply with quote  #14 
Quote:
Meinong's reply to Russell, is that the law of contradiction can only apply to existent objects, and not to non-being, therefore the law of contradiction is actually an argument for the existence of the round-square, and in our case, of the ineffable blark.


I am afraid I am unfamiliar with this debate. I do not follow the argument. Is it that since the existent round square is a contradiction and contradictions only apply to existent things, therefore the existent round square exists? I do not follow. Contradictory things do not exist in any possible world. On this argument every contradictory thing exists.

Also, are you suggesting that a similar argument applies to the ineffable blark?

Quote:
The law of contradiction, as well as all of logic, may be necessary to us, and the thought of discarding them absurd, but this is irrelevant.
Just as we can not prove the reality of a world external to our minds, we can not prove that logically necessary propositions are true, without begging the question.


I suppose I agree, though I do not know what notion of "possible" you mean when you hold that it is possible for our system of logic to be false. Epistemic?
Reply with quote  #15 
BTW: I just looked up Meinong's jungle. I did not know it was his view Russell was responding to when he wrote his 'On Denoting'. It is also interesting to read how people have defended Meinong's notion of nonexistent objects by appeal to possible world semantics.

It sounds as though Meinong argued that non-existent objects have some kind of being because we are able to refer to them. I think Russell successfully showed the flaw in this reasoning by showing that such statements as 'The king of France is bald' entail the existence of the king of France, and for this reason are false. I'm sure you already know all about this, though.

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