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    1. #1
      Xei
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      Anslem's Argument

      I just came across this old 'proof' of the existence of God which has apparently been extensively studied. I don't mean this thread to be particularly deep, but my problem is basically this: either I'm being thick, or it is simply logically incoherent.

      1. God is something of which nothing greater can be thought.
      2. God exists in the understanding.
      3. It is greater to exist in reality and in the understanding than just in understanding.
      4. Therefore, God exists in reality.

      That literally makes no sense to me. To me it simply sounds something like

      1. Apples exist.
      2. Therefore flying pigs exist.

      I really can't see how it makes any sense at all. Anybody care to explain?

    2. #2
      Cosmic Citizen ExoByte's Avatar
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      It seems to me like its saying "Because you can imagine something exists, it must exist." It has a weird way of saying it, but neither instance is logical.

      Its saying that because we can imagine God and that he is the greatest thing that can be imagined, he must exist and be the greatest. Very flawed logic.

    3. #3
      Xei
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      Indeed... where is it proved that all 'great thoughts' actually exist?

      I'm glad it's not just me.

      I think the majority of philosophers must be pseudointellectual delusionals... the argument isn't worth the time it took to read.

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      I see it as:

      Because God can exist, he will exist.

      Also his second argument:

      1. God is the entity of which nothing greater can be thought.
      2. It is greater to be necessary than not.
      3. God must therefore be necessary.
      4. Hence, God exists necessarily.

    5. #5
      Xei
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      Necessary for what?

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      This is how I perceive it:

      1. God is the greatest thing anybody can ever think of.
      2. God exists in the mind.
      3. It is greater to exist in reality and the mind than just in the mind.
      4. Since God is so great, if we can imagine him then he exists in reality too.

      Like Exo said, very flawed logic. Proof? Hah! I pity whoever studied this one.

      Edit: Since God is the greatest thing anybody can ever think of and he exists in some form, then he must exist in reality because he's that great.
      Last edited by Black_Eagle; 05-21-2009 at 04:52 PM.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      I just came across this old 'proof' of the existence of God which has apparently been extensively studied. I don't mean this thread to be particularly deep, but my problem is basically this: either I'm being thick, or it is simply logically incoherent.

      1. God is something of which nothing greater can be thought.
      2. God exists in the understanding.
      3. It is greater to exist in reality and in the understanding than just in understanding.
      4. Therefore, God exists in reality.

      That literally makes no sense to me. To me it simply sounds something like

      1. Apples exist.
      2. Therefore flying pigs exist.

      I really can't see how it makes any sense at all. Anybody care to explain?
      Xei, Anslem was overly religious and a favorite of the church. Is their any wonder? It's been awhile but the argument went like this...
      .
      1. God is greater than anything that can be conceived
      2. It's greater to exist in both reality and mind than just one.
      3. It's impossible for God to not exist if he is greater than anything conceived.
      4. Therefore God exists.


      You'd probably enjoy what Gaunilo said more.

      Gaunilo put forward a remarkably simple reductio ad absurdum to discredit Anselm's logic. In his "On Behalf of the Fool" Gaunilo suggests that we replace the concept of "God" with that of a mythical "Lost Island" He defines this Island as superlative above all other Islands, mirroring Anselm's definition of God as aliquid quo maius cogitari non potest. As such, he uses exactly the same technique as Anselm, an argument from ontology, precisely to destroy St. Anselm's assertions.

      Using Anselm's logic he puts forward that such an island can only be superlative above all other islands if it actually exists, as a real island is better than an imaginary one, and that it therefore, by definition, must exist.

      Of course, Gaunilo's audience knew that this "Lost Island" did not exist, thus (supposedly) proving that it was untrue to say that Anselm's logical process had "proved" the existence of God. He argued that we cannot bring something into being simply by defining it as "superlative".

      Anselm was so impressed with Gaunilo's refutation that he included it in later editions of the Proslogion. He maintained, however, that his argument still stood, as it was applied to a necessary being, whereas even the most "superlative of islands" was still contingent.
      Or...
      1. Island1 exist in mind only
      2. An Island2 can exist in reality also
      3. It is greater to exist in both reality & mind than to only exist in mind
      4. Island2 can be thought of as greater than Island1 is
      5. Absurd
      6. 1 has to be false
      This was that cult, and the prisoners said it had always existed and always would exist, hidden in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R'lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway.

    8. #8
      Drivel's Advocate Xaqaria's Avatar
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      Basically what it is saying is,

      1. God is something of which nothing greater can be thought.
      2. God exists in the understanding.
      3. It is greater to exist in reality and in the understanding than just in understanding.

      Since we can concieve of something greater than Understanding of god (understanding plus reality), and god can be shown to exist in (some amount anyway) of understanding and is the greatest thing that we can concieve of, he must be greater than just understanding which is understanding plus reality.

      4. Therefore, God exists in reality.

      It all hinges on "God is something of which nothing greater can be thought" and "It is greater to exist in reality and in the understanding than just in understanding" being accepted as a priori.
      Last edited by Xaqaria; 05-21-2009 at 08:00 PM.

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      "debil's avocate":

      I don't understand how it's flawed logic:

      A thousand dollars in my hand - that is, a thousand dollars that actually exists - is much greater than a thousand dollars in my imagination (that is, my 'understanding'.)

      How can anyone disagree?
      A Corvette that I have imagined is not as great as the Corvette that I have in my drive-way.
      My day-dreaming about killing my boss is not as great as actually getting to kill my crappy boss.

      I mean, if two objects are all exactly the same, but the only difference is that one also has the bonus of existing - whereas the other is in your understanding - than that second object must be 'greater.'

      Object A1: Has a v-8, costs roughly fifty-five thousand dollars, six-speed rear-wheel drive, and insurance premiums that I cannot afford.
      Object A2 Has a v-8, costs roughly fifty-five thousand dollars, six-speed rear-wheel drive, and insurance premiums that I cannot afford, and exists in reality.
      Transported to a foreign land, a young woman murders a complete stranger. Then, she conspires with three others to murder yet again - The Wizard of Oz

    10. #10
      Xei
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      Uh... yes but there wasn't only one point to the argument, was there?? Confirming one isolated axiom completely misses the issue.

      Just because an existent $1000 is greater than an imaginary $1000, this does not necessitate the existence of the $1000. That's the problem.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Uh... yes but there wasn't only one point to the argument, was there??
      You're right, there wasn't. Did I say there was not?

      Confirming one isolated axiom completely misses the issue.
      No, it doesn't. It might miss some of it, but for it to "completely miss the issue", I would have to talk about some other subject, like painting or dancing.

      I mean, just the fact that what I was talking about was Anselm's argument means I couldn't have "completely" missed the issue.

      Just because an existent $1000 is greater than an imaginary $1000, this does not necessitate the existence of the $1000. That's the problem.
      My apologies, I thought you may take this in combination with Anselm's statements, or maybe go read a little bit on what he is trying to say.

      My apologies for failing to hand-out his whole explanation. Let me do so.
      (I will be using a slightly longer version of Anselm's first argument for illustrative purposes. It's all from his original text - I am not making anything up.)
      --

      God is such that nothing greater can be conceived, right? And if he is not, then I do not want to talk of that God - I am concerned only with a God that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and wholly good. (Let's call him the "OOG" God, for time's sake. OOG being an initialism for 'omnipotent, omniscient, good.')

      I will defend this statement by arguing that if anything is greater than God as I have described him, then that is God. (If Bill is OOG God, but it turns out Jones is OOG God and also somehow greater than Bill, then Jones is the OOG God I want to talk about)

      Now, let us suppose OOG God exists only in the understanding (Anselm's Latin for "imagination"). He is such that there could be nothing greater. A thing that only exists in the understanding is not as great as that which exists in the understanding and in reality. God, as he has been described, certainly could exist in the reality (that is, it would not be out of the described scope of his power. This means that OOG God is such that there could be something greater.

      OOG God can't be both 'such that there is nothing greater' and 'such that there could be something greater'. That's a contradiction. Therefore, it must be that one of the premises was ill-thought. Let us examine them.

      (Concept) - God: A thing such that there could be nothing greater.
      1 - Suppose God exists only in the understanding.
      2 - A thing that exists only in the understanding is not as great as that which exists in the understanding and in reality.
      3 - God could exist in reality.
      (1-3) 4 - God is such that there could be something greater.
      (Concept & 4) 5 - God is such that there could be nothing greater and
      God is such that there could be something greater.

      Here is the argument so far. It seems that my supposition that 'God exists only in the understanding' conflicts with what we know about God, if such a thing exists - it would be such that there could be nothing greater. Given this, it seems prudent to use our contradiction to prove that our initial assumption was wrong.
      (1-5) 6 - It is not the case that God does exist only in the understanding.
      (6) 7 -Therefore, God exists in the understanding and reality.

      Let me know if you need any more clarification. =]
      Last edited by Denver; 05-23-2009 at 07:10 PM.
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    12. #12
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      Waaay semi-logic reasoning. The problem is in the first hypothesis. It's very simple if you use slightly more rigorous semantics:

      1. The concept of God is that of something which nothing greater can exist.


      Once you've wrote it up clearly, the argument actually becomes a proof against god. Look:

      1. Assume God is something which nothing greater can exist.
      2. God exists in the understanding.
      3. It is greater to exist in reality than in understanding, and God exists in understanding.
      4. Therefore, God is not something which nothing greater can exist (there can be something greater than God).

      The fallacy in the original argument is mistaking a concept for a fact. Anything can exist in concept. But in fact, some things cannot exist in fact by the simple principle of non-contradiction.

      It's that old story of:

      1) Assume God is almighty.
      2) Since God is almighty, he can create a stone that even he can't lift.
      3) God wouldn't be able to lift such stone.
      4) Therefore, God is not almighty.

      You prove God can't be almighty by that kind of reasoning, which is called an absurd (duh). If God is almighty, then he isn't almighty. It's similar to a 0 = 1 in mathematics.
      Last edited by Kromoh; 05-24-2009 at 12:48 AM.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Kromoh View Post
      Waaay semi-logic reasoning. The problem is in the first hypothesis. It's very simple if you use slightly more rigorous semantics:

      1. The concept of God is that of something which nothing greater can exist.


      Once you've wrote it up clearly, the argument actually becomes a proof against god. Look:

      1. Assume God is something which nothing greater can exist.
      2. God exists in the understanding.
      3. It is greater to exist in reality than in understanding, and God exists in understanding.
      4. Therefore, God is not something which nothing greater can exist (there can be something greater than God).
      And if something can be greater than God, than that is the God I am concerned with. Don't misuse God as a title for God as a name, though they are often synonymous.

      The fallacy in the original argument is mistaking a concept for a fact.
      Surely not. What else would God be, if not 'that which there can be nothing greater'?

      If God is omnipotent, then certainly he is such that there can be nothing greater. And if there is, then that is the God I am referring to.

      Anything can exist in concept. But in fact, some things cannot exist in fact by the simple principle of non-contradiction.
      ??
      It's not like this argument 'creates' God. It is an argument that such a being exists, that it had existed, and that this is one way of knowing that.




      It's that old story of:

      1) Assume God is almighty.
      2) Since God is almighty, he can create a stone that even he can't lift.
      3) God wouldn't be able to lift such stone.
      4) Therefore, God is not almighty.
      God's lifting power and God's rock-weighting power are both infinite.
      Transported to a foreign land, a young woman murders a complete stranger. Then, she conspires with three others to murder yet again - The Wizard of Oz

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      Quote Originally Posted by Denver View Post
      And if something can be greater than God, than that is the God I am concerned with. Don't misuse God as a title for God as a name, though they are often synonymous.
      If something can be greater than God, than God isn't "something which nothing greater can exist". An analogy in maths: a number can't be larger than itself, or it is not a number at all.


      Surely not. What else would God be, if not 'that which there can be nothing greater'?
      Exactly my point. The definition "that which there can be nothing greater" is self-contradictory. God might be something else, but if God is that, then God doesn't exist.


      ??
      It's not like this argument 'creates' God. It is an argument that such a being exists, that it had existed, and that this is one way of knowing that.
      I'm not talking about arguments creating things. Just because something is possible, doesn't mean it's fact. But if something is impossible, then it's certainly not a fact. An almighty being is by definition impossible, so it cannot be a fact. I wasn't trying to say that God doesn't exist, I was trying to say that that specific belief of God is logically absurd.


      God's lifting power and God's rock-weighting power are both infinite.
      I don't think you've understood my point. God can't create a rock that he can and can't lift at the same time. If he can create a rock he can't lift, then he isn't almighty, and if he can't create a rock that he can't lift, then he isn't almighty. In both ways, he isn't almighty. By the very definition of 'almighty', nothing can be almighty.

      -
      And I called God, "he", just to make interpretation easier. I didn't really mean a specific God, I meant an entity.
      Last edited by Kromoh; 05-24-2009 at 03:24 AM.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      I just came across this old 'proof' of the existence of God which has apparently been extensively studied. I don't mean this thread to be particularly deep, but my problem is basically this: either I'm being thick, or it is simply logically incoherent.

      1. God is something of which nothing greater can be thought.
      2. God exists in the understanding.
      3. It is greater to exist in reality and in the understanding than just in understanding.
      4. Therefore, God exists in reality.

      That literally makes no sense to me. To me it simply sounds something like

      1. Apples exist.
      2. Therefore flying pigs exist.

      I really can't see how it makes any sense at all. Anybody care to explain?
      I disagree with given fact #3. There are many imaginary things considered to be greater than myself, and I exist both in understanding and reality.

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      I've come across this argument before. Rather than go into it too much, this is a video you might like, it was created somewhat recently.

      The argument doesn't really make much sense.

      And, I think what Kromoh is trying to say to you Denver is that essentially for every God that can be imagined you can imagine a God greater than that simply by saying God is greater than that previous God.

      Goda < Godb < Godc < and so on in that fashion forever. It is impossible to actually conceive of something in which nothing greater can be thought.

      Which is separate from saying that God is the greatest thing that does exist. A God can exist as the most powerful thing, but you could still conceive of a being more powerful than that God simply by conceiving of a God that could trump the God that did exist.
      Last edited by Sandform; 05-24-2009 at 04:34 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anselm/#ThePro
      Correctly understood, Anselm says, the argument of the Proslogion can be summarized as follows:

      That than which nothing greater can be thought can be thought.
      If that than which nothing greater can be thought can be thought, it exists in reality.
      Therefore,

      That than which nothing greater can be thought exists in reality.
      Quote Originally Posted by Anselm's Reply to Gaunilo
      it is clear to every reasonable mind that by raising our thoughts from lesser goods to greater goods, we are quite capable of forming an idea of that than which a greater cannot be thought on the basis of that than which a greater can be thought. Who, for example, is unable to think . . . that if something that has a beginning and end is good, then something that has a beginning but never ceases to exist is much better? And that just as the latter is better than the former, so something that has neither beginning nor end is better still, even if it is always moving from the past through the present into the future? And that something that in no way needs or is compelled to change or move is far better even than that, whether any such thing exists in reality or not? Can such a thing not be thought? Can anything greater than this be thought? Or rather, is not this an example of forming an idea of that than which a greater cannot be thought on the basis of those things than which a greater can be thought? So there is in fact a way to form an idea of that than which a greater cannot be thought.
      *Insert Gaunilo's Island Argument*

      An argument that cannot survive in an educated world like today.

      ~

    18. #18
      Drivel's Advocate Xaqaria's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Sandform View Post
      I've come across this argument before. Rather than go into it too much, this is a video you might like, it was created somewhat recently.

      The argument doesn't really make much sense.

      And, I think what Kromoh is trying to say to you Denver is that essentially for every God that can be imagined you can imagine a God greater than that simply by saying God is greater than that previous God.

      Goda < Godb < Godc < and so on in that fashion forever. It is impossible to actually conceive of something in which nothing greater can be thought.

      Which is separate from saying that God is the greatest thing that does exist. A God can exist as the most powerful thing, but you could still conceive of a being more powerful than that God simply by conceiving of a God that could trump the God that did exist.
      Does this mean that you can conceive of such a thing as infinity + 1? Linguistically, we can say it, but can we really conceive of it?

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xaqaria View Post
      Does this mean that you can conceive of such a thing as infinity + 1? Linguistically, we can say it, but can we really conceive of it?
      I am currently writing a book about transfinite numbers. Infinity is the largest number there is. Infinity + 1 is a negative number.

      But of course, that is completely out of the point of this argument. The point is, if there is something greater than A, then A is not infinity.
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      Emotionally unsatisfied. Sandform's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xaqaria View Post
      Does this mean that you can conceive of such a thing as infinity + 1? Linguistically, we can say it, but can we really conceive of it?
      Well, really here you have to tell me what you mean by infinity.

      Using my own definition for the moment, I can say the following:

      X is greater than or equal to 2. X has an infinite number of numbers that it could be. X is greater than or equal to 1.

      There is one more number in that set of infinity than would be possible in the one before it. The opposite is true of the set of numbers that X could not be. In a way you could say that this adds one to infinity, but really it just includes an additional number to a set which is infinite.
      Last edited by Sandform; 05-26-2009 at 11:50 AM.

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      The concept of Supergod is even greater than the greatest thing that can be thought of because the idea of Him involves the ability to transcend logic. He would be even greater if he really existed, and all things that would be greater automatically exist.
      Supergod exists.

      The thought of UltraMegagod is even greater than the thought of Supergod because UltraMegagod is even greater than that which is the greatest thought possible because He transcends logic even better than Supergod, at least in thought.
      Therefore, UltraMegagod is not just a thought.
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      God cannot destroy himself because He is Omnipotent.


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      Yep.

      Actually, it looks to me like god's existence is assumed in the first premise. "God is something ...."

      And then, in the second, "existence in thought" is presumed to be a real kind of "existence". Basically, he fiddled the definition of existence.

      If I were god, I'd be miffed....limited to existence, a priori, in the thought of a puny human?

      PQ

      Do be do be do.

      I don't agree with #2 of the restated premise. It's clearer, for sure ... but clearly nonsense. Uppity humanz.

      Facts is facts. Either he does or does not exist.

      But imagine how difficult it would be to prove that you were greater than all others, that you encompassed all (actual and possible?) others. It is truly an infinite proof, in an open system; a negative proof that in all existence there is none of which you are a part.

      On that basis, only existence itself could claim to be god. God knows how it would go about it. Burning bush? That works.

      Ultimately, this is more interesting as an argument against atheism than for god.

      That is, if it is logically possible (not proven) that god exists, even if unproven, then you can't just assume that he doesn't exist. Again, to actually prove nonexistence in fact would be a negative proof.

      So, really directly opposite to the gist of the original, we can conclude that any god that can be conceived by humans could not be god almighty. Sounds like Plotinus? Maybe. It's definitely Taoist. "The tao that can be conceived is not "the Tao."
      Last edited by DuB; 05-28-2009 at 02:56 AM. Reason: triple post
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