07 February 2012

William Lane Craig defends the ontological argument

A few posts back I half-jokingly said I wished someone would really try to defend the ontological argument. It's just such a profoundly stupid argument that I really get a kick out of smart people dressing up its fallacies in fancy academic language. But then I randomly jumped over to ReasonableFaith.org (William Lane Craig's website), and it just so happens that a recent post finds him defending... you guessed it, the ontological argument.

I sarcastically summarized the ontological argument as:
  1. God, by definition, exists
  2. Therefor, God exists
That's really not a stretch – although the argument gets dressed up in masturbatory philosophical drivel (as you'll see in moment), it basically says that the "greatest conceivable being" (God) must have "existence" as one of its properties, otherwise that being couldn't be the greatest conceivable being. Let's listen to what Bill has to say on the matter:
A maximally great being is one that has, among other properties, necessary existence. So if it exists in one world, it exists in all of them! In that sense, such a being is different than contingent beings, which exist in only some possible worlds. A unicorn, for example, exists in some possible world, but not in all of them, for its existence is possible but not necessary.
If that sounds confusing, that's because it is. But to clarify one point, Dr. Craig earlier says,
To say that some entity exists in a possible world is just to say that such an entity possibly exists. It isn’t meant that the entity actually exists somewhere.
In other words, the terminology "possible world" is totally superfluous philosophical bullshit. You can just say, "It's possible that God exists". But of course it sounds way more academic to say, "A maximally great being exists in some possible world."

So, see if you can follow this: if a "maximally great being" includes "necessary existence" (as opposed to "possible existence") as one of its properties, that's saying that it exists not just in "some possible world", but in "all possible worlds", which means that any description of reality must include "a maximally great being exists". That's basically just a tautology, like saying "A being that has to exist has to exist."

As you can see, my sarcastic summary is actually pretty damn accurate.



Why it's dumb

He went there.
This is a stupid argument because "existence" is not a property – non-existent things can't have properties. They can have conceptualizations of properties, but since they don't actually exist they can't actually have properties. Non-existent things, like unicorns for example, are just abstractions, not actual things. To use that masturbatory philosophical language, you could say that a unicorn exists abstractly, but not ontologically – which is just a fancy way of saying that it's something we can imagine existing, but it doesn't actually exist.

You'd think that people with doctoral degrees in philosophy could distinguish between actual things and conceptual things, but apparently that is not the case.



Craig concludes,
Logic doesn’t falter here.
And the audience erupts with laughter. Really, I wouldn't bother responding to such stupid arguments were it not for the fact that lots of people actually take this clown seriously. To me, the ontological argument is proof positive that intelligent people are just that much better at constructing elaborate rationalizations of stupid beliefs.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.