• Harjas
    5
    God is the greatest thing we can think of. Things can exist only in our imaginations or they can also exist in reality.
    Things that exist in reality are always better than the things that only exist in our imaginations.
    If god existed only in our imaginations, he wouldn't be the greatest thing that we can think of, because God in reality would be better.
    Therefore, God must exist in reality!

    Atheists?
  • bahman
    530
    Things that exist in reality are always better than the things that only exist in our imaginations.Harjas
    I doubt this. Think of Hell.
  • Harjas
    5
    The greatest thing you can think of is hell?
  • Michael
    7.3k
    What does it mean to be better? Better at what or in what way?
  • Michael
    7.3k
    TraitsHarjas

    So let's take strength as one such trait. Am I stronger than Superman because I exist, or is he stronger than me because he's imagined to have the strength to move planets?

    I can imagine someone stronger or wiser or nicer or richer than any real person. This doesn't change just because you qualify the trait as being the strongest/wisest/nicest/richest possible.
  • bahman
    530
    That is a separate premise.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    God is the greatest thing we can think of.Harjas

    Where is your proof for this premise?

    Things that exist in reality are always better than the things that only exist in our imaginations.Harjas

    Likewise, your proof for this premise?

    God in reality would be better.Harjas

    Again, proof for this?

    Finally, even if you proved all of this, you would have proven that a thing which you call God exists. You will not have demonstrated anything about the properties of this God, nor what we should do about his existence which are the real questions of Theism.
  • Harjas
    5
    Where is your proof for this premise?Pseudonym
    Does Thinking require Proofs?
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    Does Thinking require Proofs?Harjas

    Yes, otherwise philosophy is just a collection of 'stuff people reckon'.
  • Michael
    7.3k


    Another point to make; whatever's going on in my head when I suppose that I'm imagining the greatest being imaginable is the same whether such a being exists or not. The existence of a corresponding entity in real life does not affect the content of my imagination.

    Perhaps we might define "the greatest being imaginable" in such a way that there must be a corresponding entity in real life, and so say that if there isn't a corresponding entity in real life then whatever it is I'm imagining isn't the greatest being imaginable, even though I suppose it to be, but then the argument presented above begs the question.
  • anonymous66
    626
    Things can exist only in our imaginations or they can also exist in reality.Harjas

    Cool! There is now a huge mountain of gold in my backyard. I imagined it, so it must be there.
  • Harjas
    5
    Things can exist only in our imaginations or they can also exist in reality.Harjas

    This doesn’t said that things exist in our imagination will also exists in reality! lost the context?
  • anonymous66
    626
    It's the greatest gold mountain I can imagine.
  • anonymous66
    626
    The greatest gold mountain is the greatest gold mountain we can think of. Things can exist only in our imaginations or they can also exist in reality.
    Things that exist in reality are always better than the things that only exist in our imaginations.
    If the greatest gold mountain existed only in our imaginations, then it wouldn't be the greatest mountain of gold that we can think of, because the greatest gold mountain in reality would be better.
    Therefore, the greatest gold mountain must exist in reality!

    Can't you replace "God" with any x?
    The greatest x is the best x we can think of. Things can exist only in our imaginations or they can also exist in reality.
    Things that exist in reality are always better than the things that only exist in our imaginations.
    If the greatest x existed only in our imaginations, then it wouldn't be the greatest x that we can think of, because the greatest x in reality would be better.
    Therefore, the greatest x must exist in reality!

    You could replace "x" with the greatest invisible flying man or anything else you'd like to imagine.

    I don't identify as an atheist, by the way. I just don't think it's a good argument.
  • BlueBanana
    900
    The thoughts are representations of something. The imagined thought of the greatest being represents the greatest being but it isn't the greatest being. We imagine the God existing outside of that thought in that thought, and whether that corresponds with the reality is irrelevant because we're imagining the God, not the thought of the God.
  • JustSomeGuy
    307
    The greatest thing you can think of is hell?Harjas

    This made me laugh.

    What does it mean to be better? Better at what or in what way?Michael

    This is the crux of the issue, and "traits" is not a valid answer.
    "Better" is an entire subjective thing. Something cannot be objectively "the best", it can only be the best from a certain point of view. And why would a deity be required to conform to our human point of view?
  • charleton
    1.2k
    We've been over this old chestnut a hundred times.
    It was rubbish 2000 years ago and it remains rubbish.
  • cruffyd
    7
    @Harjas, It seems that the attempt is being made to define eternity as all-encompassing. Not only would eternity be composed of every conceivable trait, but these would also, in themselves, be 'full, or not lacking, in keeping with this description of eternity.

    This also speaks to the nature of good and evil, in that fullness must be descriptive of good, and that evil is, 'privatio boni' (the lack of good, or fullness)
  • Uneducated Pleb
    38
    God is the greatest thing we can think of.Harjas

    I am not a fan of being told what to think. Personally, I think Reality is the greatest thing I can think of. Whether or not that includes a god remains to be seen, but I lean towards no.

    Things can exist only in our imaginations or they can also exist in reality.Harjas

    Minor quibble - why can't it be both? Or neither? You exist...yet I can also hold you in my imagination.

    Things that exist in reality are always better than the things that only exist in our imaginations.Harjas
    If I imagine the genocide of an entire population of innocent people, then the real genocide of those people is "better" than the one in my imagination?

    If god existed only in our imaginations, he wouldn't be the greatest thing that we can think of, because God in reality would be better.Harjas
    If something exists in my imagination then i can make it as great or as not great as I wish. Still has nothing to do with the existence of that something in reality. And again, being told what is "great" and "not as great" in my own imagination - not a fan.

    Therefore, God must exist in reality!Harjas
    Meh.
    In my imagination god is laughing at someone telling her that she must exist. The reality would, of course, be better.
  • JustSomeGuy
    307
    I am not a fan of being told what to think. Personally, I think Reality is the greatest thing I can think of. Whether or not that includes a god remains to be seen, but I lean towards no.Uneducated Pleb

    Just a note: I don't know if this is how Harjas meant it, but traditionally the "God is the greatest thing we can think of" premise doesn't mean we can't think of anything greater than God, it means that whatever the greatest thing is that we can think of, we will define as God.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    Like literally every 'ontological argument for God' ever, the OP assumes its conclusion. All the argument can show - all every such ontological argument can show - is that if God existed, the argument would hold true. Here is the slight of hand:

    If god existed only in our imaginations, he wouldn't be the greatest thing that we can think of, because God in reality would be greater. Therefore, God must exist in reality!Harjas

    Notice the material conditional, 'if'. The passage should read: 'If God existed only in our imaginations, he wouldn't be the greatest thing we can think of, because, if he existed, God in reality would be greater. Therefore, if God existed, God would exist in reality".

    Every 'ontological argument for God' engages in this slight of hand: beginning with a material conditional and then silently dropping it along the way. Once you know to look out for it, its kinda fun to play the 'spot the illicit shift from conditioned to unconditioned (from 'if' to 'existence') in all 'ontological arguments'. The OP's phrasing, 'God in reality would be greater', actually retains the conditional lanaguge even as it pretends not to notice it.

    It's an argument that is broken at the very level of its form, let alone any of its content. Moreover, this is an issue that's been well known since Kant, and it's completely ludicrous that the argument is still trotted out as often as it is. Its been a sham of an argument since Anselem, it remains a sham now.
  • Knhumphrey
    2
    @StreetlightX

    Thank you for that post. If you hadn't said it, I would have.
  • SnowyChainsaw
    97

    Your argument relies on the assumption that God exists in either our imagination or reality, or both.

    If god existed only in our imaginations, he wouldn't be the greatest thing that we can think of, because God in reality would be better.
    Therefore, God must exist in reality!

    God existing in our imaginations would still be the greatest thing we can think of since we are still the ones thinking of it. Therefore, you are no closer to proving the existence of God.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Notice the material conditional, 'if'. The passage should read: 'If God existed only in our imaginations, he wouldn't be the greatest thing we can think of, because, if he existed, God in reality would be greater. Therefore, if God existed, God would exist in reality".StreetlightX

    Hi, I need help with this argument.

    The explicit form of the argument is given below:

    1. God is the greatest being imaginable

    2. If God is the greatest being imaginable then God exists

    Therefore

    3. God exists

    I can't deny premise 1 because God IS the greatest being imaginable.

    I can't deny premise 2 because the greatest being MUST exist

    So, the argument is a modus ponens (a valid form) with true premises. In other words, it's a sound argument and so the conclusion 3. God exists MUST be true.

    Where is the flaw in the argument?
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    The greatest being must exist... if the greatest being exists. But the argument doesn't establish this if.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    The greatest being must exist... if the greatest being exists. But the argument doesn't establish this if.StreetlightX

    I see.. Existence is part of the definition of God as the greatest being. So there isn't an argument at all. God is being defined into existence. Am I making sense?
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    Yep. That's the basic conceit of all 'ontological arguments for God': they build God's existence in from the beginning then pretend to extrapolate it at the end. But its a rort. The existence in question is a wholly modal one (remaining at the plane of possibility). The 'argument' may as well read:

    There exists a being, such that, it exists.
    Therefore, it exists.
  • SophistiCat
    528
    The 'argument' may as well read:

    There exists a being, such that, it exists.
    Therefore, it exists.
    StreetlightX

    Or,

    Imagine a being, such that it cannot fail to exist.
    Therefore, it exists.

    (That's Plantinga's version, only he obfuscates it a bit.)
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    None of the scholastic 'arguments' were intended as polemical devices to convert non-believers. Nor were the psuedo-scientific hypothesis purporting to demonstrate some scientifically intelligible causal chain. They were exercises in intellectual edification that drew on various themes in the tradition of philosophy. But Anselm, Aquinas, and the rest, would never have relied on a philosophical argument to ground the truths of revelation, as they were by definition matters of faith. Given faith in the basic tenets, then the arguments are meaningful, but without that faith, they can only be empty words - and they all would have agreed with that.

    Second point is that in no classical theology is it said that God exists. There is a distinction in pre-modern philosophies, now impossible to articulate, between 'being as such' and phenomena, or between creator and created. That distinction is practically impossible to discuss in terms that might be intelligible to modern analytical philosophy. I think Heidegger talks about that kind of idea, which was in turn picked up by various modern philosophical theologies including Tillich and McQuarrie. But it is the kind of idea that only makes any kind of sense if one is pre-disposed towards belief in the first place, so again, as any kind of 'proof' or rhetorical argument, will always fail.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    Mmm, it's literally preaching to the converted, in the phrase's full, non-metaphoric sense.
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