Thursday, August 31, 2017

God Delusion #13 - The Ontological Argument

Way back in 2006 I made close to fifty posts on Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion. I mentioned the book tonight in my philosophy of religion class, in reference to Anselm's Ontological Argument for God's Existence. 

Here's what I posted in 2006.

Dawkins' handling of the Ontological Argument for the existence of God shows that he does not understand the argument. Even his response that comes from his misunderstanding is poorly written and logically incoherent.

Here, briefly, I will show that and how Dawkins seems not to have a clue about OA. 
And note: to show that Dawkins' criticism of OA fails miserably should not be construed 
as my arguing that OA proves there is a God. To really enter into the philosophical dialogue 
re. OA, begin here.

Then, go here.

Then, here.

Now, some thoughts on Dawkins and what he writes about OA.

He calls OA an "infantile argument." But Dawkins does not understand OA (as we shall see). 
And note: Dawkins is an emotivist who loves ad hominem abusives. Such abusive 
emotivism adds nothing to his "argument" against OA.

Dawkins quotes Bertrand Russell as once saying, "Great Scott, the OA is sound!" 
What Dawkins misses is precisely why Russell would think this.

Dawkins quotes philosopher Norman Malcolm as critical of OA. It is true that Malcolm 
agreed with Kant that "existence is not a predicate." But Malcolm himself put forth 
a version of OA which can be attributed to Anselm. Anselm, says Malcolm, had two 
versions of OA, the second of which puts forth "necessary existence" as defeating 
Kant's objection. Dawkins "quote mines" Malcolm for his own purposes, perhaps not 
realizing that Malcolm actually supports Anselm's second version of OA as proving the 
existence of God. 

But all of this is simply common knowledge to philosophers, of which Dawkins is presumably 

Dawkins cites Anselm's contemporary Gaunilo, who offered a criticism of Anselm's OA. 
Dawkins then cites the supposed refutation by Douglas Gasking, which is similar, says 
Dawkins, to Gaunilo's objection. Gasking's idea that a most perfect being would be even 
more perfect if it created a universe without itself existing is a non-logical possibility, 
like "square circle." This because Anselm argues that it is greater to exist in extramental 
reality than in the mind alone. "Existence," for Anselm, is a great-making property; thus, it is 
more perfect to exist than to not exist.

Gaunilo thinks Anselm believes we can just imagine a most perfect 
"anything" and that thereby that thing must exist. Such as, e.g., a "most perfect island." 
But of course "existence" is not an essential attribute of "most perfect island," but arguably 
it is of "a being a greater than which cannot be conceived." Both Gaunilo and Gasking miss
 the point of Anselm's argument. Kant understood Anselm; they do not.

Dawkins closes his "refutation" of OA with some "funny 'proofs'" of God's existence. 
But no matter how entertaining Dawkins is, these add nothing to his "argument" against OA.

Dawkins, in arguing against OA, has set up a straw man, knocked it down, 
as his colleagues stand in awe of just how "bright" people can really be without God.