Arguments for god’s Existence

It will remain unclear as to whether god exists. It is the case that individuals, on both sides of this issue, hold very strong arguments for their beliefs either for, or against god’s existence.

The problem that arose for me, in attempting to understand and study both sides of the issue, is that some of the arguments for god’s existence are somewhat compelling and have caused me to question my own beliefs. Now, my beliefs are not so easily swayed that I would throw my old beliefs out the window in order to make room for new ones, but rather I simply allowed these contradicting arguments into my thoughts and contemplations in hopes of better understanding my position on the issue. I would still submit that I do not believe in any of the Abrahamic  gods, or for that matter any anthropomorphically conceptualized god. By which I mean a god that is given human-like characteristics, such as intelligence, purpose seeking, jealously, etc… Let us first look at three main types of arguments for the existence of god, namely the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments.

An ontological argument is an argument that attempts to rationally prove the existence of god. Simply put, an individual would prove the existence of god through a priori reasoning. A priori reasoning is reasoning where it’s justification and knowledge are obtained independent of experience, which is to say that we need not experience god in order to prove his existence, rather we can come to know god through rational investigation.  Saint Anselm developed The Ontological Argument in which he aims to prove the existence of god by logical connectivity. He argues against “the fool who says in his heart that there is no God (Psalms 14:1). He claims that this fool can and does understand what god is, but he or she does not believe in god. It is in these two concepts where Anselm finds his proof for god, here he would argue that it is incompatible to understand god yet not believe in god. He sets up his argument as follow;

Premise 1 (claim): God is the greatest thing that can ever be conceived of

– Now I have few objections to this claim, one of which is;  I reject this claim because it is not logical that god is the greatest thing that can ever be conceived. This implies that god is the end all answer to everything, but it remains to ask; Where did god come from? Was it there before it all began, or was it too created by another, ergo our concept that god is the greatest thing that can ever be conceived should be conceptualized.

If we accept that god is the end all answer and also that it created the cosmos out of nothing, we should then consider that it is inconsistent to believe that something comes out of nothing because there was nothing for it to come from. Furthermore, nothing is not a concept that implies that there is a possibility of something to fill the missing space (nothingness), rather nothing is simply nothing -the absence of all things-. Secondly and in relation to my last point, if there was nothing before the universe was created, where exactly was god if it really is anywhere? Was it in this nothingness? Of course not, that is a contradiction, you cannot have something in nothing because it would cease to be nothing, it would be something. Ergo, god did not create the universe from nothing. Following this system of logic it is quite easy to see that we can keep going until an infinite regress of creators, and this ties into my argument against the cosmological argument which we shall view later on.

Moving on…

Premise 2: Actual existence is greater than conceptual existence

– For this premise he uses the example of a painter to explain what he means. Simply put, a painter begins with a concept of what it is he or she will be painting, and the concept alone is not a perfect existence as it only exists in the mind. It is only when the painting is actually painted that it becomes something that which is in actual existence and thus becomes perfection. The concept alone lacks actuality which implies a lack of perfection.

-I am somewhat stuck as to whether I agree with this statement. If I consider a real life situation in which my conceptual interpretation is misled by emotional thinking, or clouded judgments, there is no doubt that the actual situation which is taking place in reality is greater in existence than the clouded interpretation that I hold. But this can only occur when we are in relation to real (existing) things or situations. But when speaking about god, or any other conceptual notion there is no necessity for an actual existence to be greater than the conceptual existence. It seems to depend where you begin your investigation, by which I mean if you begin with a concept of god being the greatest thing that can exist, you are immediately implying that god does indeed exist, so it follows then that which exists is greater than mere conceptualized existence. But if we begin with the idea that god does not exist and that it is merely a concept, then it is just as easy to put forward that the concept itself is greater than the actual existence. This is because the concept that we have is the greatest thing that we can think of because there is no actual god that can be greater than the concept of god.

Moving on…

Premise 3: If god is merely a concept then we can think of something greater than god.

– This premise, although part of his argument fits in perfectly with that I was trying to explain. Before I continue criticizing, I will first finish explaining his argument in entirety so that we understand what he concludes through this third premise.

Let us quickly bring all four premises together;

1) God is the greatest thing that can ever be conceived.

2) Actual existence is greater than conceptual existence

3) If god is merely a concept then we can think of something greater than god.

*4) The law of contradiction

– The law of contradiction does not allow for god to be a mere concept, because as we have seen in the first two premises god is the greatest thing that can be thought of, and actual existence is greater than conceptualized existence, therefore Anselm concludes that god exists because he creates a contradiction in his premises.

Conclusion: god exists.

Considering the third premise again we can begin to see that we actually can think of something that is greater than god, only if we do not constrain ourselves by his first premise. But why should we not accept this premise again? Simply because our human built concept of god is not necessarily something that which nothing can be thought of greater. That concept of god is limits our thinking, especially when our concept of god is anthropomorphic. Why is it necessary that god be a single entity, or a single concept?  It is as though human beings created a limitation to god, yet god ought be without limits, if such a god exists. I would argue that our biggest mistake in trying to understand god is exactly our attempt to understand god. When defining something as what it is we put forward limitation to what it can be. For example, a table is a table because we have conceptualized what a table is, we then built a real world existing thing that we call a table. That table can not be anything other than a table, unless dismantled into separate pieces, but combined those pieces form a table and nothing else. The same would apply for god, as we created a conceptually vivid notion of what god is, and in doing so it follows the same as the table that god is limited because he can be nothing more than what we have thought it to be.
This is the end of part one, I will hopefully continue with the cosmological argument later today, or tomorrow. Please comment/criticize.

~ by Peter on March 5, 2010.

2 Responses to “Arguments for god’s Existence”

  1. Really great read. Honest!

  2. Thank you very much. I never took the time to complete the subsequent parts…maybe I should get around to writing them.

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