I hope you have the time to respond but if you don't forward it on to the list so I can get some help. I recently had an argument with a couple of 'friends' related to the existence of god and creationism and due to my lack of skills in logic I did not fair very well against a seasoned philosopher. He used one argument, that I have heard before, but did not remember very well. He used an argument by Ansolm (I think) that basically states that if you can think of a god or a greatest being that the being must exist because it is the greatest thing you can think of (I hope I got it right). I tried to respond but I think I royally bombed so I was hoping that you could send me some webpages and/or book titles that could help me with that particular argument so next time I could at least have some idea what I'm talking about. Thank you.
"The Ten Commandments should be posted in all courtrooms, [schoolrooms, and public buildings]. And the U.S. Constitution should be glued onto Jesus' chest in every church in America." --Heidi Mancuso, Psychologist
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "David Weinman"
Subject: Re: Question
Date: Wednesday, May 10, 2000 2:07 PM
I am not very familiar with this argument, because it has never made sense to me, but I will respond to what you said. (If you can come up with a more complete version of the argument, I will gladly respond to it.)
Just because I can conceive of a Loch Ness monster, this does not require that such an animal exists.
Also, the largest thing I can think of is not the universe, but the super-universe that Victor Stenger talks about, within which this universe is but a short-lived (or young) bubble. Nevertheless, for me to call the universe (or the super-universe) "God" is to say nothing. I might as well use the terms "universe" or "super-universe."
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
From: Victor Gijsbers <Vgijsbers@hotmail.com>
Subject: Descartes God-claim
Date: Friday, May 19, 2000 9:59 PM
The argument we are talking about is not by Ansolm, it's by Descartes. Descartes came to doubt he could have any knowledge at all. However, because he doubted, he felt that there had to be at least a being that doubted; he himself had to exist. Hence his famous: 'Cogito, ergu sum', I think, therefore I am. Descartes then used pure reason to prove the existence of God. Jostein Gaarder describes this idea in his book "Sophie's World" as follows:
He came to the conclusion that in his mind he had a clear and distinct idea of a perfect entity. This was an idea he had always had, and it was thus self-evident to Descartes that such an idea could not possibly have come from himself. The idea of a perfect entity cannot have originated from one who was himself imperfect, he claimed. Therefore the idea of a perfect entity must have originated from that perfect entity itself, or in other words from God. That God exists was therefore just as self-evident for Descartes as that a thinking being must exist. [Himself, that is.] ... Descartes only meant that we all posess the idea of a perfect entity, and that inherent in that idea is the fact that this perfect entity must exist. Because a perfect entity wouldn't be perfect if it didn't exist. Neither would we possess the idea of a perfect entity if there were no perfect entity. For we are imperfect, so the idea of perfection cannot come from us. According to Descartes, the idea of God is innate, it is stamped on us from birth 'like the artisan's mark stamped on his product.'
Formidable reasoning, but it has a number of weak spots:
So your philosopher-'friend' has to prove the following axioms:
Now the last point may seem easy to prove; the philosopher could say that he himself has that notion. However, this argument fails for two reasons:
I'd say this is enough material to silence this rationalist. Good luck in your philosophical debate.
From: "Bob Webster"
To: "'Positive Atheism'" <email@example.com>
Subject: Descartes God-claim
Date: Monday, June 05, 2000 7:03 AM
Actually, this argument was by Anselm (according to what I remember of my Philosophy of Religion class). The argument goes something like this:
1) God is that than which nothing
greater can be conceived.
2) Suppose we conceive of a being, X, who has all of the attributes of God except existence.
3) I can conceive of a greater being that has all of the aspects of X plus existence, that I call God.
4) Therefore, God must exist.
If I recall correctly, it was Kant who finally quashed this whole notion by pointing out that there is a fundamental difference between qualities like all-knowing and all-powerful, and existence. Existence is a mere fact; it has none of the aspects that we think of as "qualities". Therefore, a God that exists and a God that doesn't exist have the exact same qualities, and the argument fails. I hope this helps!
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