Ontological Fallacy

I am reading this little book that gives a history of the arguments for the existence of God that have been advanced by theologians and philosophers in Europe.  Naturally, Anselm’s proof, known as the Ontological Proof, is given pride of place.  Wikipedia summarizes it thus:

1) Whatever I clearly and distinctly perceive to be contained in the idea of something is true of that thing.
2) I clearly and distinctly perceive that necessary existence is contained in the idea of God.
3) Therefore, God exists.

Never seemed convincing to me, and a surprising number of churchmen, including Thomas Aquinas, were not swayed by it.  On the other hand, the great atheist, Bertrand Russell,  during his early Hegelian phase, said: “Great God in Boots! — the ontological argument is sound!”   “God in boots?”  Doesn’t say much for Hegelianism.  The ‘proof’ lingers on, and I hear it thrown about by theistic journalists now and then.

I deal with it this way:  I can get no clear and distinct idea of what God is supposed to be.  It is a fuzzy, flexible, and profoundly unnecessary concept.  (That is, it explains nothing.) Q.E.D. God’s existence is not proven.

I cannot prove that God does not exist, but why trouble oneself with that?  I cannot prove the tooth fairy doesn’t exist.  A concept that makes no sense and cannot be proven is best discarded.


9 Responses to Ontological Fallacy

  1. Grace says:

    I came across this rebuttal to the Ontological argument and found it rather amusing.

    ” 1. The creation of the world is the most marvelous achievement imaginable.
    2. The merit of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality, and (b) the ability of its creator.
    3. The greater the disability (or handicap) of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
    4. The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
    5. Therefore if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator we can conceive a greater being — namely, one who created everything while not existing.
    6. Therefore, God does not exist.”

    • Lichanos says:

      Sometimes believers claim that if we remove the concept of God from our thoughts, the world appears as dreary, lifeless, and tedious. Your syllogisms lead to the conclusion that a world without a Creator is simply wonderful and marvelous. I agree!

      Reminds me of Darwin’s often quoted remarks on the ‘grandeur in this view of life,’ i.e., life without intelligent design.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Man of Roma says:

    1) Simply said, God can imo be reached only by faith, not by reason or intellect. So to me when you say: “A concept that makes no sense and cannot be proven is best discarded” the fallacy lies in using intellect with something that, if it exists, is beyond reason and nature, ie it is supernatural or, to use Greek word, is metaphysical, id est μετά, “beyond”, φυσικά “physics”.
    2) you say: “I cannot prove that God does not exist, but why trouble oneself with that? I cannot prove the tooth fairy doesn’t exist.”
    Well, to me there’s a big difference between God and the tooth fairy
    lol. The first concerns me more and we find traces of it in every culture past and present.

    In short to me the ‘sacred’ in humans is possibly a given, like ‘passion’ or ‘love’ are a given but they cannot be explained rationally. We can just observe them, like we observe mysticism etc.

    • Lichanos says:

      1) If one believes God to exist, He can only be reached by faith. But why bother? You have already assumed the goal?
      2) Culturally, a big difference between God and the tooth fairy, but in logical terms, I see no difference at all. I don’t slight the importance of the cultural elements, and I have commented on them, but logic is logic.

      I examine ‘proofs’ of God in a more sympathetic context in this post.

      • Man of Roma says:

        Why bother? Because – as you know – I like all that is part of the human cultures as they developed thru time. Yes, logic is logic, but – beauty being in the eye of the beholder – I find it less beautiful, less interesting (and personally much less revealing) than history of ideas.

        Religious ideas are pervasive in almost any culture. Or in every culture. Communist cultures for example thought they had erased religion, but their political ideas were intrinsically religious! I’ll read that other post you link to if I can.

  3. Man of Roma says:

    Very superficial stabs lol, tho they correspond to something I kinda feel deep inside. As you know I am an agnostic who experiences this ‘sacred’ within myself but who doesn’t much care to explain it with arguments since I feel that arguments and religion, mysticism etc. belong to totally different realms (or brain areas possibly?)

  4. Anne says:

    Even though I’ve tried to understand and believe in a God, religion or any holy book verbatim, my deeper knowing always betrayed me. I never experienced or seen anything good or bad from the actualization of a God as we know it, I’ve only seen people developing moral and spiritual constructs that sometimes works for them and society, sometimes not. I suppose it requires conditioning or brainwashing. I believe we just need to live from our own hearts and the kiss of wisdom we’ve been born with and learn from life those things that resonate deep within us in any form that it may come. It takes trust and courage.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I want to believe in god. It would be so nice. Would be wonderful to truly believe that there is a better place awaiting me after I die. But I just haven’t found the way to believe. I would like to have that which people call faith.

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