Is there any evidence that Gödel, who as we know did understand logic, viewed his derivation as more than what I glibly called a logic puzzle? He himself never published it, for one thing.
As for “positive” qualities, it is not that the proof is silent about them; on the contrary, some pretty bold claims are made, like that if a property is “positive” then it is necessary that it be “positive”. (Well, maybe indeed, if you think about it!) And so on. Is this sound reasoning? That is up for discussion, of course.
The problem with the above (and Anselm’s proof and Gödel’s proof) is that existence is being treated as a predicate. It’s not and that’s exactly why no one outside of a first year philosophy class has paid any attention to ontological arguments since Kant pointed this out over 200 years ago.
A simpler demonstration of the falsity of the proof is that possibility (2) is not clearly contradictory. It is merely wordplay that makes it seems so.
The “existing” in “existing unicorn” is a reference to a property that a certain sort of unicorn might have. The word “exist” in possibility (2) is instead a reference to whether there are any of that sort of unicorn. It is mere prevarication on “exist/ing” that is making possibility (2) seem contradictory. As can be easily demonstrated simply by using different words:
(1) The proposition that there are existing unicorns is true
(2) The proposition that there are existing unicorns is false
These are the same two propositions. But it is now obvious that (2) cannot be ruled out by logic.
The argument, like any other, derives consequences from premises (not from ‘only logic’, whatever that might be supposed to mean)—it’s how every empirical claim is arrived at (not that the existence of god is necessarily an empirical claim); there’s nothing special about it in that regard. It stands on the same footing as any other, and must prove its mettle in the same way.
That’s probably not a bad attitude to adopt, although I’d want to reserve some possibility for being convinced of even remote conclusions, just as a basic opinion hygiene strategy. But I’d probably rather take such an argument, if it seemed valid to me, to be a reductio of its premises, than greatly increase my confidence in the existence of any sort of deity.
And that’s just the thing—there’s plenty of good reasons to reject ontological arguments; we don’t have to make up bad ones, like insinuating the argument does something inherently illicit, or that formal logic somehow isn’t applicable to the issue, or anything like that. It’s just some bit of reasoning, completely ordinary reasoning, working just like any other argument, and subject to the same ways of being rejected. There’s no need for special pleading: it just happens to be wrong, that’s all. Everything else is making it into a far bigger issue than it is.
I remember reading that he was ‘satisfied’ with it, but can’t quickly dredge up the reference. But Gödel was a self described theist, for whatever that’s worth.
Any kind of empirical claim is always going to be based on other empirical claims or observations. Which can be wrong, flawed or just narrowly-focused. For instance:
P1: Waves are oscillations of some medium
P2: Light is a wave
C: Therefore, light is an oscillation of some medium
This rightly seemed sound to scientists at one time. However, they didn’t consider this a logical proof. Merely an inference from a model, and went out to make and test various predictions.
Consequently we updated our knowledge to understand that not all waves are oscillations of a medium.
This is good science. and the reason we don’t make absolute empirical claims based only on logical arguments.
I did, and thought Anselm’s argument was ridiculous nonsense the first time I heard it. He was obviously defining God into existence, and it baffled me why a college course spent so much time discussing it as if it were an interesting concept.
Sniff, sniff. Can you smell that? It’s the smell of desperation.
You could as easily say there must be a deity because there is heaps of religious writing. Religious people really really want to fight off the cognitive dissonance that comes from believing in something that a little naughty thought at the back of their minds tells them is about as believable as Santa Claus. Especially if they are otherwise logical people. So they dedicate time and energy (ie the words to which you refer) to coming up with ways to keep that naughty little thought at bay.