Yeah…but it beats the old “How can you look at a kitten or a floofy cloud and not see it as proof that GOD exists, huh??”
Yeah, you must be desperate, if you don’t have a rebuttal for anything @Half_Man_Half_Wit actually said in the post you replied to.
How do you feel about evidence? Because there’s plenty of evidence that quite a few people “past first year philosophy” have found ontological arguments at least interesting and worth discussing. I’m not asserting that it’s a valid argument, and I don’t think Half_Man was either. But if it’s a magic trick, it’s a halfway-decent one.
Personally, as a lover of kittens and floofy clouds, that particular proof is the naughty little thought at the back of my atheist mind that troubles me.
I will readily concede that “no one believes it past first year philosophy” is hyperbole.
I was responding more to what I perceived to be the implication that interest in the argument was an indicator that it wasn’t obviously wrong. If @Half_Man_Half_Wit wasn’t implying that then my post was wide of the mark.
I don’t agree with this though:
IME laypeople with no interest in formal logic think the argument in question sounds like an obvious attempt to baffle with bullshit. And those with a dispassionate interest in formal logic think it transparently wrong.
It’s not that classical logic is “transparently wrong”, though of course its acceptability for this purpose is itself up for debate, [and it is no more a magic trick than the proof that in every pub there is a person such that if that person drinks, then everybody drinks] but what does such an ontological argument prove? And why would a “non-theist” care about it either way? Maybe not much. See e.g. the Encyclopedia of Philosophy article which has a section on Gödel.
Nobody is saying classical logic is wrong. They are saying this particular piece of attempted classical logic is wrong.
Can you explain what you mean? It’s not like the conclusion does not follow from the axioms. Or do you mean that the very idea of an “ontological proof” is wrong?
I should probably backtrack a bit and say it rather depends which particular ontological argument we are talking about. Some have meaningless premises, and some have more dodgy logic. I give you that Godel’s proof in particular is certainly not transparently wrong (or, indeed, transparent).
No; I could say there’s lots of interest in religion because there’s lots of religious writing. I haven’t said that the existence of lots of writing on the subject does anything to bear out the soundness of the ontological argument—but it does argue against the idea that it’s childishly wrong, because typically, childishly wrong things don’t elicit lots of commentary of people well versed in the subject.
Now, you might argue that all of these people are just deluding themselves, examining a subject that, were they only thinking from such a place of dispassionate and enlightened rationality as you are, they’d just as readily dismiss. And maybe so; I couldn’t settle the matter—I lack that sort of bias-free perspective that allows me to just instantly judge other’s perspectives as nothing but so much self-delusion. I’m comfortable in my atheism, but still, I can’t claim to be able to discern that it’s just obvious that those who differ from me on that point are just making fools out of themselves due to their rationality being diminished by wishful thinking. But I suppose that’s just evidence of my own muddled perspective.
I would disagree with that.
Because, firstly, I think often the more silly a proposition is, the more is written about it. I’m sure that you could find plenty written about QAnon or the true intent of the covid vaccines. When people are engaging in motivated reasoning, and yet fighting their own cognitive dissonance and reality itself, there’s a lot they need to write.
You might say that learned men are unlikely to engage in such self-deception, but look at someone like Jordan Peterson. He has two BAs, a doctorate and considerable post-doc academic work. Yet he spouts easily-debunkable bullshit once a jiffy. And sure, you can read his lengthy books of bullshit.
Secondly these things tend to snowball. This happens most in theology, but often in philosophy too. If enough has been written already, it’s no longer valid to simply call out “The emperor has no clothes” you have to address the main body of existing literature. It’s a weighty topic and you can’t just give a simple argument for why the premise of the whole discussion is flawed. We must continue debating angels on the head of a pin.
Science gives no countenance to amount written on a topic; only to testing the explicit claims of concrete models. In philosophy, we may not be able to test certain claims but I still think a policy of cutting the crap and focusing only on the explicit claims is the best policy.
That sort of gets us into a conspiracy theory-sort of frame where every sort of evidence is evidence for a proposition: Nothing is written about x? Well, x is silly, so nobody’s interested in it. Volumes are written about it? Well, x is silly, so you have to expend lots of energy to try and make it seem believable!
It’s also a tad convenient. Those people who disagree with me? Well, obviously, they’re just deluded. Look at them, piling argument upon argument to hide the fact how transparently silly their position is!
It’s a bit like justifying opposition to vaccines because at one time, the experts were wrong to insist on the impossibility of continental drift—yes, experts are wrong, some of the time, but at any given point, on balance, listening to expert opinion is going to be the better bet. By the same token, experts debate silly notions, some of the time, but on any given issue, that it’s not silly is going to be the better bet.
As for Peterson, QAnon and the like, I don’t think either has gained much traction with the experts in the respective fields. They’re essentially pop culture, or perhaps populist, phenomena; they don’t target an audience of experts, they’re aimed at influencing public opinion.
To me, perhaps the most fascinating thing about the ontological argument(s) how varied are the responses to them, and how much argument there is over whether they’re even worth considering. What I’ve heard is that, among professional philosophers throughout the ages, there are plenty who have thought them obviously wrong and flawed and not even worth considering; but there are plenty of others who have found them oddly compelling and worth exploring.
For what it’s worth, my background is in math, not science, so maybe I’m more comfortable with the idea of noncontructive existence proofs based on pure logic.
As a student of mathematical logic, how do you interpret:
P(x) => \exists(x)
Because it seems to me that that’s what Anselm and Gödel are doing.
There are heaps of writing about Santa Claus as well. Or, to be more serious, heaps of writing from serious people about Satan. Where is the ontological proof of Satan in that case? Why have people argued about the existence of Satan for hundred of years? Why are people persecuted in real time for being followers of this Satan?
My point, which I appear to continue to need to make, is that the arguments fail as soon as the result is equated with a common English (or other written language) word. The arguments therefore must - logically, I would say - depend on those serious commentators wanting a device to prove the existence of an entity they already believe in. Rather than something surprising that emerges from the math, like quantum entanglement, an entity whose qualities they believe in ab initio are written in to the qualities quoted in the proof.
Replace God with any other word and the arguments would disappear as trivial. They continue solely because the concept of god continues as a majority cultural force. If belief in god were to disappear, nobody would bother with thousands of words on an ontological proof of existence. It would be like insisting that Santa Claus had been proven.
This is the polar opposite of what I just said.
I just said that the quantity of writing on a topic is meaningless and what matters is the concrete claims being made and the degree to which they have been verified.
*You* were the one trying to essentially use the “no smoke without fire” argument about the ontological argument, suggesting that since so much had been written about it then it can’t just be trivially flawed.
I think it comes down to what the title of the proof is. If the title is “A set of axioms implying the existence of a universal property holder.” It could have remained in the realm of mathematics without criticism (beyond questions as to whether it usefully advances the field). But if its put forth as the proof of the existence of god, it leaves the purely symbolic realm and must conform to some measure of reality.
How so? I proposed that the fact that experts continue to discuss a topic is on balance a good indication that they don’t think it’s silly. Remember, the original assertion was that ‘no one past first year philosophy thinks its an argument worth a damn’, yet there are lots of people, many of which professional philosophers and hence, presumably past first year philosophy, who spend a great deal of time writing about it. Why would they spend so much time on something they don’t think is worth a damn?
So to this, you replied that ‘often the more silly a proposition is, the more is written about it’, because ‘there’s a lot [people] need to write’ when they ‘engage in motivated reasoning’. This is what I paraphrased as ‘Volumes are written about it? Well, x is silly, so you have to expend lots of energy to try and make it seem believable!’. This still seems a reasonably accurate paraphrase, to me.
Yes—and I still maintain that, on balance, that’s a reasonably attitude to take, just like on balance, it’s a reasonable attitude to take that the expert opinion on a topic is what you ought to bet on. That experts spend lots of time and energy on something sort of implies that in their (expert) opinion, the thing isn’t silly, and I see no reason not to take expert opinion into consideration here in the same way I do with, say, vaccines. That doesn’t mean experts are always right, and it also doesn’t mean that experts never discuss silly things amongst themselves; but for a non-expert, a claim that some expert opinion is silly needs strong justification.
In Iceland there are experts on the behaviours of elves. Books have been written, studies have been undertaken, courses can be taken. It forms a substantive belief of many, many Icelandic people.
Is that a topic you also think you should bet on? No smoke without elvish fire eh?
Icelandic elves look and behave just like normal people. What distinguishes them from normal dudes is that they are… hidden. Cue discussions on the philosophical status of unobservable beings…
Not sure how serious you’re being here, but I’ve been careful to point out that no, experts aren’t always to be believed, or even always reasonable:
Additionally, the context of this discussion is that it was claimed that anybody with a cursory familiarity of topic A could see that x is transparently silly; which I reacted to by pointing out that many experts on topic A expended lots of time and paper discussing x, which indicates that these experts don’t think it’s silly, which refutes the original claim. So if the claim was, ‘anybody with a cursory familiarity with elvish lore would agree that it’s a silly idea that trolls turn to stone upon being exposed to sunlight’, yet there’s lots of discussion amongst elf experts regarding whether they do, then yes, I would appeal to the existence of this discussion in refutation of the claim that anybody with a familiarity of the subject thinks the matter is settled. That doesn’t mean that I think it’s a sensible idea that trolls either do or don’t turn to stone upon exposure to sunlight, but it does mean that the original assertion is questionable.