Monday, July 23, 2012

Part 3 of my discussion with Mentat1231, or "Noct shows his first signs of intelligence; Mentat concurs with this assessment"

Part 3 of a trilogy always blows... unless its "the Dark Knight Rises" or "Evil Dead" or "Pokemon" (though that's more of an installment franchise, as opposed to a trilogy) or... Anywho, here's the third installment of Mentat1231's and my Youtube private message discussion.

NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: PM?", 5/30/12

Hello Mentat.

This will be a VERY long PM. Don't feel obligated to respond to all of it. You obviously have lots of stuff going on, so take as much time as you need. Anyway, even though I'm just some random person on the Internet: congratulations in advance [personal information removed]. Also, on your "philosophically-minded friends" point, I know at least one other philosophical theist on Youtube. He's/she's a well-read divine command theorist who uses the necessary a posteriori truths I mentioned to argue for God's necessity in ethics. If you want, I could send you their Youtube name (if I get their permission) or send them your Youtube name (with your permission). So, on to the arguments.

I'm changing tactics. I could go point by point and explain where I think you're wrong. But I won't. I've tried that before and we still seem to be at a stalemate. Instead I'm going to target just one of your core theses; G: God's existence is metaphysically necessary. If I can show that G is unjustified, then your argument collapses, since God's nature and commands could change (or even fail to exist), which you believe is incompatible with necessary moral properties. You've offered Leibniz's principle of sufficient reason argument and the modal ontological argument in support of G. I will deal with these arguments in turn.

Previously I wrote: "at best, Leibniz's argument shows that it is metaphysically necessary that in every world there is some thing (N) which exists whose explanation is not explained by some external cause. This does not imply that N has the same traits (omnipotence, omnibenevolence, etc.) in every world, has the same traits as God, or even has mental properties."
Your response: "metaphysical necessity will do just fine (since that's really what Leibniz argued for anyway), and it would show that in every Possible World, the being upon which the existence of the entire Universe was contingent exists. That's all I need to establish."

Your response did not fully address my point. If Leibniz's argument worked, then it would show that in every possible (P1, P2, P3, etc.) there exists a corresponding thing (N1, N2, N3, etc.) whose explanation is not explained by some external cause. The argument does not show that N is the same thing in each world; just that all the N's share one feature. For example, all the versions of me in each possible world share at least one feature with you: they have minds. Yet this does not show that all those versions of me are you. So you need an additional argument; one showing that all the Ns have mental properties, have the same character traits as God (otherwise those character traits don't exist in every possible world, assuming there are worlds where N does not bring into existence things with those traits), etc. Basically, you need to show that all Ns are variants on the same being. Leibniz's argument alone does not do that. So that's where the ontological argument comes in.

Plantinga's modal ontological argument can be summarized as follows:
Definitions: A maximally excellent being (MEB) is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect. A maximally great being (MGB) is maximally excellent in every possible world (i.e. is a necessarily existent [NE] MEB).
P1: Maximal greatness (MG) is instantiated in a possible world.
P2: If MG is instantiated in a possible world, then MG is instantiated in every possible world.
C1: MG is instantiated in every possible world (from P1 and P2).
P3: If MG is instantiated in every possible world, then MG is instantiated in the actual world.
C2: MG is instantiated in the actual world (from C1 and P3).

I will devote the rest of this PM to explaining why this argument is fallacious.

A) The argument begs the question in an uninformative way.
P1 can be logically derived from C1 and C1 can be logically derived from P1. Under the rules of modal logic, these two claims are thus logically equivalent in the same way that "If P, then Q" and "If not-Q, then not-P" are logically equivalent (the formal, logical proof of this is given in section §III. of the site: C1 and C2 are also logically equivalent. Now, since a) P1 and C1 are logically equivalent and b) C1 and C2 are logically equivalent, then c) P1 and C2 are logically equivalent. If two statements are logically equivalent, the truth of one presupposes the truth of the other. For instance, C1 presupposes the truth of C2 in this sense: 1) if C2 is false, then C1 is false (this is logically equivalent to saying "C1 is true only if C2 is true"). But that means C2, the conclusion, presupposes the truth of premise P1 AND sub-conclusion C1. Now, positive atheists (by definition) deny C2. Given that the remaining premises (P2 and P3) are just truths of modal logic, the modal ontological argument is question-begging. This is easier to see with an example.

Let's say I'm trying to convince Jane that Steve is an unmarried male, when Jane believes Steve is not an unmarried male. I use the following argument:
A1: Steve is a bachelor
A2: If X is a bachelor, then X is an unmarried male.
A3: Steve is an unmarried male.
This argument is question-begging because premise A1 presupposses the truth of the conclusion A3: if A3 is false, A1 is false. This is because just as A2 is a conceptual truth, the following is also a conceptual truth: 
A2': "If X is not an unmarried male, then X is a not bachelor." 
The negation of A3, in conjunction with A2' implies that A1 is false. So if Jane understood the meaning of the terms in question, she would immediately object that the argument is question-begging. That's not to say the argument is uninformative. Conceptual/purely logical arguments are often question-begging even when they reveal something interesting. For example, Jane might have already believed A1 without knowing that A2 was a conceptual truth and thus failed to believe A3. Thus the above argument, even though it's question-begging, would have revealed something new to Jane and provided her with a valid argument for A3. If, however, Jane already knew that A2 and A2' were conceptual truths, then it would be both question-begging AND uninformative to use A1 in an argument against her; as a rational person, she would deny A1 as well, since it was conceptually entailed by A3, which she denied. My argument in A1-A3 would just be presupposing that her position was false.

Similarly, just like you would not be interested in an argument against God's existence if one of the premises presupposed God did not exist, atheists would not be interested in an argument for God if one of its premises involved presupposing God exists. But that's what I'm claiming Plantinga's argument does. His argument is BOTH question-begging and uninformative: P1 and C1 are true only if God exists (i.e. only if C2 is true), while P2 and P3 are just theorems of modal logic (analogous to A2 and A2'). No rational atheist who denies C2 is going to accept an argument for C2 when the argument's core premises are logically equivalent to C2 (see section 4, subsection 3 of "The Ontological Argument" in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

So if the ontological argument is uninformative, how should we interpret it? Well, once we see that P1 is just a logical rephrasing of "the MGB (i.e. God) necessarily exists," then we can see that the ontological argument has no real dialectical force. It's like arguing that "God is not good" when one of your premises is that "God is evil": the real argument took place when in the argument for the premise that "God is evil". The argument from "God is evil" to "God is not good" is not some additional argument against theism: it's just a logical/semantic deduction you do after the real argumentative work has already been done. Similarly, the modal ontological argument is just irrelevant logical wordplay; the real question is whether we have any reason to accept P1. Now some theists think they have offered arguments in favor of P1 (I think the Youtuber telemantros fallaciously used WLC's Kalam argument for this), but these theists: 1) do not actually provide arguments for P1, as I discuss in section D and 2) miss the point: once you have an argument for P1, the ontological argument is redundant. It's not some additional piece of evidence for God's existence, but a logical deduction from a premise you've already accepted, a premise that already presupposes theism.

B) Guanilo-type objections/The argument is parasitic upon "necessary existence"
Necessary existence is all that's required for the modal ontological argument. Basically, you can replace MG with any property you want, as long as that property includes necessary existence. For example, replace MG with maximal frightfulness (MF). A MF being (MFB) is omnipotent, omniscient, omniMALEVOLENT, and exists in every possible world. Another example is the number 7 which, for some Platonists, is necessarily existent. Or take a necessarily existent invisible non-physical unicorn. As long as the description of the entity states that the entity is NE, then Plantinga's argument shows that the being in question necessarily exists. This is known as a Guanilo-type objection. The point here is that if the ontological argument worked, it would prove the existence of things we know don't exist (like ghosts, unicorns, etc.). Therefore, the argument must be fallacious.

Theists could reply that none of the beings (the MFB, 7, etc.) are maximally great, while God is. Therefore the argument works for God and not them. However, this objection fails. First, it misses the point. The ontological argument derives its conclusion SOLELY from its logical analysis of necessary existence. God's other properties are irrelevant and just along for the ride. Anyway, MG is not some evaluative claim about how awesome or marvelous or normatively outstanding something is; MG does not mean "great" in the colloquial sense. Instead MG is just ME + NE. And MG in this sense is not specially privileged in the ontological argument: like any other property, it works in the ontological argument iff it includes NE and it works solely because it includes NE. So pointing out that God is MG while other things are not does nothing to rebut my argument. Second, the rebuttal needs to show that NE implies greatness in the colloquial sense, not vice versa. Now, for some theists ME may be evaluative, so they might thus think that MG is also evaluative. They might therefore greatness that greatness in the evaluative sense implies NE. Even if this is so, the fact that the MFB, 7, etc. are not "great" in the colloquial sense does not rebut my argument. Greatness in the colloquial sense is not needed for the ontological argument; only necessary existence is requirement. To rebut my argument, the proponent needs instead to show that NE implies ME; i.e. that a NE thing is more likely to have traits that are great in the colloquial sense (assuming those are the ME traits) as opposed to other traits. And no such argument has been given. Furthermore, we have grounds for denying that NE implies colloquial greatness. First, the MFB and the number 7 are both examples of NE things which lack colloquially great properties. Second, as I will argue in the next paragraph, the MGB (God) itself may lack the colloquially great property "all-existent".

Plantinga's reply to Guanilo fails also trades on colloquial greatness. He responds to the idea of a maximally great (in the colloquial, evaluative sense) island by saying, "the qualities that make for greatness in islands -- number of palm trees, amount and quality of coconuts, for example -- most of these qualities have no intrinsic maximum. That is, there is no degree of productivity or number of palm trees (or of dancing girls) such that it is impossible that an island display more of the quality." This is not true of God's "omni-" traits, so the ontological argument could work for God and not the beings I mentioned. This argument is implausible for a number of reasons. First, even God has intrinsically maximizable properties that God does not actually maximize. For example, God's could have been "all-existent" (i.e. the only existent thing). This is a trait with an intrinsic maximum and, for many people, being all-existent would be great in the colloquial sense. But God is not all-existent since it chose to create the universe. So God is not maximally great in the colloquial sense or in the sense of being maximal in traits with intrinsic maxima. So if Plantinga's reply worked, the ontological argument should not apply to God. 

Second, this reply makes the errors I noted 2 paragraphs back. It trades on colloquial greatness when this is not the sense of greatness relevant to the ontological argument. And even I grant that colloquial greatness implies ME and vice versa, the argument fails to show that NE implies colloquial greatness, which is what's needed to rebut my argument. For example, Platonists could say that the number 7 is NE even though it fails to maximize the property of "quantity" or the property of "being the largest natural number less than 9" (if you think that's a weird property, look-up the controversy over whether "existence" is a property). Furthermore, even if I accept Plantinga's claim that colloquial greatness only applies to traits with intrinsic maxima, it fails to address my MFB. If it's plausible that benevolence has an intrinsic maximum, then it's just as plausible that malevolence has an intrinsic maximum. And since malevolence/benevolence is the only difference between an MEB and an MFB, Plantinga reply fails to show that the ontological argument does not apply to the MFB. And given the plausible assumption that there can only be one omnipotent being and an MFB is not the same as an MEB, the ontological argument implies a contradiction if it works equally well for MEBs and MFBs. So the argument is fallacious.

C) An epistemological error
First, some definitions. A single world property (S) is a property something can have independently of what goes on in other possible worlds. For example: "being blue," "being possible," and most other properties. A transworld property (T) depends on what's going on in other worlds. For example: "being necessarily green," "being impossible," "transworld depravity," etc. When we want to determine whether something has an S, we examine single possible worlds. However, that is not the method we use for determining if something has a T. Instead we need to make arguments about multiple possible worlds. This involves an entire different epistemology. It's the epistemic difference between determining if something could have been yellow vs. determining if something is necessarily yellow. The epistemologies involved make proving the former easy, while making the latter quite hard. Unfortunately, the first premise of the modal ontological argument tricks some people into applying an S epistemology to determining if something has a T property (in this case "necessary existence"); instead of trying to show that God is in all possible worlds, they instead look for a necessary God in one possible world. But that's the wrong epistemic method and leads in a much too easy result that could prove the necessary existence of almost anything (Guanilo strikes again!). Here's an analogy to that might help:

New York = space of possible worlds
New York citizen = a possible world
Flu = S property
Epidemic flu (Eflu) = T property
Assume there is a flu outbreak in New York. A person has Eflu iff: 1) they have the flu and 2) everyone else in New York has the flu. Now a doctor might be curious about whether there is anyone in New York with the flu. This is analogous to thinking about possible S properties (ex: "is it possible for cats to be green?"). All the doctor needs to do is find ONE person with the flu. To do this, she can screen people one-by-one until she finds someone with the flu or just scan around for someone with flu-like symptoms and then examine them. This is analogous to imagining/conceiving of different possible worlds. If the doctor wanted to determine if a particular patient had the flu (analogous to thinking about S properties in the actual world [ex: "do green cats exist?"]), she would just apply her methods to one person. Now what if an epidemiologist was curious about Eflu? It would not make sense to just look at one patient and say "oh, you have Eflu" (analogous to looking at one possible world to determine if it contains an MGB). The epidemiologist either needs to screen EVERYONE in New York to determine if they all have the flu or provide some other argument for thinking that the flu was so bad that it's incredibly unlikely that someone in New York was uninfected (ex: maybe in lab tests the flu had a 100% infectivity rate, maybe everyone in New York is displaying flu-like symptoms, etc. [arguing that we can't sense of worlds where certain logical truths don't hold, so those worlds do not exist])

Now note that the same methods apply even if we rephrase the two problems as: 1) Doctor: "No one has Eflu" (analogous to "It is impossible that an MGB exists") and 2) Epidemiologist: "At least one person has Eflu" (analogous to: "MG instantiated in a possible world"). Despite the re-wording, we still address 1 via S methods and 2 via T methods. Furthermore, 1, even though it implies the utter non-existence of a property, is not an overly strong conclusion and does not require extraordinary evidence. We still address it via S methods: if the doctor found one patient who did not have the flu, this would prove 1. Conversely, even though 2 is re-worded to make it look like a modest S claim, it is still really a claim about T properties and we still need to employ T methods, not S methods; i.e. you don't just look into one patient (or possible) world to look for your T property. You instead screen every patient or make a persuasive argument for thinking no one has the flu. Now the epistemic problem with P1 should be clear: its wording entices people into applying S methods ("Well, I can imagine a world where an MGB exists") instead of the appropriate methods ("why should I think it's impossible for God not to exist"). 

A related problem is that, some theists could accuse atheists of being dogmatic when they say "it's impossible for an MGB to exist." However, the analogy in the above paragraph shows that the atheist's position is as innocuous as 1, and as such, the atheist can use S methods (such as conceiving of worlds in which an MEB does not exist; see section D). Statements like 1 can be innocuous because everyone (including theists) is logically committed to statements like 1. For example, whenever we deny the existence of some thing X (invisible non-physical unicorns, for example), we are logically committed to the claim "It's impossible for an MEX to exist" where MEX = NE + X (i.e. MEX is a necessarily existent X). So unless theists are going to say that denying the existence of invisible non-physical unicorns is too strong a position and thus forfeit their right to deny the existence of anything, then they should not claim the atheist's position is too strong (the third coming of Guanilo in the form of a unicorn :P).

D) Unsupported modal intuitions
As I argued in the latter part of section C, an atheist has just as much (if not more) justification for their modal intuition that "it's impossible for an MGB to exist" (and its logical equivalent: "it's possible that an MEB does not exist") than the theist has for their modal intuition in P1, since the atheist is not employing the incorrect epistemology while the theist may be. I will build on that argument in this section.

There are, of course, philosophers who are skeptical of human modal intuitions. But this cuts both ways: such skepticism would undercut both our trust in atheistic modal intuitions and our trust in the truth of P1. So, for the sake of argument, I'll assume that at least some modal intuitions are reliable. Now, how do we decide between the atheist's and the theist's intuitions? They both employ similar methods. For example, both Plantinga and the (presumed) atheist David Chalmers argue that it's conceivable that minds are not physical, therefore it's metaphysically possible that minds are not physical. Yet this "conceivability" method is also what grounds the atheist's modal intuition: they conceive of a world without a God. But note that this conceivability argument is an S method, and therefore should not be used to support P1 (see section C). So the atheist has the leg up here. 

Maybe theists have other arguments in favor of P1. Or maybe not. The Youtuber Theophage has eloquently argued that Plantinga presents no arguments in favor of P1. I have also found no arguments from Plantinga for the truth of P1; he only claims, "that there is nothing contrary to reason or irrational in accepting this premise." [As a sidenote: this is one reason (of many) I deeply respect Plantinga. He tries his best to understand his critics' though-process while not overtly over-estimating the strength of his own arguments]. But Plantinga does not have an argument for this claim either, while atheists have arguments against the P1. For example, the aforementioned "conceivability" method provides a reason for denying P1. Also, every argument against the existence of God (ex: the problem of evil, divine hiddenness, suffering, etc.) is an argument against P1. This is not so for theistic arguments in favor of P1. Most plausible religious arguments argue for a vague, deistic being. Then there are religious arguments that conclude only that an MEB (not an MGB) exists. For example, WLC's Kalam argument does not lead to the conclusion that God necessarily exists and has the same character traits in every possible world (this is why telemantros' argument from section A is fallacious). In fact I can't think of few theistic arguments (outside of bare assertions or appeals to scripture/authority) that aim to support P1 (i.e. aim to support the position logically equivalent to P1: "God necessarily exists"). So even if I agree with Plantinga that P1 is not obviously irrational, there is sufficient evidence for denying it and insufficient evidence for accepting it UNLESS theists present a sound argument for P1. I await your attempt.

Remember how you said the analytic moral naturalist's semantic thesis was just a bare assertion? Well, P1 is beginning to look like a bare assertion. You hinged your moral realism to the metaphysical necessity of God. Yet there is sufficient evidence for denying God's metaphysical necessity. So your theistic moral realism is in danger of collapsing. At this point you might be tempted to go back to an old argument: "Moral realism requires necessarily existing moral properties. Moral properties exist in world K only if minds exist in world K. So moral realism requires that there be a necessarily existent mind." Thus, you could use morality to support P1. This would not be circular argument as long as you did not then use the ontological argument as support for your version of moral realism. Basically, you would just reverse your current line of argument. If you feel tempted to take this path, remember that I've already rebutted this "morality implies a necessary mind" argument using my counterfactuals/properties distinction. Also, remember that in the last paragraph of section A I argued that the modal ontological argument is dialectically irrelevant and should not be taken as independent support of anything. If this is true, you should treat it in the "logical deduction" way I suggested in that section and just use your moral argument (apart from the ontological argument) as your evidence for God.

E) Why theists still defend ontological arguments
In this section, I'm going to do a bit of armchair psychoanalysis. First, let me be clear: I AM NOT asserting that proponents of the ontological are being deceptive or disingenuous in advancing the argument. Far from it. The most obvious reason theists defend ontological arguments is because they think they're sound. However, I think that some theists (WLC especially) have other, unexamined inclinations which explain their defense of the argument. I already examined one of those inclinations in section C: a tendency to apply S methods to T situations. I will discuss three others: epistemic possibility, tepidness about defending God's actions, and a lack of alternative evidence for God's nature.

Youtube proponents of the modal ontological argument (ex: migkillertwo, telemantros) are quick to distinguish between epistemic possibility and modal/metaphysical possibility. The former deals with (roughly) how sure we are that something is true (ex: "well, it's possible that you did not cheat on me"), while the latter is a metaphysical (or modal) account. Atheists can misread P1 as referring to epistemic possibility and thus be confused about how not being absolutely sure God does not exist implies that God must exist. But, again this cuts both ways. Theists can treat P1 as a metaphysical thesis, while using epistemic possibility to drive their argument. For example, as I discussed in section D, Plantinga claims only that P1 is not obviously irrational, i.e. we're not so sure of not-P1 (or so unsure of P) that we'd say we're rationally obligated to not believe P1. But this is mere epistemic possibility. A theist in this mindset could say, "since P1 is not epistemically impossible (or obviously irrational), why cant's I tentatively accept P1 and thus tentatively accept the conclusion that God necessarily exists?" We saw a variant of this position at the end of section C when I said theists might claim that the atheist's denial of premise 1 is too strong or dogmatic. Now the theist is working at things from the other end, trying to bolster faith in P1 up to sufficient levels, even though (as I noted in section D) they lack sufficient evidence for P1. Once we get clear that the denying P1 does not commit one to anything extravagant and, in fact, that the denial of P1 is more plausible than P1, then the air of epistemic respectability surrounding P1 vanishes, as does some of the rational motivation for accepting P1.

I've always been curious about how some theists defend God's actions and inaction (remember my PM on type 1 vs. type 2 theists). Whenever I mentioned some unnecessary suffering in the world, some theists would not bother explaining why a caring being would allow for such thing. They would instead just say that the objection was moot since morality required God (that defense fails by the way; see my comments from around 5/23/12 on TheCartesianTheist's video "The atheistic moral problem"). I quickly realized that this was just a convenient way for them to avoid the question (TheoreticalBullshit reached a similar conclusion via a different route in "A Treatise on Morality" from 18:30 to 19:58). It's hard to think that a caring, good being made this universe and then sat back and observed (or even ordered) human + animal suffering without helping the helpless. And just like with the moral argument, this difficulty is avoided/dodged in the ontological argument by unnecessarily smuggling goodness into God's description (as I discussed in section B). And the ontological argument comes with the added bonus of making those smuggled omnibenevolent traits necessary. No wonder theists hang on to the argument. 

As I argued in section B, the ontological argument is parasitic on NE and thus any properties one chooses to attach to NE are just along for the ride. So theists can (unknowingly) use the argument to smuggle in all the properties they wanted for God, but could never actually provide evidence for. On a related point, isn't it curious that, besides theists arguing for God, no one uses ontological arguments to argue for the existence of things they believe in? Yet if my 
Guanilo-type arguments in section B were correct AND a person believed modal ontological arguments worked, that person could use the argument to prove the existence of almost anything they wanted. Instead, most people try to find strong empirical or a priori evidence for things they believe exist. But (and this is just my conjecture based on experience and reading theistic arguments) theists lack sufficient evidence for thinking a being with the "omni-" attributes exists. So they resort to the ontological argument to smuggle those attributes into existence. So, as I hinted in the previous paragraph, it's not just a matter of smuggling moral properties into God's nature so that God can't be criticized; it's also a matter of providing support for ALL those other non-moral properties of God for which theist's lack sufficient evidence. WLC clearly uses the ontological to do this, along with the moral deflection I noted in the previous paragraph. So the theists get everything they want in one fell swoop. And, as previously states, the modal ontological argument has the added benefit of making God's traits necessary, so the theist does not have the bother themselves with charges about how God's nature "could have been different," or how God "could possibly not exist." Yet as I've shown, the modal ontological argument is fallacious, so theists should stop using it. However, unless theists come up with strong arguments for God's existence to fill the needs discussed in this section, ontological arguments will continue to creep up for decades to come. 

Whoa, that took awhile. If you've made it this far, thanks for your patience.

Mentat1231, "Re: PM?", 5/31/12


Thank you for your kind words, and for your patience. As to the offer of introducing me to another YouTube theist, I'll respectfully decline. I engage in debate to sharpen my arguments and my mind; so, I am in need of adversaries, not comrades ;-) 

Let me begin by re-stating something I just mentioned in passing in my previous PM, but which I think is absolutely vital to get clear: I don't need to substantiate God's metaphysical necessity for the sake of the moral argument. I choose to do so (and I will defend both the Leibniz-style argument and the Plantinga-style one), but I do not need to. You see, the moral argument is the conditional: "if objective moral values exist, then God exists". That "God" can be defined as I choose, such that it is sufficient for the argument (for example, I do not mean some underlying intelligence of the Universe itself, nor do I mean Zeus, nor do I mean my older brother Robert). So, just as I am well within my rights to define the "God" of the conditional statement as a free person, as omniscient and omnipotent, as a singular entity and not at all pantheistic, etc, so I am well within my rights to simply DEFINE Him as metaphysically necessary. The conditional would read: "If objective moral values really exist, then a metaphysically necessary, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, eternal person who created the Universe exists." So, your opening statement ("if I can show that G is unjustified, then your argument collapses...") is quite mistaken. 

Anyway, here we go :-) 

It seems you don't fully understand the Leibniz point. The Principle of Sufficient Reason (henceforth: PSR) states that everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in contingency upon some other reality, or in its own necessary nature. Since the Universe is demonstrably contingent (could have been many different ways, or no way at all), it requires explanation as contingent on something else. The simplest explanation is God, who satisfies the PSR by being logically necessary. People like William Lane Craig argue that there are only two kinds of being which are immaterial and spaceless (as the cause of the Universe would need to be, since it creates space and matter): abstract objects, and minds. But abstract objects are causally impotent, therefore the logically necessary Cause of the Universe is most plausibly a mind/person. Richard Swinburne argues for the conclusion that it is a mind by appeal to simplest explanation (an Occam's Razor-style argument). Either way, here is the key point: when you allow that this argument shows that some N exists in all P, you must recognize that N = that entity on which the Universe's existence is contingent. And, plausibly, that N is also a person in all those P (since the reasoning that applies for this P applies equally well for all the others). 

Now to the Ontological Argument: 

A) I looked at your reference, and I read through your argument a couple of times. I even started writing out a very long reply, but I've deleted it, because I believe a much simpler reply is needed. Your formal proofs skirt the edge of saying that all syllogisms are question-begging and uninformative (it's hard to see how the classic syllogism "all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal" doesn't fall under the same criticisms... I mean that is just how deductive, syllogistic logic works! You make a general statement about a class of entities, you state that X is a member of that class, and then you draw the logical inference.). I would like to know your response to this, since it really does seem that you are arguing against syllogisms in general. But, in any case, here is the key point: The Ontological Argument has done its work the moment it shows that if God is even possible, then He exists (and exists in every Possible World). That's all it's meant to show! In other words, as you so rigorously point out, an atheist needs to deny P1. However, in doing so he goes far beyond saying "God does not exist" (the classical statement of atheism). He now affirms that "it is not even logically PERMISSABLE or POSSIBLE that God could exist". The Ontological Argument produces a situation where an atheist must show some logical inconsistency or incoherence in the very CONCEPT of God (more specifically, of MG). If such an incoherence cannot be shown, then God not only CAN exist, but DOES. 

B) Again, I started a very long response, but I deleted it. This point is rather easily resolved (indeed, I'm a little surprised you don't see the resolution, since you keep repeating it in reverse). You say that the conclusion of the OA is predicated entirely on ME + NE, but that the "...+NE" part could be used for anything. And yet, do you really believe theists just arbitrarily add NE? Plantinga certainly doesn't. Nor does Craig. They add "NE" as just another proper member of the set of Maximally Great properties (like omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection). NE is greater than CE, both in the colloquial sense, and in the sense that contingency seems to have a range. Some things are highly contingent, like you and me (we are absurdly unlikely creatures, and probably don't exist in most Possible Worlds). Other things seem rather essential to the world, and while they could fail to exist, they seem to exist in vastly more Possible Worlds. This distinction makes some things more reliable in our reasonings and inferences about the world, and is thus a "great-making property". But, NECESSARY existence would be the highest instantiation of this GMP, and would thus belong properly in the set of descriptors of a Maximally-Great Being. (Side note: even if contingency doesn't come in a range, and something is either contingent or necessary, this argument still works; after all, a set possessing only [1, infinity] still has a logical maximum). So it is not an arbitrary appendage, as you require it to be for your argument to work. Look at your example of an MFB. The question of Necessary Existence never comes up, because "fright-making properties" are not logical, but subjective. In many Possible Worlds, there are no beings capable of being frightened. And it is utterly subjective what things are frightening anyway. Whereas "great-making properties" have a logical and objective definition (namely: confer objective value, and have a logical maximum); "fright-making properties" do not. 

This same argument takes care of the Guanilo's island, since what makes a "great island" is purely subjective, AND there are no logical maximums for these properties (like number of palm trees... someone may think Ireland is much greater than tropical islands, in which case the proper number of palm trees is 0). 

As to your point about "maximizable properties which are not actually maximized in God", you must look once again at the definition of the GMPs. A "great-making property" is one that confers objective value, and permits of a logical maximum. Existence is not a property at all (as Kant showed), and so it is wrong to think of it as a candidate for a GMP. Indeed, I find your "all-existing" point rather odd, since it seems to imagine that someone can exist "so much" that nothing else has "room" to exist. That is such a non-sequitor that I hardly know how to respond to it. Respectfully, I'll need to see some sort of explanation of how something can have "more existence" than something else, how something can have "so much" existence that there's no room for anything else, and how it is even possible that existence should come in degrees in the first place. 

C) I understand your point about S vs. T properties, and I do see what you're getting at, but this argument seems to me (respectfully) to fail even worse than the others. All you have to do is look at your analogy: If the doctor knew of a kind of virus which, if it existed, would necessarily exist in all people (say, one that existed in the first Homo Sapiens, and cannot fail to pass to all of their progeny), then finding just one case of THAT PARTICULAR VIRUS would justify his claim that an Eflu exists. An MGB, if it exists at all, has the property of existing in every possible world (that is part of its maximal greatness, as I described in detail above). As such, discovering just one Possible World where this thing exists is indeed sufficient to say it exists in all Possible Worlds. Now, you could use Cosmological, Moral, Teleological, or other styles of arguments to independently substantiate that an MGB can exist, but you don't have to. A Possible World exists with an MGB in it, just so long as there is no logical inconsistency in the concept itself. And I have yet to see anyone successfully argue that any such incoherence exists. 

Your comparison to unicorns reveals the problem in your thinking about this argument. In point B, I showed that NE is not just added on as an appendage. It is deduced from the nature of the GMPs, and properly belongs in that set. 

D) When something is intuitively conceivable, and there are no defeaters for it, we are justified in holding that it is possible. So, the intuition "an MEB might be impossible" would be justifiable if there were no defeaters. However, "a circle might exist without having a circumference-diameter ratio of pi" is also intuitively conceivable. It just happens to have a mathematical defeater. We must therefore abandon this intuition of conceivability. So, one could say "I can conceive of a P where no MEB exists", and really be saying a sentence equivalent to "I can conceive of a P where only a finite amount of natural numbers exist". All you need is a defeater, and the intuition must logically be abandoned. The defeater in this case is quite simply the nature of an MGB (which, by definition, entails NE). As such our intuition that there could be a P with no MEB is abandoned. Notice that this does not cut the other way. A theist is just saying "I can conceive that an MGB exists", and it is up to some intrepid atheist to find a logical defeater for the very POSSIBILITY of such a thing (which no atheist has yet done). 

I will leave your passing mention of the arguments from hiddenness and evil alone for now, since those would be utterly independent arguments. 

E) Since my understanding of God's actions and nature is entirely based on the Bible, I am nothing like the theists you're used to dealing with. So I cannot respond for them, or for the "typical" proponents of the Ontological Argument. The truth is that I don't need the OA, either to confirm that God exists (I have lots of other arguments for that), or to deal with things like the problem of evil. Indeed, it is my opinion that, if people actually read and understood the Bible, they would see that there is no Problem of Evil at all (at least, not one that is relevant to Jehovah; the Bible's God... it might be relevant to Allah or some such thing; I don't know enough about that). People like WLC tend to be satisfied with just showing that it is logically possible for evil and God to co-exist. But I find that kind of argument utterly disappointing, in view of the fact that the Bible gives a very specific set of reasons why God has permitted evil, and how He will ultimately extinguish it forever (along with undoing all of its effects). If you are really interested in this point, I can share it with you in its entirety (or even just sketch it, if you'd prefer). I just don't normally offer this, since most people aren't really interested in it; and since it is not directly related to the arguments at hand. 

I look forward to your response. 


NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: PM?", 6/1/12

Hello Mentat.

Prelude 1) I'm confused about your initial argument. As I mentioned in my previous PM, you used to run something like the following argument: M1: "If morality is objective, then there must be metaphysically necessary moral properties. If moral properties exist in a world W, W contains a mind. Therefore, if morality is objective, there exists a metaphysically necessary mind." That argument does not imply the truth of G (since God is more than just a necessary mind), but all my comments in my previous PM rebutting G could be shifted into comments rebutting an argument for a necessarily existent mind. So you're right is saying you don't need to defend G to defend the moral argument. However, if M1 is how you intend to defend the conditional: "if objective moral values exist, then God exists," then you either need to defend the existence of a necessary mind against my last PM's critique or provide another argument for the conditional.

Anyway, depending on how you choose to you argue, you may need to defend G for other reasons. For example, you need to argue that God's character traits cannot change, and G is a convenient way of doing this. If God's character traits are not metaphysically necessary, then God could have had different character traits in another possible world Z. And, if I'm correctly interpreting your moral theory, what's morally right in Z would be different from what's morally right in our world solely because God's nature/commands had changed. So if God's nature is not metaphysically necessary, under your theory, ethics would not be objective; if objective ethics implies a God and ethics depends on that God's nature, then that God's nature/commands cannot be open to change (i.e. there needs to be no possible world in which it's different). So if you are not going to defend G, what other reason besides G do you have for thinking God's nature could not have been different?

Prelude 2) Plantinga's ontological argument uses metaphysical modalities, not logical modalities. Possibility, in his argument, is broadly logical possibility (The Analytic Theist, page 52). "A proposition is possible in the broadly logical sense just in case its denial is not a necessary truth. Plantinga adopts the notion of broadly logical modality to allow for the necessity of propositions that are neither truths of logic nor mathematics, nor the denials of the truths of logic or mathematics (The Analytic Theist, page 23)." So denying a broadly logically necessary claim does not entail denying a truth of logic. Yet you say that for an atheist to deny that a necessarily existent ME exists, "an atheist must show some logical inconsistency or incoherence in the very CONCEPT of God." So you must be using possibility in a different sense. I think you're using logical modality (arguing that God is LOGICALLY necessary [i.e. conceptually necessary or entailed by logic]), when Plantinga means BROADLY LOGICAL modality (which roughly amounts to METAPHYSICAL modality; for example search for the following quote in WLC's article "Graham Oppy on the Kalam Cosmological Argument": "Broadly logical possibility/necessity is therefore frequently identified with metaphysical possibility/necessity."). That's fine. We just need to recognize that there are 2 difference versions of the ontological argument here, one involving logical modality and one involving metaphysical modality.

[Note that the metaphysical ontological argument is superior to the logical ontological argument. The logical argument has all the same problems I noted in my previous PM, but comes with an additional problem in section D. Namely, that there is much more skepticism and confusion about our epistemology for metaphysical modality that for our epistemology for logical modality. For example, some philosophers argue that conceivability is not a good test for metaphysical possibility. Or that metaphysical modality amounts to the same thing a logical modality. Yet the guidelines for logical possibility and necessity are quite clear: it boils down to conceptual truths and truths of logic. This means that for logical possibility, it's much harder to use uncertainty about modal intuitions to argue that your modal intuitions are not obviously irrational (see my previous PM section E, paragraph 2). This, as I will show, gives us a very easy method of dismissing the logical version of P1.]

Remember that an MEB is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect while an MGB is maximally excellent in every possible world (i.e. is a metaphysically necessarily existent [NE] MEB). Now we can re-phrase Plantinga's argument, replacing all metaphysical modalities with logical modalities so that an MGB is a logically necessary MEB.I hold that in the revised argument, an MGB is logically impossible. I'll use an analogy to show why. Take the phrase "a being who is a married bachelor." It is logically impossible for such a being to exist because "married" implies the falsity of a CONCEPTUAL truth about "bachelors"; namely, they are not married. So a married bachelor is logically impossible. Note that I showed this without having to show, "some logical inconsistency or incoherence in the very CONCEPT of" bachelor. It is "unmarried bachelor," not "bachelor," that's inconsistent/incoherent. Similarly, the existence of an MEB can be denied without implying a contradiction or denying a truth of logic. But it is a CONCEPTUAL truth about "logical necessity" that X is logically necessary only if not-X implies a contradiction or not-X implies denying a truth of logic. So "the logically necessary MEB" (i.e. the MGB) is logically impossible/incoherent.

Again, as in the case of the "bachelor" in the "unmarried bachelor," I showed that the MGB is logically impossible without having to show that the MEB is logically impossible. So if by God you mean the MEB, then my argument does not show that God is impossible, but that's only because you've agreed to not define your God as logically necessary. The second you change your mind and define God as a logically necessary MEB (i.e. God = the MGB), your God becomes impossible. Furthermore, since the ontological argument solely hinges on NE, God needs to be defined as an MGB, not an MEB, for the ontological argument to show that God exists. Now if these reasons push you into saying that God is the MGB, I've just shown your God is logically impossible.

You could complain that that my argument depends on assuming that the existence of an MEB can be denied without implying a contradiction or denying a truth of logic. And isn't that unfair? First, remember in part D you said, "when something is intuitively conceivable, and there are no defeaters for it, we are justified in holding that it is possible." I could say that here. It's conceivable that an MEB does not exist and I have no defeaters for this intuition (I'll deal with your proposed defeaters throughout this PM), so it's metaphysically possible that an MEB does not exist. And since it's metaphysically possible that an MEB does not exist, it's logically possible that an MEB does not exist. We also have all the arguments I mentioned in part D of my previous PM for the non-existence of an MEB (which implies the possible non-existence of an MEB). Second, as I discussed in the last paragraph of section C of my previous PM, we deny the existence of things all the time (hobbits, for example). But denying the existence of X entails accepting that that "the logically necessary X" is logically contradictory (non-existence in the actual world implies non-existence in a logically possible world, which denies logical necessary existence). Heck, we're willing to accept that it's logically possible for entities which are not abstract (planets, human minds, TVs, etc.) to not exist, until we're presented with an argument otherwise. So unless you forfeit your right to deny the existence of any non-abstract object or present me with an argument for thinking that denying the MEB's existence implies a contradiction, my argument remains unaffected. Maybe the PSR argument can do the job you require.

Prelude 3) I'll grant for the sake of argument (even though I doubt it) that the PSR argument shows that it's logically necessary that every world contains some non-contingent N. This is not the same as saying N's nature is logically necessary. Again, by logical necessity, in every possible (P1, P2, P3, etc.) there exists a corresponding thing (N1, N2, N3, etc.) whose explanation is not explained by some external cause. This means that it's logically necessary that there is some thing N that fills the role or has the property "not explained by an external cause and having an explanation of its existence within its own nature." It's this role or property that's logically necessary (exists in every possible), not a particular N (N1, N2, etc.) itself. The role of N could be filled by different things (N1, N2, N3) in different worlds. So your claim that, "God, who satisfies the PSR by being logically necessary is misguided," since the PSR argument does not show that a particular N1 needs to be (logically) necessarily existent to fill the role of N. This also implies that the PSR is not an argument for the existence of a logically necessary being (i.e. a particular N1 [the MGB, for example] that exists in every logically possible world), but instead an argument that it's logically necessary that each world has an N (i.e. every world has some thing that fills the role I mentioned). I think you're confusing these two theses in your response.

Furthermore, WLC's and Swinburne's arguments for God being the N of this world are not logically necessary. Occam's razor is an empirical tool (a theory is not logically impossible just because it's unnecessarily complex) and WLC's dichotomy is not logically exhaustive (there is nothing incoherent about an immaterial, spaceless thing which is not an abstract object or a mind). The PSR argument cannot show that a particular N1 is logically necessary when the argument includes an empirical or non-logically-necessary premise for the existence of an N1, since this leaves open the logical possibility of another N (N2) filling the role of N is some possible world J, thus leaving the PSR unable to argue for the existence of N1 in J. So even if my previous paragraph was incorrect, I still need a logical, non-empirical reason for thinking God must be N in every possible world. The PSR argument has yet to provide this and neither have you.

A) My argument does not show that all syllogisms beg the question or are uninformative. Your confusion is partially my fault. Section A paragraph 1 of my previous PM should read, "For instance, C1 presupposes the truth of C2 iff V is a logical/conceptual truth where V is:...", not, "For instance, C1 presupposes the truth of C2 in this sense:" The former is the sense of "presuppose" I used throughout my previous PM. In the Socrates' example you gave, the argument is not question-begging because the conclusion does not presuppose either premise. For the conclusion to presuppose premise 1, L1: "if not-(Socrates is mortal), then not-(all men are mortal)" would need to be a conceptual or logical truth. And for the conclusion to presuppose premise 2, L2: "if not-(Socrates is mortal), then not-(Socrates is a man)" would need to be a conceptual or logical truth. For L1, it's logically possible Socrates was a mortal alien pretending to be a man, so it's logically possible for L1 to be false. For L2, there is nothing incoherent about an immortal man, so it's logically possible that Socrates was an immortal man (his death was an illusion). Since it's logically possible for L1 and L2 to be false, neither are conceptual/logical truths. So in the argument you presented, the conclusion does not presuppose the premises and therefore does not beg the question. Similarly, most syllogistic arguments don't beg the question.

Furthermore, section A of my previous PM allowed for an argument to be informative even if it was question-begging. Even if one of the premises (say "all men are mortal") in your Socrates argument was a logical or conceptual truth (and thus the argument begged the question), if your opponent did not know the premise was a conceptual truth/logical truth, then you would have presented them with something new and an interesting reason to accept your conclusion; i.e. your argument would be question-begging but informative. If your opponent still wanted to disagree with your conclusion, they would then need to argue against your premisebeing a conceptual truth or deny both your conclusion and your empirical premise ("Socrates is a man"). So even if section A of my previous PM showed that all syllogisms are question-begging, it would have failed to show that all syllogisms were uninformative since question-begging syllogisms can present new information.

You did not address my central point in the last paragraph of section A. I agree that, "the Ontological Argument has done its work the moment it shows that if God is even possible, then He exists (and exists in every Possible World)." I just suggested that this was as LESS "work" as the following argument does "God is evil. If God is evil, then God is not good. Therefore God is not good" (in this argument, assume that by God means "the creator of the universe"). You would not count that as an additional argument for atheism, so why should I count the ontological argument as an additional argument for God? The real work happened in the argument for the initial premise and the rest is just an uninteresting, uninformative, question-begging deduction. And this toy argument does MORE work than the ontological argument because the conclusion of this argument is not logically equivalent to its non-logical-necessary premise: it's not a logical/conceptual truth, "if God is not good, then God is evil." For example, it's logically possible for a being to amoral (lack moral responsibility or agency) and thus be neither good nor bad. Contrast that with the ontological argument, where C2 is logically equivalent to the non-logically-necessary premises P1 and C1.

I've explained why an MGB is incoherent in prelude 2, so I've met your challenge for the logical ontological argument. I don't need to meet this challenge for Plantinga's metaphysical argument because, as I discussed prelude 2, denying metaphysical necessity (or broadly logical necessity) does not imply having to show a logical contradiction. You may have underestimated how easy your challenge was because you thought showing a contradiction in an MGB would be as hard as showing a contradiction in an MEB (though even these are easy to show; see TheoreticalBullshit's video "Omni VERSUS Omni"). It's not.

B) In my previous PM I agreed, for the sake of argument, that colloquial maximal greatness implied NE and MG implied NE [I still hold that MG and "maximal colloquial greatness" are different, but I'll drop that point for now]. But I made sure to note that this was not what you needed; you needed to show that NE implies MG or that NE implies maximal colloquial greatness (i.e. that if a being is necessarily existent, it needs to have all the great-making properties). You responded that, I should have seen the solution because I kept "repeating it in reverse." Actually, no. Agreeing to "If A, then B" is not the same as agreeing to "If B, then A," in reverse. It's simply not agreeing to "If B, then A." Similarly, most of your reply argued for "'maximal colloquial greatness (or MG) implies NE" when I specifically warned against this and told you needed to argue for "NE implies maximal colloquial greatness [or MG]". This may be easier to see with an example.

The following argument is fallacious: "I have property D. D has objective value. Property E has objective value. Therefore I have property E." The problem here is obvious; just because you have a property with objective value does not mean you have all properties that have objective value. Similarly, "Y has NE. NE is colloquially great (i.e. is a great-making property). Omnipotence is a great-making property. Therefore Y is omnipotent," is a fallacious argument. You need to show why have 1 great-making property IMPLIES having them all. If you're running Plantinga's argument, the implication needs to be metaphysically necessary. If you're running the logical ontological argument, this needs to me a logically necessary implication. I doubt you can do this, since I don't see anything incoherent about a being having only one or only some great-making properties. This being would not the MGB, but so what? Having a great-making property does not imply having every great-making property.

You could reply that NE is more plausibly situated in an MGB versus another being. This reply has a few problems. First, unless you provide an argument, it fails to demonstrate the logical or metaphysical necessity I asked for in the previous paragraph. Second, you don't have the grounds to argue for this. All you've done is point out a few features of NE (great-making, objective value), and then noted other properties (the ME traits) that shared those features. As my previous paragraph showed, that's insufficient for claiming that NE and ME traits must be instantiated together. This was also what my MFB example was supposed to show. You responded that "frightening" is subjective. This is irrelevant. Response dependent properties are still properties. For example, if a toaster looks red to me and a chair looks red to me, they both share the response-dependent, dispositional property of "looking-red-to-me." So I've pointed out a relevant feature of the two objects even though the feature is response-dependent. And it's an objective truth (true independent of what anyone else thinks) that those objects induce a subjective response in me. Analogously, if we assume NE is frightening to person X, then NE has the dispositional feature of "frightening-to-X."So an NE must have all the set of all "frightening-to-X" properties, and thus must be the MFB! See how this argument is a non sequitur? That's what happening in your greatness argument. And NE is not just "an arbitrary appendage" in my description. An MFB must have NE, otherwise the MFB lacks a "frightening-to-X" feature and is thus not maximally frightening. And so it is for any description that implies NE. And if you don't like that example, there are more to come.

If you don't like subjectivity, here are other examples. NE is, objectively, a modal property. So God must possess the set of all modal properties. Or: NE is a property that meets its intrinsic maximum, so an NE being must meet the intrinsic maximum for all its traits that have intrinsic maxima. If you can recognize the fallacy in these arguments, you should be able to recognize the fallacy in yours. You also missed the point of my other example: "all-existent." First, what do you think of Plantinga's critique of Kant's objection? Do you think that if existence is not a property, this has any relevance to descriptions that contain NE? If so, how does your ontological argument survive this (it involves necessary existence, after all) while my "all-existent" rebuttal fails? Second, "all-existent" is not the same as "existent." God could have been the only existent thing if it had chosen not to make anything else (otherwise, contrary to Christianity, some thing outside of God exists independently of God creating it). Now God would be "all-existent" iff in every possible world, God was the only thing that existed (all-existent isn't a matter of "more existence" or no "room for anything else" to exist; it's can be about choosing to create). "All-existent" is not the same thing as "existent," so it's not obvious that Kant's objection to existent applies to all-existent. Third, even though "all-existent" is a great-making property, God fails to exemplify. Like NE, "all-existent" has an intrinsic maximum. And if necessary existence confers objective value, why not "all-existent?" How awesome must a being be to not only be all that exists, but all that ever can, ever will, and ever could possibly exist! Yet God is not "all-existent" since it made us in the actual world. So by Plantinga's own reasoning, God fails to exemplify a great-making property. So his defense fails against Guanilo's island fails. This also falsifies your implicit claim in section C that if X has a great-making property, X must have all great-making properties.

C) You said, "If the doctor knew of a kind of virus which, if it existed, would necessarily exist in all people (say, one that existed in the first Homo Sapiens, and cannot fail to pass to all of their progeny), then finding just one case of THAT PARTICULAR VIRUS would justify his claim that an Eflu exists." If by "THAT PARTICULAR VIRUS," you mean the flu, then your method parallels the epidemiologist method I gave in section C of my previous PM: "provide some other argument for thinking that the flu was so bad that it's incredibly unlikely that someone in New York was uninfected." Your doctor's reasoning has 2 parts: 1) the flu infected our ancestors, so everyone must have the flu, and therefore everyone has EFlu, 2) I saw a person with flu, so everyone has flu. Both the first and second steps of the doctor's search are relevant. Once the doctor has evidence that the virus infected a human ancestor and is thus present in all their descendants (part 1), the doctor can try to falsify his claim by finding a person who does not have the flu (part 2). This is similar to a theist presenting an argument for P1 and an atheist trying to conceive of a world without an MEB. If, in part 2, the doctor fails to find a person who does not have the flu, this serves as inductive confirmation of that everyone has the Flu and thus EFlu exists (i.e. if the atheist fails to conceive a world without an MEB, this is inductive confirmation that a necessary MEB exists and thus an MGB exists).

However, I don't think you're following my methods. In part C, you suggest that we look for the MGB, not the MEB, in possible worlds. This suggests an analogy to EFlu, not the flu, in part 2. You also suggest that, "just one case of THAT PARTICULAR VIRUS would justify his claim that an Eflu exists," which can't be true if "THAT PARTICULAR VIRUS," is just the flu, as opposed to Eflu. Observing a patient with the flu is, ON IT'S OWN, not sufficient evidence for saying you've seen the Eflu. If this second interpretation of you is correct, then your analogy does not work. Your doctor's reasoning has 2 parts: i) the flu infected our ancestors, so everyone must have the flu, and therefore everyone has EFlu, ii) I saw a person with Eflu, so everyone has Eflu. Part i is where all the work is done and as I noted in the previous paragraph, looking for people without the flu is one way to try and disconfirm 1's reasoning. Part ii, however, (as I discusses in my previous PM) makes no methodological sense, cannot stand without part i, and adds nothing to the conversation once part i is in place. EFlu does not look different from the flu upon examination; the difference is instead located in other people. So if you want to do a person by person examination to determine if EFlu exists (as per part ii's method), you don't look for individuals with Eflu; you look for people with or without the flu, and after looking at everyone, if anyone lacks the flu, EFlu does not exist and if everyone has the flu, Eflu exists. Similarly, you don't look determine if it's possible an MGB exists; instead you go world by world looking for a world without a MEB. Since going world by world is nigh impossible, you need a reason for thinking an MEB is necessary. But this just reduces to part i, which makes part ii methodologically impotent (when applied to the ontological argument) without part i. Furthermore, as I argued in section C of my previous PM, there is all the difference in the world between looking into someone and saying SOLELY based on your investigation of them "you have the Eflu" vs. saying "you have the flu." You can't differentiate between a case of flu and Eflu (by definition) until you provide evidence for thinking EVERYONE has the flu (i.e. you need part i). So without part i, part ii supports its conclusion only by assuming we have reason for thinking everyone has the flu. Again, as I discussed in section A of my previous PM, the real debate is over your evidence for P1 (analogous to part i), while the ontological argument (analogous to part ii) is just question-begging, uninformative wordplay.

I argued for the incoherence of a logically necessary MEB before part A. Also, let me reiterate that the teleological and cosmological arguments provide no evidence for an MGB. At best, they show that an MEB exists in this world, while failing to make ANY modal claims regarding an MGB. And I've already argued that the moral inference from objective morality to a necessary mind (now there's a modal claim!) is fallacious. Moving on to your unicorn point: if I say NEU is a necessarily existent unicorn, then this implies that my unicorn has NE. I could then go about listing features of properties of my unicorn and noting how those features are shared by NE. If this would not convince you that an NE being must thus have all the traits of a unicorn and that an NEU necessarily exists, then you already understand why your saying NE has objective value or is great-making, does not convince me that an NE being must have all the great-making properties or that an MGB necessarily exists.

{As a side-note: Though I won't argue for it in detail here (I'll reserve it for another series of PMs, if the time comes), my analogy in section C of my previous PM and my discussion of logical possibility in prelude 2 are some of my main tools for dismantling Plantinga's transworld depravity defense against the logical problem of evil. Though I think Plantinga's defense fails, I remain a "negative a-[believer in the validity of the logical problem of evil]" for the reasons I note in my comments from around the week of 5/24 on TheCartesianTheist's video "The Logical Problem of Evil" [as an aside to a side-note!: TheCartesianTheist has an annoying habit of only tackling easy-to-rebut arguments, yet re-treating when he runs out of ideas. For instance, he still hasn't responded to my argument from the week of 5/24/12 on his video "The atheistic moral problem" even though I 1) sent him the PM he asked on 5/25/12 and 2) in the interim, he's tackled, at length, other atheistic arguments any high-school student could rebut.]}

D) How is, "the nature of an MGB (which, by definition, entails NE)," a defeater for the claim that, "there is a possible world without an MEB." The nature of an MGB entails that ME is necessary just as, I've repeatedly argued in parts B and C, the nature of any MGX implies X is necessary. So, "the nature of an MGB (which, by definition, entails NE)," is not a defeater for "there is a possible world without an MEB," anymore than, "the nature of an NEU (which, by definition, entails NE)," is a defeater for the claim, "there is a possible world without unicorns." And pointing out the NE is great-making in the colloquial sense does nothing to save your position, as I argued in part B. I hope you're not implicitly making the inference from the description of a thing to the actual existence of that thing. Remember when I said: "'Exist' can be used in a definitional sense ('By definition, God is an existent being') and an ontologically committing sense ('God exists'). The first sense does not commit you to claiming that God exists in the real world (ex: 'By definition, Santa Clause exists') while the latter sense does. For the claim, 'the necessarily existent God does not exist,' the first usage of exist must be definitional, otherwise no atheist would assert it and the argument begs the question." You replied that the modal ontological argument does not make that mistake. So I assume you're not inferring that, "the DESCRIPTION of MGB implies NE," implies that, "there exists (ontologically-committing sense) an MGB" (or "it's MODALLY possible that an MGB exists") which would serve as a defeater for the MODAL/ONTOLOGICAL thesis that, "there is a possible world without an MEB." Finally, I also provided a defeater for the existence of a logically necessary MEB (see preludes 2 and 3), along with the defeaters for a metaphysically necessary MEB that I gave in section D of my previous PM.

E) I directed my psychoanalysis against theists like Plantinga, Copan, and WLC. I believe all these men try to make sure their, "understanding of God's actions and nature is entirely based on the Bible." If not, my mistake. If so, my critique may apply to you position as well. Also, as I mentioned in part C, I don't buy the conventional defense to the logical problem of evil, so I'm not willing to concede that God and evil agree logically compatible. Anyway, I'd be happy to read your reasoned, Biblical defense of god's nature and actions on two conditions. First, place it in a PM separate to your response to this one, with a title relating to your topic. This should make it easier to keep different argument threads separate. Second, please remember I'm not a Biblical scholar or an Old testament/New Testament historian. Most of my criticisms of the Bible are moral ones and analogies to modern times, along with my light reading on moral psychology in small-scale societies and popular books such as those by Ehrman, Wright's "The Evolution of God", etc. So if your defense involves heavy use of textual and historical sources, please either briefly summarize your evidence or give me the relevant citations (which should be available online or in a university library). Of course, I'll need time to read the relevant sections, so my response will take longer the more citations you send.

I hope you now see why the ontological argument is fallacious. If you have the time, I look forward to your next well-reasoned response.


Mentat1231, "Typo (Read first please).", 6/4/12


While I routinely make typographical errors, I made one in my most recent post which is liable to leave you wondering! It's in my response to point D (sub-point 1). I define the Great-Making Properties, and the definition ends with "has a logical maximum". Then, in parentheses, I started to re-state what "has a logical maximum" means, but I didn't finish. I got distracted, I suppose. What I mean to say there was that "has a logical maximum" is like saying "has a level at which the number of limiters is zero". So, omnipotence is power at the level at which the number of limiters is zero. And, NE would be the utter absence of contingency (a limiter on the number of Possible Worlds one could inhabit). Anyway, this will all make more sense when you read the rest of that point, I hope. I just thought I'd clear up that parenthetical fragment.



Mentat1231, "Re: PM?", 6/4/12


I applaud your keenness on this topic, as usual, and yet in this particular PM you seem to have several things a bit backward. It's probably my fault, for not expressing my own position clearly enough; but I'll try to clarify here... 

Prelude 1) You re-phrased my Moral Argument as: "If morality is objective, then there must be metaphysically necessary moral properties. If moral properties exist in a world W, W contains a mind. Therefore, if morality is objective, there exists a metaphysically necessary mind." This most certainly not what I argued; and is apt to lead to your old "parasitic" argument. Let's call my argument just "M": "If moral properties exist, are grounded in the nature of an eternal, beginningless, changeless, metaphysically necessary mind/person, who is responsible for the creation of all other things". It is not the moral properties that are necessary, necessitating that the mind also be such; it is the exact inverse of that. As such, my moral argument concludes to a personal creator that is eternal, beginningless, changeless, and metaphysically necessary. So here's the key point: Since this is a conditional, the existence of the antecedent, and the validity of the conditional inference itself, are sufficient justification for the consequent (and all the properties stated therein; including metaphysical necessity). In other words: I do not need to separately justify God's being metaphysically necessary, since it is part of the consequent of M. I only debate the Ontological Argument and the Leibnitzean Cosmological Argument because I think they are ALSO valid. 

Changelessness is also one of the qualities of the consequent of M. 

Prelude 2) I thought by now it was evident that I meant the "broadly logical" sense in which Plantinga argues. As such, so long as the non-existence of an MGB is not a necessary truth, then P1 is true. Perhaps I've obfuscated the issue a bit by statements like "unless X is logically incoherent". I suppose I should have said "unless X is necessarily false". 

Your problem, as I've pointed out numerous times before, is that you consider an MGB to be an MEB + NE. This may be Plantinga's fault, for the way he phrased the OA. But, the truth is that **nothing could really be an MEB without also being an MGB**. It's just that one term is in "single-world" terms, and the other is in "transworld" terms. But, just as X is not really an MEB if X is not omnipotent; so X is not really an MEB, if X is not also an NE. It is this breaking out of the NE property that causes most of your case against the OA. And yet to break out NE is equivalent to breaking out omnipotence or omniscience, and thinking you still have an MEB. An MEB has ALL of the great-making properties, including omnipotence, omniscience, moral perfection, AND metaphysical necessity. In other words, X is an MEB iff X is an MGB. 

In light of this, your "married bachelor" analogy fails. You can't take the "married" away from that entity anymore than you can take away the "human" part or the "male" part (both of which are implicit in "married bachelor"). A key point: The fact that you can speak of a "bachelor" separately from speaking of a "married bachelor" (one of which is logically coherent; the other of which is not) is entirely predicated on the fact that "bachelorhood" and "the state of being married" are not produced by the same set of assumptions. In other words, they are not "spit out" by the same function. One is a bachelor so long as they are a human male who is unmarried. One is married so long as they are a human of either sex that has entered into wedlock with another human (let's not get into the politics of the issue, eh?). But, one is an MEB if, and only if, they have ALL the great making properties at their maximum level. This includes omnipotence (you could not take that away and still have an MEB). *And it includes metaphysical necessity.* Now, you will say that NE is a transworld property, and MEB only refers to the single-world situation. But, as I've shown, an MEB is only an MEB if it is also an MGB. Just as the number 7 exists in this World, and is a number in this World (despite the fact that being a "number" confers metaphysical necessity). In other words: the number 7 has a property in this PW which happens to indicate that it exists in all PWs. Do you see what I'm getting at? If not, I'll come back to it in the "flu" analogy later. But this is, I believe, the absolute locus of our disagreement. 

Denying that an MEB exists in this world, is equivalent to presupposing an MGB CANNOT exist (not just "does not", but "cannot"; for if an MGB existed then an MEB would exist in this World). You'd still have to show that impossibility. It'd be like simply saying "it seems intuitively possible that a highest prime number does not exist in this PW". If it doesn't, then it doesn't exist in any PW, but you'd first have to show that it mathematically CANNOT exist. 

Prelude 3) I thought I was quite clear that the PSR argument shows an N exists, which is metaphysically necessary *AND* which is the cause of the contingent Universe. You keep saying that the PSR argument only shows some N exists in every PW, but that is wrong-headed. The PSR only gives us the N because the Universe needs an explanation of its contingent existence. As such, some N exists in every PW which is THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE in each of those PWs. So, yes, it is a "particular N1" which satisfies the PSR; namely: the Creator of the Universe. 

Now, WLC and Swinburne give reasons for why it is *most rational* to presume that this metaphysically necessary creator of the Universe is also a person. But, if you wish to imagine that there are other spaceless, immaterial things besides abstract objects and minds (though I'd challenge you to tell me what such a thing might be), and if you do not think you are rationally committed to the simplest explanation (all other things being equal), then I suppose we're stuck with just a metaphysically necessary creative cause of the Universe. However, I must say that Swinburne's analogy of the burglary is quite compelling. While forensic scientists and court judges could opt for an infinite number of possible alternative explanations for the evidence; it is most rational for them to opt for the simplest (namely: if the safe is found empty, John's fingerprints are found on it, John was seen leaving the scene of the crime at around the right time, etc... John probably did it!). And, if we are being rational, then one must ask "why would NJ persist in some other explanation unless he had some bias against it?" Anyway, I hope I've shown that the PSR gives more than you think it does; even if you want to insist it doesn't give as much as I say it does. 

A) If some ancient Greek thought Socrates was immortal, then the syllogism would prove him wrong by first stating a general truth about all men, then by stating that Socrates is included in the set of "men", and then by spelling out the logical inference. So it is with Steve the bachelor, EXCEPT that "bachelor" and "unmarried man" are equivalent by definition. That is the only reason the argument is question-begging. But I really don't see how C1 and P1 are equivalent by definition. Sure, they are equivalent after some logical inference (or after bringing in P2). But then it is quite different from Steve the bachelor ("bachelor" simply being another word for "unmarried man"), and much more like Socrates the mortal (an inference from what it means to be a man). C1 is an inference from what it means to be an MGB. And, as to being informative, many (if not most) people will not realize the implications of maximal-greatness (nor the implications of P1) without having it spelled out for them. So, if the Socrates argument is informative, so is the Ontological Argument. 

Respectfully, you are really missing the point here. The Ontological Argument gives us a situation we did not previously find ourselves in. The atheist used to be able to simply claim "God does not exist". But with the Modal OA, the atheist must now claim that God CANNOT exist (i.e. that P1 is false). P1 is a default statement of possibility, until some impossibility is shown (some reason to think that God could not, even in the broadly logical sense, even possibly exist). This is an increased burden of proof the likes of which no atheist I've heard of has been able to surmount. 

To re-iterate from my response to Prelude 2: The function which spits out "omnipotence, omniscience, etc" as properties of an MEB (rather than, for example, "pinkness") is the same function which gives every MEB the property of metaphysical necessity; thus every MEB is an MGB (and, for separate, more obvious reasons, an MGB is an MEB). Therefore X is an MEB iff X is an MGB, and the burden for proving an MEB may not exist becomes precisely as large as the burden of proving that an MGB CANNOT. 

B) You are still arguing backward, in a very (to me) evident way. And that is puzzling to me, since you are easily the most intelligent and coherent person I've yet debated on YouTube. But, you argue quite valiantly against the idea that NE implies MG... and yet I never said it did! I said MG implies NE (the exact reverse, as I tried to point out in the previous PM; you are arguing backward). Maximal Greatness implies metaphysical necessity, because such is objectively greater than metaphysical contingency (as it is, an omnipotent being probably could not be contingent in any Possible World, but that's another matter for another day). The point is this: I am not saying "the MGB has such-and-such great-making property, and therefore must have this other GMP as well". I am saying that an MGB is defined as having ALL of the GMPs. How much simpler could that point be? I mean, I just don't see where you're getting these arguments (like "You need to show why have 1 great-making property IMPLIES having them all", which I never claimed). It is the state of being an MGB which implies having them all, by definition. Nothing could be clearer to me. Please explain where the difficult arises. 

You're just not getting this concept of a particular descriptor which logically necessitates other properties. It is a function which "spits out" dependent variables. The function is Maximal Greatness. The dependent variables that come out of something possessing MG are "omnipotence, omniscience, moral perfection, metaphysical necessity, etc"; that is to say: any property which is a great-making property at its highest possible level. Try to argue this when the function is "Maximal Frightfulness to NJ" (since frightfulness is subjective, and therefore person-specific). Obviously "moral perfection" would not come from this function, but perhaps you don't realize that "metaphysical necessity" wouldn't either. After all, you are not metaphysically necessary, and it is a tautology that you cannot be frightened in any possible world in which you do not exist. Indeed, that is what's wrong with all subjective properties in this type of argument: they are person-specific, and make no sense in the absence of that person. And, lest you try the counter-factual dodge, it makes no sense for the being to be metaphysically necessary in its existence, just because if you happened to exist in that world it would have frightened you. The simple fact is that it doesn't add to its frightfulness for it to exist in worlds you don't exist in. And so it goes for Guanilo's palm trees. 

On your "all-existent" point: 
1) Necessary existence is a property of things like numbers and sets, indicating that they could not have failed to exist. It has nothing to do with Kant's critique (which I agree with) that existence itself is not a predicate. A stack of coins and an existent stack of coins are equivalent. But a stack of coins and a stack of coins which by nature could not have failed to exist are quite different. 

2) You proposed "all-existent" as a great-making property. As such, it must be the maximal level of something. If that "something" is existence, then you are saying there are levels of existing, which does fall into Kant's critique. Indeed, it is on its face an invalid concept. Something either exists or it doesn't. And that existence is not "less" or "more" because other things happen to also exist. Surely you can see how this is different from "omnipotence", where this being has power at its maximal level, and nothing could possibly have more of it. And NE is the highest instantiation of contingency (i.e. some things may exist in MOST possible worlds, but metaphysically necessary things exist in ALL of them; and nothing could exist in any MORE possible worlds). 

3) Being the only thing that exists is not "more existence" than being one of many things (as I've shown in point 2). Your argument fails. 

C) You COMPLETELY misunderstood the doctor analogy, but I think I can re-state it such that it is clearer. I apologize for not being clearer before. Here it is: If a doctor knows of a KIND of flu, which IF it existed at all would exist in all humans (I gave the example of a flu which might have infected all our ancestors; but it could be some other kind, like a flu that spreads infinitely quickly by every known vector or something), then the discovery of just one ACTUAL instance of that flu would justify him in claiming that all humans have it (that it is an Eflu). Note: I am not arguing that he separately studies whether our ancestors had the flu or whatever. I'm arguing that he knows of a flu, WHICH HAS PROPERTIES such that, if it exists at all in a human, it cannot fail to exist in all humans. All that is left is to discover a single human with that flu, and you instantly know that all humans have it. The analogy is this: if we know that a being which (by definition) had ALL the great-making properties (including the property of metaphysical necessity; a property it would share with the number 7, for example), then the moment that being shows up in one World, we are justified in saying it exists in all of them. 

I have dealt with your other points about logically necessary MEBs elsewhere in this post, so I'll rest on the force of those. 

D) Just a couple of points which haven't already been completely addressed: 
1) I am not using "greatness" in the colloquial sense. I'm using it in the sense I've already stipulated: A great-making property is one that confers objective value, and has a logical maximum (another way to say "has a logical maximum"). 
2) All of that equivocation on the word "existent" is utterly irrelevant, and seems manufactured specifically to confound the issue. Look, by definition the real numbers are logically necessary entities. So, if I postulate the "highest possible prime number", then that number either cannot exist (there is some mathematical incoherency in it, or something of that nature), or it exists in every possible world. It has "necessary existence" or it has none at all. The point is that I am indeed saying MEB's, by definition, have all the great-making properties, and that one of those properties is metaphysical necessity. As such, if the thing exists in any Possible World, it exists in all of them. Perhaps it will become clearer for you if you don't consider "necessarily-existent" to be two words. Then there is only one instance of "exist" in the phrase "the necessarily-existent being must exist", and it is a modal usage. This is how it is intended to be understood anyway. 

E) State the exact question (in one sentence, if possible), and I will try to make the most concise, Bible-based response I can in a separate PM. 

Cheers :-)

NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: PM?", 6/5/12


Thanks for the compliments. You're definitely one of the most intelligent theists I've encountered on Youtube. Right up there with telemantros, which is pretty good company! Anyway, my lab-work today was cut short, so I have enough time to respond to your PM.

Reply to Prelude 1) OK, my mistake. I'll leave it to you to present your moral argument when we go back to that topic.

Reply to Prelude 2) Yeah, when you started talking about "logical incoherency" I realized something was amiss. More importantly, I'm going to argue that the "MEB" has become too confusing and thus outlived its usefulness. We should just replace it with the "MGB". I chose to use the terms as Plantinga did since I was criticizing his argument. I can't fairly address an argument if I don't use the proper meaning for its terms. Now, if we stick with Plantinga's definitions, then you're wrong (and I know you already realize this) when you say, "X is not really an MEB, if X is not also an NE." Nowhere does Plantinga say, "an MEB has ALL of the great-making properties." MEB involves no claims about transworld properties, unless you're CHANGING the definition of MEB. Now if by MEB you now mean "the being that's maximally great," then your previous claim is true, but only because you've redefined the MEB into the MGB. So I guess you are changing the definition. That's fine. That just means it's time to just drop the MEB from the discussion and just stick with MGB (I'll address your point about "colloquially great" in my reply to part D).

My "married bachelor" example was just meant to address the logical ontological argument, not the metaphysical one. It was an example of an incoherent concept, so it's unfair of you to now compare it to a concept I never tried to show was incoherent (namely, a metaphysically necessary MGB). Furthermore, I think your analysis is wrong. As I will argue in my reply to B, your "function" point does not get the traction you think it does. As in math, once you know what you want your results to be, it's quite easy to construct a function to give you those results. I could easily construct a function that resulted in "married bachelor," just as you have one that resulted in the "MGB." That was the examples from my previous PM (MFB, NE unicorn, etc.) were meant to show: why should I believe that a thing matching your resulting description exists, just because you can construct a function that produces that description?

"You can speak of a 'bachelor' separately from speaking of a 'married bachelor.'" Yes. But this is not because "they are not spit out by the same function." Again, I could easily construct some function that spits out "married bachelor": i.e. I could point out a feature held in common by only "married" and "bachelor." The real reason I can speak of the two separately is that they are not logically equivalent. If A logically implies B, and B logically implies A, then speaking about one logically commits you to speaking about the other. But being a bachelor does not logically imply that you are a married bachelor, so you can separate the two. Same goes for the "NE, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being." None of those concepts logically imply one another and none of those concepts (on their own) logically imply MG, so I can easily speak of necessarily existence separately from speaking about MG. In the same paragraph you suggest: "This includes omnipotence (you could not take that away and still have an MEB). *And it includes metaphysical necessity.*" Again, yes. But the same is true of the "married bachelor;" you can't take "married" or "bachelor" away and still have a married bachelor. So, in that sense, the terms are connected. Again, this has nothing to do with "functions." It's about concepts and logical necessity. You've DEFINED a MEB as a being possessing all the maximally great traits, so if a being lacks one of those traits, it's not the MEB. I've DEFINED what a married bachelor is, so you could not take away "married" or "bachelor" and still have a "married bachelor." This is true independently of whether your definition results from a function; the function just stipulates some features all the properties in question have in common (for example: the function " a being with all the colors" would spit out a description of a being that had some blue, some red, etc.). So in neither of your two quotes did you point out a difference between "married bachelor" and "MGB," such that the difference could confer relevance to your point about function.

You say, "denying that an MEB exists in this world, is equivalent to presupposing an MGB CANNOT exist (not just 'does not', but 'cannot'...)." I take it you think showing the MGB CANNOT exist is hard. But it's not. I already showed why in my previous PM but I'll rehearse my arguments in paragraph 3 of my reply to A.

Reply to Prelude C) OK, I was wrong: the PSR argument seeks to argue that N is metaphysically. Even if this is true, I'll argue, the argument is of little help to you. First, some distinctions. You say "Creator of the Universe" when I prefer the term "cause of the universe" (which you also use). "Creator" could lead people to think the cause of the universe is a mind since "creative" is an ambiguous term; "creation" could simply mean to "cause or bring into being" while "creative" could mean "imaginative/inventive," (as you say in the phrase "creative cause of the Universe"), which is something only minds are capable of. "Causer" is a much more neutral term that avoids begging the question. So the definitions are:

C : the cause of the universe
N : the metaphysically necessary being that is "not explained by an external cause and has an explanation of its existence within its own nature"

Now theists argue the universe cannot be N since the universe is contingent. Well, as I'll discuss in my reply to A, I've already shown that it's metaphysically impossible for the MGB (i.e. God) to exist, so that's one argument that God is not N.

Furthermore, the PSR is an argument for N, not for C. Specifically, nowhere does the argument show that the cause of our universe is metaphysically necessary. For example, a mind could have caused our universe (and thus, in the actual world, this mind was C), but this mind could have itself been caused to exist by N (and so it would be false that C = N). You could claim that this is implausible, but that's not the same as saying it's metaphysically impossible. The PSR argument does not show that it's metaphysically necessary that C = N, and as long as in some possible world C does not equal N, than the argument fails to show that C is metaphysically necessary. Yet WLC and Swinburne spend so much time arguing that God is C even though this would not prove that God is N. Furthermore, even if they showed C was N in our world and God was C, there are still further problems.

Theistic metaphysicians often distinguish a thing's essential and non-essential properties. A property Y is essential to X iff in every possible world where X exists, X has Y. Properties of X which are not essential are inessential. For instance, God could have chosen not to make the universe. So "cause of the universe" is an inessential property of God. Conversely, theists (including you) often hold that "omnipotence, omniscience, omni-benevolence, and necessary existence" are essential properties of God. We use the essential properties of X to pick out X in different worlds. For example, once you know the NoctambulantJoycean's essential properties, you can pick out different versions of me in different possible worlds, even though those versions of me could have different non-essential properties (married, bachelor, miserable, happy, etc..

Now, I've agreed that PSR argument shows that N is metaphysically necessary. But what properties of N's nature are metaphysically necessary; i.e. what are the essential properties of N? At best the PSR shows that N has the essential properties, "not explained by an external cause," "has an explanation of its existence within its own nature," and "necessarily existent." Nowhere does the argument show that causer of the universe, omnipotence, omniscience and omni-benevolence are among these essential properties. You could argue that N has these properties in the actual universe, but these could be INESSENTIAL properties of N: they could be properties of N in this world and not others. The nature of N would still be metaphysically necessary (we could pick out N by the essential properties the PSR argues for) on this view. Don't believe me? Remember, I granted two paragraphs back that in the actual world, God = C and C = N. But I also said there was a possible world where God was not C because God chose not to make the universe. So "cause of the universe" would thus be an inessential property of N even if God = N and God's (and therefore N's) nature was metaphysically necessary. But how do we know the tri-omni traits are not also inessential properties of N? Theists could argue that the tri-omni traits are essential to God's nature and since God is N in the actual world, these are essential properties of N. But the PSR alone doesn't give the theists the tools for doing this; the theist is using some argument INDEPENDENT of the PSR to claim God's essential properties include the tri-omni traits. Why should I, based solely on the PSR, think N's nature is essentially, as opposed to inessentially, good, especially given that I've already shown that N has at least one inessential property? So now theists need another argument showing what God's essential properties are, even if I grant them that in the actual world G is C and C is N (which the PSR does not even show). To further press this point, even if I accept Plantinga and Craig's arguments, they show that the C of this world is spaceless and timeless, not that "spaceless" and "timeless" are essential properties of N. N could just happen to be spaceless and timeless in this world (and no, just saying "God is essentially spaceless and timeless" does not help you for the reasons I just noted). So you can't use the PSR ALONE to argue that the tri-omni MGB (an example of a "particular N") is metaphysically necessary.

You suggest I may be "biased" against God as the C of this universe. I'm not; I have very clear reasons for thinking God is not C. First, if you are going to claim that in the actual world, C is N, then since I've already argued God is metaphysically impossible (paragraph 3 of my reply to A), God cannot be N in the actual world, and therefore God is not C in the actual world. Second, I think WLC's and Swinburne's reasoning is fallacious, for reasons I'll now explain [as a sidenote, the subsequent discussion will also intertwine with some of the reasons I think the Kalam Cosmological argument fails; this is quite long, so if you're not interested, skip to my reply to A].

Though C may have caused this universe and its associated space-time to exist, this does not show C is spaceless and timeless. Just because C caused something with property J to exist, does not imply C lacks J (for instance, substitute "mental properties" for property J). This opens the door for a multiverse as a coherent alternative to God. Another universe U1 could have produced this universe U2, and though Craig can use (or abuse) all the empirical evidence he wants to show that U2 began to exist, he has no such empirical evidence for U1. And his metaphysical arguments for the impossibility of an eternally existing space-time U1 involve fallaciously applying the rules of finite arithmetic to infinite systems (ex: his Hilbert's hotel analogy). At best, Swinburne and WLC can say C is outside of U2. If they want to say more, I'm going to need persuasive evidence that God works better than U1 or just saying we don't know what C is. And I don't think either man has the epistemic tools to provide such evidence.

For all we know our senses are causally isolated from C, and thus it would be hard for us to gather evidence of what C is like. WLC and Swinburne could use their experience or contact with God as evidence of experiencing C and as evidence of what C's nature is like. But then no atheist would take their argument seriously since they would claim those experiences are illusory (KnownNoMore and AntiCitizenX have good video series critiquing religious experience). So Swinburne and Craig need to provide some other sort of evidence for C's nature. The only option I see left is applying our experiences and intuitions in this universe (U2) to what's outside U2. But this leads its own problems. I'll grant, for the sake argument, that we have evidence of spaceless, immaterial abstract objects and minds (mind-body physicalists would kill me for saying this!) in U2. Why should we base our intuitions about what's outside U2 on our experiences within U2? Couldn't C operate via radically different rules (theists assert as much when they claim C is God and go on to describe God's incredible attributes)? For example, let's assume that absolutely nothing existed except for causally impotent abstract objects (call this scenario U3). It might seem ridiculous to us, based on our experience in U2, that a space-time framework could just pop into existence uncaused in U3. However, as TheoreticalBullshit argued from 22:10 to 23:28 of his video "William Lane Craig Is Not Doing Himself Any Favors", it's incorrect to apply this intuition to the situation involving an empty world (and I say, the same for apply it to U3). Same goes for our intuitions breaking down at quantum levels and at large scales. So even if minds are the only plausible, immaterial, causally efficacious objects WLC and Swinburne can think of, they are on shaky ground when applying those intuitions (which we honed in U2) to things outside U2.

But let's say I grant even more to WLC and Swinburne: they can now justifiably use our intuitions to make claims about C. Unfortunately things turn out even worse for them. All the minds we've unambiguously experienced (can't use God's mind as an example for the reason I went over last paragraph) have been intimately tied to physical bodies. This is so even if dualism is true and minds are immaterial. The mind of a baby, as far as we can tell, comes into existence when physical matter takes a certain form during conception/birth. We could even argue (using J. S. Mills' methods) that the brain CAUSED the mind to exist. Furthermore, the immaterial minds we've seen only seem to function when the physical brain is kept working. Mess up some neurological synapses and whole memories can disappear! Finally, much (if not all) of the minds' causal efficacy depends on the brain. For example, mess with the neurons, and all of a sudden the mental properties resulting from one hemisphere of the brain can't affect of the mental properties resulting from the other hemisphere. Or try to influence the world through sheer force of will without using your brain. So, based on our experience, immaterial minds are intimately dependent of the physical world. Yet theists want to argue that C is not causally dependent on a physical space-time. So, just as theists think C can't be an abstract object because abstract objects are causally impotent (as far as we've seen), atheists can think C is not a mind because minds (as far as we've seen) are causally dependent on physical stuff. Once we make WLCs false dichotomy between abstract objects + minds into a logically exhaustive tri-chotomy between abstract objects + minds + none of the above, we have reason to hold out for a 3rd option: an immaterial thing that's neither a mind nor an abstract object. Or we could just admit we don't have enough evidence to say what C is.

Oh, but things only get worse from there. All the minds we have evidence for in U2 require time. In fact, an atemporal functioning mind is conceptually incoherent. Functioning minds involve beliefs and desires producing motivations, mental properties interacting, well-ordered and arranged thoughts and beliefs, etc. But it's difficult to make sense of these without time. So if the theist claims C must be timeless, then we have good reason for thinking C is not a mind. Alternatively, if theists claim C exists in time, their argument looks arbitrary. For example, I think WLC argues that God exists in a zone of "metaphysical time" distinct from the space-time we have. This appears to be an arbitrary convenience he introduced to allow C to be God. But if you going to do that, why can't atheists introduce their own arbitrary conveniences to allow C to be another universe or anything they please? This is what happens when people shape their preconditions for C to reach their pre-determined conclusion.

Finally, many theists like to run a design argument based from complexity (or specified information [see my comments from around 5/22/12 on onceforgivennowfree's video "Intelligent Design For Dummies Part 6 - The Origin of Life (1 of 2)"]), and use this to argue that C must be a mind given the universe's complexity. The problem is God's mind, as theists envision it, is inordinately complex and has tons of specified information (I emphatically deny the soundness of "divine simplicity" arguments). The human brain and its immaterial mind pales in comparison to a mind that is so well-ordered that it knows everything, can easily retrieve said information, never makes mistakes in reasoning, never has an immoral thought, etc. Our best technological attempts to even come close to that have resulted in computers of incredible complexity. So using the theists own argument, we can say God, given its complexity, requires another mind to cause it! To avoid this infinite regress we must either 1) admit that complexity/specified information can come into being without a mind, and thus the telelogical argument is not an argument for God being C or 2) propose a less complex mind (i.e. not God) as C.

I especially LOVE this argument because it forces theists to choose between the teleological argument and cosmological arguments/PSR argument. If theists go with the former, atheists can rebut them on empirical logical grounds. If theists go with the latter, atheists can use design arguments against the claim that a very complex God is C since the god would require a cause (and thus the MGB is not C). Before you think the latter atheistic response would contradict atheism, note that atheists are more than happy to run design--based arguments against Intelligent Design. For instance: "Only a theory with the logical shape of Darwin could explain how designed things came to exist, because any other sort of explanation would be either a vicious circle or an infinite regress (Dennett 1975). The old way, Locke's Mind-first way, endorsed the principle that it takes an Intelligence to make an intelligence...Any view inspired by this slogan immediately faces an embarrassing question, however, as Hume has noted: If God created and designed all the wonderful things, who created God? SuperGod? (page 70 of Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution...")."

One conventional reply to this argument is that the theist need not propose an explanation of K to show that K is the most plausible cause of E. Otherwise, science would come to a standstill since for every proposed cause of a phenomenon, we would need to explain the cause of that cause and the cause of that cause and... (ex: pages 388-94 of Stephen Meyer's "The Signature in the Cell"). But this objection misses the point. If your reason (R) for thinking that E has a cause ALSO applies to K, then unless you want to be accused of special pleading, you must agree that K has a cause. So if "R" is "complexity/lots of specified information," and you want your K to be uncaused, you better not propose a K that contains lots of specified complexity (it's for this reason, among many others, than Dennett and his ilk don't like God as an explanation for complexity in the universe). This does not halt science because either: 1) if the scientists R applies to K, the scientist is more than happy to admit that K has a cause (ex: natural selection as an K for explaining biological diversity) or 2) scientists (normally those in quantum mechanics) propose uncaused K for E where R does not apply to K (ex: uncaused quantum particles).

So yeah, I am not "biased" against God being C; I have sound reasons for my position.

Reply to A) We call "conceptually incoherent" statements "logically contradictory" (ex: unmarried bachelors). On the reverse side, logical rules are the conceptual truths of logic. Once the truth functions of the operators are set, the further theorems we derive provide us with the meaning of the logical operators in question. Now under modal logic, it is a logical theorem/truth (i.e. a conceptual truth of logic) that "possibly necessary is equivalent to necessary" (P2 of the ontological argument) and "necessary implies actual" (P3 of the ontological argument). So yes, "C1 and P1 are [logically] equivalent by definition." Though you could say "C1 is an inference from what it means to be an MGB," it's more accurate to that "C1 is logically equivalent to P1, and would be so for ANY description MGX that was substituted for MGB, as long as MGX included NE." So as I've repeatedly states, the ontological argument hinges ENTIRELY on necessary existence, or more specifically, modal necessity. Furthermore, since logical theorems are the conceptual truths of logic, Plantinga's argument (contrary to your claim) is more like my Steve argument (which also takes advantage of conceptual truths) than your Socrates example (which makes no use of conceptual truths).

You also say "as to being informative, many (if not most) people will not realize the implications of maximal-greatness (nor the implications of P1) without having it spelled out for them." You'd be surprised how many rational atheists know the rules of modal logic and thus find Plantinga's argument uninformative (I'm one of them; Rayndeon's another). Now if an atheist did not know the rules of modal logic, it would be unfair to use the ontological argument against them; they don't have the requisite knowledge to make an informed decision. Imagine me arguing that the Bible is immoral with a Christian who, due to their social context, is illiterate. Before presenting my argument, I would first need to teach them to read or find some way to get them easy access to the Bible's contents. Then I would need to make sure they understood the Bible's contents and had time to reflect on it. After all that, then I could present my argument. Same goes with the ontological argument; you should not use it on people who don't understand modal logic.

You go on to say "the atheist must now claim that God CANNOT exist (i.e. that P1 is false)... This is an increased burden of proof the likes of which no atheist I've heard of has been able to surmount." Well, no. You've just seen me surmount it. In part D of my PM from 5/30/12, I explained how every atheistic argument against a tri-omni God is, by logical extension, an argument that P1 is false. I also gave you a conceivability argument against P1 and further explained in sections C and D of that PM why my atheistic conceivability argument works while the corresponding theistic conceivability argument for P1 does not. Your all-caps "CANNOT" also seems to imply that the "burden of proof" carried by the atheist is quite heavy and that P1 has some presumption in its favor until the atheists provides evidence of not-P. I've also argued against these conclusions using my epistemic possibility point (5/30/12, section E, paragraph 2), my S/T epistemological error point (5/30/12, section C), and examples analogous to MGB where metaphysical impossibility is easy to show (5/30/12, last paragraph of section C; 6/1/12, last paragraph of prelude 2). So the burden is met.

I addressed your point about functions in my response to prelude 2. Again, I can provide any number of functions (MFB, modally maximal being, being possessing all modal properties, the most dangerous being, etc.) that spit out NE. This does not therefore privilege my resulting description over the MGB nor show that my being (or your MGB, for that matter) are any more likely to actually exist.

Reply to B) You're right; you should be free to argue what you want. It should by now be obvious why I warned you against the path you took: pointing out that you have a function MG that implies NE does not rebut my point because I can easily come up with a function as well. If you instead argued that NE implied MG, you would get around this problem but be still left with a larger problem: even if I could not make my own function, the fact that you can make such a function does nothing to show that the DESCRIPTION MGB is any more likely to exist than some other description that has NE arbitrarily tacked on. If you disagree with me on this, PLEASE PROVIDE AN ARGUMENT FOR WHY (I only add emphasis, because if you can't do this, the ontological argument falls apart; it's just logical wordplay involving modal necessity).

Moving on to the MFB. It's true that, "it is a tautology that you cannot be frightened in any possible world in which you do not exist," but it is a counterfactual truth that, "if I had existed in a world with an MFB, I would have been frightened." That's the great thing about response-dependent, dispositional properties: they do, contrary to your claim, "make sense" even in worlds where the person they are relativized to does not exist. The fact that I do not exist in world W1 does not falsify the consequent while meeting the antecedent, so it does not falsify the conditional. And the conditional remains true simply because in all the worlds I exist in, I would be frightened upon seeing the MFB. This is not a "dodge." Almost every philosopher I know of (even theistic philosophers) admit that a being can have a dispositional property in W1 even though the thing to which that property is relativized does not exist in W1. For example, philosophers of mind (WLC makes the same distinction) distinguish between occurrent beliefs and dispositional beliefs. Occurrent beliefs are ones you actually, consciously bring to mind and go over, while dispositional beliefs are beliefs you have that you might never end up consciously going over. For instance, you might belief that the TV is smaller than the Earth, though you may never explicitly rehearse that belief in your mind. However, if I was to ask you, "is the TV smaller than the Earth," you would answer "yes" [while giving me a strange look]. This is the relevant disposition. This provides an example of a dispositional property you could have without necessary conditions for occurrent belief being met (i.e. you being primed and thus consciously rehearsing the belief). Similarly, God could have the dispositional property "frightening-to-X" even in worlds where this is never actualized (i.e. X fails to exist and thus failed to be frightened).

You say "it makes no sense for the being to be metaphysically necessary in its existence, just because if you happened to exist in that world it would have frightened you." Well, all I was saying was that I could produce a function (MF) that spits out NE. Now if you realize that the MFB does not have to be metaphysically necessary (in the ontologically--committing sense I want over in the section D of my previous PM) just because if I existed, then NE would frighten me, you should also get the point I've been repeatedly making; just because NE is a great-making property (or, equivalently, you can make a function MG that spits out NE as a part of its DESCRIPTION) does not imply that the MGB is metaphysically necessary in the ontologically committing sense. It also does not make an ontological argument that includes an MGB any more persuasive than an ontological argument that includes an MFB.

1) "A stack of coins and a stack of coins which by nature could not have failed to be the only thing to exist are quite different." So I can parallel your defense of NE in my defense of "all- existent."
2) and 3) In modal logic, "contingency" is not a count of possible worlds in which something exists. X is contingent iff X is possible and X is not necessary (equivalently: X is not impossible and X is not necessary). Under this definition, contingency is an "either-or" property that does not admit of degrees. Since you claim "NE is the highest instantiation of contingency (i.e. some things may exist in MOST possible worlds, but metaphysically necessary things exist in ALL of them; and nothing could exist in any MORE possible worlds)," you must be using a different definition of contingency. But if your definition of contingency involves counting worlds, I can purloin your defense of NE in my defense of "all-existent." I can say "all-existent" is the maximum of "contingent sole-existence," where we contingency is now a matter of degree; i.e. counting up the number of worlds in which X is the only thing that exists [i.e. worlds in which X is the "solely-existent thing"]. This does not involve making "existence" a matter of degree (or "more existence") anymore than saying 7 could be the "only conceptual object" implies that I believe the property "conceptual object" admits of degrees or something can be more of a "conceptual object-ness". Contrary to your section 3, I never meant "sole existence" to be the property that admitted of degrees anymore than you meant "existent" was the property that admitted of degrees. Like you said for NE, I mean "ALL-EXISTENT" was the property that admitted of degrees. An "all-existent" X is thus a being that is the "solely-existent thing" in every possible world and therefore nothing could "solely-exist" in any MORE possible worlds.

The most obvious objection to my move is that it makes existence into a property admitting of degrees or simply makes existence a property. Well if my position does that, so does NE. Because if "NE is the highest instantiation of contingency," what is "contingency" if not "contingent EXISTENCE;" i.e. existence in a possible world. If counting up worlds in which a being exists is not a problem for you, than counting up the worlds in which a being "solely exists" is not a problem for me.

Reply to C) Yeah, I misunderstood you analogy. But note that if the doctor found ONE person who lacked the new KIND of flu (KFlu for short) via rebutting S methods, than the doctor would have proved that the no one had the KFlu. This is analogous to finding one world without the MGB. And in the 3rd paragraph of my reply to section A, I explained how easy it is to find a possible world with a MGB and how hard it should be to find a possible world with an MGB. To put it another way: These distinctions are why proving that "necessarily instantiated S property" (ex: "necessarily existent," "necessarily blue," etc.) is (and should be) usually so much harder than proving that "possibly not instantiated S property." That's why it's considered a rare occurrence for something to necessarily exist (like a mathematical object) while it's no big deal if you can show that it's possible something does not exist (like a tree) [or, equivalently, show that it's impossible for an NE tree to exist]. So we should feel uncomfortable with how easily some people accept P1 of the ontological argument when it implies that, "necessarily instantiated S property) (i.e. the NE MEB).

Reply to D) 1) Why didn't you say "power level"; that would have been the perfect time to make a DBZ reference?! Oh well, I've done it for you ;) Anyway, here's the relevant section in my 5/30/12 PM where I first defined "colloquial greatness": "MG is not some evaluative claim about how awesome or marvelous or normatively outstanding something is; MG does not mean "great" in the colloquial sense. Instead MG is just ME + NE." My use of "evaluative" and "normatively outstanding" was basically equivalent to your claim about "objective value." However, I did not include "intrinsic maximum" in this definition. So under your definition, X is a great-making trait iff X is colloquially great and X has an intrinsic maximum. So my definition was not too far off. This stipulation should not affect my arguments too much (if it does, please show me where).
2) I thought the equivocation was important because I suspect your making it. For example, see paragraphs 1 and 3 of my reply to part B.

Reply to E) Only one question? Darn! Here goes: Please provide plausible, Biblical reasons that God would allow people to suffer in situations where: 1) the cause of the people's suffering was their own ignorance, 2) they could not remedy their ignorance, 3) their ignorance was not their fault, and 4) it would have been possible for God to remedy the ignorance (I'll leave off "without violating their free will" so as not to beg the question against your possible response).

As a side-note: I chose this question because it has direct relevance to the Old and New Testament. After all, God sent Jesus and the prophets down to a populace suffering immensely from lack of sanitation, diseases they could not cure, unpredictable natural disasters, etc., and things did not really improve.

NoctambulantJoycean, "Brief Addendum", 6/5/12

You probably alreay realized this, but in paragraph 1 of reply to A, the part right before "(P3 of the ontological argument)" should read:

"'possibly necessary X is equivalent to necessarily necessary X' (P2 of the ontological argument) and 'necessarily necessary X is equivalent to actual necessary X'"

Hopefully, the rest is clear.

Mentat1231, "Re: PM?", 6/6/12


Wow. That was very long, but very informative. Let me address what I feel are the pivotal points:

Prelude 2) I fully agree that we should drop the "MEB" thing, since it just obfuscates the issue. However, I wanted to make it clear that, while I am *content* to discuss metaphysical necessity, I'm not sure I'd withdraw my position about the possibility of *logical* necessity. At least, I think it would indeed be a definitively, conceptually self-contradictory thing for the necessarily-existent thing to fail to exist. I gave the example of the highest prime number. Perhaps a certain corollary or theorem could be shown to result from the proposition "there exists a highest prime number". As a number, the HPN would be logically (not just metaphysically) necessary, if it is a coherent concept at all, wouldn't it? So, it's one or the other: either there can be such a number, and there therefore is; or else it is mathematically (and, therefore logically) incoherent. But, again, I am willing to discuss it in terms of metaphysical necessity only, as I think that satisfies the issue well enough.... I also want to make clear that, whether Plantinga says it or not, it seems to me that all MEBs must be MGBs. You cannot set up the definition of an MEB as "having all the great-making properties in their maximum instantiation", but then leave out a property which (for example) the number 7 has. The number 7 exists *in this World*, and has the property of being an NE. We can rely on calculations involving the number 7 as having only one logically-possible outcome, since the number 7 is an NE. It is one in this World and in all Worlds. This reasoning leads me to the conclusion that, if any MEB existed, it would also be the MGB (by necessity), and so I will follow your suggestion of discussing only MGBs henceforth.

On the point about the "married bachelor", I think I've confused you here. Recall, I was still justifying that any MEB would also be an MGB. The "function" which "spits out" all the great-making properties in their highest instantiation IS "Maximally Excellent Being". The function that spits out the properties "male, human, not in a state of wedlock, in a state of wedlock, etc" is "married bachelor". So, I think I confused you about which was the function and which was the dependent variable that is necessitated by that function. In any case, my point is simply that your function is logically incoherent (by definition), because it would "spit out" two contradictory properties. The MEB function however, does not produce contradictory properties, and therefore seems logically coherent. And, more importantly, if the function fails to produce ALL the great-making properties, then it is NOT the function "MEB", but some other function. I could have used a set analogy instead: The set of properties of a "married bachelor" contains two contradictory members, and therefore cannot exist. The set of properties of an MEB does not contain contradictory members, and therefore could exist. AND, the MEB set contains ALL the great-making properties, including NE. So, that function, or set, or definition (whatever you want to call it) which convinces us that an MEB would possess omnipotence, is the same function/set/definition which ought to convince us that any MEB would also be an MGB (viz. it would possess necessity rather than contingency). I'll have more to say on this point later, but the basic point is: You cannot have a real MEB which fails to be an MGB, any more than you can have a real MEB which fails to be omnipotent.

Prelude 3) I've tried a few times to see your point, but it seems based on a fundamental fallacy, so I will respond in brief, and let you clarify in your response. Your fundamental error seems to be in the answer to this question: Why exactly does the PSR argument conclude that an N must exist? All it says is that everything that exists must have an explanation, either in the necessity of its being or in contingency on something else. Answer: The only reason the PSR argument gives us an N, is because *the Universe is contingent*! So, the only the way the PSR gives us an N in every PW is if that N is the CREATIVE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE. Otherwise there is no reason to suppose any N exists at all. The inference is from the need for the contingent Universe to have an explanation. Now, as you say, it could be that the contingent Universe has a contingent explanation, but eventually you have to get to a "prime mover". I liked Peter Williams' analogy of wanting to borrow a book from a friend. But the friend says he doesn't have it; he'll need to borrow it from another friend (and then that friend says the same thing, etc). So, we know two things: 1) If this pattern continues ad infinitum, I'll never get the book; 2) If it concludes, then someone had to ALREADY HAVE the book, without needing to borrow it. In the same way, since the Universe exists, the regress of causes must be finite. However, if it is finite, then there must be something which already has existence without it being contingent on anything else. As such, it must be an N. But the reasoning that gets us to the N necessitates that it is also a C. Make sense?

I'll now address your side-critique:
1) My response above gives an argument against this idea that God simply exists in some other contingent reality.
2) Craig has shown that the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem also applies to Multiverses (which, if they are "bubbling up" new Universes, are in a state of expansion, and therefore must also have an absolute beginning).
3) The fine-tuning of such a multiverse would have to be infinite, since there are an infinite number of non-life-sustaining Universes that could come up (especially when you consider that there can be exact repetitions of any given Universe).
4) Hilbert's Hotel does indeed show that an actually infinite reality cannot exist. Hilbert himself concluded this, NOT (as you say) based on "finite arithmetic", but based on TRANSfinite arithmetic. The simple fact is that the existence of an actually-infinite number of objects or events leads to self-contradictions. It cannot exist. I've debated this point at great length with another YouTuber, and I am even more convinced now that it is sound.
5) The Multiverse could have been lots of other ways (or no way at all), and is therefore also contingent, and by the PSR requires an explanation. You have done nothing, relative to the PSR argument, except push the explanation back a step. But the conclusion to an "N" follows just as easily.
6) I'll skip down to your point about minds needing time, in order to function: God's mind has been in time since He created it. No thinking was required prior to that creative instant, since God is omniscient, and knows all possible realities and all possible consequences of those realities. He has this knowledge eternally, and timelessly. The creative moment was the first point in time, and God has been in time (and thinking) since then. Note: A mind does not need to be thinking all the time, in order to be a mind (minds presumably stop thinking when we are unconscious or asleep). They simply need to be CAPABLE of thought; as God apparently is, since He begins doing so from the first moment in time onward.
6b) Just an irrelevant side-point: Craig does not say God existed in some other metaphysical time (Newton said that, but Craig disagrees). Craig says that God was in the same eternal, timeless "moment" as the numbers and logical truths were in, prior to the Universe's creation.
7) God is not complex. I suppose you'll have to justify your reasons against what you call "divine simplicity". Fundamental particles have all kinds of complicated abilities and potentialities, but they are themselves absolutely simple, and (plausibly) not composed of any parts. So, having no parts, they are "simple" entities, and this does nothing to their abilities or potentialities. So it is with God. Indeed, if substance dualism is correct (and I'm not committing myself either way) then ALL minds are simple entities, with the inherent ability to think the most complex of thoughts. And knowledge need not take time to "retrieve" or "process" as you say. After all, we can conceive of quantum computing being possible someday. This would be utterly instantaneous. So, it is hardly surprising that an omniscient being would know all things without needing time to know them.

And on to...

A) Men are, by definition, mortal. That is part of the concept of "man" just as surely as "born of woman" (though we could conceive of some other, science-fiction way to make men), "having previously been a boy" (again, there are sci-fi alternatives), and any other aspect of what it means to be a man. Indeed, if you strip away that which makes a man a man, then you have an empty label. So, yes it is conceptually true that all men are mortal, and identifying Socrates as a man makes it conceptually contradictory for him to be immortal. I will repeat that this is NOT the same thing as Steve being both a bachelor and unmarried, since these are just different labels for *precisely the same thing*. Mortality is just one property of man, and it is a property of other things as well. On the other hand, being an unmarried man and being a bachelor are exhaustively equal. So, which is more analogous to the case of MGBs being "NE", when NE is just one property of the MGB and is also possessed by other beings? They are not definitionally identical; logical inference on the concepts at hand is required to show that you can't have one without the other. So it is analogous to the Socrates case, and is therefore not question-begging. As to being uninformative, the truth is that most THEISTS would need the OA explained to them, so it is informative in that it brings to light a quality of MGBs which someone may not have considered before. I really don't see how it is uninformative, if it changes the stakes in the atheist/theist conflict (namely, now God has to be somehow metaphysically IMPOSSIBLE, rather than just happening to not exist).

I'm sorry, but I still hold that you have not surmounted this larger burden of proof. The other atheistic arguments you reference are failures, and therefore don't strengthen your case. I've rebutted your conceivability argument. I responded completely about what the "default" position is when it comes to possibility (indeed, it would be completely irrational to BEGIN with the assumption that something is impossible). I rebutted the S/T distinction (and emphasized that rebuttal with the Eflu point), which is why we're only talking about MGBs now. And I have taken on your supposed analogies to the MGB (and will take them on again). So, let's not declare victory just yet, eh?

A being possessing all modal properties would be logically inconsistent. In any case, I clarified the "function" point in the beginning of this PM. I hope it was clear, because it shows conclusively that you cannot have an MEB without it also being an MGB (or, to put it another way: you cannot have the definition from which we derive that an MEB would be omnipotent, without deriving from that same definition that an MEB would be an NE, and therefore an MGB).

B) Your other functions are irrelevant, since I am not debating that such things don't exist. I probably *could* debate each possibility you suggest, but I don't need to. The simple fact is that, even IF your functions held, mine would too, and therefore God would still exist. The fundamental question is this: Why is the MGB more likely than some other thing that is simply defined as having "NE tacked on"? And the answer, as I've said, is that a description of a maximally-great being lacking NE is as nonsensical as a description of an MGB lacking omnipotence. It is a fundamental derivative of the very definition of this being (just as your "entity possessing all colors" cannot fail to have some purple). It is NOT "tacked on", as it is in all the entities you've put forward. I don't know how to make this clearer. Unless there is something fundamentally wrong with the FUNCTION, then you cannot deny ANY of the results it spits out, including that this being must exist in all PWs.

On the MFB: I understand the distinction between dispositional and occurent properties, but you skirted completely around the REAL issue in your second paragraph. And, I'll ask you to address it directly. Here it is: The MFB function, does NOT spit out NE! The entity is not any more frightening in any of the possible worlds (or in reality) just because it WOULD HAVE frightened you in some other possible world where you don't even exist! Can't you see that this function does not in any way necessitate NE? It is therefore not analogous AT ALL to the MGB. The MGB description does necessitate NE. It does so as directly as it necessitates omnipotence. You might say, "I can imagine an MGB that had all the other characteristics except omnipotence", but the response is "no you can't, because that wouldn't be an MGB". So it is for omniscience. **So it is for metaphysical necessity**. If the concept of an MGB is coherent, then it must possess *all* of those properties. Is this really unclear? If so, then just consider all the things a "highest prime number" would need to be. In addition to its mathematical description, it would need to be an NE (like all the other numbers), and therefore exist in every possible world. Therefore, if it is even coherent for such a number to exist, then it exists in every possible world, including this one. It would make no sense to say such a number might exist in some Worlds and not others.

On the "all-existent" point: I'm sorry, but this is all completely opaque to me; I would go so far as to say it is incoherent. "All-existent" either means "the only thing which exists" or it doesn't mean anything at all. If it means "the only thing that exists", then speaking of a stack of coins vs. a stack of coins that could not fail to be the only thing that exists are indeed two different things. But this is UTTERLY beside the point, since being the only thing that exists is not greater in any objective sense than being one of many! {Indeed, it is more plausible that a stack of coins which was the only thing in existence would lack ALL objective value; while a stack of coins in a world with other objects (say, people or banks) might have at least SOME sort of value. So, really, being "all-existent" *detracts* from the value of a stack of coins. But I digress....}

Here is the key point: Let us suppose that contingency has no range to it (I have already permitted this in a previous post, though I think the "more like to exist than not" or "exists in more possible worlds than not" seems intuitively valid). Necessity of existence (NE) would still have a range consisting of a maximum and a minimum (necessity and contingency, respectively). As such, it still meets the standard for a great-making property, because it confers objective value and has a maximum. However, "all-existent" confers no objective value at all. Indeed, it robs the entity of almost all power (there is nothing to act on) and usefulness. It is certainly NOT a great-making property. Let me put it another way: Your "all-existent" property satisfies the need to have a maximum (at least as much as NE does), but not the need to confer objective value. The same would be true of the property of DBZ knowledge (couldn't help myself!). It permits of a logical maximum, but does not confer objective value. Now, before you launch a kamehameha wave at me, let me clarify what it means for a property to "confer objective value". It is not, as you suggest, a measure of awesomeness or of being normatively outstanding. A GMP might, as a side-effect, confer such subjective properties as well, but it needn't do so. To "confer objective value" is to give an entity capacities within the world. If something had no capacities, or abilities, within a world, then that entity may as well not exist. A property like "power", for example, gives an entity capacities in the world. So does knowledge. So does morality. And so does NE, though it's just a little harder to see how. The easiest way I can show that it does is by showing how much more reliable and intrinsic-to-our-understanding the numbers are vs. any contingent reality. If something could not fail to be as it is, then it is infinitely more reliable in any reasoning or structuring of an intelligent understanding. Thus science presupposes the truth of mathematics, but it could never have been the other way around. In any case, being "all-existent" does not confer any capacities in the world; indeed it takes many capacities away. Do you follow?

C) The point is that, if the Eflu actually had the property such that if it has infected one human it has infected them all, then you will never find a patient without it, no matter how "conceivable" or "likely" you might think such a patient to be. I have given arguments for assuming that, if an MEB can exist at all, it will follow necessarily that it is an MGB, so I think we have an Eflu on our hands.

D) Permitting of a maximum is essential to the definition of GMPs, as I tried to show in the last paragraph of B (above). I think I have also addressed any reason to think there is an equivocation on the use of the term "existent" in the sentence "the necessarily-existent thing must exist", but feel free to bring up anything I haven't addressed satisfactorily.

E) I'll respond in a separate post just as soon as I can get around to it, and I'll do my best to be brief.

Thanks for your patience.

NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: PM?", 6/7/12

Hello M. All long quotations are taken directly from you, unless otherwise noted.

Prelude 2) "That function, or set, or definition (whatever you want to call it) which convinces us that an MEB would possess omnipotence, is the same function/set/definition which ought to convince us that any MEB would also be an MGB." I'm sort of tired of debating this particular point, though I'm starting to see where your mistake is. When someone comes up with a new idea, they'll often give it a name that only IMPRECISELY approximates the idea they have in mind. In order to be more precise, the person can then list the necessary and sufficient conditions (the "iffs" or essential properties from my previous PM) for their new idea to help clarify what they mean. Since the labels we choose often have different meanings in different contexts, the iffs helps clear things up. For example, let's say scientists wanted to come up with an informative, colloquial term for CD4+ T cells and so settled on the "helper" T cell. This term approximates what the scientists want to say, but if you want to know what helper T cells really are, just ask the scientists to provide you for the iffs "helper T cell". Note how UNFAIR it would be to say something like, "well helper T cells can't function on their own because they are mere helpers." That would be taking the meaning of "helping" in non-scientific contexts and unfairly applying it to the scientists definition, while completely ignoring the iffs the scientist provided you. This, I'm arguing is exactly the mistake you're making with both Plantinga's MEB and my "all-existent".

Unfortunately, you're reading too much into LABELS, instead of looking at the iffs. Plantinga gave the iffs for "maximal excellence;" NE was not among them. Plantinga was just looking for a convenient term for a being that had all the great-making properties except NE and so settled on "maximal excellence," since it communicated that this being had lots of valuable properties, but fell short of full greatness. You then interpreted "maximal excellence" as meaning "having all the great making properties" or "maximal greatness" [from your 6/4/12 PM: "And yet to break out NE is equivalent to breaking out omnipotence or omniscience, and thinking you still have an MEB. An MEB has ALL of the great-making properties."] but it's clear from the iffs Plantinga provided, that he did not mean it that way; he reserved "possessing all the great making properties" for the "MGB." You're using your intuitions about what "excellence" means in other contexts to overrule the iffs Plantinga provided. And that's unfair. When I realized you were redefining the MEB, I graciously [Yes, I'm that awesome ;) ] allowed you to define your terms as you pleased. I further extended you that courtesy when in my previous PM (reply to D) when I let you define "greatness" the way you wanted. Yet you seem unwilling to extend the same courtesy to Plantinga or I (note your response to my point of "all-existence" in section B). Unfortunately, you further misinterpreted my gracious concession. I allowed you to say ME implied MG because you chose to re-define ME; that's NOT THE SAME as saying Plantinga's definition of ME implies MG or ME (where this is Plantinga's "MG minus NE") is nonsensical (see section B below). In conclusion, when an arguer applies an old label to a new context and stipulates the meaning of that old label in this new context, it's unfair to ignore the arguer's stipulation and demand the old label be interpreted as you see fit based on the labels usages in other contexts (remember my L/C/R distinction from way back?).

Prelude 3) "The reasoning that gets us to the N necessitates that it is also a C." No, it doesn't. I stipulated in my previous PM that C was the cause of the UNIVERSE. In this PM you provided an argument that there could not be an infinite chain of causes. That does not show that C could not have a cause K; if K was uncaused, there would be no infinite regress. And if K was N, there would be no conflict with the PSR. "The only reason the PSR argument gives us an N, is because *the Universe is contingent*!" No. The PSR does not argue, "Well the universe is contingent... the universe must have a non-contingent cause." Instead, the argument states that as a matter of necessity, there must a metaphysically necessary being. Nowhere does the argument claim that this necessary being is the cause of the universe. Now, once we show the universe is contingent (which the PSR does not aim to; we use separate arguments [ex: conceivability arguments] to show the universe is contingent), we can use the PSR to show that the universe can't be N. That's not the same thing as showing that the cause of the universe is not contingent or C is N. To say otherwise is to fallaciously reason. The only way the PSR could show us that C was N was if we used a separate argument to show that every non-C thing is contingent, and thus C was the only remaining option for N. But you've provided NO argument for thinking everything besides the C is contingent. So my above K scenario is compatible with the PSR being a sound argument. So no, the PSR does not show C is necessary. ProTip: Formalize your arguments deductively and you should be able to spot your fallacies. [Yes, I'm being a jerk ;) ]

1) Where? You need to argue that God was C and C was N, and the PSR does not of that. Don't see where you did that.
2) I'll be honest; I'm not a physicist. So I don't have the expertise to rebut Craig on this point. But after seeing him mangle meta-ethics and evolutionary biology (two topics I know quite a bit about), I'm not inclined to just take his word on the matter. And when trusted sources on cosmology (Quentin Smith, AndromedaWake, Hawking, etc.) call Craig's arguments fallacious, I've even less disposed to just take Craig's word on the matter.
3) Please elaborate.
4) When Craig presents the example, he blatantly applies the rules of finite arithmetic. If Hilbert argued against infinite objects based on transfinite arithmetic, then Hilbert avoids this error. But Craig certainly doesn't.
5) Yes, I pushed back N a step and showed that the PSR is compatible with this. By doing this, I showed the argument does not prove that C is N. You thus need a separate argument for saying C is N. That's all I intended to show when I pushed N back a step. Also, God is contingent (or as you define him/it, impossible), and, following your reasoning about the Multiverse, so God is not N.
6) If God was not thinking "before" creating the space-time (or "when" space-time did not exist), how did God "choose" to make the universe? When I'm unconscious or sleeping, I am not a FUNCTIONING mind (there was a reason I included the word "functioning" in my previous PM). There are no mental properties interacting. I have no occurrent beliefs, make no choices, make no decisions, have no occurrent desires, etc. So please explain to me how God "chose" to do X and this choice "caused" X to occur (if you accept Kalam), without time existing or God thinking. This is beginning to look an incoherent, ad hoc attempt to make it possible for a mind to be C, while arbitrarily ruling out other possibilities, which is one thing I argued in my reply to prelude 3 in my previous PM. If "Craig does not say God existed in some other metaphysical time," then I'm at fault for saying he did. I need to do better research. However, I'm still confused on how an "eternal, timeless moment'" is a coherent idea.
7) That's the annoying thing about dualism; it's normally so vague about the nature of "mind stuff" that dualists can say whatever random stuff they want about minds and not fear rebuttal. While in the physical sciences, claims can be more easily checked. Fortunately, there is still hope! Just as we can use physical terms to pick out the parts of physical objects, we can use mental terms to pick out the parts of mental objects. Here are some parts of a mind: "my belief that X," "my desire that Y," "the pain experience resulting from brain's left hemisphere," "my memory about Z," etc. One way we can tell minds have parts is that, with physical objects, we can take minds APART into different, distinguishable components. That's what happens in the case of split-brain patients or in the case of isolating my experience of blue from my experience of hearing a sound. Heck, Jesse Prinz spends a whole hour talking about how the mental properties or parts of our mind are bound together (see the video "On the (Dis)unity of Consciousness"). The physicalist Jerry Fodor advocates a modular theory of the mind where the different mental capacities are delegated to different mental modules (his account can be adapted into a dualism-friendly version). Most philosophers of mind can only make sense of the mind by thinking of it in different parts. Minds have parts, as long as your don't read "parts" in an unfairly physicalist sense that implies spatially distinct components with different physical properties.
Now theists could argue that God's mind is somehow special and completely unlike any mind we've experienced or could conceive of and thus could be simple, but I explained in my previous PM why that's a no-go: it either relies of religious experience (which no atheists would take as evidence), leads to skepticism about whether we can use our intuitions as a guide to C (and thus we should say we don't know what C is, rather than say C is God), or it arbitrarily ignores some of our intuitions while accepting others (and thus Craig and Swinburne are not really taking into account all the evidence and counterevidence for their claim). Unless theists have an argument for thinking God is simple, I'll take the claim as an unjustified bare assertion. They might be theologically-committed to saying God is simple, but I'm certainly not! A simple mind that is omniscient is, like a young Earth, just another theological presupposition that conflicts with the evidence.
Anyway, when I say God was complex, I also mentioned specified complexity, which Stephen Meyers calls "specified information." His version of the teleological argument claims that biological organisms have tons of specified information and current naturalistic, non-mind-centered theories fail to explain the origin of this information, while a designing mind could. Meyer's sense of specified information/specified complexity has less to do with parts, and more to do with "information" (or stuff organized to perform a function or meet an end). Minds, including Gods have specified complexity, since beliefs, desires, etc. perform functions and contain information. This is not to beg the question in favor a physicalist, functionalist reduction of mental properties; even dualists like David Chalmers admit that mental properties perform functions (see chapter 8 of "The Conscious Mind."). Dualists just argue that these functions don't exhaustively explain the nature of mental properties. Saying God is "simple" ("having no parts") does not address this sense of specified complexity (unless you want to claim that God's mind lacks information) and thus does nothing to rebut my point that God has specified complexity.

A) No, man is not by definition mortal. Otherwise there have been tons of movies made about an incoherent concept! More seriously, it's a physical fact resulting from PHYSICAL LAWS (not logical laws), that male members of the species Homo sapiens die. There is nothing conceptually incoherent about a man who is born and never dies. Furthermore, not only can we "we could conceive of some other, science-fiction way to make men [without women]," we'll probably eventually be able to! You just described a possible world in which men are not mortal, thus rebutting your own thesis! And the fact that we would still call such beings "men" shows that it's not a conceptual truth that "men are mortal." Again, you need to distinguish between matters of fact (or physical possibility) and conceptual truths. "So, which is more analogous to the case of MGBs being 'NE', when NE is just one property of the MGB and is also possessed by other beings? They are not definitionally identical; logical inference on the concepts at hand is required to show that you can't have one without the other." I explained this to you before: logically deriving X from the concept Y and logically deriving Y from concept X is the SAME THING as showing X and Y are conceptually linked (i.e. it's a conceptual truth that X implies Y and Y implies X). The ontological argument derives CONCEPTUAL TRUTHS about what modal necessity MEANS in modal logic.

In my bachelor example, you're right in saying that "bachelor" and "unmarried male" are equivalent; it's a conceptual truth that a bachelor is a married male and vice versa. But your mistake was in extending this analogy in a way that implied "NE" and "MGB" were equivalent. But I never claimed that. Instead I said in my reply to A in my previous PM, "it is a logical theorem/truth (i.e. a conceptual truth of logic) that 'possibly necessary X is equivalent to necessarily necessary X' (P2 of the ontological argument) and 'necessarily necessary X is equivalent to actual necessary X' (P3 of the ontological argument)." And by extension it is a conceptual truth that "possibly necessary X is equivalent to actual necessary X." So the correct analogy to my bachelor point would relate "possible MGB" to "actual MGB," not "NE" to "MGB." And when this is done, it is clear that under the definition of possible and necessary in modal logic, the two are definitionally identical.

"As to being uninformative, the truth is that most THEISTS would need the OA explained to them, so it is informative." Yes, and I explained that if they did know modal logic and what modal necessity means (again, the meaning of modal terms is encapsulated in the logical operations used with them), the modal ontological argument would be completely uninteresting and uninformative. To everyone who understands the meaning of modal necessity and isn't already committed to theism, the modal ontological argument is uninteresting wordplay. It's trite. And if people did not understand modal logic well enough to know what modal necessity MEANS, then you should not be using the argument on them until you explain to them what modal necessity means and not just simply tell them what an MGB means, while leaving out what modal necessity means and how any description including modal necessity would either be necessary or impossible. To do otherwise would be deceptive, as I argued in my previous PM. As TheoreticalBullshit discusses with the transcendental argument for God ("The Matt/Matt Debate - Part 1: Introduction"), the ontological argument is the sort of thing that confuses people who don't understand it, but once you understand the meaning of the terms behind it, it's an utterly unconvincing.

In a later addendum you say "to 'beg the question' means to accept a Premise in an argument with no further justification than the fact that you already accept the Conclusion... And, if that is what you are alleging, then I have to say I strongly disagree. You can accept P1 without even *realizing* that it leads to C." My previous paragraph should make clear that if someone accepted P without realizing it was equivalent to C, they don't know the rules of modal logic or the meaning of modal possibility/necessity, and you should therefore not be using the argument on them. I will deal with the rest of your addendum two paragraphs down.

You say you "rebutted the S/T distinction." No you didn't. You suggested that you could look into a patient and see if they have KFlu. I then explained to you that if we looked into a patient and found no KFlu, that would show no one had KFlu. So how did you rebut my S/T point? Do you think you can now use confirmatory S methods? Well, no you can't, since I clearly stated initial discussion of S/T that when looking for the flu (i.e. using confirmatory S methods) the doctor needed to make no arguments regarding the flu being 100% virulent, while the epidemiologist looking for the KFlu DID (unless they went and screened everyone). And you've just accepted that the epidemiologist did need to make such an argument since you just provided one: "If a doctor knows of a KIND of flu, which IF it existed at all would exist in all humans (I gave the example of a flu which might have infected all our ancestors; but it could be some other kind, like a flu that spreads infinitely quickly by every known vector or something)". Now, the question is, is there a patient that lacks the KFlu; is there a world without an MEB and therefore a world without an MGB. I've said there is. You say you've "rebutted my conceivability argument" for this. Cite where you did this.

You also say it's "it would be completely irrational to BEGIN with the assumption that something is impossible." I already explained to you why this is wrong. There's ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD between saying 1) it's impossible that a cat exists and 2) it's impossible that a necessarily existent cat exists. There's ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD between saying 1) it's possible that a necessarily existent cat exists and 2) it's possible that a cat exists. You don't get to apply the epistemic standards we use for 2 claims to 1 claims. If you don't think it's "completely irrational to BEGIN with the assumption that "it's possible cats could not exist", then you've already agreed that it's not irrational "completely irrational" to begin with the assumption that "NE cats are impossible". If you do think this is completely irrational, then you're not in the rational position to deny the existence of any non-self-contradictory thin, for reasons I've gone over at length. If you do think it's rational to begin with the assumption that it's possible "necessarily existent X" exists, then congratulations, we can prove the existence of so much! You also say "The other atheistic arguments you reference are failures, and therefore don't strengthen your case." OK. But if they were sound, they would prove P1 is false. And pointing out that P1 is logically equivalent to saying the MGB is metaphysically impossible does not increase the burden of proof for atheistic arguments anymore than arguments against the existence of unicorns have their burden increased by pointing out they involves saying "NE unicorns" are impossible. Note, I'm not just repeating my objections while ignoring your critiques. Once I dismantle your function defense in B, you'll see why my claims are justified.

You think you're shifting the burden of proof when you're not. Just because you can rephrase "actually existent necessary X" and "necessarily necessary X" into the conceptually EQUIVALENT (via the meaning of modal terms) "possibly necessary X" does not show you've somehow shifted the burden of proof over to your opponent. If you think otherwise, it's now irrational to belief that the most dangerous being does not exist (NE is implied by this description since it closes off the possibility of anything escaping this being in any possible world). And you still have not explained to me why I can't arbitrarily tack on NE to whatever I want and thus miraculously shift the burden of proof. No, the fact that this does not involve some easily digestible function that spits out NE does not somehow privilege such functions over mine. Since you compare functions to sets, you should know a set can contain whatever (consistent) elements you want. So I'll just throw NE into my set of properties. That does nothing to shift the burden of proof.

"You cannot have an MEB without it also being an MGB (or, to put it another way: you cannot have the definition from which we derive that an MEB would be omnipotent, without deriving from that same definition that an MEB would be an NE, and therefore an MGB)." Another relevant quote from section B "Why is the MGB more likely than some other thing that is simply defined as having 'NE tacked on'?" You're wrong. This is simply your attempt to make the MGB special among other descriptions, but this leads to problems. First, the MGB is not special in the way you say it is (see prelude 2 and section B). Second, even if it was, I still don't see how the fact that a DESCRIPTION/DEFINITION is more successful at including NE makes it any more likely that a being matching that description ONTOLOGICALLY exists. You still have not argued for that connection; you're still in the domain of arguing about how different concepts and definitions relate. In response to the question about "why is the MGB more likely," you responded with why it's more likely to be a DESCRIPTION that fits nicely with NE, not that an MGB is ONTOLOGICALLY more likely.

B) "The simple fact is that, even IF your functions held, mine would too, and therefore God would still exist." Incorrect. Here's a quote from my section B, paragraph 4 of my 5/30/12 PM: "And given the plausible assumption that there can only be one omnipotent being and an MFB is not the same as an MEB, the ontological argument implies a contradiction if it works equally well for MEBs and MFBs. So the argument is fallacious."

"MFB function, does NOT spit out NE!" I've explained to you on numerous occasions how it does. If person X would be extremely frightened by property NE, then the MFB (the being that has all the properties X would find frightening) has NE. QED. "The entity is not any more frightening in any of the possible worlds (or in reality) just because it WOULD HAVE frightened you in some other possible world where you don't even exist!" Again, dispositional properties. Now, there are worlds where person X exists and I've stipulated that in every world in which X exists, X is frightened by NE. This is all that's needed to justify the claim that NE is frightening to X. So a being that has all the properties that would be frightening to X must have NE. Furthermore, a being can have the dispositional property "would- frighten-to-X" even in worlds where X does not exist, as long as if X had existed in that world, X would have found that being frightening. Just like you could have the dispositional property "would respond 'yes' if asked 'is the TV smaller than the Earth?'" even in worlds where you are never asked the question, as long if you had been asked the question, you have responded "yes" (you should have no problems grasping un-actualized capacities; see part 6 of your response to my side-critique). By "frightening" you might mean that the being does not actually induce fright in worlds where person X does not exist. True, and you don't actually answer "yes" in worlds where you are not asked "is the TV smaller than the Earth?". If you're interpreting "frightening" in this way, you're making the same mistake as one does in confusing occurrent and dispositional beliefs. I still don't see why you disagree with my defense. Please elaborate on your reasons.

"A description of a maximally-great being lacking NE is as nonsensical as a description of an MGB lacking omnipotence." You're wrong. I'll explain this is detail. In my example, the necessarily existent unicorn is meant to be analogous to your maximally great being, while unicorn was analogous to whatever a maximally great being minus NE is (call this being H). So you need to substitute the "necessarily existent unicorn" in for where you say "maximally great being" and "unicorn" for "H". Now you in your quote, you basically say that "a description of a maximally-great being lacking NE is...nonsensical." There are at least two ways of interpreting your claim:
1) Saying X is the MGB when X lacks NE is nonsensical
2) We can't make sense of a being X that lacks NE, but has all the other qualities of the MGB.
Now 1 is true of your MGB, but it's all true of my necessary unicorn; if X is not NE, it's nonsensical to say X is the necessarily existence unicorn. Now don't be tempted to say "but don't unicorns make sense?" If you do, that shows you were fallaciously substituting in unicorn where my analogy called for substituting in necessary unicorn. Now 2 is patently false. When we substitute in necessarily existent unicorn, we see we have a sensible description: unicorn. When we substitute in "maximally great being", we also get a perfect sensible description H: "an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being." How does H not make sense (I'll grant the theistic assumption that the nature of such a being is not incoherent; to say otherwise is to pave the way for atheism)? None, I repeat, NONE, on those concepts conceptually entail NE. So the resulting concept H makes sense and your quote is thus false. Of course H is not the MGB; it's our old friend Plantinga's MEB. You might insist that the MEB is the MGB, but if we go with Plantinga's definition, you're wrong. An MEB is NOT maximally great since it lacks NE. The only way you showed the MEB was the MGB was by REDEFINING (I repeat, REDEFINING) the MEB so that it has all the maximally great properties. Don't believe me? Here's the relevant passage from your 6/4/12 PM: "And yet to break out NE is equivalent to breaking out omnipotence or omniscience, and thinking you still have an MEB. An MEB has ALL of the great-making properties." NO. This is not the definition of an MEB, it's the definition of an MGB; there is nothing incoherent about an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being. As I discussed in prelude 2 above, you're ignoring Plantinga's iffs and deciding that since in some other context "maximal excellence" means have all the properties with objective values (i.e. great-making properties), that's what Plantinga now intends the term to mean. But you don't get to re-define terms Plantinga decides to put to new uses. You, simply, don't. You may not want to call H the MEB under YOUR definition of the MEB, but that does not show H is a nonsensical description. And as long as H is a sensible description then, contrary to your claims, we can sensibly speaking about a being that has all the maximally great qualities except NE. And please don't be tempted to say H is not a function; yes it is, if your analogy between functions and sets holds (section A, paragraph 7).

"Therefore, if it is even coherent for such a number to exist, then it exists in every possible world, including this one. It would make no sense to say such a number might exist in some Worlds and not others." Since you're not running the logical problem of evil, coherence does not imply possibility. "It would make no sense to say such a number might exist in some Worlds and not others." Sure, it would not make sense to say the "necessarily existent X exists in some worlds and not for others." That's so regardless of whether the necessarily existent X is the MGB, a necessarily existent unicorn, or any other description that includes NE. My response to "I can imagine a necessarily existent unicorn that had all the other characteristics except necessary existence" is "no you can't, because that would not be a necessarily existent unicorn." Again, if your analogy was meant to imply that my answer should be, "yes you can, because you can imagine a unicorn", then 1) you're not following the rules of the analogy and 2) then your response to the question regarding the MGB should instead be "yes you can, because you can imagine an H."

"'All-existent' either means 'the only thing which exists' or it doesn't mean anything at all." No. You don't get to tell me what my STIPULATED term means. I used "all-existent" as a convenient label because it sort of related to the idea I had in mind. But to prevent confusion I gave you clear iffs. So, to repeat myself for a third time:

X is "solely-existent" in world W iff X is the only thing that exists in W.
Y is "all-existent" in world W iff in every possible world, Y is solely-existent.

Is that clear enough? As I stated above in prelude 2, the problem is instead of actually looking at Plantinga's definitions and my definitions in order to understand what our stipulated labels meant, you conveniently ripped those labels from their intended context and substituted in their meanings from other contexts. If you can't avoid doing that, then come up with some other label to substitute for Plantinga's "MEB" and my "all-existence." Any sequence of symbols will do, as long as it stops you from smuggling in meanings from other contexts and thus conveniently ignoring our provided iffs. So please re-read section B of my last PM, and this time, APPLY MY STIPULATED TERMS APPROPRIATELY. Also, please explain to me why my definition of "all-existent" makes the concept incoherent?

"Indeed, it is more plausible that a stack of coins which was the only thing in existence would lack ALL objective value; while a stack of coins in a world with other objects (say, people or banks) might have at least SOME sort of value. So, really, being "all-existent" *detracts* from the value of a stack of coins." Please rethink this. First, to quote section B of my 6/1/12 PM, "God could have been the only existent thing if it had chosen not to make anything else (otherwise, contrary to Christianity, some thing outside of God exists independently of God creating it)." So there is a possible world in which God is the only thing because God chose not to make anything. Are you really saying, as your quote suggests, that God would lack objective value in such a world because there were no "other objects (say, people or banks)"? I doubt you would. So why do you say this all of a sudden when it comes to addressing my point about "all-existent"? You could reply, "no, God is special; if God was the only being, he still would have objective value." Ok. So the mere fact that a being is the only thing that exists does not "detract" from its value (ex: an NE stack of coins would still have objective value even in worlds where only the coins were all that existed; say otherwise and you admit NE does not confer objective value). So what was your point again?

And are you really disagreeing with the following claim: "And if 'necessarily existent' confers objective value, why is the same not true for 'all-existent?' How awesome must a being be to not only be all that exists, but all that ever has, ever will, and ever could possibly exist!" You say "'all-existent' confers no objective value at all. Indeed, it robs the entity of almost all power (there is nothing to act on) and usefulness." So if in every possible world, God chose to make nothing, that would rob God of objective value since it couldn't act on anything or be useful! That seems strange for a Christian to say about God. So God is valuable only if it chooses to create, is useful, and acts on stuff? What an incredibly pragmatic, utility-driven driven account of value! So how much value does God have in the world where it chooses not to create and thus has nothing to act on or be useful to? None? Furthermore, your reasoning implies that before God created the universe, God had no objective value. It has "no capacities, within a world" nor anything to act upon since as you argued before, God was not thinking since it lacked time. Now the most obvious reply to this is "of course God had something to act upon; God could act upon itself, much as we do during thought. And of course God had objective value; it had the capacity to create" (see part 6 of your side-critique response). EXACTLY. So even in worlds where God was the only thing to exist because it chose not to create anything, it would still have the CAPACITY to create and could still act on itself and be useful to something (be useful to itself) and thus would still have objective value. To say otherwise is to admit that God lacks value until non-God things exist; God's value depends on non-God stuff. And most theists won't want to say that. So "all-existence" would not rob God of objective value.

And note that nowhere in my previous PMs did I make the most obvious and basic atheistic criticism:
"Theists are just making stuff up when they claim certain properties have 'objective value,' outside of moral contexts and concerns about utility. Theists simply 'like' certain properties and since they want to run an ontological argument, they just cobble together all the properties they want for their God, bundle them together as 'great properties with objective value,' don't clearly explain the epistemology by which they determined that certain properties were great and others were not (besides citing 'intuition'), conveniently keep out other properties that intuitively seem just as 'great' as NE (my 'all-existent' example) just because there God doesn't have those properties and thus that would mess up their ontological argument, and then expect us to take all this as evidence for God, as opposed to just theists knowing what they want their conclusion to be, and then arguing backwards from there."
This critique would have been too easy to make and that's one reason why I avoided making it. The other reason is that I think it's unfair to theists; there's no reason why they can't provide a coherent account of "greatness," defend their epistemology, etc. So I granted you as much lee-way as I could, but this has gone too far (you've said DBZ knowledge does not confer objective value! Oh, the humanity! I'm sending a PM to TeamFourStar). When you start using your intuitions to say "X is great" and "Y is not great," and your own intuitions begin to conflict with one another (as I've spent the last few paragraphs arguing they do), then I'm going to need further evidence supporting those intuitions.

C) You have not, "given arguments for assuming that, if an MEB can exist at all, it will follow necessarily that it is an MGB," if by MEB you mean Plantinga's definition of an MEB. You've instead redefined the MEB into the MGB and thus provided an argument that if the MGB is possible, then it follows necessarily that there is an MGB. Which is just to say: you've restated the ontological argument. And I've already explained why that argument is uninformative and question-begging.

"You will never find a patient without it, no matter how 'conceivable' or 'likely' you might think such a patient to be." This is a picture perfect example of you making the mistake I noted in prelude 2; you're applying the meaning of conceivability in non-philosophical contexts to argue against its application in philosophy! Conceivability has nothing to do with "likelihood" in philosophy, and you know this. Instead, it involves imagining a world, and then using that as evidence that that world is metaphysically possible. In my analogy, patients corresponded to possible worlds, the doctor/epidemiologist corresponded to atheists/theists, and flu/Eflu corresponded to Plantinga's MEB/MGB. So if you followed my use of the philosophical definition of "conceive," you would not say "no matter how 'conceivable' or 'likely' you might think such a patient to be." That would be a claim about epistemic possibility. Philosophical conceivability would correspond to actually examining a patient. Hope that was clear enough.

D) Look for all-caps usage of "ONTOLOGICAL" for where I think the equivocation is occurring.

If I sounded frustrated in this PM, it's not because I think you're ignorant. Far from it. I don't get frustrated with people who are ignorant about philosophy. I either mock them (if they're bullying others; TheCartesianTheist is coming very close to incurring my wrath!) or educate them/leave them be (if they're genuinely nice people). I'm frustrated because you're clearly well-informed enough to understand what I'm saying, yet you're misreading in places where my meaning is obvious. I'm OK with people disagreeing with my arguments or presenting counter-arguments; I'm not OK with people not applying the definitions I use for my stipulated terms.

Thanks for your response. I'll probably have to save your Biblical exegesis for this weekend (tomorrow's going to be brutal for me).