Goal: Introduction to modality
Logical coherence does not entail broadly logical possibility. This should remedy an error commonly made by novice proponents of Plantinga’s OA and prevent them claiming an atheist must show the MGB is incoherent to rebut Plantinga’s OA.
Atheists need not show the concept “MGB” is incoherent to rebut Plantinga’s OA.
If you are new to modal logic, please read the referenced resources or follow along with the thought experiment in section II-C-1.
Atheists can rebut Plantinga’s OA without have to show the concept “MGB” is incoherent.
I-C. Modal Ontological Arguments; everything comes in pairs
I present Malcolm’s OA, Plantinga’s OA, and a logical version of Plantinga’s OA.
Modal OA proponents should not illegitimately mix modalities (ex: supporting Plantinga’s OA solely by showing that MGB is coherent).
Goal: Rebutting Plantinga’s OA by showing the following points:
1) It uninformatively begs the question and is thus not a sound argument
2) It is rebutted by Gaunilo-type parodies
3) The MGB is logically impossible
4) The MGB is metaphysically impossible (via many methods independent of 3)
5) Attempts to use Maydole’s argument to support Plantinga’s fail
6) The phrasing of Plantinga’s argument encourages people to employ the incorrect modal epistemology
7) Theists lack sufficient support for the central premise of Plantinga’s OA while atheists have sufficient support for denying the central premise
Introduce some problems which plague all OAs:
a) They are all either question-begging or formally invalid
b) They offer vague definitions of important terms
c) They cannot rebut Gaunlio-type parodies without engaging in special pleading or ad hoc re-definition of terms. Gaunilo-type parodies rebut all OAs.
II-A. Question-begging and Invalidity
Plantinga’s OA uninformatively begs the question and every OA either begs the question or is formally invalid.
Plantinga’s OA begs the question since its premise presupposes the truth of its conclusion and means the same thing as its conclusion.
No one should think Plantinga’s argument is a sound, dialectically-relevant argument for God’s existence once they understand the meaning of its modal terms.
Every OA, no matter how much arcane logic it employs, either begs the question or is formally invalid.
Theists should not employ Plantinga’s OA (not even in a cumulative case for God) since the argument assumes God’s necessary existence in its premises.
II-B. Gaunilo-type parodies and counterexamples
The MGB is both metaphysically impossible and incoherent.
Gaunilo-type parodies rebut all OAs by showing that:
1) If OAs worked, then they would prove the existence of beings we know do not exist.
2) If OAs worked, then they would prove the logically contradictory conclusion that multiple omnipotent beings exists.
3) 2 cannot be avoided by privileging an OA involving the OA proponent’s preferred deity, since this involves special pleading and there are many omnipotent deities more likely to exist than the proponent’s preferred deity.
4) The proponent’s preferred deity lacks many argued for by the requisite OA; so even if a given OA worked, it would not show the theist’s preferred deity exists.
II-B-1. Gaunilo-type Objections + the OA is Parasitic upon NE [“everything under the Sun”]
Plantinga’s OA just engages in modal wordplay involving necessary existence (NE) and thus if his OA worked, then it could be use to prove the existence of something matching almost any description which included NE.
OA proponents either do not provide adequate justification for including NE in the definition of their deity or they provide a justification that could work for any number of proposed beings, opening the door for Gaunilo-type parodies.
II-B-2. Reply to Theistic Rejoinders [“apathy and tyranny”]
The OA proponent’s preferred deity has worse credentials than other NE descriptions since it is less likely to exist.
The “credentials” defense of the theist’s preferred deity is irrelevant since most proponents who advance the defense engage in special pleading, and the MGB is logically and metaphysically impossible.
Pointing out the NE is a great-making property or is a descriptor had by the MGB is not sufficient for privileging the MGB over other concepts that include NE.
II-B-3. Greatness Reconsidered
Plantinga’s OA falls to Gaunilo-type objections.
Most OA proponents construct intentionally vague definitions of the normative terms involved in their argument and then revise them in an ad hoc manner to deal with objections.
The theist’s preferred deity lacks some of the properties of the MGB, so Plantinga’s OA does not show theist’s deity exists.
The MGB is incoherent.
II-B-3-a. Rebutting Plantinga’s “Intrinsic Maxima” Reply [“Mr. Maximum’s buxom babes”]
Plantinga’s rebuttal of Gaunilo fails because Plantinga:
1) Trades on the wrong sense of “greatness”
2) Provides an inadequate justification for preferring the MGB over other descriptions that include NE
3) Revises his account of the MGB in as ad hoc manner via the “intrinsic maximum” condition
Most OA proponents construct intentional vague definitions of the normative terms they employ (“great”, “better” etc.) and then revise the definitions in an ad hoc manner to avoid Gaunilo-type parodies or claims that the normative terms make the MGB, perfections, supreme being, etc. impossible.
II-B-3-b. God’s Missing GMPs [“loneliness, but with elbow room”]
All-existence and maximal freedom are two properties of the MGB not shared by the theist’s preferred deity. So even if Plantinga’s OA worked, it would not show the theist’s preferred deity exists.
II-B-3-c. The Incoherence of the MGB [“easy come, easy go”]
The atheist can show the MGB is incoherent via at least the following methods:
1) Showing the MEB’s existence can be denied without entailing a contradiction or a logical absurdity (ANY argument for the metaphysically possibility non-existence of the MEB works for this)
2) Establishing the incoherence of the MEB
3) Providing a positive atheist argument against the existence of the MEB in the actual world
4) Showing the GMP all-existence cannot be instantiated unless the theist admits we are apart of the MGB
5) Showing the GMPs “maximal freedom” and “necessarily omnibenevolent” contradict one another
II-B-4. Full-Scale Gaunilo Assault
Gaunilo-type parodies rebut all OAs.
II-B-4-a. Gaunilo's Initial Skirmishes
Gaunilo-type counterexamples rebut Maydole’s MPA.
Maydole’s MPA either involves trivially necessary conditions (which leads to it entailing impossible perfections and abhorrent perfections) or, if modified to avoid trivially necessary conditions, is question-begging.
II-B-4-a-i. A Flaw Common to All OAs [“she’s perfect…but I still prefer Fran”]
Maydole’s argument entails impossible to instantiate perfections and abhorrent perfections via M2.
Maydole’s argument would prove the metaphysical possibility of things we know are metaphysically impossible; as shown by Gaunilo-type parodies. So his argument must be unsound via 4 reasons given in II-B.
II-B-4-a-ii. More Flaws in the MPA [“Hyper Cutter blocked 32-step logical proof’s Intimidate”]
Maydole’s argument employs a trivial notion of necessary conditions in M2 that allows for:
1) Metaphysically impossible properties/descriptors to be perfections
2) Abhorrent properties/descriptors to count as perfections
3) Explanatorily empty necessary conditions
If Maydole employs non-vacuous deduction, then he will need to modify M2. Unfortunately, he does not do this since the only plausible way of modifying M2 to avoid 1-3 involved blatantly begging the question. So his argument still falls to criticisms 1-3.
Regardless of what Maydole chooses to do, his argument still falls to Gaunilo-type parodies and the 4 problems that result from this (as discussed in II-B).
II-B-4-b. The Flaw Generalized [“anything you can do, I can do better”]
The OA critic can take whatever justification the OA proponent uses to argue for God’s existence, apply it to another deity more plausible than the theist’s God, and run the theist’s OA for that being. This Gaunilo-type parody will be more plausible than the theist’s OA and will lead to at least the 4 problems mention in II-B. Thus Gaunilo-type parodies rebut all OAs.
II-C. PEOPLE NEW TO MODAL LOGIC: Get Here Soon
The virus thought experiment helps guide people new to modal logic.
The phrasing of the OA encourages people to apply the incorrect epistemic standards.
The appropriate primae facie epistemic standard is 1, not 2 (where X mentions no transworld properties/descriptors; while NEX does include a transworld property/descriptor [NEX = necessary existent X]):
1) X is contingent; i.e. “X is possible and not-X is possible”
2) NEX is possible; i.e. “X is necessary and not-X is impossible”
II-C-1. A Helpful Modal Thought Experiment [“pandemic: the OA goes viral”]
Do not confuse the MEB (which mentions no transworld properties) with the MGB (which includes the transworld property “necessary existence”).
Thus “MEB is possible =/= MGB is possible.” The latter is much easier to rebut than the former.
II-C-2. An Epistemological Error [“could I please switch to an a-religious epidemiologist?”]
Many, if not all, metaphysical OA proponents illegitimately apply confirmatory S methods (the doctor’s methods; the methods used to confirm the existence of entities with no transworld properties such as the MEB) to the MGB, instead of the appropriate confirmatory T methods (the epidemiologist’s methods; the methods used to confirm the existence of entities with transworld properties such as the MGB).
II-D. Unsupported Modal Intuitions [“…and the dualists rode in on pale horses…the OA trembled”]
Both positive and negative atheists have strong arguments for rejecting or not accepting P1 of the metaphysical OA.
Theists lack arguments or support for P1 since they either:
1) Employ the incorrect epistemic standards and thus grant P1 more plausibility than it has.
2) Confuse arguments for the MEB’s possibility with arguments for the possibility of the MGB.
3) Forget that any argument for P1 is useless since it amounts to arguing that God’s is logically necessary; the OA then just amounts to an uninteresting semantic deduction from this statement.
III-B. The Logical Version of Plantinga’s OA [
III-D. Malcolm’s Argument [“why bother?”]
On any definition of “God” Malcolm opts for, his argument fails to show God exists.
IV. Why Theists Still Defend Ontological Arguments [“please have a seat on the couch”]
Many theists continue to defend OAs for at least five reasons:
1) They think they are sound arguments.
2) Some are committed to defending the arguments of traditional, Western apologetics no matter how implausible they are.
3) They make the epistemic errors discussed in section II-C, along with the other mistakes discussed throughout this paper.
4) The argument serves as a convenient, illegitimate defense against the charge that God is not omnibenevolent (why defend God’s actions or inactions when, like Craig, you can just cite the OA as a cop-out for why God must be all-good?).
5) The OA serves as a convenient way to, in one illegitimate swoop, bring into existence all the properties the theist wants for God but lacked actual evidence for.