Ontological Argument: Death of God


The funny story about the Ontological Argument is that when formulated, one feels that something’s just not right about it, and yet one finds it difficult to articulate what is not right about it. My sense is that it begs the question because it assumes that there must be a God. But this is my general feeling about it.  

A more interesting observation about the ontological argument is that a more perfect God than the God of Anselm is a God who is able to “not exist”, as well, neither in the mind alone nor in actuality.  

Now, it seems to me that the God of Christianity is one that is always present (i.e. one that cannot “not exist”). However, I can see Anselm, and perhaps some modern theologians, too, entertain the idea that God can indeed cause himself to cease to exist. After all, if they say that God cannot cause himself to cease to exist, then I can reject the ontological argument by showing that there is a more perfect God than the God Anselm believes being perfect, and that is a God who not only must exist in the mind alone and in actuality, but also is able to cease to exist.

On the other hand, if they accept that God can cease to exist, perhaps it is also possible that God can ceased to exist for ever after the creation of the universe; for example, God was the Big Bang, and right after the bang he ceased to exist, which would explain why the world is riddled with evil. Furthermore, the possibility that God can cease to exist, leads me to the idea that God needs humans in order for him to make sense; without humans, the existence of God with his attributes and miracles would be utterly meaningless. Conversely, if God can cease to exist and indeed he has done so, it makes no difference for humans because the world with its laws functions anyway, and life nevertheless has a certain meaning.


Author: Carlo Alvaro


7 thoughts on “Ontological Argument: Death of God

  1. Ha, was it a coincidence that you wrote this the same day as put up my old Anselm paper, or was it as a ‘furthering the argument’ sort of thing? Either way, nice. Yeah, I have a hard time digesting Anselm.

    But I have to ask a question. First, the idea that God is ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” Second, the idea of possessing both non-existence and existence is better than simply existing or not existing. But, shouldn’t we focus on the law of non-contradiction as well? In that, existing in the mind and in reality do not contradict, but to exist and not exist at the same time is a contradiction.

    To further, my rebuttal? (I’m not sure if I’m arguing against or for your position at this point), I suppose one could argue that God exists, and then does not exist, never at the same time does he exist and not exist, but at different times. But I think Anselm would respond that God, if granted that he exists, then he exists prior to time (or rather outside of time). So that if he were to exist at one time and not at another then he would have limits…constrictions…he would have an existence that is more temporal and concrete than he should…almost as though we were anthropomorphizing him. At least, I think Anselm would have had the idea of God existing outside of time; if not from religious texts then from philosophical texts (e.g. Saint Augustine).

    Correct me if I am wrong. It’s been a while since I thought about God (ashamed to say, in that he is a pretty hot topic in philosophy, and physics lol)

    However, all that said, it is easy enough to use your argument against someone who uses Saint Anselm as an argument for God. There is something too obscure in his argument. Is it logical? Perhaps Anselm should be attacked not through logic but meta-logic.

    • Actually it was not a coincidence. I read your piece and I thought I’d make a comment, when at a certain point I decided to make a post on my blog, too, since I’ve been wanting to write something in response to the Ontological argument.

      I myself think it is a fascinating argument, though I think its trick is due to the fact that language (yes I’m being Wittgensteinian here) is a queer medium that fails to accurately describes the physical world, and it completely goes on holiday when it tries to talk about metaphysical entities. In short, I think it begs the question.

      Now, read carefully. I would never commit the mistake of saying that God exists and not exist at the same time, i.e., that p and not p is true. What I said is that it seems to me that if you say “God can never cease to exist because its nature does not allow him not to exist” well, I think that that is not the most perfect God one can conceive. A more perfect one is one that can decide to stop existing.

      Now, it is very interesting that you say

      “God exists prior to time (or rather outside of time). So that if he were to exist at one time and not at another then he would have limits…constrictions…he would have an existence that is more temporal and concrete than he should…almost as though we were anthropomorphizing him. At least, I think Anselm would have had the idea of God existing outside of time…”

      But that’s my very point: a God who can only exist outside time is less perfect than the God I propose, who exists both outside and inside time. It seems that existing in the way you/Anselm propose is a limitation. Also, you mention anthropomorphizing God. But who’s anthropomorphizing here? I think Anselm, or anybody else who says that God “exists”, that is who attributes existence to God, is anthropomorphizing God. In fact, ask yourself, what does it mean that God “exists”? In what way does he exist? I think to say that he exists outside time produces a contradiction because one who makes that statement unintentionally uses existence in the same way in which he uses it when he addresses physical entities.

  2. Ahh makes sense. I read the reply on my wall afterwards lol

    Wittgenstein, boundaries, limits of our world view inhibits us from approaching the mystical, except through science. Or something to that affect. Oh Wittgenstein.

    I never did ask you your field in philosophy. Is that how it is phrased? Field… Continental? Natural? Focus on Wittgenstein? unless it’s too personal a topic, or not yet decided.

    When it comes to talking about existing outside of time I don’t think anyone has the same idea. Every time it crops up in an argument everyone seems to be giving opposing theories, yet, all orbiting the same chunk of ‘non-sense.’ Although I like what Wittgenstein has to say, I believe that there is some way to talk about these things…outside of our private-language-vernacular world-view.

    • In the second part I meant to spell “silence”, not ‘science’

    • My field, sure why not, but I prefer to say my interests are the philosophy of religion, or I should probably say the philosophy of atheism, and metaphylosophy.

      Actually, I’ve been naming Wittgenstein a lot, but I’m not particularly interested in his works. His early Tractatus is worthless. His Investigations, later work, contain some very important ideas, which, combined with the ideas of Quine, I think make it clear of the limits of philosophy.

  3. Interesting discussion. I made a vid on youtube a while back that hits on a similar subject, but in this case it is exploring the limits of a god’s self-knowledge. Basic premise is that any god would not be able to know if there was a higher realm of god which they have no access to.

  4. Looks like both of us haven’t posted in a while lol; I do remember these discussions and, must say, rather enjoyed them.

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