Philosophy Notes > University Of Oxford Philosophy Notes > Philosophy of Religion Notes

Ontological Notes

This is a sample of our (approximately) 12 page long Ontological notes, which we sell as part of the Philosophy of Religion Notes collection, a 2.1 package written at University Of Oxford in 2016 that contains (approximately) 83 pages of notes across 5 different documents.

Learn more about our Philosophy of Religion Notes

The original file is a 'Word (Docx)' whilst this sample is a 'PDF' representation of said file. This means that the formatting here may have errors. The original document you'll receive on purchase should have more polished formatting.

Ontological Revision

The following is a plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Philosophy of Religion Notes. This text version has had its formatting removed so pay attention to its contents alone rather than its presentation. The version you download will have its original formatting intact and so will be much prettier to look at.

Philosophy of Religion Revision Topic 5

Philosophy of Religion M Tooley : Plantinga's Defence of the Ontological Argument Plantinga defends at least one valid version of the Ontological argument, and that its premises may reasonably be accepted. Tooley argues that Plantinga's defence of this contention is unsatisfactory.
Plantinga's version is close to that of Hartshorne­Malcom ­ but believes that theirs has at least one flaw. The result is that the argument does not show that there is a being that enjoys maximal greatness ­ it shows at most that there is a being that in some world or other has maximal greatness.
Tooley : Plantinga's statement here is incorrect. The argument, if sound, shows that there is a being that exists in every possible world, and which is maximally great in at least one world. The argument requires a trivial modification to show, if sound, that the being is maximally great in every world.
Plantinga's argument is as follows :
God / Maximal Excellence / Maximal Greatness ­ An entity is God if and only if it possesses maximal excellence. It is maximally excellence if it is omnipotent / omniscient / morally perfect. An entity possesses maximal greatness if and only if it exists and possesses maximal excellence in every way.
1) The proposition that a thing has maximal greatness if and only if it had maximal excellence in every possible world is necessarily true.
2) The proposition that whatever has maximal excellence is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect is necessarily true.
3) There is a possible world in which the property of possessing maximal greatness is exemplified.
4) The property of possessing maximal greatness is exemplified in every possible world.
5) God exists.
The argument is valid. Given (1) and (3) there is some individual x that exists, and possesses maximal excellence, in every possible world. Let W be any such world. Could x fail to possess maximal greatness in W? Clearly not, since x exists and possesses maximal excellence. So (4) follows from (1) and (3), and then (5) follows from (4) together with (2).
Is the argument sound? Since (1) and (2) are true in virtue of definition ­ the sound­ness depends on (3). Plantinga's crucial premise is ­ '(36) Maximal Greatness is possibly exemplified' ­ Plantinga then attempts to defend the latter by arguing that it is acceptable for reasons comparable to those one has for accepting a philosophical claim such as Leibniz's Law that for any objects x and y and property P, if x=y then x has P if and only if y has P. There are considerations against Leibniz's Law, but not very compelling.
Plantinga Contends that our verdict on the Ontological argument must be that no conclusion is proved / established. But since it is rational to accept the central premiss, they do show that it is rational to accept that conclusion.
Objections will be directed against the proposition that it is logically possible for the property of maximal greatness to be exemplified.

1. The first place to look is the objection discussed by Plantinga. This starts from the observation that there are many properties that can be exemplified only if the property of maximal greatness cannot be exemplified. An

A Webb

1 of 12

Philosophy of Religion Revision Topic 5 example is the 'property of near maximality' ­ Enjoyed by a being if and only if it does not exist in every possible world but has a degree of greatness not exceeded by that of any being in any world.

1. The objection continues ­ since there is no reason to suppose that the proposition that the property of maximal greatness can be exemplified than that of near maximal greatness, and both can't be true, the reasonable conclusion is that both should be rejected.

2. But : Plantinga shows that this will not do. As, consider the property of no­maximality : The property of being such that there is no maximally great being. The proposition that the property of no­maximality can be exemplified is also incompatible with the proposition that the property of maximal greatness can be exemplified. But since at least one of these properties must be exemplified, we cannot assign likelihoods of less than one half to both ­ cannot be justified in rejecting both.
Problems :
A. Surely the reasonable conclusion is not that both should be rejected, but that there is no justification for accepting either since we have no reason for ascribing a likelihood greater than one half to either proposition.
B. More importantly, there are related, and equally obvious objections that are stronger :

3. Let 'P' be any predicate, and introduce the new predicate '…is maximally P' : 'x is maximally P if and only if x exists in all possible worlds and is P in every world'. One can then parallel Plantinga's argument for the view that it is reasonable to believe that the property of maximal greatness can be exemplified. As this can be done for any coherent predicate, the result will be world that is overpopulated with necessary beings.

2. The problem is not merely one of over­population. For one can, using predicates of the form '…is maximally P' construct arguments that lead to contradictory conclusions. Consider the predicates x is a maximal universal solvent / x is maximally insoluble ­ if and only if x exists in every worlds and is a universal solvent / insoluble in every world.

1. Paralleling Plantinga's argument in the case of these two properties will lead to the conclusion that there s a maximal universal solvent in the one case, and in the other, to the conclusion that there is something that is maximally insoluble ­ These two conclusions are inconsistent.

2. It is important to notice that this point is different from the maximal greatness / near­maximality objection considered by Plantinga. There one was dealing with arguments that involved predicates whose definitions were structurally different. In contrast the solvent / insoluble case might be held to have the same logical form, since an interchange of the expressions 'dissolves' / 'is not dissolved by' in the definitions written in primitive form maps each definition into the other.

3. There is one case of structurally similar arguments, the one based upon the relational predicate 'dissolves', and another based upon the relational predicate 'is not dissolved by' ­ which lead to contradictory conclusions. Given the structural similarity it would seem unjustified to accept one argument while rejecting the other. The proper conclusion would seem to be that the form of the argument is unacceptable ­
hence both arguments must be rejected.

1. If the form is unacceptable, then it is equally unacceptable on the ontological argument.

3. There are predicates with the same logical structure as those employed in Plantinga's version of the ontological argument which can be used in arguments of precisely the same form to establish conclusions incompatible with the conclusion that God exists. For example, if we use 'the Devil' and 'maximally evil' in such a way that it is A Webb

2 of 12

Philosophy of Religion Revision Topic 5 analytically true that x is the Devil if and only if x is omnipotent / omniscient / perfectly evil, and that x is maximally evil if and only if x exists in every possible world and is omnipotent / omniscient / perfectly evil in every world ­ we can construct a precisely parallel argument to show the Devil necessarily exists. And from this, it follows that God does not exist.

1. Even if it is not logically impossible that there be two distinct / co­existent beings ­ both of whom are omnipotent, it is impossible for there to be two distinct, omnipotent coexistent beings which are such that it is not necessarily the case that their wills coincide ­ This will certainly be so if one being is perfectly good and the other perfectly evil.
Plantinga unsurprisingly prefers the ontological to the demonological one ­ but with no argument in support, it is difficult not to view it as logically arbitrary.
­ This point can be extended in a quantitive way. For God and the Devil represent extreme ends of a spectrum ­ one can consider predicates of the form '…is omnipotent and omniscient, and posses a character whose moral worth falls at some point m between being perfectly good and perfectly evil'. Clearly, there are a number of predicates of this form. Is there any reason for supposing that some of the corresponding maximal properties are more likely to be possible than others? Plantinga has offered none ­ and it is hard to see a reason why there could be.
­ In the absence of a reason, it would seem arbitrary / unjustified to treat them differently, given that they are in the same form in a strong sense. It seems that each of the maximal properties ought to be assigned the same likelihood of possible exemplification ­ it follows that it cannot be rational to believe a particular one.

4. One can always construct predicates that can be employed in similar argument to establish conclusions known to be empirically false. Suppose that P is the property of being an omnipotent / omniscient / morally perfect wombat on the top of this page. Given that this page does not exist in all possible worlds, the property of being maximally P cannot be exemplified.

1. One can introduce a slightly different notion, of relative­maximal properties. Suppose R is any relational property. Let us say that the relational property R involves individual a if and only if it is necessarily the case that for any x, x's having R entails the existence of individual a. The relational property, within five miles of the Eiffel tower, for example, involves the Eiffel tower, but no other individuals.

1. Given this notion, one can then define, for every relational property P, a corresponding relative­
maximal property Q( P ) as follows : x has the relative­maximal property Q ( P ) if and only if x has property P in every possible world which contains all of the individuals involved with property P.

2. An argument parallel to Plantinga's will then allow one to show that is reasonable to believe that there is an entity that possesses the relative­maximal property Q which is based upon the relational property of being an omnipotent / omniscient / morally perfect wombat on the top of this page. Since every individual which is involved in that relational property ­ this page ­ exists in the world, it follows that it is reasonable to believe that this world contains just that.
There are a variety of ways of constructing predicates that can be employed in arguments with the same logical form as Plantinga's ontological argument. Some of these arguments generate mutually incompatible conclusions while other lead to ones obviously false. Such difficulties can be avoided in part by arbitrarily maintaining that predicates constructed in certain ways cannot possibly apply to anything. This would not save the ontological argument ­ one can construct arguments of the same structure that lead to conclusions incompatible with the ontological argument.
­ The claim that it is reasonable to believe that the property of maximal greatness is capable of being exemplified must thus be rejected.
A Webb

3 of 12

Philosophy of Religion Revision Topic 5 It is one thing to say it is not reasonable to believe that a property can be exemplified. It is another to say that it cannot be so. How does one determine what properties can be exemplified? A natural line of thought is this :
­ The concept of possible world is introduced to provide a semantical account of the truth conditions of modal sentences. Whether or not a given modal sentence is true in a particular world may depend upon what is true in other possible worlds.
­ However, possible worlds involve both modal and non­modal propositions. Are we then saying that whether a modal sentence is true in a given world depends upon what propositions, both modal and non­modal are true in other worlds? In some cases yes, but that does not mean that the resulting account is circular and unilluminating.
­ If we characterise a modal sentence as of order n if it has embedded modal operators of depth n, and of no greater depth, then whether a modal sentence of order n is true in a given world depends upon what sentences of modal order less than n are true in other possible worlds.
There is a further requirement if circularity is to be avoided : That hat sets of modal sentences of order less than n are logically consistent must not be dependent upon the truth values of sentence of modal order equal / greater than n.
Setting n equal to 1 gives the requirement that what sets of sentences of modal order less than 1 are logically consistent must not be dependent upon the truth values of sentences of modal order greater than or equal to 1. Since modal sentences of order less than one are just non­modal sentences ­ we have the requirement that what sets of nonmoral sentences are true in some world cannot be dependent upon the truth values of modal sentences.
Consider two properties : (1) Being a unicorn (2) No possible world contains a unicorn. Only one can be exemplified ­
which. Given the view above, 'There is a unicorn' should be chosen ­ it is a non­modal sentence and therefore whether there is a possible world in which it is true cannot depend upon the truth values of modal sentences. It will not do argue that there is no possible world in which it is true on the ground that it is incompatible with the proposition that there is a possible world in which there is something that has the property of being such that there is nothing in any possible world that is a unicorn.
­ The only way in which it can be argued that there is no possible world in which the sentence 'There is a unicorn' is true is by showing that it entails a contradiction. Since that cannot be done, one is justified in concluding that the property of being a unicorn is capable of being exemplified ­ hence that the property of being such that no possible world contains a unicorn is not.
Equally, the statement 'There is no maximally excellent being' is a non­modal sentence so unless it can be shown to entail contradiction, one can be justified in concluding that there is a possible world in which it is true. And it will follow then that the property of maximal greatness is not capable of being exemplified.
C O N C L U S I O N
Plantinga's version of the ontological argument is unacceptable for 2 reasons :
1

Involves a form of argumentation which if applied to structurally identical, and equally justified premises, leads to contradictory conclusions.

5. The crucial premise in the argument can be seen to be necessarily false given an adequate account of the truth condition of modal sentences.

A Webb

4 of 12

****************************End Of Sample*****************************

Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Philosophy of Religion Notes.