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Arguments for the existence of God

For topics that are more about faith, religion and religious organisations than anything else.
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Maria Mac
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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#21 Post by Maria Mac » September 8th, 2010, 1:54 am

Latest post of the previous page:

Alan C. wrote:Please point me to this "proof" of which you speak! And explain just how proof can be misunderstood.
Calm down, Alan. He's trying to point me to proof and I'm trying to explain to him why what he thinks is proof isn't proof.

mickeyd wrote:You’re misunderstanding the proof because:

1. The proof asks us to conceive of a being that does not exist merely in the mind, i.e. an absolute being (in my dictionary it says “God”).
IOW, conjure up an imaginary being and imagine it's real? Sorry, Mickey, this may not be what you mean but it is what you are saying.
2. Everyone has a conception of God including atheists, otherwise they would be disbelieving in that which they’ve never even thought of (!)
I agree. However, atheists' "conception" of God is merely their understanding of God-believers' conception of God. Furthermore, atheists recognise that believers have varying conceptions of God and we don't believe in any of them.
3. Put steps 2 and 3 together: conceiving of a being that we can and do conceive of involves no contradiction.
You have omitted to tell us what step 3 is but this is a typically superfluous sentence. Why would there be a contradiction in imagining something we imagine?
4. Now can we conceive of an absolute being not being? No, we cannot.
Speak for yourself. Because there is no demonstrable evidence of an "absolute being", some of us find it perfectly easy to conceive of one not being.
5. Can we profess that which we cannot conceive?

Nope. Another irrelevant question kicked to the kerb.
Only by a distorting act of psychological prejudice that exists in our fundamental motivations.
I'm afraid nothing you have said supports this conclusion. Try again.

If you say, “this is merely in my mind therefore I don’t believe it” you’re actually saying this:

1. With my mind I believe that x exists

2. Because I believe merely with my mind that x exists, therefore with my mind I do not believe that x exists.

This is a hopeless contradiction, because the conclusion in step 2 destroys the premise in step 1.
Hmm..let's just see how that works:

With my mind I believe leprechauns exist but because I believe they exist merely with my mind, I therefore do not believe with my mind that they exist.

You're right, it's a hopeless contradiction. I guess that leprechauns must exist then.

Actually, as nobody is saying “this is merely in my mind therefore I don’t believe it”, we don't need to concern ourselves with your hopeless contradiction. What we are saying is, "I can imagine something like what you are describing but I see no reason to believe it actually exists. I don't believe it because there is no evidence for it."

Simple as that.

mickeyd
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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#22 Post by mickeyd » September 8th, 2010, 1:05 pm

Hi Maria,

You're quite right that breaking arguments into numbered steps does make them a lot clearer to follow - my apologies. I was concerned that it might cause the omission of important detail through summarisation, but as long as one is careful to avoid that it's a better way of presenting argument.

In my long starting post I think the hardest part to follow is my response to an objection to the cosmological proof. To be better understood on this forum I've broken it down into steps as you advise and here's the result:

What if asking how existence came to exist is a non-question because the physical laws did not hold at the beginning of the universe? If this objection is saying that only reality that can be accounted for by physics can exist, then we must ask what accounts for physics?
1. Can physics account for physics? If not, then physics cannot exist by the rationale of the objection.
2. But this would mean that nothing exists, neither (a) reality explainable by physics (because physics cannot exist) nor (b) reality unexplainable by physics (the existence of which the objection disallows).
So we’ve determined that if the existence of physics is not explainable by physics (physics is contingent), then nothing exists. This is entirely derived from the logic of the objection itself.
So, can physics account for physics or not?
1. If it can then physics is God because it’s non-contingent. But since the objection denies the existence of God it cannot accept that physics is God
2. If, on the other hand, physics cannot account for physics (is not God) then nothing exists
3. Then the objection is absurd because if nothing exists then neither does the objection.
So, if the objection is absurd (and it is on its own logic) then something not explainable by physics can exist and so at least to this extent asking how existence came to be is not a “non-question”. The cosmological proof stands.
A variant of the objection might be that a reality not explainable by physics cannot be thought about, and so still the cosmological proof relies on asking a “non-question”. But if something not explainable by physics can exist (and we have shown above that it can) then it can be thought about. To conceive of the possible reality of something is to think about it; it is not inconceivable, and so again the cosmological proof does not rely on a “non-question”.

Regards,

Mickey

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#23 Post by philbo » September 8th, 2010, 1:17 pm

Could you define your use of the words "account for", when you say "can physics account for physics"?

It seems to me like you're playing with definitions, not logic... come to think of it, could you define "God", too, as you seem to be taking a definition as understood. Might be a good idea to tell us what you mean by "physics", too.

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#24 Post by mickeyd » September 8th, 2010, 1:35 pm

Hi Lord Muck of Gentry,

I disagree that Russell did not invoke the infinite regress idea, because if every effect must be explained by a prior cause, but Russell denies a first cause, then ipso facto we arrive an infinite regress, whether Russell explicitly stated it or not.

Therefore the critique of Russell in my original post is applicable.

Regards,

Mickey

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#25 Post by mickeyd » September 8th, 2010, 6:09 pm

Nick,

Thanks for your perceptive questioning (what do I mean by "account for" and "physics").

There is a problem in giving a tightly defined answer to a poorly defined objection, but I’ll try to elaborate.

The objection, which my brother adheres to but has never adequately explained, goes approximately like this (as I understand it):

Objection to cosmological proof of God: Physics (whatever its precise definition) arose from the Big Bang. We understand reality by physics, so any question concerning about any reality before physics is a “non-question.” Therefore the cosmological proof contains contradiction at the heart of its reasoning.

To which I reply, using the law of non-contradiction:

1. If we can conceive of the existence of something, then asking a question about it can’t be a “non-question”. What we can think of we can speculate upon.

2. Did anything exist before physics existed? Yes, it must have done, because however physics is defined, it is not nothing, and therefore is something. Something cannot come from nothing (law of non-contradiction), so something existed prior to physics (unless physics is God which the objector denies).

3. Therefore we can ask a question about what existed before physics (step 1). The cosmological proof does not rely on a “non-question”.

Regards,

Mickeyd

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#26 Post by mickeyd » September 8th, 2010, 6:35 pm

Hi Maria,

Re my post which puts the ontological argument into step-form, yes Step 3 should read “Put steps 1 and 2 together”, I made a minor mistake with the numbering.



“However, atheists' "conception" of God is merely their understanding of God-believers' conception of God”

I find it strange that you think you’re conception of God is dissimilar to mine. Do you use the English dictionary? So do I. Further, do you think our present conversation on the subject is meaningful? If you do then clearly there cannot be any significant difference in our understanding of the word “God”. If you don’t then why do you bother to engage in a futile exercise? Surely you must have something better to do with your time and energy.



“With my mind I believe leprechauns exist but because I believe they exist merely with my mind, I therefore do not believe with my mind that they exist.”

Precisely! The contradiction remains which is exactly my point. The notion of leprechauns is used to show that logic tests the form of arguments not their contents (material import); the notion shows an argument can have false premises but still be logically valid. Someone might ask, “if an argument can be formally true but materially false, then what’s the point of logic?” It’s value comes from the fact that an argument cannot be materially true but formally false, since if it was formally (logically) false it would be contradictory and therefore unintelligible; it wouldn’t be an argument at all. So logic underpins all knowing.

However, you’re appeal to the leprechaun notion is irrelevant to our present controversy, because it is precisely the form of your argument that I am criticising. This is why we can substitute leprechauns into your objection (as you have above) and the contradiction remains:

1. With my mind I believe that leprechauns exist

2. Because I believe merely with my mind that leprechauns exist, therefore with my mind I do not believe that leprechauns exist

Step 2 still contradicts step 1. Your objection is formally false; and since nothing can be formally false and materially true, your objection is also materially false.




“there is no demonstrable evidence of an "absolute being",”

The ontological proof shows evidence that could be neither more demonstrable nor more immediate, since it resides in our rationality, the constitution of the mind. If you say you can conceive of an absolute being not being, then you’re not conceiving of an absolute being:

absolute: “having no restriction, exception, or qualification” (Merriam-Webster)

absolute: “complete, perfect, unrestricted, independent, unqualified, unconditional” (Oxford Dictionary)

Regards,

Mickey

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#27 Post by mickeyd » September 8th, 2010, 6:38 pm

Hi Nick,

Regarding how I define the word "God" (so far on this forum), please see my last post to Maria, where I focus on the absoluteness aspect of the definition.

More generally, I use words as they are defined in the English dictionary. We've all got to do that in order to have an agreed set of meanings.

Regards,

Mickeyd

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#28 Post by mickeyd » September 8th, 2010, 6:39 pm

Dear All,

I've got to take a break for a week or so due to work and family committments. See you when I get back - God willing!

Best wishes,

Mickeyd

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#29 Post by Alan C. » September 8th, 2010, 6:49 pm

The thread title is "Arguments for the existence of God"
There aren't any Mickey, at least there aren't any that haven't been demolished a thousand times already, so for that reason; I'm out :smile:
Mickey taker.
“However, atheists' "conception" of God is
How the fuck do you suppose an atheist can have a "conception" of god? Please explain; do you even know what Atheist means?

Cross posting with the god botherer.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#30 Post by Lifelinking » September 8th, 2010, 7:32 pm

Christianity cannot die because God lives, as the following proves:
[-X
Oh MickeyD
Can you not see
Your view of life is not our cup of tea

If you must make up a deity
To maintain your fragile sanity
Or indulge self centred vanity

Please realise we faithless folk
Find superstition makes us choke
And we tend to see such delusions as a joke

So come and join us for a chat
Discuss the world and chew the fat
But please don’t be a preachy boring prat
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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#31 Post by Alan C. » September 8th, 2010, 8:02 pm

:pointlaugh:
So much more eloquent than I Lifey.
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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#32 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » September 8th, 2010, 10:48 pm

mickeyd wrote:I disagree that Russell did not invoke the infinite regress idea, because if every effect must be explained by a prior cause, but Russell denies a first cause, then ipso facto we arrive an infinite regress, whether Russell explicitly stated it or not.

Therefore the critique of Russell in my original post is applicable.
Well, you've shifted ground here. In the post I quoted first you spoke of Russell's argument, implying that he advanced the argument in question. I don't, of course, object in principle to the shift, but it helps if we can see what's happening.

As for the new position, quoted at the start of this post, I find it slightly ambiguous. You may mean that BR believes both that every effect has a cause and that there is no first cause. Or you may mean that ( according to you ) every effect has a cause and that BR denies a first cause. Again, it isn't clear whether you're stating BR's position or a position you think he ought to hold.

On the question of cause and effect, it's worth noting that every effect has a cause is a truism, but every event has a cause is not. This point was made by Hume, and BR, having written sympathetically and at length about Hume's views, would certainly have been aware of it.

At any rate, we need not speculate about BR's view on first cause, since it can be found in the debate:
He's finding out quite a lot of things -- the scientist is finding out quite a lot of things that are happening in the world, which are, at first, beginnings of causal chains -- first causes which haven't in themselves got causes. He does not assume that everything has a cause.
Far from denying the existence of a first cause, BR says that modern science has discovered that there are first causes.

I'm afraid I can't see much of your reply that is still standing upright.
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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#33 Post by philbo » September 9th, 2010, 12:08 pm

mickeyd wrote:Nick,

Thanks for your perceptive questioning (what do I mean by "account for" and "physics").
er.. that wasn't Nick
mickeyd wrote:Objection to cosmological proof of God: Physics (whatever its precise definition) arose from the Big Bang. We understand reality by physics, so any question concerning about any reality before physics is a “non-question.” Therefore the cosmological proof contains contradiction at the heart of its reasoning.
It seems to me that you're basing your argument on a whole load of misunderstandings. The statement "Physics (whatever its precise definition) arose from the Big Bang" is a) crucial, fundamental to your argument, and yet b) a really rather nonsensical statement

We have a reasonable definition of what the "laws" of physics are, what the physical constants involved are. We are also reasonably sure that these laws and constants have been the same as far back in time as you care to go, all the way back until the event which for simplicity's sake I'll call "the big bang" (or to be really pedantic, just a few instants after). However, minds far better than mine have concluded that these rules didn't hold at the point where the big bang kicked off, and we have no way of knowing, no way of getting any evidence about what might have been beforehand. This is simply not the same statement as saying "there was no physics before": the laws of physics as we understand them may have come into being with the big bang, but that doesn't mean that there "wasn't any physics" beforehand.. merely that we simply don't know whether the physical laws we live with now are the same, similar or completely different to what might have come before.

More than just "don't know".. there is no possible way of finding out, so we're going to have to live with not knowing.

mickeyd wrote:To which I reply, using the law of non-contradiction:

1. If we can conceive of the existence of something, then asking a question about it can’t be a “non-question”. What we can think of we can speculate upon.

2. Did anything exist before physics existed? Yes, it must have done, because however physics is defined, it is not nothing, and therefore is something. Something cannot come from nothing (law of non-contradiction), so something existed prior to physics (unless physics is God which the objector denies).

3. Therefore we can ask a question about what existed before physics (step 1). The cosmological proof does not rely on a “non-question”.

Regards,

Mickeyd
Is there any point to that bit at all?

As it happens, there *is* a difference based on how "physics" is defined: I would understand the word "physics" as relating to describing the physical universe - there is no physical object "physics", it's a set of laws and descriptions that help us understand the world around us and predict how it's going to behave. The phrase "because however physics is defined, it is not nothing, and therefore is something".. if it's a description, does that count in your definition of "something"?

If I may be so bold as to summarize your argument, it seems to me that it's "Somebody has said something I don't really understand, but because it's in agreement with what I've already made my mind up about, I'm going to present it as 'proof'".

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#34 Post by Maria Mac » September 12th, 2010, 7:31 pm

mickeyd wrote: I find it strange that you think you’re conception of God is dissimilar to mine.Do you use the English dictionary? So do I. Further, do you think our present conversation on the subject is meaningful? If you do then clearly there cannot be any significant difference in our understanding of the word “God”. If you don’t then why do you bother to engage in a futile exercise? Surely you must have something better to do with your time and energy.
I have to wonder if you are being deliberately obtuse or whether you seriously think that the fact that we are talking about God means there must be a God to talk about. Of course I understand the various dictionary definitions of the word 'god', just as I understand the dictionary definition of the word 'leprechaun'. But I do not share your conception of God as being something real so, at the most fundamental level, the word 'God' represents something different to you than it does to me. The only 'conception' of God I have is that she is a product of the human imagination, just as leprechauns are.

Having extracted what is coherent from your five steps, if I've understood you correctly, the 'proof' you are offering goes like this:

P1: Everyone can conceive of an absolute being
P2: If everyone can conceive of an absolute being, they cannot conceive of an absolute being not existing.
C: Therefore the absolute being exists.

This argument only works if one accepts the implied premise that 'existence' is a defining property of 'absoluteness'. Thus, in response to my protestation that I find it perfectly easy to conceive of an absolute being not existing, you effectively tell me that I'm not doing it right. The being I am conceiving of isn't absolute because if it was absolute it would exist by definition. Wallah! OK, well in that case, I am unable to conceive of an absolute being so P1 is wrong.

You seem to like dictionary definitions. Notably, the dictionary definitions for 'absolute' you've copied don't include the word 'exist' nor any of its derivatives. That's because existence isn't a defining property of absoluteness. indeed, it's not a property of anything. (You did say you'd read Kant? Didn't he say something like this?) The word 'existence' is not a property that is possessed or lacked by an object but a description of an object's relationship to the world.

This, I think, highlights why this ontological 'proof' you are presenting, is neither demonstrable nor immediate to anyone who doesn't already believe in God. (As I said already, the problem with the classical arguments for God is that they were thought up by theists.) This won't work on atheists because you are asking us to change our understanding of words like 'absolute', 'perfection', 'God' and whatever other euphemisms are used in the ontological argument, to one that we have never had before and see no need to have now. The bottom line is that if we are not allowed, for the purposes of the argument, to imagine an absolute being (God) that doesn't exist - because "if it's absolute it must exist" - then we can't imagine an absolute being at all. Therefore the first premise is untrue and the argument is unsound. But not to worry, it smelt like a circular argument anyway, if not a linguistic trick.
mickeyd wrote:“With my mind I believe leprechauns exist but because I believe they exist merely with my mind, I therefore do not believe with my mind that they exist.”

Precisely! The contradiction remains which is exactly my point. The notion of leprechauns is used to show that logic tests the form of arguments not their contents (material import);


No, the word 'leprechauns' was used to illustrate that the sentence is ridiculous but it obviously failed so I'll try to explain:

The reason the sentence is ridiculous is not only because of the contradiction.'I believe in leprechauns and I don't believe in leprechauns' would be a straightforward violation of the principle of contradiction. But the sentence contains more than just a contradiction. Firstly, the sentence contains many superfluous words. If we remove them the sentence reads like this, "I believe leprechauns exist, therefore I do not believe they exist."

Secondly, the two clauses are joined not by the word 'and' but by the word 'therefore' (borrowed from your original formulation) signifying an inductive relationship between them. You said:
This is a hopeless contradiction, because the conclusion in step 2 destroys the premise in step 1.

In fact, there is no premise and no conclusion. They are just two contradictory statements, which you and only you have joined by the word 'therefore' in order to represent what you claim atheists are effectively saying. But as I said before, this is not what atheists are effectively saying.
However, you’re appeal to the leprechaun notion is irrelevant to our present controversy, because it is precisely the form of your argument that I am criticising.
The form of my argument? Are you sure it's the form of my argument you are criticising? Not only is it not my (nor anyone else's) argument but it isn't even an argument! It is no more an argument than saying "I'm getting fat therefore I'm not putting on weight" is an argument.

Mickey, this "argument" you are attributing to atheists is a straw man. Nobody says it, nobody thinks it. Instead of imagining you understand our thought processes and telling us what we are "really saying", I suggest you try listening to what we are really saying and try to grasp the meaning of what we are saying because you seem to be having some difficulty.

Sorry for repeating myself but, what we are saying is, "I can imagine something like what you are describing but I see no reason to believe it actually exists. I don't believe it because there is no evidence for it."

Enamoured as you may be with the ontological 'proof', it is not evidence that an absolute being exists, it is only evidence of God as an idea. I'm not the first person in history to have offered this refutation so you are probably familiar with it. I'm not sure what it is you think you are bringing that is new to the argument.

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#35 Post by Lifelinking » September 12th, 2010, 10:12 pm

meh, looks like it was just a drive by sermon and not a full blown preachathon.
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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#36 Post by Alan H » September 12th, 2010, 10:24 pm

A new word has just entered my vocabulary.
Alan Henness

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1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#37 Post by grammar king » September 12th, 2010, 10:52 pm

Maria wrote:I'm not the first person in history to have offered this refutation so you are probably familiar with it. I'm not sure what it is you think you are bringing that is new to the argument.
Not the first person at all, the ontological argument was refuted within St Anselm's own lifetime.

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#38 Post by Nirvanam » September 12th, 2010, 11:48 pm

Why didn't I see this thread earlier, LOL LOL LOL!

O well we just had one going not too long ago.

Anyway, here's a question to mickeyd and the arguers against mickeyd:

is this entity called god....let's please call it by some other name if we truly truly truly are interested in exploring the nature of 'what is'. Let's call it 'thorgforumtopic'...the inspiration behind that word was 'think humanism.org forum topic'

Now the question is: Is thorgforumtopic a separate entity?, as in it is different from you and me...it has a spatial boundary like how our bodies have spatial boundaries?

The something-nothing thing:
the universe/multiverse came forth from a singularity. Although the term 'singularity' is a pseudo i.e. it does not explain why it is so, how it is so, it is a term that is used to refer to state of existence before existence. As in a time before time. The most important aspect of this singularity is that it is pure potential. An infinite number of eventualities exist as potentialities in that forcibly perceived point called singularity.

This website, http://www.everythingforever.com/ explains about timelessness and the state before the big bang...it has liberal use of the words something and nothing too :wink:

Humanists, if you restrict your definition of god to what the bible portrays then you have no new things to argue with mickeyd. Mickeyd, if your definition of god is what the bible portrays, then you might as well leave coz that definition of god is bullshit and you already know it. There is no old man with a white long beard sitting on a golden throne up in the sky looking down at us and judging us.

Now, thorgforumtopic gives us a chance to examine what we perceive and how the what-we-perceive came into existence. Talking about god and its existence is an exercise of pure, unadulterated fulfillment of a psychological need for differentiation or identification of the self as being different from the environment. It allows the self's ego an opportunity with which it can "rationalize" that it is superior to the opposite party.

So, is thorgforumtopic a separate distinct entity?

edit: changed the words in the last but third para.

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#39 Post by Maria Mac » September 13th, 2010, 3:58 pm

Can I call it 'thor' for short?

As I said to mickeyd, atheists can only attempt to understand theists' various conceptions of god, rather than have a conception of god ourselves. For the purposes of this thread, the god we are arguing about is the abrahamic god. Indeed, mickeyd started his OP saying something about how xtianity can't die because god lives, which is a lovely example of fallacious reasoning if ever I heard one.

AFAIC, Nirv, if you want to change the definition of god from the one mickeyd is talking about and make a case for the existence of that instead, that's fine by me.

I'd be interested in mickey's answer to your question. He did say he was coming back - "God willing". :laughter:

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#40 Post by mickeyd » September 13th, 2010, 6:16 pm

Hi Maria,

“This argument only works if one accepts the implied premise that 'existence' is a defining property of 'absoluteness'…. the dictionary definitions for 'absolute' you've copied don't include the word 'exist' nor any of its derivatives”

An absolute being is defined, in the English dictionary, as a being having no restriction, exception or qualification. Then it cannot have any ontological restriction, exception or qualification. But if it existed only as an idea, it would be ontologically restricted and qualified. Therefore existence beyond idea is a defining property of absoluteness. Therefore the argument works as you acknowledge above.


Regards,

Mickeyd

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#41 Post by Dave B » September 13th, 2010, 8:16 pm

Mickeyd, in which dictionary did you find a definition for the phrase, "absolute being" please? I can't find it in my Oxford Dictionary of English.
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