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.