Thursday, April 14, 2005

Golding On The Existence Of God

Given the discussion in these parts over the past days, weeks, has revolved around God - His ontological status - it is perhaps fitting that Richard Swinburne has seen fit to prepare a second edition of his The Existence of God.

Here is the Notre Dame review, by Josh Golding ... Goldings observation that the best the theist can do is establish the 'objective probability' of God is apt; it is important for those who bandy proofs around here as if they are conclusive to remember that they are oft at best only logically sound, and that it is only when definitive and conclusive emperical evidence is established that the arguments may be considered valid - (there is the old observation that the Ontological Argument has never converted anyone) - and that until then it rest on the theist to prove existence and not vice versa.


Anonymous said...

I think you've confused validity and soundness. A valid argument would be one where the conclusion follows from the premises, and a sound argument would be one where those premises are true. Now it seems to me that there are plenty of sound arguments that don't rely on emperical evidence. So why is it needed in this case. I've never heard the "old observation that the Ontological Argument has never converted anyone," but I'd wonder how you could know something like this. It is certainly an interesting inference, but how would you go about confirming it.

You can find more discussion here


MH said...

Yeah, I’ll be the first to admit that I have my soundness and my validity confused- it’s sort of dispositional – but you only need to switch them around to get my point.

Anyway, I have been unable to place my finger on exactly where the observation is recorded; basically because I don’t have copies of half the books that I may have found it in on hand. The point of the observation – that the Ontological argument has never converted anyone – is probably rhetorical, to emphasise the effect that the argument has on those who deal with it. It seems that the argument works to confirm the faith of those who have faith, while those who have no belief strive ardently to find a flaw in the reasoning. I will admit that it is possible that the argument has, in fact, converted individuals throughout its history – but I hold that the generalisation stands. If you are inclined to belief you will accept the argument, if you have the contra inclination then you will challenge the argument. (From personal experience, I spent weeks trying to rip it apart rather than accept the conclusion).

On the subject of testing to see if the generalisation works – outside the academic circles where the Ontological argument is discussed – I personally have little of an idea. It may involve finding groups of Christians (you would include Jews and Muslims to broaden the group to ‘religious’ – am not sure if the Ontological argument would have impact for persons outside the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition), agnostics, and atheists, who have no exposure to the argument, exposing them to the argument and the related discourse, and then seeing if it has the effect of converting agnostics and atheists, and/or the effect of challenging the views of the faithful.