Best of All Possible Persons – Part 2

What do you get if you cross ‘the best of all possible worlds’ (from Leibniz) with ‘the being than which none greater can be conceived’ (from Anselm)? You get: the best of all possible persons, which is another way to conceive of God.

Here are two proofs of the non-existence of God, based on this way of understanding the concpet of God:

DISPROOF OF GOD #1

1. Person P is the best of all possible persons only if P creates the best of all possible worlds.

2. No person ever has or ever will create the best of all possible worlds.

3. Person P is God only if P is the best of all possible persons.

Thus:

4. No person ever has been God, nor will any person ever be God.

Therefore:

5. God does not exist.

 

DISPROOF OF GOD #2

6. Person P is the best of all possible persons only if P has the best of all possible knowledge.

7. No person ever has or ever will have the best of all possible knowledge.

3. Person P is God only if P is the best of all possible persons.

Thus:

4. No person ever has been God, nor will any person ever be God.

Therefore:

5. God does not exist.

One could avoid the conclusion simply by rejecting the proposed definition of God, but this way of conceiving of God has some appeal, especially given the similarity to Anselm’s definition of God. For now, I will only try to defend the second premise of each argument: premise (2) and premise (7).

Here is the second premise of DISPROOF OF GOD #1:

2. No person ever has or ever will create the best of all possible worlds.

Swinburne gives an argument in support of (2) in The Existence of God (2nd edition, p.115):

…take any world W.  Presumably the goodness of such a world…will consist in part in it containing a finite or infinite number of conscious beings who will enjoy it.  But, if the enjoyment of the world by each is a valuable thing, surely a world with a few more conscious beings in it would be a yet more valuable world…

For any given world W, it is always possible to improve upon W by adding another happy conscious being to enjoy that world.  Thus,  there is no best of all possible worlds, just as there is no largest positive integer.  It is not merely a fact that there is no best of all possible worlds, just as it is not merely a fact that there is no largest positive integer: it is logically impossible for there to be a best of all possible worlds.  There is a logical contradiciton contained in the very concept of ‘the best of all possible worlds’, just as there is a logical contradiction contained in the very concept of ‘the largest positive integer’.

We can leverage this argument from Swinburne in support of the second premise of the DISPROOF OF GOD #2:

7. No person ever has or ever will have the best of all possible knowledge.

If person A has more knowledge than person B, then B does NOT have the best of all possible knowledge, other things being equal.  There may be other relevant criteria and considerations, but the amount of knowledge a person has is clearly relevant to determining whether he or she has the best of all possible knowledge.  Given this assumption of the goodness of having more knowledge as opposed to less knowledge, we can invoke a line of reasoning based on Swinburne’s argument against the possibility of there being ‘the best of all possible worlds’.

God, if God exists, has an infinite amount of knowledge about logical possibilities, and perhaps an infinite amount of knowledge about physical possibilities.  But God’s knowledge about what is actual depends on what is in fact actually the case.  If God was the only being in existence, then God would not have any beliefs or knowledge of propositions of the form ‘Such-and-such physical object exists’.   God would not know or believe, for example, that ‘Human beings exist’ because (on this scenario) there would be no human beings.  If the only physical object that existed was a single electron, then God’s knowledge of actually existing physical objects would be limited to his knowledge about that one electron.  God would not believe or know that humans, elephants, planets, or butterflies exist.  Thus, God’s knowledge concerning actual physical objects is limited by what physical objects actually exist.

Suppose a person P creates a world W, and W contains one planet with one ocean and one island with one person living on that island and that planet.  God would know about that planet, that ocean, that island, and that person.  But we can imagine another world W’ which contains two planets, each with one ocean, one island, and one person.  We can also imagine a world W* which contains two planets, each with two oceans, two islands, and two persons on each island.  There is no world that has the highest number of persons or conscious creatures, and there is no such thing as a world with the highest number of physical objects.

The actual world must contain some number of physical objects and persons.  Thus, if the creator of this world knows about every object that actually exists, we can always imagine a world that contains one more object or one more person, and thus we can always imagine a creator that knows about one more object or one more person than the creator of the actual world.  Thus, there is no such thing as a person who has the best of all possible knowledge, because no matter how much knowledge a person P has, we can always imagine another person who has more knowledge than P. Therefore, there is no person who has the best of all possible knowledge, and there never will be such a person.  The concept ‘This person has the best of all possible knowledge’ contains a logical contradiction.

========================

Keith Parsons has doubts about premise (1), so I will make an attempt to defend this premise:

1. Person P is the best of all possible persons only if P creates the best of all possible worlds.

Initially, I was going to present a formal proof, but the logic is a bit complicated. The logic involves both quatification and modality (claims about what is logically possible and logically impossible). So, I’m just going to present my reasoning in an informal way.

First of all, (1) is necessarily true, because it is a conditional statement with an antecedent that is necessarily false. Since the antecedent will be false in all possible circumstances, the conditional statement will always be true.

However, Parsons and others might have doubts about whether the predicate ‘is the best of all possible persons’ really does contain a logical contradiciton, so I would at least need to show that to be the case. Also, even though the conditional statement might technically be true, in relation to standard propositional logic, its truth is somewhat problematic if there is no meaningful conceptual relationship between the antecedent and the consequent. In other words, it is a problematic claim if the antecedent is irrelevant to the consequent.

In any case, it seems to me that (1) is true, and that a plausible argument can be made for (1), so I will try to do so now. I think the key part of my reasoning on this is an inference from what is logically possible for one person to do to a conclusion about it being logically possible that there is some other person who does that same thing.

Suppose that I bake a chocolate cake C. Suppose that C looks good and tastes good. However, the cake is a bit dry. It is physically possible for me to alter the recipe slightly in order to produce a chocolate cake that looks and tastes just as good but that is moist. Thus, it is logically possible that I baked a chocolate cake C’ that looks and tastes just as good as C, but that is moist rather than dry. Thus, it is logically possible that I baked a chocolate cake that is better than the one that I actually baked. Now for the key inference: Therefore, it is logically possible that there is a person Q who is exactly like me, except that Q baked a cake which is better than the cake I actually baked.

If the above reasoning is correct, then I think I can show that premise (1) is true, using similar reasoning. Actually, since I will make use of the assumption that theism is true, I will not be proving (1) to be true, but rather proving (1) to be an implication of theism, that (1) is something a theist must accept as true.

10. There is a person P who is omnipotent and omniscient and who actually created a world w, and w is the best world actually created by P.
(This is an implication of theism.)

11. It is NOT the case that P creates the best of all possible worlds.
(Supposition for conditional derivation).

12. It is logically possible that P created a world w’ which is a better world than w.
(This is based on premises (10) and (11) which imply that it is logically possible for a world to be a better world than w, the world actually created by P.)

13. It is logically possible that there is a person Q who is just like P except that Q created a world w’.
(An inference based on premise (12).)

14. It is logically possible that there is a person Q who is just like P except that Q created a world that is a better world than the best world actually created by P.
(An inference from (13) and (10).)

15. If it is logically possible that there is a person Q who is just like P except that Q created a world that is a better world than the best world actually created by P, then it is logically possible that there is a person Q who is a better person than P.
(This is because the two persons being compared are the same except that one produces a better world than the other, and this seems to clearly be a relevant reason for evaluating the one as being a better person than the other).

16. It is logically possible that there is a person Q who is a better person than P.
(An inference from (14) and (15).)

17. It is NOT the case that P is the best of all possible persons.
(An inference from (16).)

18. IF it is NOT the case that P creates the best of all possible worlds, THEN it is NOT the case that P is the best of all possible persons.
(Conditional derivation from (11) through (16). NOTE: Since the logic here is not strictly propositional logic, this inference is open to challenge.)

19. IF P is the best of all possible persons, THEN P creates the best of all possible worlds.
(An inference from (18). This is the same as premise (1) in my first disproof of the existence of God).

  • JohnH2

    Which is why we live in a universe with at least uncountably infinite conscious beings and at least uncountably infinite numbers of inhabited worlds with a God subject to an eternal progression of intelligence or glory.

    • Bradley Bowen

      In other words “the best of all possible worlds”?

  • Keith Parsons

    Bradley,

    Concerning your #1 disproof, your first premise is:

    Person P is the best of all possible persons only if P creates the best of all possible worlds.

    Yet you then cite Swinburne to argue that the concept “best possible world” is self-contradictory since for any candidate best possible world W, it is always possible to imagine another world W* that is better still. I feel that there is something dicey about this argument, but let’s accept it for now.

    The upshot, is that you have made a logical impossibility, the creation of the best possible world, a necessary condition for an entity to be the best possible person. This reminds me of the old conundrum about whether God can create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it. If we make it a necessary condition for being omnipotent that an omnipotent being be capable of creating a stone too heavy for omnipotence to lift, then there cannot be an omnipotent being. After all, the concept “a stone too heavy for omnipotence to lift” is self-contradictory. A stone too heavy for omnipotence to lift is no more possible than a round square. But, surely, omnipotence should be defined in terms of having all POSSIBLE power, so that it is no defect in God’s omnipotence if he cannot do the logically impossible.

    Shouldn’t we say the same sort of thing about a best possible person, i.e. that such a person would only be required to do POSSIBLE good? In that case, I do not think your first premise can be supported.

    • Bradley Bowen

      Excellent point.

      I agree that omnipotence does not include the power to create a four-sided triangle or to make a married bachelor. If something is logically impossible, or an action is logically impossible for a person to do, then the inability to create such a thing or to perform such an action does not count against being omnipotent.

      Since it appears that it is logically impossible for ‘the best of all possible worlds’ to exist, the inability of a person to bring about ‘the best of all possible worlds’ is no objection to the claim that this person is omnipotent.

      However, if someone chose to understand the word ‘God’ in a way that depends on the concept of ‘the best of all possible worlds’ or ‘the best of all possible persons’, then that particular conception of God involves a logical contraction.

      Also, I’m inclined to agree with premise (1), because the concept of ‘the best of all possible persons’ seems to have the same logical structure as the concept of ‘the best of all possible worlds’.

      The second argument attempts to support this in terms of the characteristic of knowledge, but a more straightforward argument could be based on Kant’s notion of imperfect moral duties. Some moral duties have no upper limit – you can always give one more dollar to the poor. If Kant is correct that there are moral duties that have no upper limit, then we can always imagine a person who was a little more kind, a little more generous, etc. But then the concept of ‘the best of all possible persons’ suffers from the same self-contradiction that we see in the concept of ‘the best of all possible worlds’.

      I would be inclined to accept premise (1) but reject premise (3), if I was trying to defend theism.

      • Keith Parsons

        Bradley,

        OK, I think I see your point now. You are saying that if Swinburne is correct that there can be no best possible world, then, that same argument shows that there can be no best possible omnipotent creator. The reason is that however good an omnipotent creator we imagine–one that creates a universe filled with any number of happy beings–we can always imagine a better omnipotent creator, namely, one that would create a universe with at least one more happy being!

        Clever!

        I would love to hear what Swinburne would say to that!

        • Bradley Bowen

          I think Swinburne would respond this way:

          In order for God to create a world, God must create an actual world with all the specific facts and details of an actual world. Since any actual, specific world is not and cannot be ‘the best of all possible worlds’ God is not shown to be less than perfectly good by creating something other than ‘the best of all possible worlds’.

          What God must do, to be a perfectly good person, is to create the best KIND of world (if it is possible to create such a world) or an equal best KIND of world (if there is no best KIND but is a set of equally good best KINDS of world).

          This world is one of an equal best KIND of worlds, namely a world containing humanly free agents who are able to interact and communicate with each other in such a way to either significantly help others or harm others, help themselves or harm themselves, and improve the world or degrade the world, based on partially free choices as beings with limited free will. (There is also an equal best KIND of world which contains creatures that lack moral awareness (higher animals) and perfectly free agents who have moral awareness but limited power and/or limited knowledge, but no humanly free agents.)

  • David_Evans

    Both your arguments rely on always being able to always add one or more to the total number of objects in a world. But if the number is already infinite, adding any finite number of objects would not increase the total number, or any property of the world. The goodness of such a world would have to be judged in terms of the average quality of life per person, not the total.

    • Greg G.

      The God of Odd Integers knows an infinite number of numbers but knows nothing of even integers. The God of Odd Integers and Zero knows one more thing than the God of Odd Integers.

      • David_Evans

        Giving a whole new meaning to “God of the gaps”

    • Keith Parsons

      David Evans,

      I agree. I don’t like the definition of “best possible world” in terms of the number of happy beings. However, this seems to be the one that Swinburne (and Plantinga) assume for purposes of rebutting the atheologian who wants to argue that a perfectly good being should have created the the best possible world. They assume that a best possible world would be one with the maximum number of happy beings, but if there is no maximum number of happy beings, then there is no best possible world, and ipso facto no requirement that God create it.

      This whole discussion arises, of course, in the context of arguments from evil. However, the atheologian need not invoke the concept of the best possible world at all. Surely, a necessary condition for being a perfectly good omnipotent creator, is that any world created by such a being can contain no gratuitous evil An evil is not gratuitous if–at least sub specie aeternitatis–it turns out to be a logically necessary condition for the actualization of a good great enough to compensate for the occurrence of that evil. An evil is gratuitous, therefore if either (a) it is not a logically necessary condition for any compensating good or (b) there is no good (not even one achievable by omnipotence) great enough to compensate for that evil. The question to ask, therefore, is not whether this is the best possible world but whether there is reason to think that it contains at least one instance of gratuitous evil.

    • Bradley Bowen

      The quantity of persons might not change by adding one new person to an infinite set of persons, but there would be a new person in addition to the previously existing persons, and that would make the universe better, assuming that the addition of the one new person did not impact the happiness or well being of the already existing persons, and that the new person was (overall) happy and enjoyed his or her existence.

      The properties of the world would change, because the new person (“Ralph”) now exists, but did not previously exist. That is a change, whether or not we can peg a number or quantity onto that change.

  • Greg G.

    Can a changing world be better than an optimal static world? If the best possible world changes, it is no longer the best possible world. Therefore the creator of a changing world cannot be the best possible person.

    • Bradley Bowen

      Interesting. One would have to spell out how to compare the value of a static world with a changing world, and also how to compare the value of one changing world with another changing world. Perhaps with a changing world some sort of averaging of the value of the various states would be used? But then if a change has some value in itself, above the value of the before and after states, then that would cast doubt on your claim “If the best possible world changes, it is no longer the best possible world”.

      • Greg G.

        A changing world have to maintain the quality. An ever-changing, non-cyclical world would have to have an indefinite number of optimal states in sequence.

        An average state value would be less than optimal if any state was below the best possible state. There is no such thing as a state above the best possible state to raise the average back up to best.

        If it is possible for a change to result in an improvement, then it wasn’t the best possible world at the beginning.

        Does the Anna Karenina principle apply?

        Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

      • arthur quozon

        from the Truth 4a change groups founder:
        bradley, let us see 1st my perspective/attributes of God: is all knowing infinite everlasting all creator no beginning and no end against yours of: a “P” that must have all knowledge of creations, power worlds, best of a “person” if no P or persons having all your assumptions, NO GOD EXIST WOW! 1. my attributes and your perspective cannot be equated to a word “person” or one having a person even the infinite God cannot cannot be equated in a “finite” person 2. one who is all-in-all and in-measurable attributes can’t be measured by best,better, small biggest higher highest 3.) if he is the creator of the universe and no one can, he will also be the creator of other-all universes, so how can you proposed, equate if we plus this earth is not even the tiniest particle compared? how can you measure from a single steady point when all even the measurer is moving?4.) if you want proof of a goat, step in a goats shoes, if you want proof of God, do it in God’s way not in man’s way let us see God’s way: In Genesis, God created the most beautiful archangel- Satan-el (in his
        image/likeness, a spirit and power) from the two man-woman up to their expulsion up to their more than 15X temptation from the devil up to jesus, the patriarchs unto today, God cannot destroy satan but only sends his angels to save ’till promised to come to save (OT) save by the son(NT) but still no destruction of satan why? because satan is like God, created a everlasting spirit he cant stop/destroy but in only in GOD’S WAY, he ordained on judgement day, the old hell will pass away and a new hell will come to place the everlasting satan to an everlasting new hell we can conclude that the old hell is finite where satan the infinite can not be locked but to a new everlasting hell also a new and
        everlasting heaven and earth will come together with the
        everlasting spirit of God or from everlasting creator to an everlasting creatures- end (perfect God’s way?) he knows finite can’t accommodate the infinite (vice-versa)

        Ohyes,by your equation of “PERSON”, we destroy trinity if 1-God in 3-persons the person of one god is the “father” another is the “son” what then the person of the third, wife, sister, brother? and if jesus is the son, who is the father? God the father? but angel Gabriel said to mary he is created by the holy spirit?if i choose man’s way, i can destroy god look: if he created, man, fish, animals, birds mountain,planets why all can create each of its kind? my shoes created by a shoemaker is real creation, the shoe cannot create its kind even a sandal, that created-shoe will die a shoe, even my pant created by a dressmaker cannot create even a handkerchief its real creation. another: of all billions creations, only one tiny dot of universe acknowledge the
        creator- man but not the whole man, its a part of man that say God, the mouth, but not the mouth but a tonge if i cut the tonge, the whole man has no more/speak of God he can’t even equate a “person” (man’s way) shall i also kill and change it in God’s way bradley? we are in search (no holds bare all to search like wheat and tare) for truth, we believe this is the time of TRUTH where lies will be exposed and opposed. MORE to know God

        • Bradley Bowen

          Arthur-

          Much of what you say seems unclear and confused. But I will try to find some sort of objection in your words. Here is a part of a sentence that makes some sense to me:
          =======================
          even the infinite God cannot cannot be equated in a “finite” person
          =====================
          I agree. I never said that God was a ‘finite person’. Most theologians and philosophers understand the word ‘God’ to mean a person who has infinite power, infinite knowledge, who has existed forever in the past, and who will continue to exist forever into the future, and who is perfectly good. God is, in short, a person who has various attributes to an infinite degree.

          Another somewhat understandable comment by you:
          ===================
          2. one who is all-in-all and in-measurable attributes can’t be measured by best,better, small biggest higher highest
          =====================
          If God cannot be said to be “best” or “better” than something else, it follows that God cannot be said to be morally better than Adolf Hitler. If God cannot be said to be morally better than Adolf Hitler, then who in their right mind would want to worship and obey God? Why not worship and obey Hitler instead? or worship and obey no one? By denying that the words “best” and “better” can be used concerning God, you make God unknowable and beyond human comprehension.

          But a God who is unknowable and beyond comprehension is not worthy of worship and obedience. Such a God is simply a vague gray cloud of mysterious stuff having no features or properties or qualities. There is absolutely no reason to worship and obey such a thing. Indeed, it would be the height of irrationality for someone to worship and obey such a thing.

  • Bradley Bowen

    I have added a new section to the end of this post. In the new section, I present some reasoning in defense of premise (1).


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