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).

The Fragility of Value and God's Non-Existence
Jesus: True Prophet or False Prophet? - Response to Eugene
Jesus: True Prophet or False Prophet? - Response to Eugene - Part 2
Link: An Ontological Disproof of Anselmian Theism by Ex-Apologist

CLOSE | X

HIDE | X