An Even Greater God

An Even Greater God March 31, 2015


This cartoon from XKCD requires some knowledge of the philosophy of religion. The ontological argument for God’s existence is an attempt to argue for the existence of God a priori, by beginning with the idea that it is possible to imagine a being greater than which cannot be conceived. It is then pointed out that existing is greater than not existing. Therefore, it is impossible to imagine such a being, and to imagine that being not existing.

What do you think? Would a God that can identify precisely what is wrong with this argument be even greater? And if so, wouldn’t being able to find the flaw in the ontoogical argument in reality be greater than simply imagining such a being had found the flaw? And if so, doesn’t that mean…?



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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Yes, I laughed when I saw that XKCD cartoon.

    The problem, though, is that it is not God that presents us with the ontological arguments. Rather, it is theologians who are mere humans. The flaw in the ontological argument is a human flaw, not a flaw in the god it discusses. If there is a god, maybe he/she already sees through the ontological argument.

    The real problem is that all of the gods that we talk about are human inventions. If there is an actual god, there’s no reason to suppose that god is at all like human conceptions of god.

    • David Evans

      Why would we want to call it “god” if it was nothing like our conceptions of god?

      • hisxmark

        Because if one concept of “god” won’t keep you afloat, you’re going to grab onto anything that will. And because you are religious, you are going to pretend that nothing has changed.

  • Ignatz

    I don’t like the ontological argument (I don’t like MOST philosophical and apologetic arguments for the existence of God), because the “god” it “proves” it completely meaningless, and has no defining characteristics EXCEPT existence. “God” could be a pure mechanism.

  • Jack Collins

    I’ve never quite groked how existing is “greater” than not existing.

    • I think Anselm says that a being that than which nothing greater can be conceived who only exists as an idea is not as great as a being TTWNGCBC who exists in the mind *and* in reality.

  • Substitue the word “universe” for “God” in the ontological argument. Makes as much sense.

    • R Vogel

      Substitute ‘cheese’ and it makes as much sense, but at least it tastes good on a cracker 🙂

  • Matt

    The purpose of the Ontological argument is simply to show that the idea of God existing is logically possible.

    This argument(like most arguments for God) requires a heavy background of possible worlds semantics.

    • This isn’t accurate as pertains to the Ontological argument as it was developed by Anselm. Are you thinking of someone’s subsequent reformulation of it? And why post this brief, vague comment months after the original post?

  • John MacDonald

    I think the ontological argument is shaky if we stick to an average, everyday interpretation of God.

    We can’t argue from “what” (“essentia”) a being is to a “how” (“existentia”) that necessarily follows from it. Heidegger says for Kant “Existence” isn’t a “real predicate,” doesn’t pertain to the “what,” the “res.” Existence for Kant is “absolute position,” positing something as independent from our mind – but this still depends on this positing.

    Heidegger says Kant’s point is that just as we can’t infer that a table is badly positioned (existentia – “how” being) from analyzing “what” it is (essentia), and we can’t infer the lecture is at 6:00 pm from examining the content of the lecture, we can’t infer God’s existence (existentia) by analyzing the concept (essentia = what) of God.

    However, if by “God” we just mean some ultimate reality without trying to divine its attributes (eg., it is a mind, etc), I don’t think Kant’s objection applies. Such a reality is tautological, to say the least.