The existence of God is one of the exciting questions in philosophy. I firmly believe that all undergraduates should take a course in philosophy where they address issues like this and learn how to argue logically and rationally. Philosophy is the most important subject in university.
However, sometimes philosophers seem to get so badly off track that they fail to see the forest for the trees. The debate over the ontological argument for the existence of God falls into this category. I can't believe that modern philosophers would waste more than a microsecond on such a stupid argument.1.
Here's one version of the argument from Wikipedia.
- God is, by definition, a being greater than anything that can be imagined and is the cause of all things, but is not bound causally by anything (otherwise God would be ontologically dependent on something else which would in turn undermine "its" greatness).
- Existence both in reality and in imagination is greater than existence solely in one's imagination.
- Therefore, God must exist in reality: if God did not, God would not be a being greater than anything which can be imagined.
Part way through that article, Byrne decides that philosophical arguments in general, and arguments for the existence of God in particular, are often not very significant. He says the following ...
A better complaint is that sound philosophical arguments with significant conclusions are as rare as atheists in foxholes: the track record of philosophical “proofs” is not exactly impressive, unlike the mathematical variety.What the heck?
There have been millions of atheists in (metaphorical) foxholes throughout history. Does this mean there are millions of sound philosophical arguments with significant conclusions? Or does it mean that Alex Byrne is one of these people who think that atheists becomes believers whenever they're under stress, in spite of the fact that there are no sound arguments for the existence of God?
What a strange thing for a philosopher to say.
1. It's fun to debate the logic of the ontological argument and to try and construct proofs that it is false. That's not what I mean when I say that it's a stupid argument. What I mean is that it is stupid to actually think that such a clever twisting of words would actually cause someone to believe that a perfect supernatural exists.
[Hat Tip: RichardDawkins.net]