Today I want to take the time to discuss the first premise of a very popular argument for the existence of God namely the onto(il)logical argument for the existence of God or to be more precise the modal version of it.
The first premise within the argument as I want to discuss it is the following ( there are of course many versions of the argument in general):
“There is a possible world in which there is an entity which possesses maximal greatness.”
Now, for an argument to be sound only one premise needs to be invalid and I reject the premise that a being with maximal greatness can exist. And here’s why:
When we consider the term “greatness” what do we mean by that? It means that an entity has certain properties which make it great. There are properties which make people great. Among them I would say are Intelligence, Courage, knowledgability, honesty, fearlessness (at least to a certain degree in our case), generosity, strength and many others.
If there were a maximally great being, this being would have to possess all these qualities and of course many more to a maximal degree. As I will try to argue this is not possible and even if it were, we would have to conclude that this being cannot be the Abrahamic God.
Let’s for example look at being knowledgeable and being intelligent: If you have maximal knowledge then one would say you’re omniscient i.e. you know everything. However if we differentiate between what I call propositional knowledge like me knowing that the Bible has 66 books and experiental knowledge e.g. I know what love feels like because I have experienced it then omniscience itself becomes self refuting at least if that being has always been omniscient. A being that has always known everything doesn’t know what it’s like to learn, it lacks experiental knowledge of the learning experience. Additionally many Christians will say that God is unable to lie so he lacks this experiental knowledge too.
Now, it’s of course possible to escape what I outlined by defining omniscience such, that it escapes my problems. But if we hold it to be true, that an omniscient being has all propositional knowledge, then it follows that this being is unable to learn new facts and make new discoveries.
Yet intelligence requires a being to not be omniscient. Intelligence is after all our application of our limited knowledge to reason towards new conclusions to discover new facts and to apply it to get new and better results. This means necessarily that a being can only be intelligent if it is able to learn and if it doesn’t have all facts.
In other words omniscience cancels out intelligence.
Let’s look at Courage and fearlessness: If God has no fears whatsoever ( as many Christians will argue ) then he doesn’t have courage. A being can only be courageous if it stands up to its fears and looks them in the eye and hopefully overcomes them. Yet God doesn’t fear anything so his actions do never require any courage at all.
If we talk about honesty then the Christian will tell you, that God can’t lie. I think it’s not a big secret, that some lies can be virtuous. Think about parents lying to their child about Santa’s existence, because the child will be more excited that way. Yet if you have maximal honesty then any virtuous lie is impossible for you to tell. It is not good or great to always say the truth in every situation. Yes honesty is a virtue but it doesn’t remain one, when it’s applied in a maximal degree.
As far as generosity goes let me ask this: How can a being that possesses everything there is to possess be possibly generous? If God gives me a Ferrari then he isn’t generous because he owns an infinite amount of them.
I think as I established it is not possible for a being to be maximally knowledgeable, maximally intelligent, maximally courageous and maximally fearless. Furthermore maximal honesty diminishes greatness.
However one may argue, that perhaps it isn’t true that a being can possess all those properties to a maximal degree simultaneously but maybe a being can have the “perfect balance” e.g. being as knowledgeable and intelligent as it is possible to be without the two cancelling each other out.
Now if you define maximal greatness in this way, then this is a legitimate way out of contradictions but it is not without consequences. It would thereby follow that a maximally great being is not omniscient and is not all honest as for example in cases where lying is virtuous. Thereby a maximally great Being may be a god but this deity is not the God believed in by most Monotheists.
Goodbye from yours truly,
Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation