Tuesday, July 14, 2009

God and the afterlife

The following arguments came out of a fascinating conversation with Sam Calvin. I think neither of us thinks they are conclusive, but they are suggestive and interesting.

Start with this argument:

  1. (Premise) If the cosmos is an (axiologically) abhorrent place, then it is not the case that we should trust our moral beliefs.
  2. (Premise) We should trust our moral beliefs.
  3. Therefore, the cosmos is not an abhorrent place.
The thought here is that we get our moral beliefs from the cosmos that we live in (here the cosmos would be the sum total of what is, including ourselves and, if theism is true, God), and if the cosmos is a truly horrible place—an axiologically abhorrent place—it is not the case that we should trust the faculties by which we generate moral beliefs.

Now:

  1. (Premise) If there is no life after death, then the cosmos is an (axiologically) abhorrent place.
The thought behind this premise (and perhaps behind the whole argument that this is a part of) is due to Gabriel Marcel: Think of someone you love, and think what a horror it would be if this person—this very individual—were to cease to exist forever. From this, we conclude:
  1. There is life after death. (By 3 and 4)

Further

  1. (Premise) If the space of all possibilities is (axiologically) abhorrent, then it is not the case that we should trust our moral beliefs.
  2. Therefore, the space of all possibilities is not abhorrent. (By (2) and (6)).
Here, we can use the fact that the cosmos we inhabit is a part of the hypothetically abhorrent space of possibilities, and if the space of possibilities is so nasty, why should we think we're in a nice part of it? Next:
  1. (Premise, perhaps only stipulative?) God is defined as that which most ought to exist.
  2. (Premise) Necessarily: (if God exists, God necessarily exists).
  3. (Premise) If that thich most ought to exist cannot exist, the space of all possibilities is axiologically abhorrent.
  4. If God does not exist, God cannot exist. (By 8)
  5. If God does not exist, then that which most ought to exist cannot exist. (By 7 and 10)
  6. If God does not exist, the space of all possibilities is axiologically abhorrent. (By 9 and 11)
  7. God exists. (By 6 and 12)

4 comments:

David said...

Premise (9) seems questionable. If what most ought to exist doesn't exist, does this suffice to show that the space of possibilities is truly horrible? Why doesn't it show only that the space of possibilities is less than ideal?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, how nastily restrictive a space of possibilities depends on how much the things it rules out ought to be. The more the thing ruled out ought to be, the nastier the space of possibilities. So, a space of possibilities that rules out that than which nothing else ought more to be is a pretty nasty space of possibilities.

sarraclab said...

Even though you advocate for (7) stipulatively, let's suppose it is true. Could we not move from "God ought to exist" to "it is possible that God exists?" Intuitively at least, it seems that if something ought to be the case, then it is possible; by something along the lines of an ontological "ought implies can". And if by God we mean a Maximally Great Being, that would get us the 1st premise of the S5 onto argument... maybe?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Clever!