Thursday, June 24, 2010

I cannot be the greatest being

And here is yet another argument that is sound (given that theism is true):

  1. Alexander Pruss couldn't be the greatest being.
  2. If theism is not true, Alexander Pruss could be the greatest being.
  3. Therefore, theism is true.
The better you know me, the more plausible (1) should be. What about (2)? Well, the intuition is that if theism is not true, then there need not be any infinite beings (I am dismissing as implausible alternatives to theism like Leslie's with multiple necessarily infinite beings, or like weird hypotheses on which there has to be an infinite being in any world where I exist, but it's not God, etc.). But one could imagine a world where I grow smarter, better, stronger and more knowledgeable in every respect, in such a way as to exceed every finite being at that world. Unless there has to be an infinite being in that world, which isn't going to be the case if theism is not true, in that world I will be the greatest being.

If you don't know me well enough to accept (1), replace "Alexander Pruss" with your own name.


Ty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug Benscoter said...

Ty, I think the second premise is consistent with one's identity being tied to certain imperfections. After all, any being that is not the greatest conceivable being, or an infinite being, will necessarily possess at least one imperfection. Thus, if there is no infinite being, then the greatest being could be something with an imperfection.

I think (1) is the more controversial premise. Why should we think that Alex (or any other finite being) literally could not be the greatest being? (I agree that none of us could be, but as you say, it is question-begging unless we already accept theism.)

Alexander R Pruss said...


Any argument for theism is valid (but perhaps not sound) in the sense that the conclusions follow from the premises if theism is (necessarily) true. But there is a stronger sense of validity on which the intermediate steps must also follow.


Perhaps some people just have a basic intuition that they couldn't be the greatest thing. Where could they get this intuition from? Maybe it's implanted by God as part of the virtue of humility. :-)

Ty said...

I really can't believe that I wrote that about sound arguments. That is the most embarrassing thing I've ever written. I have been feeling extremely sick and unable to concentrate today.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Hey, "sound" and "valid" are just words. And they're attached to their technical meanings just about completely independently of their respective ordinary meanings.

Laz said...

Let us define Alexander Pluss to be some guy who is better than Alexander Pruss at everything (for example, if Alexander Pruss can run 100 meters in 10 seconds, Alexander Pluss will run 100 meters in 9.xx seconds). Moreover, Alexander Pluss, by definition, is better at increasing his "stats" than Alexander Pruss is. Alexander Pruss cannot surpass Alexander Pluss no matter how hard he tries because Alexander Pluss will always try harder and with more efficiency. So even in a world where Alexander Pruss grows smarter, better, stronger and more knowledgeable, Alexander Pluss will become even smarter, better, stronger and more knowledgeable.

Now we can prove Alexander Pluss exists:
1. Alexander Pruss couldn't be the greatest being.
2. If Alexander Pluss doesn't exist, Alexander Pruss could be the greatest being.
3. Therefore, Alexander Pluss exists.