Friday, December 14, 2012

Almost necessary beings and the ontological argument

The familiar S5 ontological argument for a necessary being goes:

  1. Possibly, there is a necessary being.
  2. So, there is a necessary being. (By S5)
Say that a being x is (at least) almost necessary provided that it is necessary that if anything at all exists, then x exists. Then one can also run an S5 ontological-style argument for an almost necessary being;
  1. Possibly, there is an almost necessary being.
  2. Something exists.
  3. So, there is an almost necessary being. (By S5. If an almost necessary being exists at one world, it exists at all worlds at which something exists; but something actually exists.)
It's not quite an ontological argument in that (4) is an a posteriori premise.

Could one support (3) without that also giving an equally good argument for (1)? Maybe.

  1. It quasi-perceptually seems to some mystic that love grounds all being.
  2. What quasi-perceptually seems to someone is probably possible (or at least conceivable in the two-dimensionalist sense, but that's all we actually need).
  3. Necessarily, if x grounds all being, then x grounds all being in all worlds in which something exists.
  4. Necessarily, if love grounds all being, then there is a lover who grounds all being.
  5. So, probably it's possible that love grounds all being. (6 and 7)
  6. So, probably it's possible that there is an almost necessary being. (8, 9)
  7. So, probably there is an almost necessary being.


Alexander R Pruss said...

Monism is possible: if God didn't create anything, it would be true.

Chad Marxen said...

That's right, but that is not the type of monism I am talking about. I am talking about the type of monism that it is necessarily the case, that if anything exists, then monism holds. If one has a quasi-perception of this, then since things exist, monism holds. If quasi-perception confers warrant, then why accept the almost necessary being argument, but not monism?

Michael Gonzalez said...

Dr. Pruss, I have a question about the marriage of the PSR and the ontological argument. I know this particular thread isn't the appropriate place to ask it, but I really want your opinion on it...

P1. An implication of the PSR is that everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its nature or in contingency on some external cause.
P2. An omnipotent being cannot have an external cause.
C1. Therefore, in any possible world where an omnipotent being exists, it does so by the necessity of its nature (modus tollens of P1, P2)
P3. If a being exists necessarily in any possible world, then it does so in every world, including the actual one.
C2. Therefore, and omnipotent being necessarily exists.

Of course, this doesn't prove God. You'd need further arguments to get from omnipotence to omniscience and moral perfection (and I've heard such arguments, and could present them).

Anyway, if you look at it from the other direction, you get that if it is metaphysically possible for a concrete entity to exist necessarily, then it must be omnipotent.

P1. In a world with an omnipotent being, every other concrete entity only exists by the omnipotent being's permission.
P2. A necessary concrete entity could not be destroyed, nor would it need the omnipotent being's permission to continue existing.
P3. Omnipotence is coherent, and occurs in at least some possible worlds.
C. Therefore, in any world with an omnipotent being, that being is also the only necessary concrete entity.

But now, that means that, unless someone can show that it is incoherent for a concrete entity to be necessary, or that P3 is false, it follows that there necessarily exists an omnipotent entity... in every world, including the real one.

I don't know if this line of thought is worth anything, and I don't have anyone else to share it with, so I thought I'd share it here.


Alexander R Pruss said...

These are very nice arguments. You should present them at a conference or something.

Michael Gonzalez said...

Well... I'm not a philosopher, or even an academic in any sense of the term. I honestly just read books on these topics and watch lectures on YouTube. That's why I have pretty much no one to share these ideas with. But, I was debating Plantinga's version of the OA on a blog, and I started to realize that an omnipotent being is already well on its way to being metaphysically necessary. At first it was just the realization that there is no possible configuration of reality such that the necessary and sufficient conditions for the omnipotent being to exist are not met... since the omnipotent being has no necessary or sufficient conditions. It can live in a world with utterly no other contingent realities. But then it just seemed to me that such a being isn't really "contingent" in any way, and more naturally fits in with the necessary entities (if there are any). Then I came at it the other way, and went from the usually-accepted fact that two omnipotent beings cannot co-exist, to the idea that a necessary concrete entity also can't co-exist with an omnipotent, unless it IS the omnipotent.... So I started to like the look of the argument(s) I presented to you.

Anyway, it's just an idea. If nothing else, it's a nice appendage to a more standard OA, don't you think? And, who knows? It might even stand alone as a weak OA, such that if "omnipotent entity" and "necessarily-existing-concrete-entity" are both possible, then they both exist and are the same entity.

Thanks for taking a moment to appraise it for me, though. I appreciate it :-)