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PHL 201
David Rondel

January 16, 2012 A few announcements: “Certain Lower and Upper Level Liberal Studies courses, due to their close relation to the professional fields, cannot be taken for Liberal Studies credit by students in some programs. A list of program restricted Liberal Studies courses can be found in the online undergraduate calendar.” A notation on the course outline is another helpful reminder to students, eg. This is a Lower Level Liberal Studies course. A list of program restricted Liberal Studies courses can be found in the online undergraduate calendar, Call For Papers: Ryerson's Philosophy Graduate Students' Association is currently seeking original submissions of academic papers, as well as poetry and other artwork (including photography, reproductions of visual art, digital art, song lyrics, etc.) for publication in an undergraduate journal. We encourage interdisciplinary submissions, but all submissions must be philosophical in focus and approach. We are especially interested in works which involve the application of philosophical methods and/or ideas to contemporary social issues or problems. Please consult our webpage at journal/ for submission guidelines and requirements, or email [email protected] for additional information. Deadline: Friday February 3rd, 2012. One more housekeeping item: I propose a 10-minute break around 10:00am Philosophy of Religion: Three arguments for the existence of God (or the rationality of religious belief) St. Anselm Pascal Paley Why are we starting with these issues/problems? Some terminology and preliminaries: Two ways in which we might know something: a priori = without experience, from reason alone a posteriori = known only through experience Consider: A: “All bachelors are unmarried males” “Every square is four sided” – analytically true; true by definition. (1)All men are mortal (2)Socrates is a man (3)Therefore, Socrates is mortal B: “Water boils at 100 degrees C.” “The sun will rise tomorrow” “All elephants are grey”. St. Anselm of Canterbury: (1033-1109) The ontological Argument for the existence of God: an a priori argument for the existence of God What is God? What do we mean when we use the word “God”? Traditionally, people have had omnipotence, omniscience, and omni-benevolence in mind. Anselm says (not incompatibly with that): “God is the greatest conceivable being” or “The being than which no greater can be conceived.” If someone were to say that there is some being greater than God, they would have made a mistake in much the same way as someone makes a mistake when they say that they’ve located a non-four-sided square. The assertion: “God is a great being, but another being (x) is even greater.” illustrates a conceptual confusion; an incorrect use of language. Now, if the term “God” means “A being no greater than which can be conceived” Anselm thinks that this makes the existence of such a being “necessary” Why? Consider: Two beings equally great in all other respects: One of them exists. The other does not. Wouldn’t’ the first being  in virtue of existing  be greater than the second who doesn’t exist? God’s essence implies his existence. The definition of “God” (“A Being than which no greater can be conceived”) implies its existence. “For, it is possible to conceive of a being which cannot be conceived not to exist; and this is greater one which can be conceived not to exist. Hence, if that than which nothing greater can be conceived can be conceived not to exist, it is not that than which nothing greater can be conceived. But this is an irreconcilable contradiction. There is, then, so truly a being than which nothing greater can be conceived to exist, that it cannot even be conceived not to exist; and this being thou art, O Lord, our God.” (44) What do you make of this argument? Gaunilo’s Criticism: - Imagine there is an island somewhere in the ocean, which, because it’s so hard to find is called “the lost island”. - This is the best conceivable island: “it has an inestimable wealth of all manner of riches and delicacies in greater abundance than is told of the Islands of the Blest…” - Gaunilo says: If someone told him that this island existed, that’s perfectly believable. But if someone said rather that: “You can no longer doubt that this island which is more excellent than all lands exists somewhere, since you have no doubt that it is in your understanding. And since it is more excellent not to be in the understanding alone, but to exist in the understanding and in reality, for this reason it must exist.” (44-5) This is an argument from analogy, and tries to undercut Anselm’s logic. Is it convincing? Why? Why not? Anselm’s reply: -Gaunilo's basic error in his counter-argument is that he spoke of the most perfect island instead of the most perfect island conceivable. -This is what separates the Divine from the mortal, according to Anselm. The idea that is lacking in the concept of a “perfect island” is its necessary existence. Any material object, including an island, is part of the contingent world. Even a perfect island  so long as it was a real island, existing in the physical world  is, by definition, something that can be thought not to exist. In Anselm’s words: “....if anyone discovers something for me, other than that "than which a greater cannot be thought," existing either in reality or in thought alone, to which the logic of my argument can be applied, I shall find his lost island and give it to him, never to be lost again” (45) Therefore, Anselm's argument does not apply to the island parallel, or to any object other than the divine; the principle only applies to the most perfect conceivable being, which is defined as having eternal and independent, or necessary, existence. What do you make of this rejoinder? Another thought: Conceivability is myste
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