Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Axiological-Ontological Argument

1. A world in which God exists is better than a world in which God does not exist. (Premise)

2. Better/worse relations are only veridical if the referents of those relations possibly exist. (Premise)

3. Hence, God possibly exists. (From 1 and 2)

4. Therefore, God exists. (From 3 and S5)

The inference from (3) to (4) entails the usual unpacking that the ontological argument provides. I'm having a hard time coming up with any good objections to either (1) or (2), but maybe I'm overlooking something.


  1. Interesting argument, but what is your justification for 2? It's not so implausible that if the following happens, the universe will be better place than if it doesn't. The next time a dictator is about to order a genocide whilst in a fit of rage, an object that is blue all over and green all over appears uncaused in front of him, hovers for a few seconds and then disappears. The dictator is so surprised by this that he forgets his rage and doesn't order the genocide, and thousands of lives are saved as a consequence.

    Of course being both blue and green all over is metaphysically impossible, as is coming to be uncaused, but it still seems right to say that a world in which this happens and stops mass murder is plausibly better than one in which it doesn't.

  2. Good point, Mickey. One of the things I have argued is that conceivability does not necessarily imply possibility. However, conceivability is a necessary condition of possibility. I think the disparity between the argument and your example is that something blue all over and green all over is not even conceivable, much less possible. God, on the other hand, is at least conceivable. There doesn't seem to be anything inconceivable about the union of omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection, regardless of its modal status.

    Your point does reinforce the fact that the argument, if successful, still needs some work.

  3. I'm not sure I understand the relevance of your reply. My point was that there are plausibly true better/worse relations that involve impossibilities, and so premise 2 is suspect. I agree that we cannot conceive of something that is blue all over and green all over, whereas we can conceive of God. But it nevertheless seems true that a world in which a metaphysical impossibility prevents genocide is better than one in which it does not. Yes this world is an impossible world, but that doesn't preclude it from being better (or does it...?). Suppose you say that an impossible world cannot be better than a possible world simply because it is impossible. Then you'd basically just be restating premise 2 ie begging the question.

  4. Exactly. I mean that (2) in particular needs some work in order for the argument as a whole to be a good one.