Saturday, March 16, 2013

More on the Ontological Argument of Epicurus

I don't think Epicurus's argument establishes the existence of any monotheistic God.  In support of monotheism, I usually appeal to the argument from motion and the metaphysical argument found in Thomas's De Ente et Essentia.  Nevertheless, I've come to be convinced that Epicurus's argument is a sound proof of angelic-like beings, or what he calls "gods" (with a lower case "g").

1. There is no conception apart from real perception. (Premise)

2. There is the conception of angelic-like entities. (Premise)

3. Therefore, there is a real perception of angelic-like entities. (From 1 and 2)

In support of (1), the only reason we are able to imagine fictional entities, such as unicorns, is because of real perceptions of horses and various animals with horns.  Yet, premise (2) contends that we have the conception of angelic-like entities.  What possible combination of entities could account for any fictional angelic-like entity?  In fact, many claim that they have been visited by angels.  Are they crazy, or is there an authentic perception?  I'll let readers decide for themselves.

In any case, the argument is logically valid.  The skeptic's best case against the argument is probably to undermine premise (2).


  1. The only reason why we are able to imagine fictional entities, like angels, is because of real perception of human beings, various animals with wings, and the light of the sun, among other things. So while you cannot imagine what possible combination of entities could account for fictional angel-like entities, I can easily do so.
    And yes, there are also crazy people, and people under the influence of various substances, and people in a trance etc.
    You should not forget that the concept of angels changed over the years and the conception of angel-like entities varies considerably from place to place.

    Moreover, your argument here isn't valid.

    I'll show you why

    1. There is no conception apart from real perception. (Premise)

    2. There is the conception of unicorns. (Premise)

    3. Therefore, there is a real perception of unicorns. (From 1 and 2)

    It's clear that 3 does not follow from 1 and 2.
    What does follow frm 1 and 2 si that the conception of unicorns is based on a combination of real perceptions, just like it follows that the conception of angle-like entities is based on a combination of real perceptions.
    The only difference is that you cannot imagine what these real perceptions may be. But that seem to be your personal problem.


  2. Why do we conceive of entities as having tremendous power, then? You see, it's not as if I hadn't thought about angels being the combination of humans and various winged creatures. Rather, what I'm suggesting is that the conception of anything with power significantly greater than human beings is itself based on a perception. What could that perception be? I don't care if you call them angels.

    Now, so what if there are crazy people or people under the influence of drugs? Such people also perceive ordinary things, such as chairs. Do chairs not exist? The fact that one person's perception can be explained away does nothing to demonstrate that another's perception is untrustworthy.

    1. We conceive of entities with enormous powers because we idenbtify (or used to identify) those creatures with the elemants of nature. Thor is the thunder, Re is the sun. It's not as as humans suddenly started thinking about Gods and angels as powerful immaterial beings. Those concepts evolved.
      So, excuse me, but I think this is a very weak argument, and anyway, If you want to use it, you should modify it, because as it is now, it's not valid.

  3. I do agree that the argument needs some tuning up in order to be valid, but I think the idea behind it is sound. I may also surprise you by agreeing that this is a weak argument. However, the difference is I think it's among the weakest of the sound arguments.

    Now, what's your point about the evolution of these concepts? Don't mistake the simplicity of the following question as a trap: do our conceptions of tremendously powerful entities/power/whatever have any correspondence with reality/veridical perception? Leave aside the debate about materiality versus immateriality aside for a moment. Although I disagree with his metaphysics, Epicurus was a materialist.

  4. I have already explained how our conceptions of termendously powerful entities (can) have a correspondence in reality. There is no need to invoke strange powerful entities, whether material or immaterial.
    Epicuros's argument is yet another gods-of-the-gap argument

  5. You mentioned thunder/Thor and the sun/Re as examples (metaphors?) of natural elements. Are natural elements powerful?

  6. The next time there is a thunderstorm near you, take an iron rod and put yourself in the middle of an open field. Wait there for as long as it takes for lightning to strike you. Then go home and reply to me. If you can do that, the answers is no, natural elements are not powerful.

  7. Sounds to me like lightning is quite powerful if I need to be able to survive such a force. So, you're definitively going with stating that natural elements are not powerful, or would you like to rethink that?

  8. I said ,"If you can do that, the answer is no".
    IOW if you can survive being struck by lightning in good good shape, then natural elements are not powerful. But I doubt you can survive such adventure in good shape, so, for the time being I would say natural elements are quite powerful.

  9. Replies
    1. So, it seems I have successfully argued for an alternative explanation for why there is a conception of angelic-like entities. An explanation that does not invoke extra entities, so one that should be favoured using Ockham.

  10. Not really. I already explained that Epicurus was a materialist, so it's not like I was making an especially ambitious argument.