So we’re searching for this thing called God, and we’re looking at old-time arguments for (and, eventually, against). And we’ve talked about what King Kong named the “ontological” jib-jabs, because they can be done with your eyes closed. That is, not easily, but without looking at the world outside your righteous noodle.

Samuel L. Jackson

"Hey, it works for me"

And the more I think about it, the more convinced I get these arguments only work if you already believe. They may convince a believer that her faith is not entirely irrational. But if you close your eyes an atheist, and master the ontological method, I’m thinking you’re going to open your eyes and say, “So what?”

Bertrand Russell agreed. In his “Autobiography,” he’s quoted in his early career saying, “Great God in Boots! – the ontological argument is sound!” But in his standard “History of Western Philosophy,” he one-eighties:

“The argument does not, to a modern mind, seem very convincing, but it is easier to feel convinced that it must be fallacious than it is to find out precisely where the fallacy lies.” (p536)

For the ontological argument is really more a form of meditation than a chain of thought. It may well be possible to sit down to meditate on perfection as a skeptic and stand up a true believer in the one God, creator of heaven and earth and of all that is, seen and unseen, but I doubt it.

So unless I hear a righteous upswell of ontologists, I’ll move on after mentioning what I think is the spookiest, most full-throated case of this kind: Mulla Sadra’s so-called “Argument of the Righteous.”

This is the Samuel L. Jackson of ontological attempts: it’s that cool. Mulla Sadra was a Muslim theologian living just after our Reformation, foremost among the Illuminationist school of Transcendental Theosophy. In other words: deep.

At the risk of transcendentally travestying the late Mullah, we’ll say it goes something like this:

  1. Existence itself is perfect
  2. Created things – because they are created – are imperfect
  3. Existence is an end in itself: it does not rely on anything else
  4. If anything exists, then God exists

Or, more simply: Existence itself is not the same as the existence of things – it is separate, “independent.” And that independent Existence is perfect because it is not a thing. Mulla Sadra calls Existence, God.

Still not convinced? Think about Existence for a moment. Why does it even Exist? Do you have an answer?


4 responses to “Grrrr-Ontology

  1. He lost me at #1. How can we know existence is perfect if we have nothing to compare it to?

  2. You make an excellent point Keith – I think what he’s getting at is that BEING is perfect while THINGS are not – you can’t compare Beingness to anything else because it is the only one (i.e., there is no other Beingness) – but I’m not sure I’m quite getting it either …

  3. He’s got himself in a box on number one. It’s almost like he’s out there with that lunatic Liebniz with the whole “this is the best of all possible worlds” schtick. If you have to buy that being is perfect in order to believe in God then I’m out. Even if his argument is compared to things being is perfect I’m not buying it. How can we possibly understand the state that things are in? How can we claim to know what things are experiencing? And, what on earth does dude mean by things anyway? Trees, chipmunks, pieces of linolieum, socks, other humans. And, as long as were at this point, how can the man prove that he understands the experience of other things that are being? Maybe they are experiencing something more perfect than him, how the heck would he know?

  4. By the way, your blog is rockin’. I had to add you to my illustrious blogroll. Simply had to be done. You will be enshrined there until the end of time (or until I get sick of blogging, which ever comes first). “The Samuel L Jackson of ontological attempts” bit put you over the top.

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