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.
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:
- Existence itself is perfect
- Created things – because they are created – are imperfect
- Existence is an end in itself: it does not rely on anything else
- 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?