Kordig’s Deontic Dialogue For God’s Existence

Rural-World-Famous-Painting-WallpaperIJane: John, are you familiar with Carl R. Kordig’s deontic argument for God’s existence?

John: No. I am not. Would you be kind to explain it to me?

Jane: Kordig argued that a deontically perfect being ought to exist. If deontically perfect being ought to exist, then such being can exist. A deontically perfect being cannot be a contingent being. Therefore, a deontically perfect being must exist.

John: What justification does Kordig offer to believe that a deontically perfect being ought to exist?

Jane: He believes that even though an individual may hold that God does not exist, that individual should grant that most perfect being ought to exist.

John: Well! I am not persuaded by that. Argumenti causa, say I grant that, how can a person possibly defend the idea that God, a deontically perfect being, cannot be a contingent being?

Jane: Kordig would argue that the idea of contingent God is metaphysically impossible. It is like the idea of a square that is also a circle at the same time and same sense. It is simply a logical contradiction.

John: How is contingent God a logical contradiction? Continue reading

Dialogue Concerning God’s Existence

Rural-World-Famous-Painting-WallpaperIJane: What is red?
John: It is a concept.
Jane: What are concepts?
John: They are the constituents of complete thoughts.
Jane: If concepts are constituents of complete thoughts, where do they exist?
John: They exist in our minds, of cause.
Jane: Are there eternal concepts?
John: What do you mean by eternal concepts?
Jane: I mean concepts that are independent of our minds for their existence.
John: Do you mean concepts that are true even if there was no contingent rational being?
Jane: Yes, John. Example could you say that 2 = 2 or the law of non-contradiction is an eternal concept?
John: Yes, I believe so.
Jane: So, if there are eternal concepts, would you agree that there is at least one eternal mind?
John: Mmh!
Jane: If there exist eternal concepts, and concepts are the constituents of complete thoughts, are we not rational to believe that there is transcendental mind?
John: I am persuaded to think it is rational, Jane.
Jane: Well John, monotheists would call this transcendental or eternal mind, “God”.

Those in doubt about any of Jane’s assumptions (e.g. conceptual realism & Platonism) may take her main conclusion conditionally. Is Jane’s argument for existence of God as an eternal mind persuasive? It depends on whether or not you share her assumptions. For those who do not, it is not a persuasive case. Why present such a dialogue then if it persuades only those who share Jane’s assumptions. My aim is not so much to persuade all, mostly atheists, to reconsider their position on the existence of transcendental mind. I do not believe in transcendental mind because of such arguments. My aim is to show that belief in God, a transcendental mind, can be rationally justified. Monotheists can (and do) have rational reasons to believe in such a being.

Necessary Existence of God

Da Vinci

Judeo-Christians understand God as a being  that is perfect in knowledge (Ps. 147:5), power (Job 42:2), presence (Ps. 139), acts (Ps. 18:30) and has none greater (Heb. 6:13) nor equal (Ps. 40:6).

Following Anselm’s:credimus te esse aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit“¹, God is understood to be a Being that exhibits maximal perfection. God is, borrowing Alvin Plantinga’s words, a being “having an unsurpassable degree of greatness—that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more.” (Plantinga 2002: 102 emp. removed)

God is thus understood to be a being having maximal excellence with respect to power (omnipotence), knowledge (omniscience), presence (omnipresence), and is morally perfect (this is why God cannot lie or be unrighteous).

From modal logic the existence of such a being(God) is either impossible or necessary. The concept of contingent existence of God is a contradictory idea since (i) necessarily, “a being is maximally great only if it has maximal excellence in every world” and (ii) necessarily, “a being has maximal excellence in every world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in every world.” (2002: 111)

Thus either the existence of God is impossible or necessary. The existence of God is not impossible. Therefore it is necessary. Therefore God, as understood by Judeo-Christians, exists.

Is this a persuasive case for existence of such a Being? No. I do not think it is. It does however show that Judeo-Christians’ understanding of God is rationally acceptable.


¹ Anselmus Cantuariensis Prologion:  Trans. [W]e believe that You[God] are a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.

Plantinga, Alvin (2002) God, Freedom & Evil. First published by Harper and Row., 1974. Reprinted 2002.


Anselm’s Ontological Argument

Anselm Head

In chapter 2 of Anselm’s Discourse On The Existence of God, Anselm set forth, what was later tagged, by Immanuel Kant, ontological argument, as follows:

[And] so, Lord, do thou, who dost give understanding to faith, give me, so far as thou knowest it to be profitable, to understand that thou art as we believe; and that thou art that which we believe. And, indeed, we believe that thou art a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. Or is there no such nature, since the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God? (Psalms 14:1). But, at any rate, this very fool, when he hears of this being of which I speak—a being than which nothing greater can be conceived—understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his understanding; although he does not understand it to exist.

For, it is one thing for an object to be in the understanding, and another to understand that the object exists. When a painter first conceives of what he will afterwards perform, he has it in his understanding, but he does not yet understand it to be, because he has not yet performed it. But after he has made the painting, he both has it in his understanding, and he understands that it exists, because he has made it.

Hence, even the fool is convinced that something exists in the understanding, at least, than which nothing greater can be conceived. For, when he hears of this, he understands it. And whatever is understood, exists in the understanding. And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For, suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater.

Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is no doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.(Anselm 2009:7-8)

Understanding God as that which none greater can be conceived, Alvin Plantinga outlined Anselm’s case as follows:

1) God exists in the understanding but not in reality.

2) Existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone. (premise)

3) God’s existence in reality is conceivable. (premise)

4) If God did exist in reality, then He would be greater than He is. [From (1) and (2)]

5) It is conceivable that there is a being greater than God is. [(3) and (4)]

6) It is conceivable that there be a being greater than the being than which nothing greater can be conceived. [(5) by the definition of “God”]

But surely (6) is absurd and self-contradictory; how could we conceive of a being greater than the being than which none greater can be conceived? So we may conclude that

7) It is false that God exists in the understanding but not in reality.(Plantinga 1978: 87-8)

Question: How persuasive is Anselm’s case for the existence of God? What could be the possible objections to this version of ontological argument? Let the dialogue begin.


Anselm, S., Archbishop of Canterbury, & Deane, S. N. (2009). Proslogium; Monologium; An appendix, In behalf of the fool, by Gaunilon; and Cur Deus homo. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Plantinga,Alvin(1978) God, Freedom, and Evil. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Concise Atheists’ Books Review: Monton + Sheiman

GlassesIn December-January, I finally read Brandley Monton’s and Bruce Sheiman’s works. It is encouraging, in midst of angry books of new atheists, to read Monton and Sheiman as they bring in light, instead of heat, in the ongoing debate on the place of science and religion.

Bruce SheimanBruce Sheiman, in a 256 pages-Alpha published book,  An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity Is Better Off with Religion(2009), went head on against the popular myth of new atheism movement that religion is evil and at war with science, and thus should be erased, to show that humanity is better off with religious beliefs.

As an atheist, Sheiman contend not for the existence of God but for the belief in God. He wrote, “I want to believe this[that God exists, humans are made in Imago Dei etc] but, alas, I cannot. Thus, even though I cannot believe in God, I still feel the need for God.”(ix)

Religion, particularly Christianity, contended Sheiman, offers a transcendent moral values and duties, human rights, altruism, mental healthy, happiness and longer life, and gave birth to science.

There is much to agree with Sheiman, as a Christian theist, and little to disagree e.g. he makes couples of classical errors e.g. confusing epistemology with ontology as he went through researches that showed both believers and nonbeliever grasp same moral values and duties, tagging Intelligent Design as Creationism and seem to hold a belief that the universe somehow was impregnated with life, thus we can find meaning and values from this notion.

Bradley MontonBradley Monton’s, who dearly remind me of Alvin Plantinga in the manner he addresses issues, 177 paged-Broadview Press book: Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design(2009) worked out a possibly better definition of Intelligent Design(ID) and succeed in refuting popular rejections and objections gunned towards it.

He, as an atheist philosopher, is challenged by teleological argument for existence of God(TAG) and he is less certain of his atheism as he find this argument some what plausible but not having enough evidence to make him stop being an atheist. He wrote,

“I think that there is some evidence for an intelligent designer, and in fact, I think that there is some evidence that that intelligent designer is God. The arguments I’ll consider in Chapter 3 make me less certain of my atheism than I would be had I never heard the arguments. The evidence isn’t enough to make me stop being an atheist, though”.(p.39)

Monton is a good example of a clear thinking gentlemen who is after truth no matter the cost. This is a brilliant book, both to show that popular objections against TAG and the rejection of ID as science are unwarranted.

I will give a fuller chapter by chapter review of each book in near future. Have you read one or both books? Let me know your thoughts.

More of Nagel’s Review Of Dawkins’ The God Delusion

Nagel's ReviewRichard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, a book that attempted to expose logical faultiness of religion and its’ cause of much suffering in the world, is the most read atheistic literature in our times. In this series of articles, I explored different prominent atheists and agnostics’ reviews of The God Delusion.

This article is a follow up of my second  atheists’ reviewer, an American philosopher Thomas Nagel, whose review, “The Fear Of Religion”, appeared in The Republic on October 23rd 2006, page 25-29. If you have not read the first part, Nagel’s Review Of Dawkins’ The God Delusion, I will dearly recommend you to do so before reading this closing remark of Nagel’s review of Dawkins’ popular book, The God Delusion.

Nagel’s Third Alternative: No to God Hypothesis And No to Physical Naturalism

The tension between “Dawkins’s physicalist naturalism and the God hypothesis is a disagreement over whether this end point[of what best explain the origin of life] is physical, extensional, and purposeless or mental, intentional, and purposive” correctly observed Nagel. Both views, according to him, fail to explain the grand explanation. “ The God hypothesis does not explain the existence of God, and naturalistic physicalism does not explain the laws of physics”.

Adding my own remark, I believe Nagel here missed or failed to understand the aim of  design argument, the God hypothesis, which does not step forward to explain the existence of God. The argument from design simply attempt to argue for the existence of a designer. The grand explaining for the existence or the nature of this designer is a totally different matter.

Nagel offered the Aristotelian view as another possible possibility. He expounded that “there are teleological principles in nature that are explained neither by intentional design nor by purposeless physical causation— principles that therefore provide an independent end point of explanation for the existence and form of living things.”

The positive part of Dawkins’s argument, commented Nagel, is that “Darwin’s theory of natural selection offered a way of accounting, [which is not a result of design nor hopelessly improbable chance], for the exquisite functional organization of organisms through physical causation”.  The Complexity that arises, which gives an appearance of design without design, can be radically reduced by the theory of heritable variation and natural selection “purely on the basis of a combination of physical causes operating over billions of years”.

Even though most this story’s detail can never be recovered and that there are also  evolutionists’ internal issues on how the process works, “[t]here are also skeptics about whether such a process is capable, even over billions of years, of generating the complexity of life as it is.” The direct analogy to Dawkins’ “Who made God?” explained Nagel, is that,

The theory of evolution through heritable variation and natural selection reduces the improbability of organizational complexity by breaking the process down into a very long series of small steps, each of which is not all that improbable. But each of the steps involves a mutation in a carrier of genetic information—an enormously complex molecule capable both of self- replication and of generating out of surrounding matter a functioning organism that can house it. The molecule is moreover capable sometimes of surviving a slight mutation in its structure to generate a slightly different organism that can also survive. Without such a replicating system there could not be heritable variation, and without heritable variation there could not be natural selection favoring those organisms, and their underlying genes, that are best adapted to the environment.

Darwinian explanation hangs on the prior existence “of genetic material” with have outstanding properties, which preconditioned the possibility of evolution. Nagel explained that “since the existence of this material or something like it is a precondition of the possibility of evolution, evolutionary theory cannot explain its existence.” He went on,

We are therefore faced with a problem analogous to that which Dawkins thinks faces the argument from design: we have explained the complexity of organic life in terms of something that is itself just as functionally complex as what we originally set out to explain. So the problem is just pushed back one step: how did such a thing come into existence?

According to Nagel, an  obvious difference between Darwinian explanation to that of God hypothesis is that only the former is observable. “But the problem that originally prompted the argument from design” explained Nagel, is “—the over whelming improbability of such a thing coming into existence by chance, simply through the purposeless laws of physics— remains just as real for this case. Yet this time we cannot replace chance with natural selection.”

In The God Delusion, Dawkins response was “pure hand-waving” at this difficult by claiming it was a one-time event and that given billions of planets in the universe that may permit life, it is likely that a DNA could be formed. Nagel expounded,

Dawkins is not a chemist or a physicist. Neither am I, but general expositions of research on the origin of life indicate that no one has a theory that would support anything remotely near such a high probability as one in a billion billion. Naturally there is speculation about possible non-biological chemical precursors of DNA or RNA. But at this point the origin of life remains, in light of what is known about the huge size, the extreme specificity, and the exquisite functional precision of the genetic material, a mystery—an event that could not have occurred by chance and to which no significant probability can be assigned on the basis of what we know of the laws of physics and chemistry.

Nonetheless it happened and this, according to Nagel, is the reason “why the argument from design is still alive, and why scientists who find the conclusion of that argument unacceptable feel there must be a purely physical explanation of why the origin of life is not as physically improbable as it seems.”

Since time cannot replace chance with natural selection, Dawkins, with “a desperate device to avoid the demand for a real explanation”, invoked “the possibility that there are vastly many universes”. Hence giving chance more chances to create life.

Final Remarks: Fear Of Religion + World-flattening Reductionism

As “an outsider to religion”, Nagel believes, unlike Dawkins, that deciding which one, the God hypothesis or Darwinian evolution, offers a best explanation of what we observe is a tough question to put to rest. He suspect there could be other unthought-of solutions than that offered by these two.

A brilliant observation was made by Nagel when he contended that “[t]he fear of religion leads too many scientifically minded atheists to cling to a defensive, world-flattening reductionism.” He went further,

Dawkins, like many of his con- temporaries, is hobbled by the assumption that the only alternative to religion is to insist that the ultimate explanation of everything must lie in particle physics, string theory, or what-ever purely extensional laws govern the elements of which the material world is composed.

The problem in this reductive view,  “the world with all subjective consciousness, sensory appearances, thought, value, purpose, and will left out.” Going against this view, Nagel contended that “ [w]e have more than one form of understanding.” He expounded,

Different forms of understanding are needed for different kinds of subject matter. The great achievements of physical science do not make it capable of encompassing everything, from mathematics to ethics to the experiences of a living animal. We have no reason to dismiss moral reasoning, introspection, or conceptual analysis as ways of discovering the truth just because they are not physics.

He also point out that anti-reductionist view also have  “very serious problems about how the mutually irreducible types of truths about the world are related.” It is true that we are physical organism. How do we deal with thoughts, emotions and value, if not mere complicated physical states of organism, asks Nagel. “What is their relation to the brain processes on which they seem to depend? More: if evolution is a purely physical causal process, how can it have brought into existence conscious beings?”

Nagel’s verdict on Dawkins’ famous book could be packed in a single sentence. The God Delusion is “a very uneven collection of scriptural ridicule, amateur philosophy, historical and contemporary horror stories, anthropological speculations, and cosmological scientific argument” and contemptuous flippancy when dealing with the classical arguments offered for the existences of God.

Next: Simon Watson: Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Atheist Fundamentalism

Disclaimers: I am  terribly biased and unfairly hard on Dawkins’ The God Delusion.  My aim is for us to critically examine Dawkins’ case against the existence of God. Whether we agree or disagree with Dawkins’ conclusions, I believe we ought to wrestle with strength and weakness of his arguments. As far as Nagel is concerned, he found The God Delusion’s case  particularly weak. Dawkins could and I believe can do better.