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Malcolm’s ontological argument Michael Lacewing

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1 Malcolm’s ontological argument Michael Lacewing

2 Necessary existence ‘God is the greatest possible being’ is a logically necessary truth –It is part of our concept of God. A being that depends on something for its existence is not as great as one that doesn’t. Therefore, God’s existence cannot depend on anything. If God exists, then God’s existence is necessary.

3 The argument Either God exists or God does not exist. God cannot come into existence or go out of existence. If God exists, God cannot cease to exist. Therefore, if God exists, God’s existence is necessary. If God does not exist, God cannot come into existence. Therefore, if God does not exist, God’s existence is impossible. Therefore, God’s existence is either necessary or impossible.

4 The argument God’s existence is only impossible if the concept of God is self- contradictory. The concept of God is not self- contradictory. Therefore, God’s existence is not impossible. Therefore, God exists necessarily.

5 Malcolm on Kant’s objection Kant famously objected that existence cannot be part of the concept of God –An analytic truth unpacks a concept. The predicate tells you something about the subject –To say ‘x exists’ is not to describe x at all or explain what x is. Existence is not part of the concept of anything. But this doesn’t apply to necessary existence –To say that ‘God exists necessarily’ is to unpack the concept of God. If it is part of our concept that God exists necessarily, then we must accept that ‘God exists necessarily’ is an analytic truth –So it isn’t possible that God doesn’t exist.

6 Objection Why think it is either necessarily true or necessarily false that God exists? Malcolm argues that it follows from God’s not depending on anything, and having neither beginning nor end. But if God doesn’t exist, then it is false that God’s existence is, in fact, independent of anything else, because God doesn’t, in fact, exist –Nothing has the property of existing without dependence on anything else. ‘God exists necessarily’ is not an analytic truth –The analytic truth is ‘if God exists, God exists necessarily’ –This is compatible with God not existing.

7 Objection So Malcolm has confused two senses of ‘God exists necessarily’ –There is a distinct form of existence – necessary existence – which God has, a form of existence that does not depend on anything else –It is necessarily true that God exists. But ‘the concept of God entails that God’s existence does not depend on anything’ does not entail that ‘God exists’ must be true.

8 Objection Is the concept of God logically incoherent? Are the attributes of God coherent? Does it make sense to suppose a being that exists necessarily if it exists at all?

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