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The ontological argument of Descartes tries to show that a supremely perfect being (=god) must logically exist. Let's assume that this logic were valid. We would have proven that a "perfect" god existed, but would not be able to tell whether that god was the god of Christianity or Islam. Also not proven would be most of the central dogmas of Christianity, especially that god is a trinity.

What happens when we add the attribute of being a trinity to the "proven" supremely perfect god? That attribute either enhances his perfection, which would be a contradiction; or it reduces his perfection, which would make the proof invalid; or it is irrelevant for his state of perfection.

My gut feeling says that it makes no sense to argue that perfection and trinity can "co-exist" without affecting each other. So I'm curious, if in philosophical history any arguments were suggested in this context, either pro or contra?

  • No logical argument can prove that something "logically exists". – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Sep 24 '16 at 7:46
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    It seems to me that nowhere Descartes is arguing "logically" or philosophically about the dogma of trinity. Trinity is a dogma, i.e. an "article of faith" and not a philosophical issue. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Sep 24 '16 at 7:47
  • @ MauroALLEGRANZA I assume that Descartes (and others) thought the "philosophical" god whose existence he tried to prove would be compatible with the christian view. Then it becomes relevant if the deduced attributes of the perfect god might imply contradictions with "articles of faith", whether Descartes personally considered that problem or not. – elias_d Sep 24 '16 at 8:14
  • Correct - but whay I mean is that in this sort of "issues" we cannot prove or dispove... There are no "logical" properties involved. If we define as "ens perfectissimus" an entity endowed with "trinity" - because so asserts the dogma - if the argument works (and it does not) in order to prove that the ens perfectissimus exists... the job is done. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Sep 24 '16 at 8:47
  • @elias_d - I think you are unto something, but I think you would need to make more clear why you think that "supreme perfection" and a trinitary nature are mutually exclusive. – Luís Henrique Sep 24 '16 at 13:25
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Historically, there hasn't been, it seems, any significant objections to the ontological argument on behalf of the trinity. The trinity-being is almost never mentioned, in accounts of the ontological argument. See for example the section on the ontological argument in the Catholic Encyclopedia where the trinity is not mentioned. The ontological argument has been indeed often rejected by christian theologians, following the philosophical objections of Thomas Aquinas (see the above link), but those objections were not related to the trinity.

From a logical point of view, I also don't see any special conflict between the ontological argument and the trinity.

What happens when we add the attribute of being a trinity to the "proven" supremely perfect god? That attribute either enhances his perfection, which would be a contradiction; or it reduces his perfection, which would make the proof invalid; or it is irrelevant for his state of perfection.

But there is no need to "add" the attribute of being a trinity to God, if God already possesses this attribute. The ontological argument is silent about which are the perfections that God possesses, except about one perfection: existence. One option is that God possesses trinity-being accidentally, not even as a perfection. Another option is that trinity-being is a perfection. Would this last option be a problem?

One might say that being-trinity is a "complication", that it is "not simple", etc. But is it? One might compare God to a perfect circle, or a perfect sphere. But this last analogy seems stretched, because God is not a geometrical figure. He is, rather, a god. So the relevant question would be what would a simple god (and not a simple geometrical shape) be like? And there are already many "complications" about god without the trinity, such as: how can a god be angry, of content? How can he possess a will? And many others. So that being-trinity is just one more complication among many. And if you believe, like a christian, that it is an unavoidable complication, then it doesn't conflict with the maximum simplicity that a god can have.

Furthermore, it does not seem to me apt to associate the simplicity of God specifically with the ontological argument. The ontological argument depicts God as a multiplicity, not as a unity. The argument speaks on many perfections. It speaks about God having all the perfections. It deals with many, different, perfections, and not with one, simple, perfection. So there is no apparent connection between the ontological argument, specifically, and the supposed simplicity of God.

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    This is an excellent answer to a difficult question – Chris Sunami Sep 27 '16 at 21:16
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The ontological argument does not disprove the Christian God.
By definition, the "perfect" God already has all possible attributes. Whether He decides to become (split into) 3 or more "entities" does not make Him any more or any less "perfect." So, perfection and trinity can coexist with no effect on each other.

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