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what do you think of this variation of the ontological argument(is it an absolute proof?)

1)God is the greatest being conceivable. A key part of this is being all powerful(omnipotent) 2)God can be conceived of in the mind. 3)However God lacks any real power if he is just conceived in the mind. 4)In order for there to be an all powerful being he must exist in reality. 5) therefore God exists.

  • Here is an abbreviation that makes the mistake obvious: an all powerful being can be conceived, it will not be all powerful unless it also exists, therefore it exists. This is called defining into existence, whatever X is conceived as can not imply its existence, otherwise we could infer existence of any X by conceiving it as "existent X", or better yet "greatest X". – Conifold Nov 18 '18 at 21:54
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    Possible duplicate of A Critcism of the Ontological Argument for God – Conifold Nov 18 '18 at 21:58
  • On a separate level, why is this a "variation"? how does it differ significantly from Anselm's classical formulation? – virmaior Nov 18 '18 at 22:53
  • If we were to conceive an all powerful God, we would have to conceive all God's power. But we are too limited to conceive all God's power, therefore we can't conceive God. Welcome to Philosophy SE! – christo183 Nov 19 '18 at 6:40
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Welcome, user35891.

  1. If 'God is the greatest conceivable being' implies 'There is a God who is the greatest conceivable being' then this assumes the existence of God : you don't need to go through 2) - 4) to reach 5) since 5) follows from 1).

  2. If, however,'God is the greatest conceivable being' is to be interpreted as 'The concept of God is the concept of the greatest conceivable being', I don't see how you can dervive 5).

  3. On this interpretation your argument would run :

(i) 'The concept of God is the concept of the greatest conceivable being'

(ii) 'The concept of the greatest conceivable being includes the concept of omnipotence.' (If our concept of God didn't include the concept of God's being omnipotent, our concept of God would not be the concept of the greatest conceivable being. Something with omnipotence would in respect of its omnipotence be greater.)

(iii) We have the concept of God.

(iv) If the concept of God is a concept we have, it does not follow that the concept is instantiated. It may refer to nothing real - nothing with 'any real power', let alone omnipotence - since there might be no greatest conceivable being but only the concept of it.

So the argument does not prove the existence of God.

Others will comment. Though I don't think your argument works, I offer full congratulations on applying original thought to the formulation of the ontological argument.

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The claim here seems to be that the nature of an omnipotent being is such that it necessarily exists. This is what has been called an ontological argument, and the questioner has consciously tried to reproduce the logic of St. Anselm's famous argument for the existence of God.

I think that there are at least two points of vulnerability in the questioner's version. The first is that premiss (4) seems to be tautologous, rendering the enthymemic modus ponens a principio principii.

The second vulnerability is that the coherence of any claim of the existence of an omnipotent being is put into jeopardy by Plato's peritrope argument set forth in Theaetetus.

The questioner's premiss (4) might be restated as "If an all-powerful being exists, then he must exist in reality." The suppressed premiss is "An all-powerful being must exist." The conclusion is then "An all-powerful being must exist in reality." Since the conclusion is also a premiss, the argument looks like a principio prinipii.

Plato argues in Theaetetus, that certain universal propositions are false because they imply contradictions, which are false. His immediate target in Theaetetus is Protagoras' claim that all claims are true for those who make them. His argument runs thus: 1) If Protagoras' claim that all claims are true for those who make them is true, then the claim "Protagoras' claim is true" is true for those who make it. 2) If Protagoras' claim that all claims are true for those who make them is true, then the claim "Protagoras' claim is false" is true for those who make it. 3) Protagoras' claim that all claims are true for those who make them is both true and false, making it a contradiction. 4) Contradictory statements cannot be true. 5) Protagoras' claim that all claims are true for those who make them is not true.

We might put a claim about the existence of an omnipotent being into Plato's peritrope in some such way as this: 1) An omnipotent being can make an object of any mass he chooses 2) An omnipotent being can make an object so massive that it cannot be lifted. 3) An omnipotent being can lift any object. 4) Either an omnipotent being cannot make an object so massive that he cannot lift it, or he can make such an object. 5) If an omnipotent being can make an object so massive that he cannot lift it, then his powers of lifting are limited. 6) If an omnipotent being cannot make an object so massive that he cannot lift it, then his powers of object creation are limited. 7) An omnipotent being has limited powers or lifting or object creation. 8) An omnipotent being with limited powers is an absurdity and cannot exist.

So, the questioner's ontological argument seems to commit the fallacy of principio principii and imply a contradictory conclusion.

  • Your last point is weak as an "object that cannot be lifted" is ill-defined. Is it: a) too heavy, b) lacking a place from which it can be lifted, or c) the fixed reference point (or some other possibility)? If a, its weight must be finite or it cannot exist, and thus said being can lift it. If b, the being can create a place from which to lift it. If c, simply choose another reference point. The idea is incoherent in a way that the idea of an omnipotent being is not. – Spitemaster Nov 26 '18 at 19:38

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