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Title: Arguments for the existence of God in Anselm's Proslogion chapter II and III
Author: Lee, Myung Woong
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 1989
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Abstract:
Anselm's argument for the existence of God in Proslogion Chap.II starts from the contention that 'lq when a Fool hears 'something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought', he understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his mind. This is a special feature of the Pros.II argument which distinguishes the argument from other ontological arguments set up by, for example, Descartes and Leibniz. This is also the context which makes semantics necessary for evaluation of the argument. It is quite natural to ask 'lq What is understood by the Fool, and what is in his mind? It is essential for a proper consideration of the argument to identify the object which is understood by the Fool, and so, is in his mind. A semantics gives answers to the questions of 'lq What the Fool understands? and 'lq What is in the Fool's mind? If we choose a semantics as a meta-theory to interpret the Pros.II argument, it makes an effective guide to identify the object. It is a necessary condition for a proper evaluation of the Pros.II argument to fix our universe of discourse, especially since, in the argument, we are involved in such talk about existing objects as Anselm's contention that 'when a Fool hears 'something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought', he understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his mind. The ontology to which a semantic theory commits us will be accepted as our scope of objects when we introduce our semantic theory to interpret the Pros.II argument, and this ontological boundary constrains us to identify the object in a certain way. Consistent application of an ontology, most of all, is needed for the evaluation of the logical validity of an argument. If we take Frege's three-level semantics, we are ontologically committed to intensional entities, like meaning, as well as extensional entities. Sluga contends that Frege's anti-psychologism for meanings should not be interpreted as vindicating reification of intensional entities in relation to Frege's contextualism, that Frege's anti-psychologism with his contextualism is nothing but a linguistic version of Kantian philosophy for the transcendental unity of a judgement. There is, however, another possible interpretation of Frege's contextualism. According to Dummett, the significance of Frege's contextualism must be understood as a way of explanation for a word's having meaning. If Dummett's view is cogent, we could say that Frege's contextualism does not prevent our interpreting his semantics as being committed to intensional entities. We need not worry that Frege's over all semantics, especially with his contextualism, would internally deny the ontological interpretation of his theory. We see Anselm's argument for the existence of God in Pros.II is an invalid argument if we introduce Frege's three-level semantics, i.e. if we acknowledge meanings of words as entities in our universe of discourse. We can also employ extensional semantics for the interpretation of the Pros.II argument. According to extensionalists, like Quine and Kripke, we need not assume intensional entities, like meaning, to be part of our ontological domain. They argue that we can employ our language well enough without assuming intensional entities. If we choose extensional semantics as a meta-theory to interpret the Pros.II argument, it commits us only to extensional entities as objects in the Universe of our interpretation. In Sections 1.4 and 1.5, I show that extensional semantics makes the Pros.II argument a valid argument for the existence of God. 'lq Necessary existence is the central concept of Anselm's argument for the existence of God in Proslogion Chap.III. It has been said that, even if the argument is formally valid, it cannot stand as a valid argument for the existence of God, since 'lq necessary existence is an absurd concept like 'lq round square. And further that even if there is a meaningful combination of concepts for 'lq necessary existence, it cannot quality as a subject of an a priori argument. As objections to the interpretations which make the Pros.III argument valid, it has been argued that even if there is a concept of 'lq necessary existence which is meaningful and there is another concept of 'lq necessary existence which is suitable as a subject of an a priori argument, there is no concept of 'lq necessary existence which is meaningful and at the same time suitable as a subject of an a priori argument. In Chap.2 and Chap.3, I try to show that there can be concepts of 'lq necessary existence which are proof against these objections. Anselm's arguments for the existence of God in Proslogian Chap.II and Chap.III are logically valid arguments on some logical principles. Some fideists, K. Barth, for example, argue that Anselm's arguments for the existence of God in Proslogion are not proofs for the existence of God even if they are logically valid arguments. I raise the question how this attitude could be possible, in Chap.4 and Chap.5. Barth's fideistic interpretation of Anselm's Proslogion arguments does not find any flaw in the validity of the arguments, and it accepts the meaningfulness and truth of the premises even to the fool in Proslogion. If this is the case, i.e. if Barth's interpretation accepts the validity of the arguments and the truth of the premises, I raise the question, how can the arguments not be interpreted as proofs for the existence of God? How is it possible that the function of the arguments is not that of proving the existence of God? According to Wittgensteinian fideism, premises in the arguments should not be intelligible to those who do not believe in God's existence already, and so the real function of the arguments is the elucidation, the understanding of believer's belief, rather than proving articles of belief to unbelievers. Barth's fideistic interpretation of the arguments, however, fully recognizes the meaningfulness and truth of the premises in the arguments as well as the validity of the arguments. I argue that there could be a justification for the Barthian fideism. As Malcolm notices, there are still atheists who understand Anselm's arguments as valid, but the only possibility for the people who recognize the validity of Anselm's arguments still to remain atheists has been thought to be to challenge the truth of premises employed in the arguments. Now, of the atheistic possibility, we can change the direction of our attention, that is, to the question about the function of a logically valid argument itself. What has not been thought of in relation to Anselm's arguments is the significance of logical truth or the logical validity of an argument. We have not asked such questions as 'lq What does a logical truth say? and 'lq What does a logically valid argument guarantee with true premises? Let us assume that even the premises are accepted by atheists. Do they all convert to theism? If that were so, the disagreement between atheist and believer over the ontological arguments should turn only on the truth of premises. If that is not so, there is some point in raising this other question. If there are people who, recognizing the premises and validity of an argument, are still reluctant to accept the conclusion, we have reason to question the function of a valid argument. I argue that there is a way of being consistently reasonable while accepting the premises and the validity of the ontological arguments and yet remaining an atheist or an agnostic.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.394116  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B Philosophy (General) ; BT Doctrinal Theology
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