Ontologically cute!

Julian Sanchez has a parody of the ontological argument.
...it occurs to me that this actually points to a more serious inversion of the real ontological argument that, although it isn’t valid either, strikes me as rather more plausible on face than the original. It might go roughly:

1. For every good thing that exists, I can imagine a still better version that does not exist.
2. Generalizing, extant things are always less perfect than those that exist only in the imagination.
3. God is defined as a supremely perfect entity.
4. Therefore God is purely imaginary.

Of course, to say that this one is more plausible than the original is only to say that the original was not at all plausible.

To be annoying, many versions of the ontological argument are valid, and this argument is valid, too. The question is whether it is sound. It isn't implausible! And it's cute!

Obviously, however, premise 1 would be where the problem really lies (or premise 2, with a problem from induction). If things in the imagination were always better than in reality, many politicians wouldn't get caught with their pants down, and could just have relied on their imaginations for fulfillment. Or dieters could imagine eating macaroni and cheese, etc. etc. We can imagine that things are better - I can stipulate that an imaginary macaroni and cheese is better than the real thing. But I can't force myself to experience it as better. There is something about the richness of experience which seems to exceed imagination. One could probably futz around with the argument and make it more compelling. There is something to the idea that existence may be a predicate, but it is not an excellence - it's a deficit.

For some other parodies of the ontological argument, see here.

1 comment:

  1. Doesn't it seem, though, that the flaw is not in the first statement but in the proverbial weakness of the flesh? If fantasy is better than reality, politicians should know better than to actually drop their pants, else be both disappointed and discovered. If we know the imagined mac-n-cheese is better but still eat an extant meal of pasta tubes and cheese sauce, we are weak and foolish for insisting on the experiential; but the argument is not less true. So can't we argue that the ontology is true but that humans are dumb?
    Maybe? Thanks for the link. Good clean intellectual fun.