Philosophy Hurts Your Head

The blog of a cranky Philosophy PhD Student from Newcastle, Australia.

Arguments for God fail without specificity

Posted by Sam D on August 26, 2005

If an argument for ‘Theism/generic Deity’ can be equally well applied to different ‘Gods’ ie God or Allah, then it is really useless. I’m thinking of things like the Intelligent Design or Ontological arguments.

Suppose the definitional relationship between God and Allah is one of mutual exclusivity.

p = God exists

q = Allah exists

so

1. p iff(if and only if) not q, and q iff not p would seem fairly straight forward.

An argument for an un-defined deity could be said to logically implies the premise:

2. p or q

since it works to logically imply either deity equally well.

since we can also say (from 1.)

if p then not q
and
if q then not p

then it follow that a general argument for an undefined deity logically implies:

p or not p (from 1 and 2 ) (as well as q or not q?)

An argument that is supposed to justify God’s existence that can only produce: ‘ God exists or god doesn’t exist’ does not tell us anything we did not already know.

If we try to extricate the argument, we hit difficulties. There seems to be only two possible escapes. The argument must either be shown to only apply to the specific deity in question or it must be shown that the relationship between different deities is not one of mutual exclusivity. The first response is so difficult I would consider it almost impossible to do without begging the question against reasonable opponents. The second is doctrinally problematic (obviously), and furthermore it seems unclear how two supremely perfect and powerful beings can co-exist and not conflict, unless they are one and the same, which most doctrine says that they are not.

Another possibility (not widely accepted) is that neither p nor q exist, and some other thing: r, which is not implied by the argument, exists.

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2 Responses to “Arguments for God fail without specificity”

  1. I think that the flaw in your analysis is concluding that p = not q.

    Instead, the exclusivity clause should be expressed as (p and q) = false.

    Then, claiming that (p or q) = true is consistent with the claim of exclusivity.

    If it were not so, then I could not claim any generalization about mutually exclusive circumstances. For example, I could not claim “the President is in the White House today,” because George Bush and Al Gore (and millions of other potential presidents) cannot simultaneously be President in the White House today.

    BTW, though not directly related to your post, you might be interested in something called mathematical intuitionism. I heard about it a week or two ago on edge.com. We commonly say that (p or not p) is true (the law of the excluded middle). Mathematical intuitionists would dispute this because we cannot claim p has a truth value at all unless we have a procedure for producing an examplar for p. I like this idea. Sort of a logical empiricist approach to mathematics.

  2. I think that the flaw in your analysis is concluding that p = not q.

    It is not so much a flaw as an assumption or premise. I am not negative to the idea that both p and q could exist. But I am not a ‘believer’ in either faith. I find it hard to accept that a christian or muslim would accept that the existence of their own deity does not entail the non-existence of what they would claim to be ‘false’ gods or delusions/illusion casued by Satan etc. My use of this “I am the One true God etc” type of idea is an attempt to work within a theistic framework to show the lack of sense in taking that position.

    I think I get your point though. It doesn’t matter. I wanted to push it a bit further, but (p or p) = true is more than good enough for my purposes, especially when I can make an argument that chosing p over q involves appealing to so-called “evidence” that sinks the whole exercise in a qugmire of circularity.

    I never claimed to show that the veiw was incoherent, just that in the end these kind of arguments do not actually give us anything other than empty tautologies.

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