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Anselmian Satan

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If the following argument of Anselm’s is OK:

1. We understand God as the being than which nothing greater can be conceived.

2. God exists in understanding.

3. Existing in both understanding and reality is greater than existing in understanding alone.

4. God exists both in understanding and reality.

5. God exists in reality.

then is the following also OK?

1. We understand Satan as the being than which nothing less great can be conceived.

2. Satan exists in understanding.

3. Existing in both understanding and reality is greater than existing in understanding alone.

4. Satan does not exist both in understanding and reality.

5. Satan does not exist in reality.

Anunțuri

Written by István Aranyosi

Septembrie 22, 2008 la 4:21 pm

5 răspunsuri

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  1. That’s a tough one. I’ve been thinking about formalizing it, but it’s beyond my powers. So, if by „OK” you meant valid, I can’t answer the question.

    If by „OK” you meant sound, then, what I suspect is that the second argument equivocates on greatness in the first premise (relative to the first one; but the soundness of the first one fixes the interpretation of „great”).

    What I mean is roughly this: men and God have capacities of understanding, but God’s are absolutely greater. Does this means that Satan’s are lower than men’s? Then how is it possible for him to deceive us? Surely he cannot be below mortals in this respect.

    Do you have a solution to the puzzle?

    Stefan Ionescu

    Septembrie 28, 2008 at 2:43 pm

  2. I was thinking about almost the same thing. I think in the first argument „greatness” stands for all God’s attributes (such as powerful, good, knowing and so on) while in the second refers only to moral ones. That is to say, (1)Satan is the being than which nothing less good/more evil can be concieved. Understood in this way, (1) is not compatible with (3), where „great” stands for the other attributes. It seems to me that there is no other way to understand this argument, else we come to what was said before: „Does this means that Satan’s are lower than men’s? Then how is it possible for him to deceive us? Surely he cannot be below mortals in this respect.”

    Elena

    Septembrie 28, 2008 at 4:33 pm

  3. Yes, you are both right, and this was my first thought about the puzzle as well. Namely, greatness is understood not simpliciter, but as Elena points out, greatness in something, in some attribute – good in the case of God, evil in the case of Satan. It seems then that you cannot deduce Satan’s non-existence “in reality”, because existence in reality makes him even greater in evil than existence only in thohght.

    But there is a problem with this solution. It looks as though existence in reality grounds, or conferes maximality to whatever attribute we consider God as having (say, being good) or Satan as having (say, being evil). It is supposed to enhance the attribute: by existing, God is maximally good; by existing, Satan is maximally evil. If this is the general schema, then the following inference should be accepted:

    1. Talley is understood as the greatest conceivable being in tallness (has maximal height).
    2. Talley exists in understanding.
    3. Existing in reality is greater in tallness than existing in understanding alone.

    It looks like existing in reality makes someone taller than if that person existed only in understanding. Doesn’t sound too good.

    You might argue that 3. is not correct because it is general, so the correct version should be:

    3* Talley existing in reality is greater in tallness than existing in understanding alone.

    But then we lose the generality required for moving from God to Satan, by the same genral attribute-enhancing force conferred by existence in reality. And, in any case, in the original Anselmian argument for the existence of God premise 3, looks like a general truth, applicable not only to God, but to any other case.

    Istvan Aranyosi

    Octombrie 4, 2008 at 1:59 pm

  4. I think that, once again, the problem concerns „greatness”. Comparing the first argument about God’s existence with the one about Talley, I think that the move from 1 to 3 is not quite justified. In the original argument we may think of „great” as the sum of all God’s attributes. If among those we include existence in reality it is clear why existing in reality is greater than existing in understanding. In the case of Talley we are talking about a single attribute. We may say that Talley existing in reality is greater than Talley existing in understanding if by that we mean that the first has more attributes than the second, and not that he is taller.

    Elena

    Octombrie 5, 2008 at 11:26 am

  5. My problem is with this „geatness”. Either (a) something that is conceived becomes greater simpliciter, if it is also real (it exists), or (b) it becomes greater in the attributes that it is conceived as having, if it is also real.

    (a) makes the argument for Satan’s nonexistence go through. (because Satan would be greater simpliciter by existing)
    (b) blocks the Satan argument, but allows the Talley argument to go through. (because Talley would be greater in his attribute, namely, in being tall)

    Istvan Aranyosi

    Octombrie 5, 2008 at 3:28 pm


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