An ontological argument

Consider the following predicate:

The English language.

In knowing what the predicate means, you concomitantly get information that such a thing exists. Behold! An Ontological Argument! The same would be true of other predicates: vision (since you read it) reading (ditto) meaning and, as Descartes figured out, self or person or thought. Even if we grant that no predicate considered formally contains information about whether it exists concretely this does not rule out other features of a predicate that can provide information about concrete existence.

This is relevant to Anselm’s proof since it is not limited to a consideration of the predicate that than which, etc. or greatest conceivable being as taken formally but also includes a reference to the one who hears his argument and understands the terms and the referent. This makes it perfectly analogous to the Ontological Arguments given in the first paragraph where, in diverse ways, the mode of knowing the predicate provided information about its existence, even if, like Kant, we insist that an existential judgment is never required from any predicates considered formally.  

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2 Comments

  1. April 25, 2016 at 11:58 am

    It is relevant to Anselm’s proof only if it is true in fact that someone cannot understand it without thinking that it exists, just as it true in fact that you cannot understand “the English language” without knowing that there is such a thing.

    But in fact, someone can understand the phrase “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” without thinking that it exists, and so in that sense, it is not relevant.

    • April 25, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      I gave half a dozen Ontological Arguments in the first paragraph and the one for the existence of the self is also controverted. Why believe in the self when all we have is thought or a sign of thought (this was Russell’s claim, at any rate). So this is not the property that I am focusing on here.

      This post is targeting the entailment that if existence is not a predicate that therefore predicates are unable to provide information about existence. Formally they can’t, but there is more to a predicate than what belongs to it formally. You want to talk about something else (namely, to what extent we can be mistaken about existence claims that are in addition to what formally belongs to the predicate, as opposed to the fact that it is possible to make them) about which I have nothing interesting to say. Not in this post, anyway.


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