Meta-Modal argument from epistemic prudence

Ok, so the title is a little awkward, but so is the thought. This comes from my reflection on the Meta-Modal Ontological argument for the existence of God.

If God is omnipotent then he can do all things which are logically possible; can God, then, put together an argument in natural theology which would rationally obviate and necessitate the conclusion that ‘God exists’? This argument doesn’t have to be an ontological argument, it can be an argument of any kind (for instance, some version of a cosmological argument from contingency, or some transcendental/presuppositionalist argument from the nature of language or logic, or others). Now, if a valid argument is even logically possible then it exists in some logically possible world. God could, arguably, actualize the articulation of this argument in our world (immediately or providentially), as could we.

What follows from this? Well, first, in the absence of such an argument it would seem that we ought to remain agnostic with respect to whether any such argument exists. However, I think it would be in keeping with ‘epistemic prudence’ to accept as possible all things which we cannot demonstrate to be impossible (a theme I’ve worked out in several posts in the last few months). That would mean that if we had to say whether such an argument possibly exists (and thus exists in some logically possible world), we ought to say that it does exist. The person who says that it does not exist in any logically possible world has the burden of proof – they must demonstrate to us why the conclusion ‘God exists’ cannot even possibly be the conclusion of an argument which is rationally compelling, i.e. which one would reject on pain of being literally irrational. They can either argue that somehow the concept of ‘God’ is incoherent or else self-referentially incoherent (something which, I take it, nobody has yet done to the satisfaction of the thinking community), or they can argue that such an argument cannot exist because no argument can rationally obviate a conclusion which involves an existential predicate. However, in the absence of such arguments I think the Theist can argue that there is some logically possible world in which an argument exists, the conclusion of which is ‘God exists’, and which proposes the conclusion in such a way that is irrevocably rationally compelling. However, if such an argument exists in even one logically possible world, then it follows that its conclusion is true in that logically possible world. If, however, God exists in one logically possible world, then he exists necessarily, and thus in all logically possible worlds.

We can formalize the argument as follows:

  1. There is a logically possible world in which an argument exists, the conclusion of which is ‘God exists’, and that conclusion is rationally obviated and necessitated on pain of irrationality.
  2. If 1, then ‘God exists’ is true in at least one logically possible world.
  3. If God exists in one logically possible world, he exists in all logically possible worlds (axiom S5 of Modal Logic).
  4. God does exist in at least one logically possible world (from 1&2)
  5. God exists in all logically possible worlds (from 3&4)

It then goes without saying that God exists in the actual world.

This argument admits of an Atheological parody which would say that in some logically possible world an argument exists with the conclusion ‘God does not exist’, and this conclusion is rationally obviated and necessitated. However, remember that the principle of epistemic prudence makes it the case that any argument which impoverishes modality (by restricting modality) rather than enriching modality, is the less epistemically prudent to accept. In the absence of some demonstration for why we ought to prefer the Atheological parody to the theological position, we ought to differ to the theological position because it admits of one advantage: that it is epistemically prudent. Thus, if this principle of epistemic prudence is taken seriously, we ought to differ to the theological position rather than the Atheological position.

Thoughts, and especially criticisms, are welcome in the comments section. If something is wrong with this train of thought, then what exactly is it?

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Epistemology, Modality, Natural Theology, Philosophical Theology, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

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