ANOTHER LOOK AT J[1] (1)1

ANOTHER LOOK AT J[1] (1)1 - ANOTHER LOOK AT J.N. FINDLAY'S

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Unformatted text preview: ANOTHER LOOK AT J.N. FINDLAY'S "ONTOLOGICAL DISPROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD" 1 Larry Lee Blackman First published in 1948, J.N. Findlay's article, "Can God's Existence be Disproved?" remains interesting. 2 Like its Anselmic counterpart, Findlay's argument both fascinates and repels. Although I will attempt to show it is unsound, my purpose will not be to defend theism. Rather, I will indicate what would be required to establish atheism or its functional equivalent. My reasons for thinking that a reexamination of the argument is in order are, first, that none of Findlay's commentators has, in my judgment, paid adequate attention to the key notion of a necessarily existing being, and, second, most of them, whether sympathetic to Findlay's position or not, have shared basically empiricist assumptions. I will adopt a rationalist point of view. I. Findlay's Argument Findlay's main argument occurs toward the end of his original article: We may accordingly deny that modern approaches allow us to remain agnostically poised in regard to God: they force us to come down on the atheistic side. For if God is to satisfy religious claims and needs, he must be a being in every way inescapable, One whose existence and whose possession of certain excellences we cannot possibly conceive away. And modern views make it self- evidently absurd (if they don't make it ungrammatical) to speak of such a Being and attribute existence to him. It was indeed an ill day for Anselm when he hit upon his famous proof. For on that day he not only laid bare something that is of the essence of an adequate religious object, but also something that entails its necessary non-existence. 3 1 1 I thank Carlo Filice, JeeLoo Liu, Elias Savellos, Walter Soffer, and Stewart Umphrey for their suggestions and criticisms. They are not, however, responsible for any errors in the paper. 2 2 J.N. Findlay, "Can God's Existence be Disproved? A," in New Essays in Philosophical Theology , ed. Antony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1955), 47-56. The article originally appeared in Mind 57 (1948): 176-83. Cf. Michael Palmer, The Question of God: An Introduction and Sourcebook (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 19-23, and Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, ed. Louis P. Pojman, third edition (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1998), 93-97. I notice, however, that Pojman did not include the article in the fourth edition of this anthology, published in 2003. 3 3 Findlay, 55. We may paraphrase Findlay's argument as follows: (1) We wish to be religious. (2) If we wish to be religious, we should adopt a religiously appropriate attitude. (3) We will be able to adopt a religiously appropriate attitude only if our religious object is one of unsurpassable superiority....
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This note was uploaded on 02/27/2010 for the course PHIL 120 taught by Professor Blackman during the Spring '09 term at SUNY Geneseo.

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ANOTHER LOOK AT J[1] (1)1 - ANOTHER LOOK AT J.N. FINDLAY'S

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