Structured discussion about God's existence

Dr Philippe Martin

This structured discussion represents some arguments and counter-statements on God's existence. Currently, only the arguments from John Locke's Chapter 9 of his essay "Of our Threefold Knowledge of Existence" are represented; the reason is that Locke's essay is currently at the top of the proposed list of materials to use in the TextOp project.

The representations below will soon be loaded into WebKB-2 and you will be able to add arguments or objections on these general assertions and their arguments (some concepts from the ontology of WebKB-2 are already accessible, see the hyperlinked isolated words and click on them). See the Structured discussions' home page for explanations of the goals and syntax of such argumentation graphs. By default, the statements and relations below refer to statements/relationships expressed by John Locke's (J.L., "jl") but interpreted by Philippe Martin (P.M, "pm"); for relations, this default could be made explicit via the string "(jl pm)" after the destination of a relation. For each relation that I have authored, the string "(pm)" follows the destination of the relation.

Locke gives arguments for the existence of something eternal, free-willed, immaterial and more powerful+clever+knowing than anything currently existing (except itself). Then, Locke concludes "And therefore God". Even if Locke's arguments were valid, he does not provide arguments for an all powerful and all knowing being (even though he claims he does). He also says nothing about the uniqueness and self-awareness of that being (his argument about free-will, whether valid or not, does not imply that the being is self-aware). Despite the length and complexity of Locke's argumentation, this argumentation can be represented in a clear way and without loss of information (again, for argumentation purposes) in an argumentation tree of just 15 relations (and hence 15 short sentences). This means that Locke's text contains a lot of repetitions, unargumented assertions and sentences which are not arguments (irrespective of any judgement on the validity of these arguments). However, since I have added relations (e.g. objection and counter-example) on each argument from Locke, there is more than 15 relations below.


"God exists and is unique"
  generalization: "a God exists"(pm);

"a God exists"
   generalization: "something eternal, free-willed, immaterial, all powerful and all knowing 
                    exists"(pm);

"something eternal, free-willed, immaterial, all powerful and all knowing exists"
   generalization: "something free-willed, immaterial and as powerful+clever+knowing as 
                    anything currently existing has always existed"(pm);
   //note: the restriction of a statement about an existentially quantified entity is a
   //       "generalisation" (that is, the source statement logically implies the destination
   //       since the destination is a weaker version of the source statement) but the
   //       restriction of a statement on a universally quantified entity is a specialisation.
   

"something free-willed, immaterial, and as powerful+clever+knowing as anything
 currently existing has always existed"
   corrective_generalization: "there is a being that has always existed"(pm),
   argument: //reminder: '-' is used when several statements are needed together
               //          (e.g., the assertion "A" and the rule "A -> B" in order to conclude "B")
             - "something cogitative exists and had a beginning (the author/reader of that
                sentence)"
             - ("anything that exists and has a beginning must have been created by 
                 something else"
                   corrective_generalization: "anything that exists and has a beginning
                        must have been created by something else or from something else"(pm)
               )
             - ("anything cogitative is created by something cogitative and cannot be 
                 solely composed of non-cogitative matter"
                   opposition: ("complex molecules, replication, reproduction, selection,
                                 complex living organisms and, finally, complex intelligent
                                 behaviours can progressively emerge given enough time 
                                 under certain physical conditions"(pm)
                                   argument: "various steps leading to this have
                                              been observed (e.g., molecule replication,
                                              species adaptation, neural networks)"(pm),
                                   argument: "in our world, no one has found a physical
                                              impossibility for this to have happened
                                              even though the probability of some steps
                                              has been deemed very low"(pm)
                               )(pm)
               )
             - ("a cogitative being necessarily has free-will"
                   argument: - "if cogitation results from the motion of material or immaterial
                                particles, the thoughts are accidental and limited"
                             - ("it is impossible for a material or immaterial particle to
                                 know its motion or the motion of any other particle, and so
                                 create or regulate its own thoughts or motions"
                                   objection: "any system that uses feedback loops,
                                               e.g. a neural network, regulates its motion
                                               and behavior"(pm)
                               )
             - ("matter cannot be eternal"
                   argument: ("matter had to be created by an immaterial power"
                                argument: - "a cogitative thing exist"
                                          - "anything cogitative is created by something 
                                             cogitative and cannot be solely composed of
                                             non-cogitative matter"
                                          - "creating a thinking spirit would require more
                                             power than creating matter"
                                          //note: a step seems to be missing here but Locke also
                                                 //      seems to allude to this (end of Paragraph 17)
                             )
               )
             - ("a knowing being cannot be produced by a being that has less knowledge"
                  counter-example: "someone can become more knowing than his/her parents"(pm)
               ) 
             - ("anything that is clever gets its abilities from  
                 something that is at least as clever"
                   counter-example: "a person can have (far) less clever parents 
                                     than he/she is"(pm),
                   counter-example: "many programmers can create chess programs that
                                     beat them at chess"(pm)
               )
             - ("anything that is powerful gets its abilities from something that is 
                 at least as powerful"  
                   counter-example: "a person can be more powerful (whatever than means) 
                                     than his parents"(pm),
                   counter-example: "many persons can make tools more physically 'powerful'
                                     than they are"(pm),
               );

"there is something that has always existed"
   corrective_generalization: "it was always the case that something existed"(pm),
   argument: - "something exists and had a beginning (the author/reader of that sentence)"
             - "anything that exists and has a beginning must have been created by 
                something else";

"anything that exists and has a beginning must have been created by something else"
   corrective_generalization: "anything that exists and has a beginning must have been created
                               by something else or from something else"(pm),
   opposition: ("according to current quantum mechanics, something physical can be created
                 from nothing"(pm)
                   objection: "creation from nothing cannot be conceived"(jl,
                     objection: "the fact that 'creation from nothing' cannot be conceived 
                                 does not mean that it cannot exist"(pm))
               );

"the fact that 'creation from nothing' cannot be conceived does not mean that it cannot exist"
  objection: "we do not understand the operations of our own finite mind, so it is not
              strange that we cannot comprehend the operations of that eternal infinite
              who made and governs all things"(jl, //reminders: 1) "jl" is for "John Locke", 2) the
                       //current use of parenthesis means that the following relations by "pm" are not about
                       //the last statement but on the use of the last "objection" relation by "jl", 3) when
                       //in italics, the word "this" is a shortcut (since "this" is replaced by the statement
                       //it refers to, that particular use of "this" does not make a statement contextual)
    objection: "this assumes the existence of an infinite/eternal being and his
                existence is itself argumented using the 'creation from nothing cannot exist'
                assumption"(pm),
    objection: "the existence and powers of an infinite/eternal being are irrelevant to the 
                fact that 'creation from nothing' can or cannot exist nor can be conceived"(pm)
                                              );