November 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
The syllogistic simplicity of Anselm’s proof for God’s existence did not offer much amusement when I first encountered it. Perhaps a certain religiosity in early life does not allow for creative enough tweaking of such arguments. It’s either reverence or rejection when it comes to such presentations.I knew that Russell had a kind word on Anselm, but had forgotten what it was.
Mario Bunge in a super-concise chapter on common philosophical confusions regarding existence in a book titled Evaluating Philosophies performs a reformulation of Anselm’s Proof as follows:
Bunge suggests we admit the Existence of God which the first premise presupposes for arguments sake and tweak the other premise, add instead the ontological postulate that everything real is imperfect. That if something is perfect then it is ideal like Pythagoras’ theorem. Conjunction of both postulates implies unreality of God.
Shikand Gumani Vazar or the Doubt spelling exposition is a 9th century Zoroastrian work of theology and polemic written by Mardan-Farrukh who prided himself on the fact that his faith was not inherited but arrived at after travels as far as India and a comparative study of all religions.
Zoroastrianism he believes is not a world religion because religions are based on certain fundamental assumptions which, of their nature, do not admit of logical proof, one of these being the unity of the creative principle. But Evil is a fact not a privation. God accordingly did not bungle creation or repent it as Yahweh habitually does, he devised it as a trap in which to ensnare his co-existent enemy, He foresaw that Ahriman would temporarily corrupt his whole creation including Man, his masterpiece. But through Man’s cooperation Evil is utterly overthrown.
Its not an Anselm variety of proof, but lets us list the main tenants of Mardan-Farrukh’s argument :
- God is good
- If it is admitted that God is good, then it necessarily follows that evil (Ahriman) cannot proceed from him so should be an independent principle
- Since God by definition is rational and omniscient, his creation must have a rational motive, which is to repel injury that God might suffer from Ahriman’s malice
In quick comparison with the parameters of Anselm’s proof one notices that both the material and the spiritual world of which the material is a reflection, are imperfect. So no-thing need be real by virtue of perfection, as dichotomy is the way of the cosmos. The third line of thought does not follow from the first two.
The first premise defined God as good. Now if that is admitted or rather we admit some “good ideal” neither omniscience or rationality or the power to create are entailed by the premise.
To paraphrase Terry Eagleton “To say of the world that it is “created” is for classical theology to say that it is pointless. Like God, and like humanity, it exists purely of its own delight. God created the world just for the hell of it, as a quick look around will doubtless confirm. Creation is a scandal to the sharp-faced stockbrokers for whom everything must have a point”.
It is not clear which classical theology holds just that. Eagleton is known for his Thomist streak and in his description of evil employs the same thesis. Hence the demonic/ evil is mysterious because it appears to be without cause, “unmotivated, it is done for its own sake or just for the hell of it”.
If we take these as declarations of a desire, we’d have to conclude that Mardan-Farrukh wanted the universe to have been the work of rational force with whom to align. No super-relaxed scholasticism for him but instead an urgent variety of , Nihil est sine ratione, that too a divine and benign ratio, which seeks to trap Ahriman/Evil for which all creation is created. Wonder if Russell would have been as impressed by this as he was by Anselm, but there is some consistency and plenty of room for tweaking.