Another Look at J.N. Findlay's "Ontological Disproof of the Existence of God"

Dr. Larry Blackman
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First published in 1948, J.N. Findlay's article, "Can God's Existence Be Disproved?" remains interesting. Findlay argues that a religious object possessing unsurpassable superiority (or God), would be one whose existence is inescapable. By "inescapable" he cannot mean "psychologically inconceivable", because then the mere fact that there are unbelievers would make atheism true. But if we interpret "inescapable" as "logically inconceivable", then God's existence is inescapable, that is, His nonexistence is logically inconceivable, only if He is a necessarily existing being. Since, according to Findlay, there are no necessarily existing beings, it follows that God does not exist. In effect, he maintains that God is by definition a necessarily existing being, but there are no such beings. However, this "ontological disproof of the existence of God" fails, because his claim that there are no necessarily existing beings is unsupported. This paper suggests the plausibility of the claim that there are necessarily existing beings without, however, supposing that God is among them. Rather than defending theism, the paper considers what would be required to establish atheism, namely, the unintelligibility of the concept of God due to certain antinomies. The position being advocated is not, strictly speaking, atheism but, rather, conceptual skepticism, that is, skepticism with regard to the very concept. It might be described as functional atheism, inasmuch as it entails suspending all matters having to do with God until the conceptual problems are satisfactorily resolved. This recommendation is different from the one offered by the logical positivists in a bygone era, since it has nothing to do with empirical verifiability. The antinomies are to a great extent "a priori" and therefore rest on a rationalist, not an empiricist, foundation.

Keywords: God, Necessarily existing being, Atheism, J.N. Findlay, Ontological disproof
Stream: Philosophy, Ethics, Consciousness
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Another Look at J.N. Findlay's "Ontological Disproof of the Existence of God"

Dr. Larry Blackman

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, State University of New York at Geneseo

I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas. After graduating from the University of Kansas, I spent a year studying in the faculty of theology of the University of Marburg, Germany, on a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Award. I was also an instructor at Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia. At Union Theological Seminary I did my M. Div. thesis on the views of Antony Flew and David Hume on religion. I did my Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Minnesota on the concept of particularity in the philosophy of Gustav Bergmann. Presently, I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am the editor of "Classics of Analytical Metaphysics" (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1984) and the forthcoming anthology, "Identity, Existence, and Knowledge: Essays on the Philosophy of Panayot Butchvarov" (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2005). I have published in 'Metaphysical: International Journal for Ontology and Metaphysics', 'Philosophy Research Archives', 'International Journal for Philosophy of Religion', and elsewhere. I have written the entry on Herbert Hochberg in the forthcoming book, "Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers" (Bristol, England: Thoemmes Press).

Ref: H05P0101