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The Ontological Argument – Does the Greatest Imaginable Being Exist?

Romanelli -The Meeting of the Countess Matilda and Anselm of Canterbury in the Presence of Pope Urban II – Wikipedia

Ontology is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of being. Questions posed by ontology include what kind of entities exist and how they might relate or be hierarchically structured.

What we call the ontological argument sounds rather daunting. But it is just a theological position that tries to prove the existence of the greatest being of all, namely God.

Several ontological arguments can be found. The most famous was devised by St. Anselm of Canterbury.

St. Anselm describes God in his Proslogion II as “aliquid quo nihil majus cogitari possit” (that than which nothing greater can be conceived). For Anselm, such a being cannot merely live in the “imagination” or “understanding” but must fully exist.¹ Because the greatest conceivable being must exist in all of reality and not just in the mind, God is the greatest conceivable being which by necessity exists.

St. Thomas Aquinas rejected this argument on rational grounds, although Aquinas being a cornerstone of Catholic theology did believe in God.

English: Queen Christina of Sweden (left) and ...

Queen Christina of Sweden (left) and René Descartes (right). Detail from Pierre Louis Dumesnil. Museo nacional de Versailles – Wikipedia

For those unfamiliar with philosophy and theology, this happens quite often. One can believe in something but find shortcomings in a particular argument for its existence or truthfulness.²

The philosopher René Descartes forwarded an outlook similar to Anselm’s. Descartes begins with a method of doubt.³ After coming to the conclusion, “Je pense, donc je suis” (I think, therefore I am), his next question is: “how do I know that the outside world truly exists?”4

Thomas Leahey notes that Descartes was not the first to look at things this way.

St. Augustine [354–430 CE] had said, “If I am deceived, I exist,” and Parmenides [515-445 BCE] had said, “For it is the same thing to think and to be.”5

Portrait of René Descartes, dubbed the "F...

Portrait of René Descartes, dubbed the “Father of Modern Philosophy”, after Frans Hals c. 1648 -Wikipedia

Descartes’ answer to the question of whether or not the outside world exists involves God.

For Descartes, God exists by necessity. God must exist to be perfect. A perfect God also by necessity is good. And a good God would not deceive his creatures into believing in an outside world if such a thing did not exist.

But not only that. Descartes believed that his reasoning about the existence of a good God necessarily originated from beyond himself, like some kind of small revelation.6

¹ See http://mally.stanford.edu/cm/ontological-argument/barnes-translation.html

² For example, I believe in the efficacy of the Eucharist but do not agree that its benefits arise solely from the fact that the sacrament is a social gathering. For me, spiritual elements must be included in an explanation.

³ Some see this as a sham, saying Descartes believed all along. A similar critique arises with Plato who, some contend, pretends through Socrates to start asking questions from scratch when really he is guiding his argument toward foregone conclusions—that is, the doctrine of the Forms.

4 This is similar to solipsism.

5 Link broken since last revision. 😦

6 Leibniz challenged Descartes on his views about God. See https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

 

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Russell Targ

Russell Targ @ Naropa by ~C4Chaos

~C4Chaos ~C4無秩序 Russell Targ @ Naropa

Russell Targ (1934 – ) is an American physicist and former laser engineer who became a parapsychologist. Targ now advocates the ideas of non-local consciousness, remote viewing (RV) and unifying mystical love.

The transpersonal and cosmological implications of Targ’s notion of living in peace and love are reminiscent of the Catholic notion of the communion of saints.

His views on Jesus’ teachings as presented in the New Testament, however, are highly selective. And Targ seems to present an overly homogenized view of different world religions.

Targ also says that a belief in God is an unnecessary remnant of antiquated modes of reasoning, implying that anyone can know about God from direct experience. By way of contrast, the New Testament says that those who believe but have not seen are blessed.

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Targ gives little, if any, mention to St. Anselm’s ideas of

  • fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding)
  • credo ut intelligam (I believe to understand).¹
Anselm of Canterbury was the first to attempt ...

Anselm of Canterbury was the first to attempt an ontological argument for God’s existence. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, Targ believes that the writings of mystics around the world should be taken as a kind of scientific data.

With regard to RV, Targ’s approach differs from those psychics who remain convinced that their distance visions are accurate without attempting any kind of verification. Also, Targ says his RV team got better scientific results when they kept the research environment “fun” and relaxed. Targ admits to making money from RVing future probabilities, but he says that human greed came to interfere with the success of his experiments.²

Targ later used the term Remote Sensing because RV apparently also involves an inner sense of hearing, smell and touch.³

Psychologists David Marks and Richard Kammann criticized Targ’s published support of parapsychology in The Psychology of the Psychic . Some see Targ’s work as pseudoscience, others enthusiastically support his agenda.

¹ Targ is not alone here. Many want to experience first and then have knowledge, or what they believe is knowledge. But in a way, this can be seen as a kind of narrow-mindedness. Some don’t even consider the idea that belief, alone, can be valid; and in some instances, that belief could lead to higher forms of experience and knowledge.

² Thinking Allowed with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove, “ESP, Clairvoyance and Remote Perception with Russell Targ.“ According to Anthony C. LoBaido at WorldNetDaily.com and Steve Hammons at JointReconStudyGroup, the CIA has experimented with RV for intelligence gathering. LoBaido also claims that the FBI has adopted RV for the same purposes.

³ The paranormal writer Rosemary Ellen Guiley says that Remote Sensing is a well-documented phenomenon, both in ancient and contemporary times.

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Russell Targ at Twitter