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Rethinking the Ontological Argument: A Neoclassical Theistic Response Hardcover – 29 May 2006
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In this volume, Daniel A. Dombrowski defends the ontological argument against its contemporary critics, but he does so by using a neoclassical or process concept of God, thereby strengthening the case for a contemporary theistic metaphysics. His argument avoids the problems inherent in the traditional concept of God as static.
In recent years, the ontological argument and theistic metaphysics have been criticized by philosophers working in both the analytic and continental traditions. Responses to these criticisms have primarily come from philosophers who make use of the traditional, and problematic, concept of God. In this volume, Daniel A. Dombrowski defends the ontological argument against its contemporary critics, but he does so by using a neoclassical or process concept of God, thereby strengthening the case for a contemporary theistic metaphysics. Relying on the thought of Charles Hartshorne, he builds on Hartshorne's crucial distinction between divine existence and divine actuality, which enables neoclassical defenders of the ontological argument to avoid the familiar criticism that the argument moves illegitimately from an abstract concept to concrete reality. His argument, thus, avoids the problems inherent in the traditional concept of God as static.See all Product description
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At the outset a few broad contextual comments regarding the ontological argument and process theology. First the ontological argument, of the three classic philosophical arguments for the existence of God (cosmological, teleological and ontological), the ontological argument is unique in its a priori approach. Unlike the cosmological and teleological arguments which are a posteriori and based on experience, the ontological argument is based solely on reason, seeking to identify a set of truths that logically lead to the conclusion that God exists. Originally, articulated by the medieval theologian and philosopher Anselm of Canterbury the argument has been subsequently analyzed, criticised and reformulated by a wide range of thinkers including; Descartes, Kant, Malcolm, Plantinga and Hartshorne. Second, `process' or as it is sometimes called neo-classical theology. While somewhat amorphous process thought generally understands God in a panentheistic sense, wherein God and the universe are intimately connected, a view wherein God while not being limited to the world (pantheism) is nonetheless intimately involved with in universe, not only affecting but, also being affected by the world. In process thought God is envisioned in a dynamic sense as a `becoming' rather than a `being', along the lines of a Hegelian world soul, `being' constantly in the process of growth and change.
With this in hand, Drombrowski's slim text (approx 150 pages) seeks to defend Hartshorne's version of the ontological argument, paraphrased as;
(1) Either it is necessary that a perfect being exists or it is necessary that perfect being not exist
(2) It is not necessary that a perfect being not exist
(3) Therefore it is necessary that a perfect being exist
The key difference between Hartshorne's argument and other modal versions of the argument (Malcolm and Plantinga), is that the dynamic concept of God is posited as avoiding the difficultly of associated with the orthodox view of God. While opinions will vary, it seems unlikely that the neo-classical approach makes the ontological argument any more palatable to its opponents. It seems that the argument's failure largely hinges more on the move from abstract possibility to necessary instantiation than on disagreement over the finer points of the divine nature. Regardless, it is an interesting subject that warrants discussion.
Drombrowski's prime interlocutors in the text are Richard Rorty, Mark Taylor and Graham Oppy. And, while the Taylor and Oppy pieces are solid, dedicating 30 pages in such a small work to a largely tangential discussion of the relationship between Rorty and Hartshorne gives the text a disparate feel. Though not uninteresting the text feels like parts of different papers are being bolted together to create a book-length product. All in all distilled down to paper or chapter length it would make a worthwhile read - Drowbrowski is not an uninteresting commentator.
Overall, this is probably only of interest to a select group of readers interested in the work of Hartshorne - even then at the current Amazon price $90 it is wildly overpriced. Readers interested in an introduction to the ontological are better served by Oppy's on-line piece in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (opposed to argument) or Plantinga and Malcolm (supportive).