The Augustinian Argument for the Existence of God

The Augustinian Argument for the Existence of GodI have been spending time highlighting arguments for the existence of God presented by Edward Feser in his book, Five Proofs of the Existence of God. Thus far, I have covered his presentation of the Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic arguments. The third argument presented by Feser is the Augustinian proof.

Here is the Augustinian proof, which is taken from the book mentioned above, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Pg. 109-110:

  1. There are three possible accounts of abstract objects such as universals, propositions, numbers and other mathematical objects, and possible worlds: realism, nominalism, and conceptualism.
  2. There are decisive arguments in favor of realism.
  3. There are insuperable objections against nominalism.
  4. There are insuperable objections against conceptualism.
  5. So, some version of realism is true.
  6. There are three possible versions of realism: Platonic realism, Aristotelian realism, and Scholastic realism.
  7. If Platonic realism is true, then abstract objects exists in a “third realm” distinct from either the material world or any intellect.
  8. If Aristotelian realism is true, then abstract objects exist only in human or other contingently existing intellects.
  9. If Scholastic realism is true, then abstract objects exist not only in contingently existing intellects but also in at least one necessarily existing intellect.
  10. There are insuperable objections against the claim that abstract objects exist in a “third realm” distinct from either the material world or any intellect.
  11. So, Platonic realism is not true.
  12. There are insuperable objections against the claim that abstract objects exist only in human or other contingently existing intellects.
  13. So, Aristotelian realism is not true.
  14. So, Scholastic realism is true.
  15. So, abstract objects exist not only in contingently existing intellects but also in at least one necessarily existing intellect.
  16. Abstract objects such as universals, propositions, numbers and other mathematical objects, and possible worlds are all logically related to one another in such a way that they form an interlocking system of ideas.
  17. The reasons concluding that at least some abstract objects exists in a necessarily existing intellect also entail that this interlocking system of ideas must exist in a necessarily existing intellect.
  18. So, this interlocking system of ideas exists in at least one necessarily existing intellect.
  19. A necessarily existing intellect would be purely actual.
  20. There cannot be more than one thing that is purely actual.
  21. So, there cannot be more than one necessarily existing intellect.
  22. An intellect in which the interlocking system of ideas in question existed would be conceptually omniscient.
  23. So, the one necessarily existing intellect is conceptually omniscient.
  24. If this one necessarily existing intellect were not also omniscient in the stronger sense that it knows all contingent truths, then it would have unrealized potential and thus not be purely actual.
  25. So, it is also omniscient in this stronger sense.
  26. What is purely actual must also be omnipotent, fully good, immutable, immaterial, incorporeal, and eternal.
  27. So, there is exactly one necessarily existing intellect, which is purely actual, omniscient, omnipotent, fully good, immutable, immaterial, incorporeal, and eternal.
  28. But for there to be such a thing is just what it is for God to exist.
  29. So, God exists.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

4 thoughts on “The Augustinian Argument for the Existence of God

  1. Thank you for posting this! Two questions:

    i. Isn’t it anachronistic to make a reference to “Scholastic realism” in an argument associated with St. Augustine?

    ii. Do we actually need the points 16-18 and 22-25? Couldn’t we simply list “omniscient” among the attributes of Actus purus in the point 26? (After all, 24 is just an elaboration of the fact that what is purely actual cannot lack knowledge.)

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    1. To answer my own questions:

      Ad i, Feser’s own disclaimer from the book’s Introduction (p. 11) is apposite:

      But I am not presenting an interpretation of any text to be found in the writings of any of these thinkers, and I am not claiming that any of these thinkers said or would agree with everything I have to say. I defend an Aristotelian proof of God’s existence, but not Aristotle’s own proof, exactly; an Augustinian proof, but not an exegesis of anything Augustine himself actually wrote; and so forth.

      Ad ii, although it still seems to me that the proof could be made more succinct by omitting those points, I should abide by Feser’s warning (p. 12) and read the book first:

      None of these more formal sections [one of which is the syllogistic argument reproduced above] is meant to stand alone. The reader may not understand them properly if he has not first read the more informal sections that precede them, which slowly and carefully explain the significance of each of the key concepts deployed in the more formal statement.

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  2. I’m not sure if I understand point 7. Plato’s Socrates argues that the forms, or abstract objects, are the only things which exist. God’s existence isn’t in question, our existence is.

    The argument is pretty straight forward: What is the opposite of being? Not-being. What is the synthesis of being and not-being if they are dialectical opposites, meaning one can have no meaning without the other? Becoming. That which is becoming is somewhere in between being and not-being, therefore it never truly “is,” it only approaches being.

    The forms, by contrast, only are, they never “become.” Unlike the visible and material world we inhabit in which all things are impermanent, always becoming, and imperfectly approximating forms, the forms themselves are “eternal” and “transcend” any of their imperfect and impermanent approximations which participate in them.

    The most important among these is the form of the Good. If we anthropomorphize that form and give it a name, we have one possible conception of God.

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