Vardy on the Ontological Argument

In high-school education, Philosophy of Religion in general, and the traditional arguments for God are becoming a well (perhaps over-?)trodden path. The danger of this is that if it is taught badly, or even indifferently, students can be left at the end of a unit feeling like they haven’t changed their minds about anything and feeling that they must agree with a certain understanding of causation, say, to maintain their original beliefs. Philosophy then becomes a sort of stroll or tour to apparent complexity but remains uncritical and impotent. Perhaps this is unavoidable before university (though I certainly it is not) and I am sure I have just condemned myself in saying the above.

I’m certainly not claiming that there is a clear and obvious ‘right’ answer in a lot of the areas we discuss, only that there are plenty of ideas that, under closer inspection, show themselves to be problematic.

ANYWAY, the reason I was prompted to think of this was that in his Thinkers Guide to God, Peter Vardy makes a claim that breaks from this ‘tour’ of different but equally valid offerings. He quite plainly accuses John Hick of misunderstanding non-realism, claiming that this leads him to err in his judgement of ontological arguments (87).

In doing so he is making a claim about what the religious believer means by ‘God exists’ in a way that reminds the reader of Swiss theologian Karl Barth’s interpretation of Anselm’s famous argument. Noting Malcom’s reliance on Wittgenstein, Vardy suggest that we must look at religious experience to progress in discussions about God’s existence. For the believer, God’s existence is certainly thought to be necessary, where the non-believer do not presume this in the same way. Vardy is claiming that such an argument offers no proof that the YHWH of Christianity, Islam and Judaism exists and in doing so he is in the company of both Hume and Kant.

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