There is an argument I’ve floated in a few comment threads, but I thought it deserved a formal presentation. This argument, if correct, would show that our existence disproves a greatest possible being. It’s an ambitious claim, but here goes:
1. Given two options, a greatest possible being would only do the better thing in every given situation.
2. An act of creation is considered better if, and only if, it improves the state of affairs compared to what existed previously.
3. No act of creation could improve upon a perfect state of affairs.
4. The existence of a greatest possible being would entail a perfect state of affairs.
5. An act of creation exists (don’t get too hung up on the term, fellow skeptics).
6. Therefore, a greatest possible being does not exist.
Now, there is a lot to defend in this argument. Given the nature of a blog post, I don’t think I should do a full treatment here. But I would at least like to get the ball rolling and hear objections from anyone. I foresee the major objections coming against premises 2, 3, and 4.
I think the most common objection would say that it’s an exercise in greatness to create something, so maybe the creator being is greater. This would probably work similarly to Plantinga’s modal ontological argument. He says that it is obviously greater to exist than to not exist. Well, here we could say it’s better to exercise the power of creation than to simply have it. If someone were to say this, though, I think it would entail some internal consistency problems. For, if they think a greatest possible being exists here and now, then they must admit that certain great acts are not being performed. I think this is essentially covered by premise (2).
I’ll be curious to hear other objections. Basically, I want to say that we can compare two possible beings. One improves the state of affairs by creating some moral beings, etc. The other realizes that nothing it creates will improve the state of affairs because they are already perfect! Now, which is the greater being? It might depend on how we frame the issue, but I think it’s clearly the latter. The latter being still has the power to create the beings, but it does not because the state of affairs would no longer be perfect. If the state of affairs were no longer perfect, then there could be a greater being. The only way to avoid Guanilo-style problems, I think, is to say that only the greatest possible being could exist.
What do you think?