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Discussion 6 to Talk Back 12
Iris Murdoch on the Ontological Proof

by JT

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The following was written[1] by the philosopher (and novelist) Iris Murdoch. To make the argument easier to follow, I have taken the liberty of breaking up what was once a half-paragraph extract into several paragraphs and itemized points.[2]

... there is no plausible 'proof' of the existence of God except some form of the ontological proof, a 'proof' incidentally which must now take on an increased importance in theology as a result of the recent 'de-mythologising'. If considered carefully, however, the ontological proof is seen to be not exactly a proof but rather a clear assertion of faith (it is often admitted to be appropriate only for those already convinced), which could only be confidently be made on a certain amount of experience.

This assertion could be put in various ways.

Such obscure statements would of course receive little sympathy from analytical philosophers, who would divide their content between psychological fact and metaphysical nonsense....

 

Footnotes:

  1. "On 'God" and "Good" from Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature by Iris Murdoch, Penguin 1999
  2. The original unedited text follows, if you prefer to read it in a solid block of text:

    ... there is no plausible 'proof' of the existence of God except some form of the ontological proof, a 'proof' incidentally which must now take on an increased importance in theology as a result of the recent 'de-mythologising'. If considered carefully, however, the ontological proof is seen to be not exactly a proof but rather a clear assertion of faith (it is often admitted to be appropriate only for those already convinced), which could only be confidently be made on a certain amount of experience. This assertion could be put in various ways. The desire for God is certain to receive a response. My conception of God contains the certainty of its own reality. God is an object of love which uniquely excludes doubt and relativism. Such obscure statements would of course receive little sympathy from analytical philosophers, who would divide their content between psychological fact and metaphysical nonsense....