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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated Study, January 12, 2009
This review is from: Ontological Arguments and Belief in God (Paperback)
This book is a study of ontological arguments for the existence of God. These arguments are supposed to have premises that are knowable a priori. On one simple version of an ontological argument, God is by definition a being that has every perfection, and since existence is a perfection, God exists. There are a number of more sophisticated ontological arguments, which have been defended and attacked by the most famous philosophers.
All significant versions of the argument from medieval, modern and contemporary philosophers are presented and evaluated here. The first chapter presents a history of the argument, and subsequent chapters digest and explain different versions of the arguments. Various objections against ontological arguments are considered, with an extensive treatment of parodies of the arguments and the most influential objection from Kant.
Oppy argues that some of the most influential objections against the arguments fail, but develops and defends other objections in original ways. He concludes that all ontological arguments are unpersuasive and of no use in supporting theism.
This is likely the most comprehensive and detailed study of ontological arguments available. It is generally clear and well organized, and often original and insightful. Extensive bibliographical and literature notes are provided, and this makes the book particularly useful for those interested in studying the arguments further. The book should be of interest to advanced undergraduate and graduate students and philosophers working in the philosophy of religion. Those unfamiliar with contemporary analytic philosophy will find it extremely difficult.
Readers may also be interested in Foster's "The Divine Lawmaker" and Gellman's "Experience of God and the Rationality of Theistic Belief" for more promising arguments for the existence of God.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 1, 2009, 2:00:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 1, 2009, 8:45:10 PM PST
Reader says:
Dear TiZ,

What a marvelous resource are these reviews of all the fabulous books you've read! Your summation of Cassuto was so perfect: "The beauty of Cassuto's style of writing is matched only by the clarity of his exposition."

I just finished reading Strauss's "An Interpretation of Genesis" (which one can find online) for about the third time. Have you read it? His long essay, "Progress or Return? The Contemporary Crisis in Western Civilization" I have likewise read three times in my life. They both blow me away.

You can read "Progress or Return" at this url:

Here is a quote from it:

"Their children shall be as aforetime" (Jeremiah). Redemption consists in the return of the youngest, the most remote from the past, the most future ones, so to speak, to the pristine condition. The past is superior to the present. This thought is, then, perfectly compatible with hope for the future. But does the hope for redemption-the expectation of the Messiah-not assign a much higher place to the future than to the past, however venerable?

This is not unqualifiedly true. According to the most accepted view, the Messiah is inferior to Moses. The messianic age will witness the restoration of the full practice of the Torah, part of which was discontinued owing to the destruction of the Temple. Belief in the Torah was always the way in Judaism, whereas messianism frequently became dormant. For example, as I learn from Gershom Scholem, kabbalism prior to the sixteenth century concentrated upon the beginning; it was only with Isaac Luria that kabbalism began to concentrate upon the future-upon the end. Yet even here, the last age became as important as the first. It did not become more important. Furthermore (I quote Scholem), "by inclination and habit, Luria was decidedly conservative. This tendency is well expressed in persistent attempts to relate what he had to say to older authorities." For Luria, "salvation means actually nothing but restitution, re-integration of the original whole, or Tikkun, to use the Hebrew term.... For Luria, the appearance of the Messiah is nothing but the consummation of the continuous process of Restoration.... The path to the end of all things is also the path to the beginning."

Judaism is a concern with return; it is not a concern with progress. "Return" can easily be expressed in biblical Hebrew; "progress" cannot. Hebrew renderings of "progress" seem to be somehow artificial, not to say paradoxical. Even if it were true that messianism bespeaks the predominance of the concern with the future, or of living toward the future, this would not affect in any way the belief in the superiority of the past to the present. The fact that the present is nearer in time to the final redemption than is the past does not mean, of course, that the present is superior in piety or wisdom to the past, especially to the classic past.

Today, the word t'shuvah has acquired a still more emphatic meaning. Today, t'shuvah sometimes means, not a return which takes place within Judaism, but a return to Judaism on the part of many Jews who, or whose fathers, had broken with Judaism as a whole. That abandonment of Judaism-that break with Judaism-did not understand itself, of course, as a defection or desertion, as leaving the right way; nor did it understand itself as a return to a truth which the Jewish tradition in its turn had deserted; nor even merely a turn to something superior. It understood itself as progress. It granted to the Jewish tradition, as it were, that Judaism is old, very old, whereas it itself had no past of which it could boast. But it regarded this very fact, the antiquity of Judaism, as a proof of its own superiority and of Judaism's inadequacy. For it questioned the very premise underlying the notion of return, that premise being the perfect character of the beginning and of the olden times. It assumed that the beginning is most imperfect and that perfection can be found only in the end-so much so that the movement from the beginning toward the end is in principle a progress from radical imperfection toward perfection. From this point of view, age did not have any claim whatsoever to veneration. Antiquity rather deserved contempt, or possibly contempt mitigated by pity.

Let us try to clarify this issue somewhat more fully by contrasting the life characterized by the idea of return with the life characterized by the idea of progress. (etc)"


In reply to an earlier post on Feb 9, 2009, 8:01:08 PM PST
TiZ says:
Dear Paula,

Thank you for the encouragement and for recommending the essays. Though I disagree with a few of the statements in the essay on Genesis on philosophical as well as religious grounds, the essay is very elegant and has many important insights. I hope to read the other essay soon.

I hope the reviews are of use, and thank you, once again, for the recommendations.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2009, 7:45:32 AM PST
Reader says:
Dear TiZ,

I loved "An Interpretation of Genesis" for assuming Genesis to be perfectly right, as it IS; as having been set down (and preserved by following generations) for a REASON in the exact form in which it now exists. Complete respect for the text. I would be interested in your cavils regarding his interpretation -- I am sure they would be enlightening, considering how much you've read and know, and how well you think and express yourself. :-)

Progress or Return is so worth reading, and can be found in "Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought" which also includes "Why We Remain Jews" -- the book includes much enlightening material, IMHO. It also includes just the beginning paragraph of "What is Political Philosophy":

The Problem of Political Philosophy

"It is a great honor, and at the same time a challenge, to accept a task of particular difficulty, to be asked to speak aobut political philosophy in Jerusalem. In this city, and in this land, the theme of political philosophy -- "the city of righteousness, the faithful city" -- has been taken more seriously than anywhere else on earth. Nowhere else has the longing for justice and the just city filled the purest hearts and the loftiest souls with such zeal as on this sacred soil. I know all too well that I am utterly unable to convey to you what in the best possible case, in the case of any man, would be no more than a faint reproduction or a weak imitation of our prophets' vision. I shall even be compelled to lead you into a region where the dimmest recollection of that vision is on the point of vanishing altogether -- where the Kingdom of God is derisively called an imagined principality -- to say nothing of the region which was never illumined by it. But while being compelled, or compelling myself, to wander far away from our sacred heritage, or to be silent about it, I shall not for a moment forget what Jerusalem stands for."

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