Can an Ancient Argument of Carneades on Cardinal Virtues and Divine Attributes be Used to Disprove the Existence of God?

Philo 2 (2):5-13 (1999)
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An ancient argument attributed to the philosopher Carneades is presented that raises critical questions about the concept of an all-virtuous Divine being. The argument is based on the premises that virtue involves overcoming pains and dangers, and that only a being that can suffer or be destroyed is one for whom there are pains and dangers. The conclusion is that an all-virtuous Divine (perfect) being cannot exist. After presenting this argument, reconstructed from sources in Sextus Empiricus and Cicero, this paper goes on to model it as a deductively valid sequence of reasoning. The paper also discusses whet her the premises are true. Questions about the possibility and value of proving and disproving the existence of God by logical reasoning are raised, as well as ethical questions about how the cardinal ethical virtues should be defined.

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Douglas Walton
Last affiliation: University of Windsor


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