Monthly Archives: July 2019

A Moral Argument for the Personhood of Being Itself

1) We act morally wrong when we treat Being Itself merely as a means to our own ends.
2) If we act morally wrong when we treat Being Itself merely as a means to our own ends, Being Itself is an end in itself.
3) Whatever is an end in itself has autonomy.
4) Therefore Being Itself is autonomous.
5) Whatever is autonomous has personhood, i.e rationally and freely wills the moral law.
6) Therefore Being itself has personhood, i.e. Being Itself rationally and freely wills the moral law.

Some Thoughts:

  • When we sin, we utilize existing things for our own ends. Those things exist insofar as they participate in Being Itself. So we are literally treating Being Itself like a tool, or an object for our own benefit. And that is sinful because Being Itself is not an object.  One ought not do this not only because it is a category error, but also because it is a failure to recognize the dignity of Being Itself. This bridges the is/ought divide and explains why our moral duties are grounded in reality. Divine Autonomy is realized in the teleology of beings. We sin when we subvert that telos in a way that completely instumentalizes their being, and so God’s as well.  To subvert the telos of beings in this way is nothing more than self-worship.
  • This is why evil cannot exist on pantheism or naturalism. You can’t sin against Being Itself, if Being Itself is merely objective. That is, you would be treating it as it is, not as it is not.  This is also why our own autonomy is threatened when we accept pantheism or naturalism.
  • Satan wanted to be a god without “recognizing” that his “being” is from God. Without that recognition, God is treated as a mere tool, which is blasphemy of the highest order. And yet saints are just those who want to be gods through “recognizing” that their “being” is from God. And thus it is God’s autonomy and grace by which the saints are divinized.  To treat Being Itself as autonomous is to recognize Being’s gratuitousness towards us and our own radical contingency.  It is also to recognize our humble place is not at the top or center of creation, let alone Being.
  • Animals cannot be treated as merely means even if they lack autonomy. Actually this might explain why they can’t be treated as mere means, despite not being autonomous. Mistreatment of animals is not a violation of animal autonomy, but the autonomy of Being itself. Thus, all violations of the moral law are violations against autonomy, be it in us, or in Being Itself.  The same may hold for plants, and ecosystems.  We can use such things, but not abuse them.  We cannot lose sight of the dignity of Being even as we consume the fruits of our labor and cultivate the land.

On “Is”

<<τὸ ὂν λέγεται πολλαχῶς…>> (Bill Clinton and Aristotle)

“Is” (to be) is a tricky word, and I think the ambiguous nature of this word has led to some misunderstandings of some of the arguments I present, which are typically written in Free Logic. “Is” has multiple meanings, and some of the meanings are more “ontologically committing” or “existentially loaded” than others. Some common logical notation that gets translated as “is” in ordinary language include: 1) “(∃x)”, 2) “=”, 3) “Px”, and 4) “≝”, and I would like to emphasize that they are not syntactically equivalent, and do not function in logical arguments in the same way.

1) The “is” of existential quantification: There is an x, e.g. there is something green, or (∃x)Gx,. This can be interpreted as a “particular quantifier” indicating that there is at least one individual x. Depending on the domain of discourse, the existential quantifier can be more or less ontological committing. One could say, there is a fictional detective that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about, and use the existential quantifer, and one would not be committed to the reality of fictional beings, i.e. (∃x)(Fx & Wax) [read: there is an x such that x is fictional and Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about x], s = x satisfies the formula in this case, where “s” means “Sherlock Holmes”.

2) The “is” of identity: (x = y), e.g. Tully is Cicero, or (t = c). Sometimes the “is” of identity is combined with the existential quantifier to make strong existential claims, e.g. there is a planet named Venus: (∃x) [Px & (x = v)]. There are rules around identity that are, themselves, metaphysically complicated, and it is controversial how those rules should apply to logic. For instance, it is sometimes granted that (∀x)(x = x) can be introduced at any stage of an argument simply because everything is self identical. Also, if a = b, then b can be substituted for a in an argument in some, but not all, contexts. The contexts were such substitutions cannot occur are called “referentially opaque contexts”. For example, Clark = Superman. Lois believes Superman = Superman. But it doesn’t follow that Lois believes Superman = Clark.

3) The “is” of predication:  x is purple, or simply Px. This “is” is not very existentially committing, but merely ascribes properties to individuals, on could say Sherlock, where “s” is Sherlock, and “B” is the predicate “Brave”: Bs. In “Free Logic” to make strong “existentially loaded” or “existentially committing” claims, you might specify “Real Existence” as a kind of predicate said of an individual. This might run contrary to “Kant’s Dictum” that existence is not a real predicate, but alternative ways of forming existential claims about what exists in the world are problematic for other reasons. When I construct ontological arguments, I tend to use Free Logic. This is because free logic allows you to quantify over things that may or may not exist in reality, which is needed, if one is not to beg the question in ontological arguments.

4) The “is” of definition: for example, the name “God” is “the x such that x is perfect”, or g ≝ (ɿx)Px.  I might stipulate such a definition in an argument by writing “D1: God is perfect.” This is not an existentially committing sentence, but a stipulation of the meaning of a term. Definitions are not really propositions in the fullest sense, as they are not true or false, but merely what one means when one uses a term in a proposition. As such, a definition is usually assessed in terms of clarity and coherence rather then whether it is true.  The scholastics would make this point by saying that definitions pertain to the first act of the mind, not the second.  Explicitly adding predicates into a definition in order to prove that the thing defined has those predicates can be question-begging, this would include adding “real existence” as a predicate in the definition, e.g. A shmunicorn is a unicorn that exists, therefore shmunicorns exist would constitute a question-begging proof. Adding “existence” directly into a definition also entails that the thing defined would exist necessarily, since one can add necessity to any conclusion derived from zero premises. It would be unclear and possibly incoherent to say that shmunicorns exist of necessity, so such a proof should not command assent. My ontological arguments for God are never zero-premise, and always require one or more premises to reach the conclusion.

So this can help us to disambiguate.  Consider the following sentence: “There is an individual who is the author of this blog and who is Daniel, who is the only son of James and Kathy Vecchio, and who is.”

Axy ≝ x is the author of y
Sxyz ≝ x is the only son of y and z
d ≝ (ɿx)Sxjk
j ≝ James Vecchio
k ≝ Kathy Vecchio
b ≝ Vexing Questions blog

(∃x){[Axb ∧ (x = d)] ∧ E!x}

There are a lot of “ises” in that expression, but we can now see how each has its own function.

My Top 13 Best Arguments for God

Here is a list of the 13 best argument for God’s existence that I have written or formulated:

  1. The Bonaventurean Ontological Argument
  2. The Modal Ontological Argument from Divine Simplicity
  3. The Modal Ontological Argument from Anselm’s Apophatic Definition
  4. The Anselmian Ontological Argument
  5. The Cartesian Ontological Argument
  6. The Argument for an Omnipotent Being from Aristotelian Actualism
  7. A Mereological Interpretation of Aquinas’s Third Way
  8. The Argument from Essential Uniqueness
  9. The Indispendability Modal Ontological Argument (Voltairean Variation)
  10. A Deontic-Ontological Argument from Gratitude
  11. The Argument from Hope
  12. An Induction based on the Modal Ontological Argument
  13. The Knowability Argument for an Omniscient Mind


Improving the Formulation of Bonaventure’s OA

The following formulation relies on one less premise than my previous formulation, and avoids the implication that there are not objects which refer to God and which are not completely God, i.e. that there are not objects of thought to which “God” refers (a problem that resulted from the way I formulated P2 in the earlier version).

D1) God is absolutely complete
P1) If no objects to which “God” refers  are objects that truly and completely possess the divine essence, then God is not absolutely complete.
P2) If there is an object to which “God” refers and it truly and completely has the divine essence, then God exists in reality.
C) God exists in reality


Cx ≝ x is absolutely complete
Dx ≝ x truly and completely has the divine essence
Rxy ≝ x is the entity to which “y” refers
E!x ≝ x exists in reality
g ≝ (ɿx)Cx

1. (∀x)(Rxg → ~Dx) → ~Cg (premise)
2. (∃x)(Rxg ∧ Dx) → E!g (premise)
3. (∀x)(Rxg → ~Dx) (IP)
4. ~Cg (1,3 MP)
5. (∃x)[Cx ∧ (∀y){[Cy →(y = x)] ∧ ~Cx} (4 theory of descriptions)
6. [Cμ ∧ (∀y){[Cy →(y = μ)] ∧ ~Cμ (5 EI)
7. [(∀y){[Cy →(y = μ) ∧ Cμ] ∧ ~Cμ (6 Comm)
8. (∀y){[Cy →(y = μ) ∧ [Cμ ∧ ~Cμ] (7 Assoc)
9. Cμ ∧ ~Cμ (8 Simp)
10. ~(∀x)(Rxg → ~Dx) (3-9 IP)
11. ~(∀x)(~Rxg ∨ ~Dx)(10 Impl)
12. ~(∀x)~(Rxg ∧ Dx)(11 DeM)
13. (∃x)~~(Rxg ∧ Dx) (12 QN)
14. (∃x)(Rxg ∧ Dx) (13 DN)
15. E!g (2,14 MP)


A Formulation of Bonaventure’s Ontological Argument


Image Source: Wikipedia “Bonaventure

<<Si Deus est Deus, Deus est.>>

Bonaventure writes the following argument:

No one can be ignorant of the fact that this is true: the best is the best; or think that it is false. But the best is a being which is absolutely complete. Now any being which is absolutely complete, for this very reason, is an actual being. Therefore, if the best is the best, the best is. In a similar way, one can argue: If God is God, then God is. Now the antecedent is so true that it cannot be thought not to be. Therefore, it is true without doubt that God exists (Bonaventure, De mysterio trinitatis 1.1 fund. 29 (ed. Quaracchi V 48).

The overly-simplified version of the argument is:

P1) If God is God, then God is.

P2) God is God.

C) God is.

Noone and Houser (2013) write, “…the premise If God is God is not an empty tautology (Seifert 1992, 216–217). It means ‘if the entity to which the term God refers truly possesses the divine essence.’ And the conclusion means that such an entity must exist.”  This inspired me to reconstruct Bonaventure’s argument as best I can.

Informally the argument is:

D1) “God” is the absolutely complete being.
P1) There is an object to which the term “God” refers.
P2) If the object to which the term “God” refers does not truly and completely possess the divine essence, then God is not absolutely complete.
P3) If object to which the term “God” refers truly and completely possesses the divine essence, then God exists in reality.
C) God, the being who truly and completely possesses the divine essence, exists in reality.
Explanation of D1: Here we stipulate that God is defined as complete in every positive simple attribute, which is to say that by “God”, we mean a perfect being. This definitions is a definite description, i.e. it refers to a singular term, since absolute completeness implies omnipotence, and there can only be one omnipotent being. For, if there were two, one could will contrary to the other, and absurdity would follow. A stipulation is to be granted, so long as it is coherent, otherwise any conclusion could be deduced from it. As to whether the definition of an absolutely complete being is coherent, it should be noted that perfections, in being both simple and positive, cannot contain any explicit or implicit contradiction, and so the stipulate is logically coherent.
Defense of P1: This is to say that the term “God” refers to some imagined, conceived, or real object. The atheist should agree that “God” refers to some object, even if the object is just something in the theist’s fancy.
Defense of P2: Since the antecedent of (P2) specifies a way in which object to which the term “God” refers would be incomplete, it follows of analytic necessity that the object named by “God” is not absolutely complete, i.e. God is not absolutely complete.

Defense of P3: To grant that there is an object which truly and completely possesses the divine essence is semantically equivalent to granting that that which everyone calls “God”, i.e. a perfect being, exists in reality.

Further notes:

  • In other words, it is asking whether the object to which “God” refers is a perfect being. If it is not a perfect being, then “God” means an absolutely complete being and does not refer to an absolutely complete being. There is an “incompleteness” inherent in this relationship, which means that if “God” fails to refer to that which is truly God, then we mean that God, a complete being, is not a complete being. Our sense of “God” would be contradictory in nature.
  • We cannot include in the sense of what “God” is, the notion that “God” refers to something that isn’t completely God.
  • The only consistent alternative is to mean that the object which we name “God” exists in reality, and completely has the divine essence.
  • What Bonaventure is saying is that the sense of “God” must include that it references God, or else the the sense is incoherent. So to grant that there is an object to which the sense of “God” refers is sufficient to prove there is God.



Cx ≝ x absolutely complete
Dx ≝ x truly and completely has the divine essence
Rxy ≝ x is the entity to which “y” refers
E!x ≝ x exists in reality
g ≝ (ɿx)Cx

1. (∃x)Rxg (premise)
2. (∀x)[(Rxg ∧ ~Dx) → ~Cg] (premise)
3. (∃x)(Rxg ∧ Dx) → E!g (premise)
4. Rμg (1 EI)
5. Rμg ∧ ~Dμ (IP)
6. (Rμg ∧ ~Dμ) → ~Cg (2 UI)
7. ~Cg (5,6 MP)
8. (∃x)[Cx ∧ (∀y){[Cy →(y = x)] ∧ ~Cx} (7 theory of descriptions)
9. [Cν ∧ (∀y){[Cy →(y = ν)] ∧ ~Cν (8 EI)
10. [(∀y){[Cy →(y = ν) ∧ Cν] ∧ ~Cν (9 Comm)
11. (∀y){[Cy →(y = ν) ∧ [Cν ∧ ~Cν] (10 Assoc)
12. Cν ∧ ~Cν (11 Simp)
14. ~(Rμg ∧ ~Dμ) (5-13 IP)
15. ~Rμg ∨ ~~Dμ (14 DeM)
16. ~~Rμg (4 DN)
17. ~~Dμ (15,16 DS)
18. Dμ (17 DN)
19. Rμg ∧ Dμ (4,18 Conj)
20 (∃x)(Rxg ∧ Dx) (19 EG)
21. E!g (3,20 MP)



Noone, Tim and Houser, R. E., “Saint Bonaventure”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;.

Seifert, Josef, 1992. “‘Si Deus est Deus, Deus est’: Reflections on St. Bonaventure’s Interpretation of St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument,” Franciscan Studies, 52: 215–231.