Argument from degree

The argument from degrees or the degrees of perfection argument is an argument for the existence of God first proposed by Thomas Aquinas as one of the five ways to prove God in his "Summa Theologica". It is based on ontological and theological notions of perfection. [cite encyclopedia | first=Simon | last=Blackburn | title=Degrees of perfection argument | encyclopedia=Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy | publisher=Oxford University Press | id=ISBN 0-19-283134-8] Contemporary Thomist scholars are often in disagreement on the metaphysical justification for this proof.

Aquinas's original formulation

Syllogistic form

A syllogistic form collected by Robert J. Schihl follows:quote
# Objects have properties to greater or lesser extents.
# If an object has a property to a lesser extent, then there exists some other object that has the property to the maximum possible degree.
# So there is an entity that has all properties to the maximum possible degree.
# Hence God exists. [ [ Aquinas'/Anselm's Arguments in Syllogistic Form ] ]


A common argument is that it is not evident that simply because we can conceive of an object with some property in a greater degree, that such an object exists. Richard Dawkins has argued that, for instance, the existence of the property "smelliness" should not be taken as proof that a "most smelly possible being," or "pre-eminently peerless stinker" in Dawkins' words, actually exists. [ [ Richard Dawkins: Why There Almost Certainly Is No God - The Huffington Post ] ] It is worth noting in this context that the specific claim that "fire is the greatest heat" is either meaningless or false in the context of modern science, depending on interpretation. Moreover, even if every perfection is actually embodied in some being, it is not clear that all perfections must be embodied in "the same" being, nor is this necessarily possible.


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