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AIC Seminar Series

Reflections on "A Computationally-Discovered Simplification of the Ontological Argument"

Edward N. ZaltaStanford University[Home Page]

Notice:  Hosted by Richard Waldinger.

Date:  Tuesday, June 18th 2013 at 4:00pm

Location:  EJ228 (SRI E building)  (Directions)


In a paper in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (Vol. 89, No. 2, 2011, 333-349), Paul Oppenheimer and I investigated St. Anselm's ontological argument for God's existence computationally. In previous work (1991), we had developed a valid representation of the argument that required three non-logical premises. When we implemented this argument in PROVER9, however, the automated reasoning engine derived the conclusion (i.e., that God exists) from only one of the non-logical premises. We then reverse engineered the derivation into an simple, human-readable ontological argument. Reducing the argument to a single non-logical premise has some obvious advantages, but also some dialectical disadvantages. In this talk, I present some reflections I've had about the paper since publication, and discuss what I take to be the mistake Anselm made, namely, one that concerns an ambiguity in natural language that can be disambiguated by a certain kind of intensional logic.

   Bio for Edward N. Zalta

Dr. Edward N. Zalta is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University. He obtained an honors B.A. from Rice University in 1975, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in 1981. His research specialties include metaphysics and formal ontology, philosophy of mathematics, computational metaphysics, and philosophy of logic, among others. Zalta has published two books (*Abstract Objects: An Introduction to Axiomatic Metaphysics*, D. Reidel, 1983; and *Intensional Logic and the Metaphysics of Intentionality*, MIT Press, 1988), as well as articles in the Journal of Philosophy, Mind, the Journal of Philosophical Logic, Nous, and elsewhere . He has taught courses and faculty seminars at Stanford University, Rice University, University of Salzburg, University of Auckland, University of Tasmania, University of Padua, University of Santiago de Compostela, and LMU-Munich (Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy). Zalta also designed the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and serves as its Principal Editor.

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