Thursday, September 11, 2008

Can We Say That God Exists? III

In response to my question in this post (link), I found an answer in a late medieval work of philosophy.

In his Or Hashem (1:3:1), R. Chasdai Crescas describes an interesting debate among commentators of Aristotle. According to Avicenna and the Rambam, existence is not part of the essence but rather is an attribute. According to Averroes and others, existence is part of the essence.

Therefore, since we cannot say that God has attributes, only Averroes could be able say that God exists in the same way that people exist. Avicenna and the Rambam, however, because they believe that existence is an attribute and God cannot have attributes, are forced to say that God's existence is different from the existence of everything else. In truth, though, even Averroes--who holds the position ascribed to Kant in the previous post--has to say that existence means something different for God because otherwise, since existence is part of the essence, we would be implying that God's essence is the same as everyone else's, which is certainly false.

Therefore, according to all of the above philosophers, when we say that God exists we mean it differently than when we say that anyone or anything else exists. It's the same term but with a different meaning.

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