The Ontological Argument

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  • The Ontological argument
    • Introduction
      • 'Ontos' is the old Greek word for being or existing so ontology is the study of existence
      • The ontological argument is concerned with the definition of God and was first proposed by St Anselm in his Proslogion chapters 2-4
        • He believed people could find the definition of God by looking into themselves, promoting an approach of faith seeking understandind
      • It is an a priori argument meaning it is not based on experience but on logic and reason and so its conclusions can be reached prior to any experience
      • It is also a deductive argument meaning it is based on a set of premises and if you accept the premises then you must accept the conclusions
        • It makes no claims to truth only logic
    • First form
      • Anselm began by defining God as 'that than which no greater can be conceived'
        • Anselm stated that only the fool could say in his heart that there is no God. For Anselm even the fool can understand what is meant by that than which no greater can be conceived even if he doesn't think God exists
        • The greatest conceivable being would not be the greatest conceivable being if he only existed in our minds as a being who existed in both our minds and in reality would be greater
          • We can comprehend in our minds a perfect being however we can also think of an even greater being that exists in both the mind and reality
        • To be the greatest being he must exist in both the mind and reality
    • Guanilo
      • Used a philosophical device known as reductio ad absurdum to look at Anselm's argument
      • He asks us to consider a perfect island which all who understand the words could do
        • This perfect island would not be the most perfect island if it did not exist in reality as an even more perfect island would actually exist
          • If you can prove the existence of anything using Anselm's argument then there must be something wrong with it
    • Second form
      • Here Anselm is not replying to Guanilo as his Proslogion was already written and Gaunilo was not an atheist but jsut wasn't convined by Anselm's argument
      • Anselm developed his argument by proposing that it is impossible to conceive of a god not existing
        • God is a necessary being meaning he cannot, not exist as opposed to a contingent being whose existence depended on something else
        • A necessary being is greater than a contingent one
      • The island is part of the physical world and has contingent existence meaning it may or may not exist so his argument does not apply to it
        • His argument only applies to the most perfect being whose existence is necessary meaning it is absolutely illogical not to be true
      • The difference between the fool and the believer is that the fool knows the word god but only the believer understands that God cannot be thought of as no existing
        • Anyone who says god does not exist clearly does not know properly of God as a believer would know that god exists necessarily and so must exist
    • Other versions
      • In Descartes version of the argument he starts by stating that god is supremely perfect who posses all perfections
      • Kant argued against Descartes version saying that existence is not a predicate
        • This is because to say that something exists makes no difference to the definition of the thing
          • To add 'exists' t the end of the word table does not change its definition the same logic works with God
  • Existence is part of perfection therefore God exists
    • He uses a triangle to prove his point; a triangle has necessary characteristics such as three sides if any of these predicates are removed then the triangle is no longer a triangle
      • In a similar way existence is a necessary predicate of god so he must exist
    • In Descartes version of the argument he starts by stating that god is supremely perfect who posses all perfections


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