The Ontological Argument

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  • The Ontological Argument
    • Anselm’s second version:
      • 1. Necessary existence is better than contingent existence.
        • 2. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. 
          • 3. God has necessary existence.
            • 4. God exists.
    • St. Anselm (1033 – 1109) Proslogion:
      • 1. Nothing greater than God can be conceived.
        • 2. The idea of God exists in our mind.
          • 3. If God only existed in our minds He would not be asgreat as one who actually existed.
            • 4. Therefore, the idea of God - as a conception which cannot be bettered - must correspond to one in reality (i.e. He actually exists).
    • Rene Descartes:
      • 1. God possesses all perfections.
        • 2. Existence is a perfection.
          • 3. Therefore God exists.
            • Just like you cannot think of a mountain without a valley,you cannot think of God without existence.
    • Gassendi to Descartes:
      • We should only bother talking of perfection regarding things we know exist. We do not know God exists so we should not even attempt to talk of his “perfections”.
    • Gaunilo vs. Anselm
      • Gaunilo of Marmoutiers > God is mysterious – we don’t have an idea of him.The Perfect Island – logic used in the argument applied to an island - it doesn’t work!Just because you can imagine something does not mean it must exist – you cannot move from a concept to reality.There will always be a greater island.
    • Anselm’s Response to Gaunilo
      • The proof doesn’t require complete understanding of God. God is not just the greatest thing of a certain type or the greatest thing of all. God is not contingent so the island example doesn’t work.
      • Gaunilo vs. Anselm
        • Gaunilo of Marmoutiers > God is mysterious – we don’t have an idea of him.The Perfect Island – logic used in the argument applied to an island - it doesn’t work!Just because you can imagine something does not mean it must exist – you cannot move from a concept to reality.There will always be a greater island.
    • Strengths
      • Weakness
        • Kant-Existence is not a predicate, Anselm is wrong to suggestexistence is a predicate of God – it tells us nothing more. Also,God might existence but you can’t prove it with logic
        • Kant preferred the idea of synthetic proof, which means you can prove something through experience. He argued this is the only kind of proof that could verify God’s existence.
        • Russell: offering existence doesn’t tell us anything, just that thing is “represented”
        • Aquinas: We all have different definitions of God
      • It uses premises that the atheist is likely to accept
      • It is a priori, thus is not contingent upon empirical evidence which could be found to be false in the future
      • The conclusion seems to follow from the premises
      • Malcolm: Something is either impossible or exists. God is not impossible so exists!
    • Aims to prove the existence of God from the meaning of the word “God.” It is determined by the question: “What is my concept of God?”

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