The Ontological Argument...

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  • Created by: Imogen
  • Created on: 28-03-13 13:19
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  • The Ontological Argument...
    • The ontological arguement claims that by studying God's being or nature we can prove that God exists.
      • It’s an a priori argument: uses logic alone and requires no empirical evidence.
      • It uses deductive reasoning: the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises.
      • It is an analytic arguement: it seeks to show that the statement 'God exists' is true by deffination
    • The ontological argument was first proposed by St. Anselm. He argued that even 'the fool' (the atheist) must agree that the concept 'God' implies he is 'a being than which nothing greater can be conceived'.
      • First Form: 1. God is a being than which nothing greater can be concived
        • 2. God may exist in the mind alone (as just an idea) OR in reality as well
          • 3. Something which exists in reality and the mind is greater than something which only exists as an idea in the mind
            • 4. Therefore God must exist in reality and in the mind
      • Anselm then developed his argument saying God has a necessary existance and is therefore greater than a being that comes and goes out of existance.
        • Second Form: 1. God is a being than which nothing greater can be concived
          • 2. It is greater to be necessary being (cannot not be) than a contingent being (can cease to exist)
            • 3. If God is the greatest possible being he cannot be conceived as not existing
              • 4. Therefore God exists necessarily
      • Gaunilo's Objection: On Behalf Of The Fool: Gaunilo used the example of 'the greatest conceivable lost island', he showed that just because you imagine something to be the greatest conceivable thing doesnt mean it simply pops into existance because it is greater to exist than to not exist.
        • Anselm's response: God is necessary and everything else is contingent. God and the island are not comparable because the island is a thing and God is a maximally great being.
      • Aquinas' Objection: he rejected the claim that the existance of God is self evidentto human beings. Because human beings have a limited finite intellect we are not able to fully understand God's nature; hence we cannot know that 'God exists' is an analytic statement.
    • Descartes' Ontological Argument: Focusses on God as the 'supremely perfect being' rather than the 'greatest possible being'
      • 1. God is the supremely perfect being
        • 2. A supremely perfect being contains all supreme perfections
          • 3. Existance (as well as omnipotence, omnibenevolence, omniscience etc) is a supreme perfection
            • Therefore God, as the supremely perfect being, must exist
    • Kant's Criticisms of the ontological arguement:
      • Existance is not a real predicate: Kant pointed out that the purpose of a predicate is to provide some extra, or useful, information about the subject it describes.
        • Describeing God as omnipotent or omniscient expands our understanding of what God is like. but adding existance doesnt add anything to our understanding of God. So adding existance to a concept does not make it any greater or more perfect.
      • The statement 'God exists' can be denied without contradiction. If God does exist you cannot deny that he is the greatest being.
        • But if you can deny his existance in the first place. Agreeing that the concept God entails the quality of necessary existance while maintaining the belief that nothing in the world acctually matches this deffintion.
    • Modern Version: Some people reject Kant's criticisms argueing that existance does change our understanding of a concept. For example when a child discovers Santa doesnt exist there understanding of the concept of Santa changes.
      • Norman Malcolm argues that if something exists necessarily then it cannot be brought into existance or cease to exist because of something else (only contingent things can be brought into existance by something else)
        • Therefore Gods existance can only be impossible or necessary (because God cannot be contingent).
          • Gods existance would only be impossible if his existance would be either self-contradictory or illogical. But there is nothing self-contradictory or illogical about God existing. Therefore God must necessarily exist.
            • The problem with this arguement is that you cannot prove God exists by stateing what is not the case. Even if Gods existance is not impossible or contradictory this only shows that God's existance is possible, not that God acctually exists


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