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The Ontological Argument Revision
The word `ontos' means `being'. The ontological argument thus attempts to prove the existence of
God a priori by focusing on the nature of his existence or being. St. Anslem (1033 1109) was the
Archbishop of Canterbury. His argument was first presented in the form of a prayer in his book, `Pros
logion', directed at the fool of the Psalm (Psalm 14) who says in his heart that there is no God.
The argument is not based on experience and claims to prove the existence of god via logic and
There are two forms to Anslem's Ontological argument:
1) God can be defined as `that than which nothing greater can be conceived'
2) We can all conceive of a perfect being in our minds, however we can also conceive of an
even greater being that exists both in our minds, however we can also conceive of an even
greater being that exists both in our minds ( in intellect) and in reality (in re)
3) Beings that exist in both the mind (in intellect) and reality (in re) are greater than those that
only exist in the mind (in intellect)
4) Therefore God must exist in both the mind (in intellect) and in reality (in re) otherwise
something greater in reality (in re) could be perceived.
Consider the idea of God. Those who understand the word know that it means the Greatest
conceivable being. A being `than which no greater can be conceived'.
The Greatest Conceivable being (GCB) could not be the GCB if he only existed in the mind, because a
greater being could exist in reality.
So in order to be the GCB, the Greatest Conceivable Being must exist in the mind and in reality.
Therefore God must exist in reality, he exists.
Guanilo's criticism of this first Argument
Gaunilo uses a philosophical device known as reductio ad absurdum. Look what happens to Anselm's
argument if we change the word God to a perfect island. Consider the idea of a Perfect Island. Those
who understand the words know that it means the best possible island. An island `than which no
greater can be conceived'. The best possible island (BPI) could not be the BPI if it only existed in the
imagination, because a better island could exist in reality. So in order to be the BPI, the best possible
island must exist in mind and in reality. Therefore your island must exist in reality.
So if you can prove the existence of anything with this argument there must be something wrong
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It is impossible to conceive of a god not existing (John Hick agreed):
1) A necessary being is greater than a contingent being since a contingent being depends on
something else for its existence and we can be thought of as not existing
2) God can be defined as `that than which nothing greater can be conceived' and therefore God
must be a necessary being his existence does not depend on other forms
3) It is impossible to conceive of a necessary…read more
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God by definition is a supremely perfect being
A supremely perfect being has all perfections
Existence is one of these perfections
Therefore God has existence, he exists.
All the above things must necessarily be true provided we understand what is meant by the concept
of God. What has happened? Has some sort of trick been pulled here? Even Descartes admits we
might be stunned by his conclusion. He thinks this only works for God. It won't work for a long lost
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Kant's Killer point
"The boy stood on the burning deck."
(subject) (predicate (verb+object))
Kant says that "Existence is not a predicate".
It is not a property. Existence is to do with the subject not the predicate.
If you take away existence you take away everything.
Summary of the Ontological Argument
You will need to be able to explain each of the 4 thinkers and assess whether each of them is
successful in what they try to do.…read more