Ontological Argument

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  • Created by: Claire
  • Created on: 30-04-13 17:06

Ontological Argument - Anselm

  • An argument for the existence of God designed for theists
  • A priori & deductive (moves from a premise through logical steps to a conclusion)

Anselm's first form

  • 1. God is the greatest conceivable being (GCB) eg omnipotent, necessary, benevolent etc
  • 2. He cannot exist only in the mind, because something could be better than him in reality
  • 3. God exists in the mind and in reality
  • 4. He exists

Anselm's second form

  • 1. God is the greatest conceivable being (GCB)
  • 2. Because he is the GCB, he cannot exist contingently
  • 3. Therefore he must have necessary existence
  • 4. He exists
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Descartes (for)

  • Thiest

On God:

  • God by definition is a supremely perfect being (GCB) and a supremely perfect being has all perfections
  • Existence is one of these perfections, so he cannot be the GCB if he doesn't exist
  • God must exist
  • Descartes believes this only applied to God, and won't for applied to an island (Gaunilo)


  • Think of a triangle; it must have 3 sides, 180° etc
  • These things are necessary for it to be a perfect triangle
  • Descartes applies this to God; he says certain characteristics makes God perfect, including existence
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Gaunilo (against)

~ Criticises Anselm's 1st form of the Ontological Argument ~

  • Gaunilo uses a technique called 'reductio ad absurdum', meaning reducing to the absurd

His overall critique was that if you can apply Anselm's first form to an island, you can apply it to anything, so it doesn't technically mean God exists.

Island theory:

1. Think of the best possible island (BPI)

2. It must exist in the mind and reality otherwise something must be better in reality

3. Therefore the island exists

4. But it doesn't actually exist (critique)

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Kant (for)

~ Adds to the Ontological Argument rather than completely agrees with Anselm ~

Kant observed that we as rational beings can make two types of statement:

  • Analytic - we say nothing new about the world eg a bike has two wheels
  • Synthetic - we say something new about the world eg the bike is green

Kant says that when philosophers say that God exists, we are making an analytic statement; we are talking about what words mean not whether God exists or not. It is analytic because we know God already exists.

Killer point:  The boy stood on the burning deck ^subject           ^predicate (verb + object)

Kant says "existence is not a predicate". This means that existence is not describing/doing something, so other things reinforce existence (stood on the burning deck). If we take away the existence of the subject, in this case the boy, we take away everything.

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