Ontological Argument

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  • Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 24-04-13 14:41

Ontological Argument

  • Apriori- Through reason
  • Deductive argument- moves from premise to conclusion
  • Anselm’s First Form
  • Anselm’s second Form
  • Gaunilo’s Criticism
  • Descartes
  • Kant’s Criticism
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Introduction

  • Written by theists for theists
  • Apriori- Through reason
  • Aims to prove the existence of God via reason and logic alone
  • Deductive argument- moves from premise to conclusion
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Anselm's First Form

  • Began by defining God as ‘a being than which nothing greater can be conceived’
  • If it is the greatest it must exist more than in peoples thoughts
  • Must exist separate from peoples thoughts
  • As a formal deductive argument it is:
    • God is the greatest possible being (nothing greater can be conceived)
    • If God exists in the mind alone (only as an idea), then a greater being could be imagined to exist both in the mind and in reality
    • This being would then be greater than God
    • Thus God cannot exist only as an idea in the mind
    • Therefore God exists both in the mind (as an idea)and in reality
  • Therefore God exists both in the mind (as an idea) and in reality
  • It is self-contradictory to be able to conceive of something than which nothing greater can be thought and yet to deny that that something exists
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Anselm's Second Form

  • Developed to demonstrate God cannot not exist
  • Idea that God is eternal and always has been/ not limited by or in time
  • God  has necessary existence: he could not not be
  • Greater than a being whom comes in and out of existence (contingent being)
  • As a deductive argument it is:
    • God is the greatest possible being (nothing greater can be conceived)
    • It is greater to be a necessary  being (cannot not be) than a contingent being (can cease to exist)
    • If God exists only as a contingent being can therefore be imagined not to exist, then a greater being could be imagined that cannot be conceived not to exist
    • This being would then be greater than God
    • God is therefore a necessary being
  • God must exist in reality and he is a necessary being so cannot not exist
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Gaunilo's Criticism

  • Believed no one actually understands the nature of God
  • We can have many ideas of unreal objects in our mind
  • Gaunilo uses a philosophical device known as ‘reductio ad absurdum’
    • Consider the idea of a perfect island- the greatest possible island (nothing greater can be conceived)
    • If the greatest possible island exists in the mind alone (as an idea), then a greater island could be imagined to exist both in the mind and in reality
    • This island would then be greater than the best possible island
    • Thus the best possible island cannot exist only as an idea in the mind
    • Therefore the best possible island exists both in the mind (as an idea)and in reality
  • If you can prove the existence of anything there must be something wrong
  • Anselm is not replying to Gaunilo in his second form, it is already written
  • Gaunilo is a theist but is not persuaded by Anselm’s argument
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Descartes- Argument

  • Revived Anselm’s argument in the seventeenth century
  • Provides important support for Anselm’s argument
  • Argument goes:
    • Begins with the notion of supremely perfect being (unlike Ansems negative formulation of a being than which no greater can be conceived)
    • As the supremely perfect being God must possess all possible perfections, including perfection of existence
    • Any being that ever failed to exist, or could ever fail to exist, would be less perfect than any being for which this would be an impossibility
    • Existence must therefore be a necessary attribute of the perfect being
  • It would be self-contradictory to deny the existence of the supremely perfect being when the attribute of existence is necessary to his perfection
  • In God alone we are entitled to infer his existence from the notion of him at the supremely perfect being
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Descartes- Example

  • Triangle:
    • Consider the idea of a triangle
    • Having this idea does not clearly does not mean that this idea exists, it remains product of the imagination
    • What it does require is that what he is thinking of must have the property of having the sum of its three angles equal to 180ºetc
    • Just as the sum of angles= 180ºis entailed in the very idea of a triangle, so existence is entailed in the very idea of a perfect being
  • Descartes gives another example:
    • The fact he cannot conceive of a mountain without a valley does not mean that there are such things, actual mountains and actual valleys
    • All that is entailed is that if there is a mountain there is also a valley
    • The notion of a mountain or valley does not include the attribute of existence, the idea of a perfect being does
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Kant's Criticism

  • Saw the argument as an exercise in verbal analysis
  • He observes we can make two types of statements:
    • Analytical= we say nothing new about the world eg ‘a husband is married’
    • Synthetic= Does say something new about the world, have to check using our senses eg ‘Fred is married’
  • He thinks when philosophers say ‘God is a necessary being’ or ‘God has to exist’ they are making an analytic statements, they are talking about what words mean not whether God exists or not
  • Kant backs up his argument with his killer point:
    • Once upon a time there was a boy, the boy kicks the ball, makes a cup of tea, dances for 28 hours without stopping and he exists
  • Kant asks ‘something unusual about the last one?’
  • Kant says existence is not a predicate. Existence is not a property
  • If you take away existence you take away everything
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END

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