The Ontological Argument

  • Created by: KA24
  • Created on: 06-06-19 09:07

Types of arguments and technical terms

Anselm's argument is 

- a priori (argument relying on logic not observation or sense experience) 

- deductive (an argumnet aiming to give absolute proof) 

Analytic statements: based on logic + true by definiton 

Subject: refer to who/what the sentence is about 

Predicate: gives info about the subject 

Necessary truths: statements that could not possibly be false 

Necessary things: things that cannot possiblyy fail to exist 

1 of 8

Anselm's Ontological Argument - Proslogium 2

Proslogium 2: 

- God is 'that than which nothing greater cab be concieved' 

- Psalm 14:1 shows how even the fool understood the concept of God 

- difference between having concept in mind + knowing it exists in reality 

- if God existed only in the mind, a greater being could be conceived in reality - greater than god

- So, God cannot exist only in the mind 

- Therefore, God exists in both mind + reality 

- Shows that the fool of Psalm 14 was indeed a fool 

2 of 8

Anselm's Ontological Argument - Proslogium 3

- Anselm pointed to the distinction between necessity + contingency 

  > necessary being would be a being whose non-existence would be contradictory 

  > contingent being is something that may or may not exist, being dependent on something else for its existence 

- it is greater to be a necessary being than a contingent one 

- If God exists only as a contingent being, a greater being could be imagined, thos being would be greater than God, ridiculous given the definition. Therefore God is a necessary being 

- Only in God is necessary existence an integral property. Only God cannot be thought not to exist 

3 of 8

Gaunilo: 'On behalf of the fool'

- followed the same structure as Anselm's substituting the lost island for God 

- The lost island is that than which nothing greter can be conceived 

- It is greater to exist in reality than only in the mind 

- If it exists only in the mind, then a greater being can be conceived 

- So the lost island exists both in the mind + in reality 

4 of 8

Kant's criticisms of the Ontological Argument

Existence is not a predicate 

-  a real predicate is something that gives info about a subjcet 

- eg. the cat sat on the mat

  > 'sat on the mat' gives info about the cat 

  > going onto say that the cat exist gives no further info about the cat 

- Kant used the example of thalers (Prussian currency of the time) 

  > possible to describe appearance + feel of thalers 

  > to say that they exist says othing more about them 

  > there is no difference between a concept of 100 thalers + 100 thalers that actually exist 

He accepted taht necessary existene belongs to the concept of God, doesn't mean he exists, the fact that something coudl exist does not mean it actually does exist 

5 of 8

Strengths and Weaknesses of Anselm's argument


- it is a deductive argument, so if it works, it gives absolute proof 

- Its independence of evidence from human observation protects it from possibly unreliable evidence 

- Anselm's definition is in fact claiming that God is limitless + for many, if there is a God, his definiiton makes good sense 


- Kant's challenges suggest that it does not work in either of its forms 

- arguments about existence need to be empirically based 

- Humans cannot know the nature of God + any attempt to define God limits him. If this is the case, the whole Ontological Argument collapses 

6 of 8

The status of Anselm's argument as proof

Proof of the existence of God: 

- Nature of the argument as a priori, analytic + deductive means that if its premises are true, then it does indeed prove the existence of God 

- proof in that it is a faith - based accptence 

Not proof of the existence of God 

- The 'if' is important. Nobody disputes that 2 + 2 = 4. If Anselm's argument were tue, there would ne no doubt 

7 of 8

The value of Anselm's argument for religious faith

On the positive side: 

- works for those who are already theists 

- shows that their religious belief is rational 

- the reasoned 'belief that' God exists reinforces + supports 'belief in' God 

On the negative side: 

- if it fails as a proof, then its value ti religious faith is limited 

- Fideists reject the use of rational arguments to prove the existence of God. They think that reliance on such arguments devalues faith 

- Karl Barth rejected attempts to prove God's existence through reason: 

  > can only be known through revelation, not by logic 

  > Anselm was simply trying to understand the God he believed in 

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all Philosophy of Religion resources »