The Ontological Argument

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  • Created by: Katie
  • Created on: 26-05-14 20:04

The Ontological Argument

  • The Ontological argument tries to prove the eog based on the definition of g
  • A priori argument (argument based on logic and reasoning) 
    - deductive, all info needed is in arg

1) Define g
2) Explore definition & characteristics
3) Why g's definition means he must/does exist 


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Anselm's Version

Definition of god: 
'that than which nothing greater can be concieved'

  • everyone has a concept of g
  • even the 'fool' (atheist, psalm 14v1)
  • therefore god exists in everyone's mind
    (in intellectu)
  • g must be the greatest (according to def)
  • g must have greatest existence
    (in re is better than in intellectu)
  • therefore g exists in re (reality)
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Gaunilo's Critique of Anselm

Gaunilo used reductio as absurdum (reduced to absurdity) to prove Anselm wrong

  • replaced 'god' with a perfect island
  • just because we can imagine/think of a perfect island doesn't mean it exists, or it can't be improved
  • Anselm's version doesn't work
  • "There could always be a greater - one with twice as many dancing girls"
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Anselm's Retort to Gaunilo

God is different to the island
G is necessary, infinite, and independent,
whilst the island is dependent on the mind, finite & contingent 

"you could add more dancers to your island, but how do you add to god's perfect love?"

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Critique Against Anselm from Aquinas

- it is not possible for physical people to understand a metaphysical god

- some people do not have a concept of god
so god isn't that than which nothing greater can be concieved

- proves god exists in theory, but not in real life, not in re

- circular reasoning
have to accept def to accept conc 
atheists not convinced 

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Descartes' Version

Definition of God:
'a supremely perfect being'

  • god has to have all perfections
  • therefore he must have perfect existence
    (one of god's predicates, a quality that belongs to a subject)
  • therefore god exists 
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Critique of Descates from Kant

1) "Being is obviously not a real predicate"
a predicate has to add to the subject
existence doesn't add information

2)  "Predicates and the object itself can be rejected"
if god exists then he will have the quality of existence

if god doesn't exist then he won't have the qual of existence
god is not proven from this 

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Russell, Hume & Findlay Critique Descartes

Bertrand Russell:

"The cow is brown and it exists"
Existence is not a predicate because it doesn't add to our knowledge 

David Hume:

Argument fails because makes a false assumption r.e. existence
Existence is not necessary

Findlay: (develops Hume)

To be necessary, non-existence must be impossible
As non-existence is not impossible
god is not worthy of our worship 

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Karl Barth's Reinterpretation

1) Anselm's work should be seen as an "expression of faith"
because Anslem was not trying to prove god, 
and Anselm wrote his version whilst in prayer

2) Anselm's def says nothing about god
therefore can't prove god's existence 

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Malcolm's Version

If you're in the language game of religion then this works for you

Anselm: "greatest concievable existence" - not limited
contingent, no
impossible, no
necessary, always, not dependent on others, infitie existence, must exist

therefore god exists 

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Critique of Malcolm by Hick

Malcolm confuses logical necessity - should exist logically, but not necessarily reality, & factual necessity - existing in reality

Malcolm can be reworded to:
"If god exists, then god exists neccessarily"
Implies god must exist

  "necessary existence" implies eternity
reworded to:
"if god exists, then god's existence is eternal" 
therefore Malcolm fails 

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Overall Critique of the Ontological Argument

"argument can't work because we can't know that the premises are true" - Palmer

"only proves that if god exists, he exists necessarily" - Horner

"you cannot define something into existence" - Jones

the argument is... "more fruitfully read from within the framework of the believer" - Jones

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