The Ontological Argument

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Anselm's Ontological Argument

"God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived" 

"It would be foolish to say God did no exist"

"It is evident to a rational mind, that God exists in the highest degree of all" 

1. God exists
2. God has and always will exist

What we Imagine to be real is greater than what is in reality.
It is greater to think that God exists than thinking God does not exist 

God not only exists - but has neccessary existence 

God is an infinte being 

God's existence is greater than God's non existence 

Reason of God leads to a greater understanding of his existence 

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Arguments against Anselm

Gaunilo - 'Perfect Island'

  • Just because we can imagine something doesn't mean it exists
  • Since it is 'perfect' it must exist 
  • If it doesn't exist, even the most horrible island would be better than an imaginary one

Anslem's reply 

  • It does not work with contingent, temporary things
  • Islands have no instrinsic maximum 
  • God is not contingent or temporary - his exitence is necessary 
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Descartes's ontological argument

"I think, therefore I am"

God - a supremely perfect being 

God's existence:

  • Because God is a supremely perfect being, he possesses of perfections
  • The perfect state includes existence - existene is a predicate of a perfect being 

Predicate - to ascribe to something a quality or property 

  • Can only apply to something that is perfect
  • Only God can have absolute perfection 
  • To deny the existence of God is as absurd as saying something that already exists does not exist 
  • God Has existence the same way as a triangle has three sides 
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Response of Immanuel Kant

  • If you have a triangle 
  • It must have three angles
  • But if you do not have a triangle, you have neither it's 3 sides nor it's 3 angles 

If you accept there is a God, it is logical to accept that his existence is necessary

HOWEVER- you do not have to accept that there is a God

Necessity is about Logic (whereas) 
Existence is about Experience

Existence is not a predicate - you can describe something perfectly, and then add it exists. It is not a quality in a list of qualities. 

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Response of Bertrand Russell

  • Argued that Anselm's use of the notion of necessary existence represented a syllogism 

Syllogism - the inferenece of one proposition from two premises

eg - 1. All Greeks are Men
       2. All Men are Mortal
       3. Therefore all Greeks are Mortal

Existence cannot be a predicate - it is not a property of things

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Response of David Hume

  • Argued that the description of a thing can contain every detail possible, but we must go beyond the description itself to determine whether or not that thing exists
  • Something cannot be 'defined into existence' no matter how perfect we imagine that being to be, we cannot simply derive existence from its assumed perfection 
  • All the Ontological argument does is place God's existence in philosophically rational terms if He did exist
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