Theme 1 Philosophy D,E,F


a Priori

a priori arguments reach conclusion by considering definitions, ideas and meanings rather than evidence 

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Anselm: God by a single Argument

  • Proslogion 2
  • Definition of God: ‘a being than which nothing greater can be conceived’
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Anselm Argument Summarised

  • Premise 1: it is possible to exist both in the mind and /or in reality 

  • Premise 2: it is greater to exist in reality than in the mind alone 

  • Conclusion: If God is as we have defined, then God must exist both in the mind and in reality 

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Contingent and Necessary Beings

Proslogion 3

  • Contingent beings: their existence is dependent on other things

  • Necessary beings: they cannot be thought of not existing, God

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Necessary Beings

  • Premise 1: Necessary existence is greater than contingent existence

  • Premise 2: it is possible to think of a being that has necessary existence (a being that must exist)

  • Premise 3: God’s existence can either be necessary or contingent 

  • Conclusion: Given that God is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived, God’s existence is necessary

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Rene Descartes contrasting with Anselm

  • Says that just as one can have a clear idea of numbers, one can have a clear idea of God 

  • Anselm’s definition of God used a negative; Descartes begins with a positive: ‘a supremely perfect being’

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  • Classical theism discusses attributes such as omnipotence, omniscience and love in relation to God - Descartes includes existence 

  • Existence is one of the many perfections or attributes of God

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Analogy 1: Triangle

  • existence goes with God just as angles go with a triangle 
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Analogy 2: Mountains

  • existence belongs with God just as valleys belong with mountains 
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Norman Malcolm

  • Is in favour of the ontological argument, though he rejects Anselm’s Proslogion 2 as well as Descartes’ view of existence as a perfection

  • He sides with Gaunilo and Kant against them: you can’t just add existence to an object’s list of qualities and then declare that object to exist

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Necessary Existence

•He believes, with Anselm in Proslogion 3, that necessary existence follows from the notion of that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived 

•This is because it is absurd to believe in a that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought that does not exist 

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Unlimited Being

  • This greatest possible being which has necessary existence can be described as unlimited being, a being that has no limits

  • If God was limited in any way, then God would not be that-than-which-nothing-greater-can be-conceived and therefore not be worthy of worship

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  • A contemporary of Anselm, was a monk in France 

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Gaunilo's reply to Anselm

  • He entitled his reply to Anselm, ‘On behalf of the fool’, a reference to Anselm’s view that a fool who does not believe in God could be refuted 

  • He first says that Anselm’s definition of God cannot be understood in the mind as it is unlike any other understanding we possess

  • He tried to show how Anselm’s argument is absurd by substituting an island for God 

  • Anselm has claimed that God must exist, as it is greater to exist than to not exist

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'Most excellent Island'

  • Gaunilo asks us to imagine the most excellent island, though it would have been if he had used ‘an island than which no greater island can be conceived 

  • His main point is that just because you can think of a ‘most excellent island’, it would be a logical nonsense to conclude that it must exist

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'reductio ad absurdum'

  • His approach is known as ‘reductio ad absurdum’; this is an argument that highlights that absurdity of a conclusion when followed by seemingly sound premises
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Anselm's Response

  • Anselm responded to him, saying that the ontological argument applies only to God; an ‘island’ simply cannot be compared with ‘God’

  • In Proslogion 3 Anselm has noted the difference between contingent and necessary existence; an island is contingent, dependent on the natural world

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Intrinsic Maximum

  • Critics of Gaunilo have pointed out that his island contains no intrinsic maximum- that is, it can always be added to and improved 

  • A non-contingent God has an intrinsic maximum; that is, perfection is a necessary part of God

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Immanuel Kant

  • An 18th-century philosopher who criticised Decartes’ form of the ontological argument
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Critique 1: Hypothetical

  • If Descartes says, ‘if there is a God’, then a hypothetical God exists- it is possible for ‘God’ to be a hypothetical necessity 

  • however , to say that ‘God exists necessarily’ is not hypothetical; it is a judgement that needs proof 

  • This is the same with angles within a triangle- they logically belong together; however, this fact does not prove that there are triangles

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Critique 2: Predicates

  • Existence is not a predicate because it tells us nothing about the nature of an object

  • In the statement ‘God exists’, the predicate exists tells one nothing about the character of God 

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a defining characteristic or an attribute; for example in the statement 'God is omnipotent', the predicate tells us something about the character of God 

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