Ontological Arguments essay

  • Created by: AshTukur
  • Created on: 23-08-15 19:40

This is an essay on Ontological Arguments. This essay includes criticisms and counter-criticisms. The philosophers included in this essay are: Anselm, Descartes, Guanilo, Malcolm and of course Kant. I recently finished philosophy a level, i managed to obtain a A. This is an essay i wrote for AS on Ontology for AQA, but of course the content in this essay can be used for other boards. Hope you find this useful :)

‘The ontological argument shows that God must exist’. Discuss.

The Ontological argument is the most unique and fascinating argument for the existence of God. Ontology is the only a priori argument, making it universally and unconditionally true or false. All other arguments for the existence of God are a posteriori, which means they are based on empirical evidence and are only probable. Ontology alone maintains that God existence can be established without evidence from experience; it is solely based on the analysis of the concept of God. The very idea of God implies that God must exist.

Ontology was introduced by Anselm in the 11th century, who thought that Ontology shows that God must exist, he defined God as “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived”; God is the greatest being that can ever be imagined. Anselm goes on to argue that in order for something to be the ‘greatest’, the being cannot only exist in the mind, but in reality as well. Therefore God must exist.

This argument is particular strong because of Anselm’s definition of God; ‘the greatest conceivable being’. This definition is accepted by atheist, even if the atheists denies such a being exists- an atheist must have an understanding of God in order to be able to reject belief in God. Anselm uses an analogy of a painter to demonstrate this further: A painter has a picture in his thought before he paints it in reality. He does not think it exists because he has not painted it yet. When a painter paints his picture, it then exists in his understanding and in reality. Therefore atheists, who Anselm refers to as “fools” can agree that there is something in their understanding that something than which nothing greater can be conceived. However, Guanilo criticises this argument, ‘on behalf on the fool’, he tries to show the absurdity of Anselm’s reasoning by applying it to the greatest conceivable island. If we follow Anselm’s reasoning, having the idea of the greatest conceivable island implies this island exists- which is absurd. For Guanilo, the fact that you can define the greatest conceivable being does not mean such a being actually exists, so therefore Ontology does not show that God must exist.

Anselm directed Guanlio’s criticism by stating that it’s the type of existence that is important. God exists necessarily, necessary existence is a type of existence that cannot fail to be, it does not depend on anything else, and the definition of God requires that he should exist, as to deny his existence would be


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