The Ontological Argument


Key Words

Deductive Argument - if the premises are true then the conclusion is definite.

Analytic Truth - true by definition

Predicate - two parts to a sentence; a subject and predicate. A predicate completes the idea of the subject. E.g. He (subject) ... stole my bike (predicate).

TTWNGCBC - that than which nothing greater can be concieved

Anselm: introduction

  • St Anselm
  • was around in the eleventh century 
  • Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Proslogian - In the body of work he responds to psalm 14 (The fool says to himself, there is no God
  • He uses a priori reasoning to reach an analytic truth: that God has necessary existence (Gods existence cannot logically be denied)
  • The ontological argument is deductive

The premises: Ontological Argument

Premise one - Both thiests and athiests agree that God is the greatest thing we could possibly imagine (concieve). God is therefore defined 'that then which nothing greater can be conceived'. 

Premise two - Explain the second premise that 'things that exist in reality are greater than things that only exist in the mind'. .e.g. Your perfect partner would be better in reality than just in your head.

Conclusion - God is the greatest being so he must exist in reality. Because the greatest things would be real.

That Than Which Nothing Greater Can Be Concieved

Greatest - omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, benevolent

Not Greatest - Impotent, Ignorant, finite, Malevolent

A horn is an inseprable predicate of a unicorn. Existence is an inseprable predicate of God (TTWNGCBC)

Anselm concludes that God exists is analytic truth in the same way that all bachelors are unmarried men. This is because 'existence' is an inseperable predicate of God - that than which nothing greater can be concieved.


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