The Ontological Argument

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The Ontological Argument:

  • The ontological argument presents a case for trying to prove the existence of God by using reason alone. The argument is based on the premise that there is a universe but the existence of this universe is contingent; this means that the universe depends on something else to exist. The argument continues that whatever provides the explanation for the universe, can't be contingent itself but is necessary. The ontological argument concludes that a supremely perfect being or necessary being just therefore exist.  

  • The ontological argument is a priori which means that it is not based on experience. The argument comes to a conclusion that is logically true but it reaches this conclusion as a result of the definition of God that uses in its premises.

  • Anselm believed it was necessary for one who had faith in God as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived (TTWNGCBC) "

The origins of the argument:

  • Anselm prayed for an argument that would prove almost everything about God. He had a vision which is known as the proslogion, and the vision taught him "TTWNGCBC". This phrase is Anselm's definition of God, and he tried to prove God's existence by using reductio ad absurdum. This means that by reducing to absurdity the very opposite of what you are aiming to prove, in Anselm's case, the opposite of his conclusion would be that God does not exist. Anselm tried to show that it was absurd to come to the conclusion that God did not exist and he tried to prove that God's existence was logically necessary. In other words, God cannot not exist.

  • Anselm's argument was rejected by some Christian scholars who argued that human intellect was too weak to know enough about God's nature to be able to deduce this from God's necessary existence

    • God is "supremely perfect"

    • It must therefore possess all perfections

    • When we speak of God, we speak of "TTWNGCBC"

The context of the Argument:

(1) the definition of God "TTWNGCBC" and its implications

(2) why the non-existence of God is logically impossible

(3) why the "fool" i.e. The atheist, believes that which is impossible to be true

Perfection and existence:

  • If this being possesses all perfection, it must possess the perfection of existence

  • Existence is a defining characteristic - a predicate

  • To possess existence is greater than to lack it

  • Existence which is ‘in re’ (in reality) is greater than that which is ‘in intellectu’ (in the mind)

  • Anselm attempts to clarify his thinking by using an analogy; when a painter is considering his next work, it is already in his mind and he has a clear idea of it. However, it cannot be said to exist until he has executed it, so that is exists in reality and not just in the mind.

Anselm’s Fool:

  • God’s existence is ‘de-dicto necessary’ - by definition

  • The definition of God requires that he should exist

  • To deny his existence would be absurd

  • Psalm 53 “The


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