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The Ontological Argument
Transcript of The Ontological Argument
John From St. Anselm of Canterbury's 'PROSLOGION' (Discourse on the Existence of God) -1078 Why God is REAL God definitely exists conceptually, and he either does or does not exist in reality. Mind Reality God God? Something that exists in reality is greater than that which exists in the mind alone. Perfect Imperfect God Something Else Perfect Imperfect Mind + Reality Mind Because God is 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived', he must exist in reality. Perfect Imperfect Mind + Reality Mind GOD SOMETHING ELSE Why God`s existence is NECESSARY Perfect Imperfect Existence can be denied. Existence cannot be denied. It is possible to think of something SO GREAT that its existence is undeniable, and this is clearly GREATER than something with a deniable existence Therefore, anyone who understands the definition of God as 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived' cannot even think of the possibility that God may not exist. Using these ideas, Anselm sets out to prove that existence is part of what defines God. Perfect Imperfect Existence can be denied. Existence cannot be denied. GOD SOMETHING ELSE Flaws in the argument: In his CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON (1787) 18th century philosopher IMMANUEL KANT claimed that 'existence' could never be a predicate; it could never be a defining charactersitic. He separated the definition of a thing from the actual properties of that thing; a person can define a thing in any way they like, but this doesn't mean their definition is true in reality. You cannot define something as existing A PRIORI. Existence can only be reliably proven A POSTERIORI.
(If we say 'A has the properties B and C,' we mean 'An existing A has the properties B and C.' Support for the argument: 17th century philosopher RENE DESCARTES reformulated Anselm's argument for 'necessary existence' by adding the following ideas: The concept of a perfect being could only have originiated from the perfect being itself, and not from humans, because humans are imperfect.
Just as three angles are an analytic necessity for a triangle, existence is an analytical necessity for God. Therefore, all Descartes can say is: 'An existing triangle must have three sides,' and all Anselm can really say is: 'If there is a perfect being, then he must exist.'