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The Ontological Argument

A2 Religious Studies, Ontological Argument
by

F. Bains

on 18 June 2014

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Transcript of The Ontological Argument

Ontological Argument
From Greek 'Ontos' meaning 'to be, in reality'
Kinds of Arguments
God?
Who?
St. Anselm
2nd argument (Proslogion 3)
P1
Descartes
God as perfection
Part of the essence of a triangle is it having 3 sides, its internal angles adding up to 180 & it having straight sides
St. Anselm
'Faith seeking understanding'
"God is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived"
The Ontological Argument
A Posteriori
Arguments based on our experiences
A Priori
Arguments which use logic to come a logically necessary conclusion
Uses Deductive logic
P.1 John is a bachelor
P.2 A bachelor is an unmarried man
C. John is an unmarried man
The conclusion is LOGICALLY NECESSARY, based on the premises
Seeks to prove God's existence from the
meaning
of the word
God

Design (Teleological) Argument
Cosmological Argument
Immanent?
Personal?
Transcendent?
Omnipotent?
Omniscient?
Infinite?
Classical Argument
Modern Argument
St. Anselm of
Canterbury
Rene
Descartes
1033 BCE - 1109 BCE
Benedictine Monk
Became Archbishop
of Canterbury in 1093
1596 BCE - 1650 BCE
French philosopher, mathematician and writer
Rationalist
Norman Malcolm
Alvin Plantin
ga
1911 - 1990
American Philosopher
Harvard University graduate
Also studied at Cambridge where he met G.E Moore & Wittgenstein
1932-
American, analytic philosopher
Harvard
University & Yale
University Graduate
Response to Psalms 14 & 53 - "The Fool says to himself 'There is no God'."
P.1
P.2
Something that exists in reality is greater than something which just exists in the mind
Conclusion
P3
If God existed only in the mind, it would be possible to conceive of something greater existing, i.e. God that exists outside of the mind too
Given P1, P2 & P3, God must exist both in the mind & in reality
PERFECT?
God is 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived'

P2
It is greater to exist necessarily than contingently

Conclusion
Therefore God must exist necessarily
3 sides
Internal Angles = 180 degrees
Sides are straight
Bachelor
Unicorn
Mother
God
Perfect
God's essense is perfection; he possesses all perfections, and since existence is a perfection, he must possess existence
Norman Malcolm
Alvin Plantinga
(Proslogion 2)
Problems with the Ontological Argument
Gaunilo
The Lost Island
Kant
Kant
Predicates
If Anselm is correct, then it is not only God's existence that can established by his reasoning
P1
I have an idea of a perfect island
P2
A perfect island must have all perfections
P3
Existence is a perfection
Conclusion
The perfect island exists
However...
Gaunilo is concerned with the best possible island; Anselm is concerned with 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived'
Plantinga
Intrinsic Maximums
"That is, there is no degree of productivity or number of palm trees (or of dancing girls) such that it is impossible that an island display more of that quality. So the idea of a greatest possible island is an inconsistent or incoherent idea."
=
?
What is a perfect island?
Predicates & Subjects

A single horn
"If its existence is rejected, we reject the thing itself with all its predicates; and no question of contradiction can then arise."
red
7 black spots
6 legs
2 antenna
Existence?!
"Being is obviously not a real predicate; that is, it is not a concept of something which could be added to the concept of a thing."
500 Thalers in actuality and 500 Thalers in concept...

...Nothing is added!
However...
Daniel Came
Modern Versions of the Ontological Argument
Alvin Plantinga
Norman Malcolm

Norman Malcolm
Anselm's
Proslogion

3
is stronger than
Proslogion

2
Alvin Plantinga
"If God, a being greater than which cannot be conceived does not exist then He cannot come into existence...
...Since He cannot come into existence, if He does not exist His existence is impossible...
...If He does exist He cannot have come into existence, nor can He cease to exist, for nothing could cause Him to cease to exist nor could it just happen that He cease to exist...
...Thus God's existence is either impossible or necessary...
...It can be the former only if the concept of such a being is self-contradictory or in some way logically absurd. Assuming that this is not so, it follows that He necessarily exists."
At university
Unemployed
Celebrating a lottery win
Married with 2 kids
Possible Worlds
There exists a possible world, W, in which there exists a being with MAXIMAL GREATNESS
A being has Maximal Greatness only if it exists in every possible world
NB - this does not yet have to be God...


Maximal Greatness entails MAXIMAL EXCELLENCE
Maximal Excellence entails omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection
P1:
There is a possible world in which there is a being which is maximally great
P2:
A being which is maximally great also has maximal excellence
P3:
A being which is maximally great is existent in all possible worlds
P4:
Our world is a possible world

Conclusion
Therefore, there is a being which is maximally excellent (God) in our world
Brian Davies
1. 'Is' of definition
e.g. 'A novel is a work of fiction'

2. 'Is' of affirmative predication
e.g. 'There is a novel'
Brian Davies
Malcolm's argument moves from an 'is of definition' to an 'is of affirmative predication' which is invalid. If it were valid, we could define anything into existence.
Saying 'God is [definitionally] necessarily existent', does NOT mean that there actually IS something which is necessarily existent.
We cannot move from the definition of God to the ontological existence of God
- there is nothing to say that there is such a being which corresponds to that definition.

We are simply saying, IF God exists, he would have to be necessary.

Brian Davies
The fact that maximal excellence is possible does not mean that there is, in fact, anything which is actually maximally excellent.
"From the fact that God is possible, one might argue, it follows only that he is possible, not that he is actual."
The difference seems to be that those on the left do not exist, whilst those on the right do.

Existence must be a property.
However...
However...
A "logically necessary being"

An "ontologically necessary being"
John Hick
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