Anselm's Existence Of God Refuted Essay

1564 words - 6 pages

Anselm's Existence of God Refuted

Anselm's Existence of God Refuted
If the only proofs for the existence of God were Aquinas’s five ways and Anselm’s ontological argument, in my opinion, Anselm provides the best reasoning. I am not saying that Anselm’s argument is good, or even valid, but just that given the set of proofs by Aquinas and Anselm, Anselm’s is better.
Anselm argues, in effect, that the existence of God is built into the very concept of God. He proceeds by a form of argument called reductio ad absurdum -- reduction to absurdity. He attempts to show that the position of the fool -- the non-believer who has said in his heart, "There is no God" -- is incoherent and leads to absurdity. (Cottingham, 1996: 246)
How does Anselm's reductio work? A fully satisfactory answer to this question is not exactly simple. The idea appears to be this: The argument depends on a definition of sorts. Anselm says of God: “We believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be thought.” (Cottingham, 1996: 246) We can put this in shorthand by saying that Anselm understands God to be the greatest conceivable being -- the GCB, for short
Now you might protest that you do not use the word "God" in this way. Nevertheless, that does not really matter. If Anselm can show that such a being exists, then he has shown something remarkable whatever you call the being. Furthermore, it is not clear why anyone should resist calling such a being God.
Now another worry may occur to you: conceivable by whom?
The answer is conceivable by anyone, no matter how imaginative or brilliant. In fact, what Anselm really seems to be after is the greatest possible being, though he proceeds in terms of what we can or do conceive.
The atheist, Anselm points out, can understand the phrase "being than which none greater can be thought." Therefore, God is in the atheist's understanding. However, just because something "exists in the understanding," we would not normally conclude that it also exists in reality. As Anselm himself points out, a painter may have the completed work of art in his mind, but that does not make it a real painting. (Cottingham, 1996: 246)
What Anselm tries to show next is that in this case, having an idea in the understanding requires one to admit that the thing exists in reality as well. For suppose that God exists only in the understanding. Then we can conceive of a greater being: one who exists in reality as well. Moreover, that would mean that this God who exists only in the understanding is not the greatest conceivable being. (Cottingham, 1996: 246)
Now we have a contradiction.
Now come to the case of God. The GCB would have to be wise, because a wise being is greater than a being that is not wise. In addition, the GCB would have to be just, because justice is better than injustice. What Anselm is claiming is that the GCB must also exist, because a being that exists in reality is greater than one that exists merely in the...

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