Anselm’s classical ontological argument is criticized precisely for its attempt to define God into existence. The argument is deductive and its form known as reduction ad absurdum. “That is, it begins with a supposition S (suppose that the greatest conceivable being exist in the mind alone) that is contradictory to what one desires to prove” (Pojman 41). In other words, the argument attempts to show a contradiction or absurdity in the opposite view in order to claim his own view is correct.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this method. However, it does become a problem when a deductive argument is attempting to bring something into existence. We simply cannot do that, for it goes against the common sense laws of logic. Gaunilo offered us an example famously known as the “Isle of the Blessed” (Peterson 173). In this example, he attempts to use the same deductive form Anselm uses to bring an island into existence. “Because it is better ...view middle of the document...
This point clearly showed a big flaw in the ontological argument.
In short, Anselm’s basic ontological deductive argument attempts to use it valid form in order to bring a concept, namely God, into existence. Critics will always refute this with an analogy, replacing the concept of God with anything non-existent. This criticism gives the same plausibility to a unicorn, Leviathan, fairies, with God. Of course, the reader would acknowledge an absurdity here. Nevertheless, Alvin Plantinga objects Kant’s criticism by making a modal version of the argument. This argument attempts to prove that “God’s existence cannot be merely contingent but must be necessary-that is, maximal greatness must be exemplified in every possible world” (Pojman 47).
Before Immanuel Kant and Alvin Plantinga offered their criticisms and support of the ontological argument, Anselm responded to the first objection, that is, Gaunilo’s island analogy. “Anselm’s reply is that the analogy fails, for unlike the greatest possible being, the greatest possible island can be conceived as not existing” (Pojman 42). Anselm attempts to show that God is a necessity, whereas an island is not. However, this has not disposed Gaunilo’s objection. Immanuel Kant, as stated above, through Gaunilo’s concept of the perfect island, was able to derive a flaw in the argument.
Kant said, “‘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. It is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain determinations, as existing in themselves” (Pojman 42). This is the precise point, existence does not necessarily mean “greater.” Pojman showed us a clear example of this point. “When you say that a check for $100 is equivalent to one hundred single dollars, you are describing the properties of the check; when you predicate the idea with the concept of existence, you haven’t added a new property to the idea of $100” (Pojman 43).
This is the biggest dagger to the ontological argument. Existence alone, according to Kant, is equivalent to nothing, for without other qualities in that existence, there is nothing. Anselm’s reply to Gaunilo was not strong enough to hold against Kant’s criticism.