Exploring the Ontological Argument
For nearly a thousand years, the ontological argument has captured the attention of philosophers. The ontological argument was revolutionary in its sequence from thought to reality. It was an argument that did not require any corresponding experiment in reality; it functioned without the necessity of empirical data. Despite flaws and problems found in some ontological arguments and the objections raised to those arguments, ontological arguments still provide a phenomenal vehicle for ontological discussion through St. Anselm’s original ideas and argument, objections raised, and revisions of previous arguments. The ontological argument still intrigues philosophers despite potential objections and flaws found in it.
St. Anselm: The First Ontological Argument
St. Anselm came up with the first and most well-known ontological argument (Oppy, 2012, para. 2). His argument was conceptual rather than empirical in that it did not require any empirical evidence to ensure the success of his argument (Himma, n.d. para. 3). St. Anselm sought to “gain evidence without the need of a corresponding real-world experiment” (Fehige, 2009, p. 249). According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, St. Anselm’s argument was an “attempt to show that we can deduce God’s existence from, so to speak, the very definition of God” (Himma, n.d., para. 3). The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy further goes on to say that claims of existence usually require empirical evidence or research of some kind (Himma, n.d., sec. 1 para. 1). Now, that’s exactly what St. Anselm’s ontological argument is; it’s a claim of existence. St. Anselm says it is an argument for the existence of God, but for now I will simply use his terms that he used in his initial argument: it is an argument for the existence of the Greatest Conceivable Being. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy summarizes St. Anselm’s argument in this way:
1. “It is a conceptual truth (or, so to speak, true by definition) that God is a being than which none greater can be imagined (that is, the greatest possible being that can be imagined)” (Himma, n.d., sec. 2a para 2).
2. “God exists as an idea in the mind” (Himma, n.d., sec. 2a para. 2).
3. “A being that exists as an idea in the mind and in reality is, other things being equal, greater than a being that exists only as an idea in the mind” (Himma, n.d., sec. 2a para 2).
4. “Thus, if God exists only as an idea in the mind, then we can imagine something that is greater than God (that is, a greatest possible being that does exist)” (Himma, n.d., sec. 2a para. 2).
5. “But we cannot imagine something that is greater than God (for it is a contradiction to suppose that we can imagine a being greater than the greatest possible being that can be imagined.)” (Himma, n.d., sec. 2a para. 2).
6. “Therefore, God exists.” (Himma, n.d., sec. 2a para. 2).
To better explain the ontological argument of St. Anselm, I will explain each premise so that...