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The Major Features Of The Ontological Argument For The Existence Of God

1562 words - 6 pages

The Major Features of the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

The ontological argument for the existence of God was originally set
out in eleventh century by St. Anselm in his Proslogian. Anselm was a
Benedictine monk, Archbishop of Canterbury, and one of the great
medieval theologians. It has received a lot of both support and
criticism from leaning philosophers. The argument is appeals to those
who already believe in the existence of God than to an atheist. The
argument is entirely a priori; it seeks to demonstrate that God exists
on the basis of that concept alone, and show existence as an
attribute/characteristic of God, in the same way omnipotence and
benevolence are considered to be.

Anselm presented his argument in two stages, with the main idea behind
them being that epistemology is ontology, so that if we can conceive
of X then X must exist. Anslem defined God as 'a being than which
nothing greater can be conceived', and thus cannot just exist merely
in peoples thoughts. He must exist separate from our thought, in
reality. To explain this he used the analogy of the painter,

" For when a painter thinks ahead to what he will paint, he has that
picture in his thought, but he does not yet think it exists, because
he has not done it yet. Once he has painted it he has it in his
thoughts and thinks that it exists because he has done it… And
certainly that greater than which cannot be understood cannot exist
only in thought, for if it exists only in thought it could also be
thought of existing in reality as well, which is greater. (Proslogion,
Chapter 2)"[1]

With Anslem's definition it means that even an atheist must have a
definition of God in order to dismiss it, thus God would still exist
in Anselm's world. So according to Anslem it is self-contradictory to
conceive of something than which nothing greater can be thought and
yet to deny that that something exists. The second stage is the idea
that it is illogical to think God does not exist. This idea is that
because the highest possible thought of God is the He exists, thus his
existence is impossible. This is the concept of necessary existence,
God cannot not exist, and something which has necessary existence is
something that exists in all possible worlds. God is perceived to have
necessary existence because God is eternal and created the world and
He is not limited by time, as He is outside of it. Thus God must exist
in reality.

Later in the 17th century Descartes developed the argument further, he
used his form of the ontological argument to be a part of his argument
that the external world exists. Descartes viewed God as a supremely
perfect being, possessing all perfections, which includes existence
and thus God has to exist. Descartes argue that an object had to
posses certain qualities or else...

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