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The Ontological Argument Essay

1593 words - 6 pages

The Ontological Argument

The Ontological argument is a group of different philosophers arguments for the existence of God. "Ontological" literally means talking about being and so in this case, that being is the existence or being of God. The main component of the Ontological argument can be found in the Anselm’s "Proslogion" which is a short work that tries to demonstrate both the existence and the nature of God. His main aim in writing the Proslogion is not to directly prove the existence of God but to moreover, to show the relationship between faith and reason. Anselm wanted to understand the object of the belief. He is also not trying to defend his belief against the atheist and neither is he trying to convince the atheist that God exists. The ontological argument differs from other arguments in favour of God as it is an ‘a priori’ deductive argument, a priori meaning that can come to a conclusion by the use of reason and not proof. A deductive argument means that if the premises that are put into the argument are true, then the conclusion must be true. Thus, Anselm tends to base his argument on the definitions and terminology used.

Anselm’s first form of the argument is that God is "that than which none greater can be conceived". Firstly, it must be emphasised that Anselm’s definition does not limit God to being the "greatest" but makes it known that nothing greater can be thought than God himself. Therefore, God should not in any way be linked to terms such as ‘omnipotent’ as terminology such as this limit him to what he really is. With this definition, he attempts to prove that not only does God exist in the mind but also in reality. Anselm uses the example of "the fool" to prove his point on God’s existence. He says that when "the fool" says that "There is no God" in Psalms, he must therefore understand what he hears , and what he understands in his intellect by the term "God". Therefore, if he knows what God is, God must exist as it is impossible to know what something is if it does not exist.

In chapter three in the ‘Proslogion’, Anselm contributes his second form to the argument. This form of the argument is that of ‘necessary existence’. He says that "that than which can be thought not to exist is not as great as that which cannot be thought not to exist." Therefore, to say that God can be thought not to exist if the definition of God is "that than which none greater can be conceived" contradicts the previous statement and this indicates that God necessarily exists.

(b) Examine the responses of various scholars to this argument

Various philosophers did question Anselm’s argument in favour of the existence of God.
One of these philosophers was Gaunilon, Anselm’s contemporary who argued against Anselm’s first form of his argument. Gaunilon said that Anselm’s sense and reasoning would bring about a ridiculous conclusion if it was applied to any other field other than the existence of God. He attempts to set up an...

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