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Assess the ontological argument

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Introduction

Assess the Ontological Argument Ontological arguments for God's existence are said to be deductive i.e. if we accept the premise, then the conclusion follows as a necessary truth (cannot be denied without contradiction). Ontological arguments are also founded upon purely a priori knowledge of God, as opposed to the four other types of argument which all use inductive reasoning and a posteriori knowledge. Ontological arguments are therefore favoured by rationalist theologians e.g. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) rather than more empiricist philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, (1225-1274) whose arguments are all based on a posteriori knowledge and use inductive reasoning. St. Anselm (1033-1109) put forward the first ontological argument in his book Proslogian, but it was only later named the ontological argument by Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804). This first version is as follows: P1. God exists in the understanding as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived." ...read more.

Middle

even more beautiful women in bikinis) and so it's existence is contingent i.e. possible to deny without contradiction. "God cannot be conceived not to exist...That which can be conceived not to exist is not God." - Proslogian, Ch 3. Ren´┐Ż Descartes (1596-1650) also constructed an ontological argument similar to Anselm's: P1. God is the supremely perfect being. P2. A supremely perfect being contains all supreme perfections. P3. Existence is a supreme perfection. C. Therefore God exists. As with Anselm, Descartes believed that existence was a necessary predicate of God. "From the fact that I cannot conceive of God without existence, it follows that existence is inseparable from him..." Kant however disagreed with the logic of the ontological argument. He believed that even if we accept the statement "God exists" as an analytic one, we can still deny the existence of both the subject and the predicate together, even if we cannot separate one another. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, despite the deductive nature of Anselm and Descartes' ontological arguments, (although this is itself questionable) it seems unlikely that an atheist will ever be convinced by the logic (no matter how clever) of simply defining something into existence. On the other hand, Karl Barth (1886-1968) claimed that Anselm was not actually trying to prove God's existence, but rather was attempting to explore His nature. "I do not seek to understand so that I may believe, but believe in order to understand." - Anselm, Proslogian 1. To the theist, this would seem extremely important, for since God is unlike anything else (in that His existence and His essence are one) it would appear that He cannot be known a posteriori. Thus, the a priori ontological argument could be the only way in which to have any real understanding of God. After taking this into account, it seems that Anselm's use of philosophical analysis to try and understand God, but not to try and prove Him, places faith somewhere between reason and opinion, just as Aquinas once claimed. ...read more.

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