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Critically assess the ontological argument

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Introduction

Critically assess the ontological argument The ontological argument - ontos meaning 'reality' - is based on the definition of the word 'God'; it is an a priori argument which attempts to prove the existence of God as logically necessary through the idea that existence is a predicate of God. St. Anselm supported, and attempted to explain, the argument in his book the Prosologion, he defined God as "That than which nothing greater can be conceived", according to Anselm it is possible to show that this statement is true just by analysing the meaning of the word 'God'. If the existence of God was not necessary then he would not be "That than which nothing greater can be conceived", thus, the idea of God is self evident. God exists in the mind and because of this God must also exist in reality as a greater being could be imagined if God did not as it is greater to exist in the mind and in reality than to exist in the mind alone. ...read more.

Middle

St. Thomas Aquinas completely disagreed with the ontological argument; he accepted that it would be impossible to have a mountain without a valley and a triangle with more than three angles, as the predicates follow from the subject. However, this does not really tell us much at all, it does not prove the existence of a triangle or a mountain instead it only tells us about the idea of one, not the actual thing. I can claim to have a belief in fairies and then go on to say that all Fairies have wings and that this is a necessary property of being a fairy, but I don't actually prove the existence of Fairies. Immanuel Kant, the philosopher who gave the ontological argument its name because of what he perceived to be an absurd leap from ideas to actual reality put forward many objections to the argument, including the claim that a predicate of a perfect being, such as God, is not existence. ...read more.

Conclusion

be backed up by arguments, you can have a belief in something without needing any proof other than the faith that guides you. Anselm's explanation for the proof of God as necessary is quite clearly absurd, just by claiming that a being which "noting greater can be conceived" must therefore exist is illogical, as Gaunilo points out, you can't simply think something into existence. It would appear that the ontological argument can be perceived as an argument that manipulates language in order to gain substance and meaning, but when you take this view you must also accept that it is not a very convincing argument. I can assert that "Father Christmas is an old man with a beard" yet this does not mean that Father Christmas actually exists! To accept the ontological argument there must be more than a definition of what God might be if he existed. Consequently, it could be argued, the statement "God exists" is synthetic and not analytic because it has to be proved to be believed. ...read more.

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