• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Critically assess the ontological argument

Extracts from this document...


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.


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.


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Philosophy essays

  1. The Ontological Argument - Critique

    Kant proposes that Descartes formulation of the ontological argument is flawed, in that he attains existence as a property which a being may possess as a predicate; in his critique of pure reason, Kant describes existence as adding nothing to our concept of an object, "100 imagined Thalers are worth

  2. Outline the ontological argument as presented by Anselm and Descartes.

    The word existence is not an action word like growing, nor is it an attribute word like green. One can define a thing as one sees fit, but whether or not anything matches that definition in reality is another questions all together.

  1. Analyze the distinctive features of the Ontological Argument

    Russell noted that "the argument does not , to a modern mind, seem very convincing, but it is easier to feel convinced that it must be fallacious than it is to find precisely where the fallacy lies." Brian Davies opposed Malcolm's argument, he claimed that the argument basically says 'God is necessary therefore God 'is'.

  2. "The ontological argument is a poiri proof and as such can not inform us ...

    He claimed that just because you understand what has been said you would be a fool to believe it. However Anselm refutes this concept as he claims his definition only applies to God. He speaks of god as 'That than which nothing greater can be conceived", an island can not be compared to god.

  1. Philosophy _ Objections to Anselms ontological argument _ Guanillos island

    understanding; however if this being were to also exist in reality, as well as in the understanding then it would indisputably be greater than the being than which no greater can be conceived that exists solely in our understanding; Anselm then goes on to propose that admitting to the understanding

  2. Discuss critically the differing notions of power and freedom explored in the 'Gorgias'.

    In the same way, if I put someone to death or confiscate his property, but doing these things won't actually be for good, then I'm not doing what I want, even though I'm doing as I see fit."

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work