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

Discuss whether the ontological argument would convince an atheist

Extracts from this document...


Discuss whether the ontological argument would convince an atheist The ontological argument for the existence of God is an a priori argument, working from first principles and definitions in an attempt to demonstrate the existence of God. It is also a deductive argument using logic rather than depending on the evidence of sense experience. The argument has come under much criticism since its creation from believers and atheists alike on the premises that it is not logical, that existence is not a predicate, and that it is possible to imagine a godless world amongst others. For these reasons it would seem that the ontological argument is unlikely to convince an atheist to believe in God. One of the most famous criticisms of the ontological argument which indicates that to a large extent it would not convince an atheist originates from Gaunilo, a French Christian monk. Gaunilo stated that the ontological argument was not logical and therefore needed to be refuted. ...read more.


The argument works only when applied to God, because of the uniqueness of God and the unique way in which he exists. Another prominent criticism of the ontological argument which suggests that it would not convince an atheist is from Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) who is argued to be the greatest of the medieval philosophers and theologians. Aquinas showed that the ontological argument would not convince an atheist by arguing that is not impossible to have the mental concept of the non existence of God, because people quite clearly manage it, including the fool who says in his heart 'There is no God'. If we can imagine a state of godlessness, then it cannot be a contradiction in terms, despite Anselm's claim in the ontological argument. Aquinas also went on to question one of the premises of the ontological argument's syllogism that God is 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived' (aliquid quo nihil cogitari posit). Aquinas believed that although we can approach an understanding and awareness of God, God will always remain unknowable to the finite human mind. ...read more.


He declared that we can predicate of a triangle that has three sides, and that its angles add up to 180 degrees, but we would have to investigate to find out whether the triangle in our minds has been actualized. One response to Kant's criticisms which shows that the ontological argument may have a chance of convincing an atheist is that God's existence is different to the existence of anything else. Other things exist contingently whereas God exists necessarily. This argument, however, is unlikely to impress an atheist, as it makes the ontological argument circular in that the atheist has to originally accept that God exists necessarily in order to come to the conclusion that God exists necessarily. Overall despite the ontological arguments uniqueness as an a priori argument for the existence of God, it is to a large extent still highly unlikely to convince an atheist. This is mainly because as Gaunilo stated if we replace God with an island we can see how the argument falls, and also because of points by Aquinas and Kant that it is possible to have a mental image of a Godless world and that existence is not a predicate. ...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 Christianity 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 Christianity essays

  1. Outline the cosmological argument for the existance of God. and plan.

    started somewhere, and if we did not start somewhere then there would be no way of measuring how far we had come, and we would be suspended in time, going nowhere. It then says that something 'transcending' the universe must have caused it and gives this the name a 'personal' being.

  2. Examine the main ideas and strengths of the design argument for the existence of ...

    Overall each argument can provide a clear and plausible piece of evidence to backup the theory of which it argues. There are huge juxtapositions between the arguments that collide, and this shows that there are many different beliefs of how the cosmos was created.

  1. Literary Criticism of Uncle Tom's Cabin [Psychological Lense].

    Haley's conversation. Mr. Haley, on the other hand is shown to be a "wanna-be" higher class type of man: "He was a short, thick-set man, with coarse, commonplace features, and that swaggering air of pretension which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his way upward in the world."

  2. Assess the ontological argument

    As Aquinas put it: "Because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition ['God exists'] is not self evident to us." Anselm's response to Gaunilo was based on an extension of his definition of God's necessity. He argued that because God is the greatest conceivable being, His existence is therefore necessary i.e.

  1. Examine and Comment on the practice of pilgrimage during medieval times and its significance ...

    In other words, this emans that more money had been spent than generated at Canterbury Cathedral at this time. The Corona Beyond the Trinity Chapel at the very eastern end of the Cathedral a special unique chapel was added to protect the Corona or 'Becket's Crown' which was a thin

  2. Descartes logically proved the existence of an infinite and truthful being - Discuss.

    Well a sin is an instance where you gave in to your desires. An Ideal human would never do that. Any instance where you put appetite before wisdom is all covered within the Ten Commandments. Therefore the idea of "sin" is sound.

  1. The controversy that is evolution. I shall start with the argument against evolution.

    This article goes on (3, page 502) to talk about how Darwin didn't publish in detail all facts in his origin of species (4) which he regarded as a mere abstract of his planned yet never completed Natural Selection (5).

  2. Outline the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

    Aristotle also put forth the idea of a First Cause, often referred to as the "Prime Mover" or "Mover" in his work Metaphysics. For Aristotle too, as for Plato, the underlying essence of the Universe always was in existence and always would be (which in turn follows Parmenides' famous statement that "nothing can come from nothing").

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