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Examine the major features of the Ontological argument for the existence of God.

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Introduction

Examine the major features of the Ontological argument for the existence of God. The ontological argument has a few key features, for example it is an a-priori argument, which means that it is based on logic alone and does not rely on us having experience of the concepts to relate to it. One feature of the ontological argument is that it is a deductive argument, this means that the conclusion automatically follows the premises. If the premises are true then you cannot deny the conclusion. The premises of the argument are that God is the greatest conceivable being and that existence is a property that one can have. If we accept these premises then it makes it really difficult to deny the conclusion of the argument due to its deductive form. A feature of the Ontological argument is that it is an a-priori argument, that is, it does not rely on our experience, only logic. It only relies on our knowledge of Anslem's definition of God as being the Greatest Conceivable Being. Another key feature of the argument is that it is in analytic form. This means an analytical statement that is true by its own definition, for example, "All bachelors are unmarried men." In the same way the ontological argument says that the idea of God itself contains the idea of his existence. If this is true then God's existence should be self evident to everyone. ...read more.

Middle

A French monk named Gaunilo was the first to refute the ontological argument. Gaunilo said that Anselm's reasoning was absurd when it was applied to other fields. Gaunilo gave the example of "a most perfect island." he argued that this island that would be most perfect would have to exist in reality if we were to follow the reasoning of Anselm and says that it would be impossible to prove the existence of such an island. However, Anselm relied to Gaunilo with a justified and seemingly tight argument. Anselm argued that his reasoning could only apply to God, as only God was infinite and unique. Anselm said that it was impossible to have a perfect finite thing in existence because we could always postulate something better than it. Anselm concluded that only God was perfect and everything else fell short of perfection so the ontological argument only applies to God. This attempt to weaken the argument appears to fail and shows the argument to be strong. In the 17th century Renes Descartes reformulated Anselm's first form of the ontological argument in his book "Meditations" Descartes postulated a "supremely perfect being" Descartes main contribution to the ontological argument was that of treating existence as a predicate that is a good thing to have. He concluded if existence is a predicate then it was surely better to have than to lack it and that if this was true then God must posses existence as a predicate and therefore exist. ...read more.

Conclusion

This prevents this version being a proof. Malcolm does not believe that the ontological argument is persuasive in itself. He believes that some other insights are required from within human experience, such as a sense of the passing nature of all contingent things, before a person can understand the insights of religious faith. In a different vein D.Z. Philips supports the ontological argument for its logical clarification of the concept of God. He accepts that Anselm was attempting to express what he already believed. His argument is that, God is unlike all contingent things, and is not part of any class or kind. The key to the argument according to Philips, is in the way Anselm expresses the unique sense of the word God. The word has a unique 'grammar', and it is therefore a mistake to even say 'God exists' in any ordinary sense. God does not 'exist' alongside other existing beings, Philips refers to this as non-realism. Philips argues that a call for a profound level of understanding that only faith can provide proves Gods existence. In conclusion, the ontological arguments in both of its forms fail as proofs of Gods existence. In both forms there are many criticisms that damage the argument and restrict its success, for example Anselm's first form is dependent on us accepting Anslem's definition of the greatest conceivable being. In the second form the argument fails to reach a conclusion and only leaves us with the possibility of the greatest conceivable being existing therefore it fails as a proof that God is this being. ...read more.

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