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

Outline the ontological argument as presented by Anselm and Descartes.

Extracts from this document...


Outline the ontological argument as presented by Anselm and Descartes. In a very simple form, the ontological argument attempts to show that the very concept of God implies his reality. If a person can clearly conceive of a God, then he or she ought to be able to understand that God might exist. The argument seeks to prove the existence of God, from its very meaning and without a doubt, it is one of the most puzzling of the theistic arguments. The argument does not contain any evidence, which makes it an a priori argument where no previous knowledge of the world is needed to understand it. The truth of an argument does not depend on experience, but on knowledge acquired independent of experience. According to the Christian theologian, St Anselm of Canterbury (1033 - 1109) we can form the concept or idea of a being than which none greater can be conceived. He put his argument into 6 stages, which set out to prove his concept of God to exist in his book, Proslogion. * A person can have the idea of a being than which hone greater can be conceived. * Suppose this being exists only as an idea in the mind. * Existence in reality is greater than existence only in the mind. ...read more.


He said that people are born with innate ideas, so we all have an idea of God, although we cannot encounter Him with our senses. Descartes created further points, which added to the cosmological argument. He believed that our idea of God is that he is perfect, in this context it meant flawless or lacking any faults. Descartes also said that it is better to exist than to not exist, just like it is better to exist in reality and not only in the mind. Therefore, existence in reality is perfection. As the idea of a perfect being is an idea of a being, which exists in reality, the Perfect Being (God) exists in reality. "The ontological argument is an a priori proof and, as such, cannot inform us about the real world" Explain and assess this claim. An a priori argument is based on analytic propositions, by which knowledge is gained through logical reasoning - to deny the propositions would be a contradiction. The arguments are ones, which the truth of a proposition does not depend on experience, but on knowledge acquired, independent of experience. The ontological argument is considered to be a priori because of these very facts. No evidence is used, only ideas and assumptions. An a posteriori argument is one in which the truth of a proposition may only be known to be true after empirical evidence has been used to prove the proposition true or false. ...read more.


He held that every meaningful statement must be true or false. He considered the statement 'the present King of France is Bald.' This may be true or false, but it is of course impossible to determine either, since there isn't a present King of France. Russell argues that because the first part of the statement is false, the whole statement is false. There is no present king of France, therefore how can he be bald? The Anti-realist view is that once you have come to understand what God means to you, then God exists for you. This brings us to how an atheist would tackle Anselm's and Descartes' version of the ontological argument. If they have no idea of God, they will not have an image of Him in the mind, therefore, He does not exist in their understanding. You have to have an image of God being Immanent, Transcendent, Omniscient and Omnipotent, then the argument will probably carry some meaning for you. However one must have an idea of God before they consider the argument for it to anchor any meaning. As we have no empirical evidence about the existence of God, and cannot communicate with Him as we know how to communicate with each other, the argument cannot inform us about the real world and who created it. The fact that the argument is of a priori proof is a major flaw to its credibility. ...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

    no more than 100 real Thalers", if we take this as truth, then Descartes formulation becomes wholly invalid, as the main premise, that of existence being a supreme perfection, is invalidated. Of course, one could debate this issue, in that an imagined coin lies only in the imagination, where as

  2. Compare and contrast the contributions of Descartes and Humes on the issue of the ...

    Hume argues that workmen have to be judged by the quality of the work they produced. He also argues that one can't attribute to the cause anything more than what is sufficient to produce the effect. His claim was that a more plausible prediction would be a God who had

  1. Evaluate Descartes Method of Doubt

    One relates to a statement in this very paragraph-'proven that nothing is certain'. This was first identified as a philosophical problem of global scepticism, because if you end up dedicated to a position that nothing can be known, then you know that nothing can be known.

  2. Explain the ontological argument from Anselm and Descartes.

    Therefore God must exist in reality as well as in the mind. If God did not, then we could conceive of one who did and he would be greater than God. Anselm said this is our intuitive understanding of what is meant by the concept of God.

  1. How successful are Descartes' arguments for the real distinction of mind from body? Upon ...

    from each other so that only one works in affect separating them. Whether this means that minds and bodies are completely separate from each other though or simply an extension of each other is a more difficult matter. The opposition to this argument mainly opposes the fact that Descartes's requires

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

    He gave an example of $100. He argues that there is no difference between the real and the imaginary $100 apart from the real one existing. Existence adds nothing to the concept of the $100 it is the same. This appears to be a strong attack on the argument and

  1. Explain Descartes' Ontological Argument

    Descartes responds by saying that we, as finite beings, do not always see that the attributes of God all entail each other. For example, we say that God is omnipotent. This means that God is more powerful than anything. Following on from that, God must not depend on anything.

  2. The ontological argument of Anselm and Gaunilo's response.

    To simplify ? to be the greatest conceivable being, the being in question must exist in order to be the greatest.

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