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The Ontological Argument - Critique

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The Ontological Argument - Critique Proving the existence of God can be thought of as a philosophical holy grail; the question of the existence of a supremely perfect being has plagued philosophers throughout the centuries, some sought proof in the design of our universe, others in the apparent complexity of our world; all such proofs have relied on a posteriori observations of the world around us, making inductive leaps from the premises they present; the ontological argument, however, relies on thought alone, attempting to prove a priori the existence of God: once one has accepted the premises, the conclusion becomes self evident. Anselm defines God as that than which no greater can be conceived, stating that even a fool can know of this concept; that is to say, even one who denies the existence of God, the fool, can admit to comprehending what God is thought to be, namely that than which no greater can be conceived; after this is accepted, Anselm moves to link existence to this definition. If we were to conceive of a being that than which no greater can be conceived, then this being would exist in our understanding; however if this being were to exist in reality, as well as in our understanding, it would surely be greater than the that than which no greater can be conceived that exists in our understanding alone; Anselm proposed that, to admit to understanding the concept of God, was to admit that God existed, for to understand the concept, that God is that than which no greater can be ...read more.


Kant's first objection, therefore, offers the same complaint as Gaunilo, that objects cannot be defined into existence - It is true that a triangle must possess those 3 sides to be a triangle, in the same way God must possess existence to be God, however this does not stop us from denying that the triangle would exist, and in a similar manner we can deny of God existing (Although Gaunilo does not offer this directly, it is implied within his perfect island parody). We can see, therefore, that Descartes offers no proof for those who would deny the existence of God, but merely affirms those who already believe, or offers a rational basis for belief. To defend the ontological argument of this criticism, one must look to Anselm's Monologium. The Monologium, which precedes the Proslogium, can be thought of as Anselm's true proof for the existence of God, the ontological argument is merely an affirmation of the conclusions brought about by the Monologium. Inside the Monologium, Anselm's appeals to the platonic forms, in that he invites us to sort 5 men, in order of their justice, asking by what could be the mechanism which we would all arrive at the same order; Anselm's claims that all goods are judged through a supreme good, which relates strongly to the platonic concept of the forms, and that such a supreme good can only be thought of as God. If we are to take this to be Anselm's main proof, the criticisms offered against the ontological argument seem irrelevant, as it was not meant to pursuade in any form, rather affirm the conclusions that Anselm had drawn. ...read more.


Such parodies cast serious doubt on the validity of ontological arguments; if we can use the same logic, and apply it to situations for which it was not intended, and deem them incorrect, then why should other formulations, in particular those of Anselm and Descartes, be said to hold truth? In summation; it can be seen through both Kant and Russel's criticisms, that for the ontological argument to succeed, one must accept existence as a true predicate, if one does not, the ontological argument fails. However, if one accepts existence as a predicate, many more difficulties arise, not least the seemingly illogical leap from epistemological to the ontological; we can thus infer that, for atheist at least, the ontological argument fails - Perhaps the only true argument to persuade stern atheist would be direct a posteriori knowledge. If we view the ontological argument, as scholars of the monologium suggest, as an affirmation of platonic arguments presented by Anselm, then it becomes less so an argument, but more an affirmation - Perhaps this is the true purpose of the ontological argument, to allow a rationale basis of faith for the theist; if this is true, then all criticisms become less damaging, it is harder to dissuade men the persuade them; indeed, those who are not convinced by the ontological argument, if they are theist, are not often turned to atheism, and in such sense the argument can be seen to succeed. - J.Keelan (2594 words) ...read more.

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