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Describe the ontological argument with reactions and contributions made to it by philosophers.

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Introduction

The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God a) Describe the ontological argument with reactions and contributions made to it by philosophers. The ontological argument is different from any other argument for the existence of God, as it does not try and use evidence to prove God's existence. It states that by understanding the word God you already accept that he exists; as to understand God is to understand that is it completely 'necessary' for God to exist and so it does not make sense to question this. If, on the other hand, you do not understand what is meant by God then you can't even begin to understand what the argument is about. The ontological argument sates that the statement 'God exists' is an ANALYTIC statement; a statement that is true by definition and not because of evidence. An analytic statement never deviates from one meaning, they cannot be changed by counter evidence or experience, it is A PRIORI. To determine whether an analytic statement is true you don't need to use evidence but examine the definition of the subject: God. For example the statement 'all bachelors are unmarried' is an analytic statement as to prove the statement you simply have to look into the definition of the word bachelor; an unmarried man. ...read more.

Middle

Gaunilo is trying to criticise how Anselm moves from a definition of God to presuming his existence. Immanuel Kant also opposed the ontological argument. He believed that it is based on too many assumptions and points out that the argument assumes what it is trying to prove from the beginning. He states that a person can define something anyway they want to but it does not necessarily mean that this definition is true and that Anselm and Descartes' definition of necessary presupposes that existence is included, but proof cannot be based on such presumptions. David Hume similarly stated that the ontological argument involves a prior belief; someone must believe in God and assume that he is many things as well as real before they believe that he is necessary and therefore must exist. Aquinas also commented on the ontological argument. His critique was so devistating that it was largely the cause of the ontological argument dying out for several centuries (before being brought back by Descartes). Aquinas agrees that it is necessary for God to exist as the world has to have a cause and be dependant on something to keep it in motion. However he also states that it is impossible for a human being to truly know God's essence and therefore we can never know if God's essence includes existence. ...read more.

Conclusion

This lack of physical proof means that to many the ontological argument is weak and pointless if trying to convince an atheist. Empiricists say that this argument does not involve empirical evidence or experiences we can rely on and without this the, argument becomes useless. Just as Hume argued it relies on a prior faith and understanding of what God is which includes the understanding and belief that God has to exist beyond doubt. If someone does not believe that God's existence is an actual quality of God, in the way that blue eyes would be, then it cannot be a predicate and the statement 'God exists' cannot be an analytic one, therefore the argument breaks down. The argument is only successful in proving God's existence to a person that already believes in God. Just like Kant someone can agree on a definition of God, they can agree that if God exists he would be perfect and that perfection would include necessity, but merely a definition can not erase the 'if' from a persons mind if it is there. Therefore the argument does not prove conclusively that God exists, as it does not offer any form of physical proof, which is largely the only way of persuading a non-believer to believe, which is what arguments for existence of God essentially aim to do. Dr. Culbard Emily Oelrich Philosophy 12RTR 1 ...read more.

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