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How Successful Are Modern Versions The Ontological Argument?

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Introduction

How Successful Are Modern Versions The Ontological Argument? The ontological argument was first put forward by Anselm (1033 - 1109) not as a foolproof argument for the existence of God, but rather as an argument for people who already believe in God. The ontological argument is based on a priori logic, that is to say that it is based on ones definition of God. In Proslogian 2 Anselm defined God as 'That than which nothing greater can be conceived'. He believed that everyone has an idea of what God is like in their heads, but as God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, and existence is a positive attribute - God must (by definition) exist. Anselm saw this as deductive reasoning - if we follow the argument through in logical stages, and accept all of the premises, then we must accept the conclusion. The argument could be set out in three stages: Premise 1 - God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Premise 2 - A God that exists would be far greater than one who does not. Conclusion - God must exist. The argument I have outlined above is the first version of Anselm's Ontological Argument (Intentional Existence), his second argument in Proslogian 3 (formal existence) treated God's existence as necessary, meaning that he must have always been in existence and can never go out of existence. ...read more.

Middle

As I have shown above, the original version(s) of the ontological argument were open to frequent criticism, however several philosophers have attempted to present modern versions of the argument, here I will explain these versions: Norman Malcolm (an anti-realist) disagreed with Anselm's argument as presented in Proslogian 2 but felt that he could adapt the second version (which stated that God's existence is necessary). He believed that the second version is not open to same criticism as the first as Anselm does not present existence as a predicate, but rather states that existence of God, by his very nature, is necessary. Malcolm demonstrated a more logical argument for the existence of God based on this necessity. By this definition there could never be a time when God didn't exist, and there can never be a time when he will go out of existence. For a statement to be impossible there has to be a contradiction in terms or a logical fault, for example it does not make sense for me to say "wow look at that funky triangle with 4 sides". This is because there is a contradiction in terms, triangles, by definition, have 3 sides meaning that a 4 sided triangle can never be. If we apply this to the idea of a necessary God (as Malcolm did) we can see that this idea is not impossible because there is no faulty logic or contradictions in terms present. ...read more.

Conclusion

The fact that these beings only exist in one world is of course irrelevant. Plantinga however did not leave his argument here, he developed the concept of 'maximal excellence', he stated that maximal greatness entails maximal excellence, and that maximal excellence entails omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection. He then draws the following conclusion: 1. There is a possible world in which there exists a being that is maximally great. 2. It therefore has maximal excellence 3. It therefore exists in our world. Therefore God exists. I personally find this argument unconvincing, as I do not see the relevance of including the notion of other possible worlds, this surely just confuses the situation and does not add to the weight to the argument. And even if we follow Plantinga's argument and agree that it is possible for such a being to exist, it does not follow that this being actually exists. So in conclusion I do not find the modern versions of the ontological argument much more convincing than Anselm's versions. Whilst it can be argued that Normal Malcolm in particular has presented a coherent progression in the ontological argument - and I do feel that his argument is coherent - I do not find that any of the modern versions lead on to the conclusion that God exists. For example Malcolm's conclusion is a 50-50 split between an eternal God and no God! Jack Hines-Dedman U6R Mrs Grill ...read more.

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