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The Ontological Argument

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Introduction

The Ontological Argument a) Outline the ontological argument for the existence of God. b) How convincing does you find the argument. (GR4YA) The ontological argument is an attempt to prove God's existence a priori. It does not rely on our observations of the universe, the world around us. It uses logic, and the idea that it is illogical to say that God does not exist, as its main argument. The ontological argument was first put forward by St Anslem of Canterbury and later by the French philosopher Rene Descartes. Anselm, writing to convince believers that they were right and correct in their beliefs, declared that anyone should accept his definition of God. He defines God as, 'That than which nothing greater can be conceived'. In other words, God is the most perfect being imaginable. Note that Anselm is careful not to define God as the greatest thing in existence, as this would not necessarily be God (it would however exist by definition). ...read more.

Middle

This is, by definition, an untrue statement, therefore God must, by definition exist. Anselm strengthened his argument in response to a criticism by one of his contemporaries. The French monk Gaunilon (who was himself a believer in God) argued that Anselm's argument was ridiculous. He said that if he were to apply the same logic to other things he could prove that the most perfect 'anything' exists. The example he used was that of an island. The most perfect island must exist by definition because otherwise there could be more Perfect Island, i.e. one that exists in reality. Anslem responded to this criticism by stating that unlike an island it is only God who must have existence as part of his definition. An island is defined as land surrounded by water, it does not have to have existence as a characteristic. God, however, is a necessary being and therefore existence is part of his definition. With and argument based entirely on analytical reasoning, the definition of words and the use of language, Anselm and Descartes felt that they had produced a proof for God's existence. ...read more.

Conclusion

Kant uses Descartes own example of a triangle. He states that just as if there is a triangle then it must have 180 degrees, so also, if there is a God he must have the characteristic of existence. In other words, 'if God exists then he exists'. A second objection to the ontological argument was raised by David Hume. It is not possible to begin and argument based upon mere logic, which is present only in the mind and reach a conclusion which is based entirely in the observable universe. We, as human beings simply do not work this way. We base our lives and our conclusions on those things which we can observe, not those things which we can rationally prove; these things stay in our minds only and have no real impact on our real worlds. Although the ontological argument is based on some valid reasoning, it is essentially flawed and unconvincing. It assumes to know the nature of an unknowable God. It presumes that the characteristic of existence adds to the perfection of a thing. It starts with analytical logical and reaches a fallacious conclusion about the synthetic world. ...read more.

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