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The ontological argument

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Introduction

The Ontological Argument The existence of God has been explained in three different theories created by Western theologians. Both St Anselm from the eleventh century and Rene Descartes, who lived six centuries later, used the Ontological argument for proving the existence of God. The Ontological argument states Gods existence can be proven a priori through intuition and reason alone. It says that Gods existence is entailed by the definition or concept of God. St Anselm was the first to introduce this argument in his book entitled Proslogion. He claimed that nothing greater than God can be conceived. Some said that Anselm was a genius for creating the Ontological argument because of its deductive validity in that the conclusion of the argument, namely that God exists, necessarily follows from the premises set during its creation. However, many criticise the premises claiming they are not unassailable and therefore don't believe the conclusion has any real validity. Even though some class the argument to be established to the same degree of certainty as mathematics others believe that Anselm's methods don't actually establish any truths in the concept of God. How can we have knowledge that the premises are true without some a posteriori experience of the world? ...read more.

Middle

This Anselm believed showed that the very meaning and nature of God entailed his existence in the external world. St Thomas Aquinas said; 'Because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition ... (God exists)...is not self-evident to us.' Aquinas did agree that there is knowledge that can be know a priori (for example; that I exist), however he said that in order to hold this self-evident knowledge we must be able to define the subject and predicate. Due to our lack of intelligence when it comes to the 'supernatural' Aquinas claimed it would be impossible to define God as we can never really grasp the definition of the greatest conceivable being. Therefore we are not in a position to accept the conclusions drawn from the premises without first defining the indefinable subject and predicate. Descartes' Ontological argument was very similar to Anselm's, however it differed in description but came to the same deduction. Descarte said that God as a supremely perfect being holds the supreme perfection of existence and therefore exists in reality. Anselm's concept of God differs but both philosophers use existence as a predicate of the argument. ...read more.

Conclusion

Therefore when we say God exists we are only saying there is something in the world which corresponds to God. This damages the Ontological argument because it means for us to say God exists we must be able to find something in the empirical world that corresponds to God which means we cannot rely on definition alone and the a-priori argument certainly isn't sufficient to prove the existence of God. In conclusion Anselm's first version of the Ontological argument is very weak and can be refuted easily. However, Norman Malcolm, an English theologian, believed that St Anselm's second version of the Ontological argument and Descartes version claiming that 'God's existence is necessary' is correct, even though it is ambiguous. This means that the proposition 'God exists' is necessary in the same way that 5 + 5 = 10 is a necessary truth. Even though this ambiguity of a 'necessary existence' is a possible criticism against Malcolm some find it more convincing than the arguments which state that God's existence is necessarily and contingently false. This is because some believe that it is more possible for God to exist than for God not to exist even with the criticisms previously raised. ?? ?? ?? ?? Francesca Bisset 1 ...read more.

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