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"The Ontological Argument is a logical sleight of hand." Discuss

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Introduction

"The Ontological Argument is a logical sleight of hand." Discuss The ontological argument for the existence of God is perhaps the only argument which makes use of logic and a priori statements to support its reasoning. If the argument is successful, it proves that God's existence is logically necessary, and therefore, the existence of God is proven. The first thing the ontological argument tries to do is to provide a definition for the word 'God'. This is necessary in order to justify that the statement 'God exists' is true - in other words, it is an analytic statement, which supporters of the argument accept to be true. St. Anselm of Canterbury defined God as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived," and maintained that this definition would be accepted by both believers and non-believers. He states that God exists in the mind, but he must also exist in reality, because God is "that than which nothing greater can be conceived", and it is better to exist both in the mind and in reality. ...read more.

Middle

- when existence should really be a second-order predicate - something that tells a concept about the subject. If I used another example to illustrate this, it would be similar to saying "the mountains are green" ('green' being the first predicate). This tells us about the nature of the mountains - that they are green. But if I said afterwards, "the mountains are numerous", this is about a concept, not about the nature of mountains, and adds nothing new to my knowledge and understanding of mountains. Therefore the word 'numerous' must be classed as a second-order predicate, as Frege says the word 'existence' should. Bertrand Russell was another philosopher who criticized the use of vocabulary in the presenting of the ontological argument. Russell felt that everyday language was misleading, and often insufficient to describe philosophical ideas. He developed the concept of "philosophical logic" which uses words in the layout of a mathematical formula to present ideas in a simple way. This philosophical logic is similar to a syllogism. ...read more.

Conclusion

Of course, Gaunilo's island is representative of God. However, this argument does not successfully refute Anselm's one, because Gaunilo is comparing two things that belong to the same category (the perfect island, and other islands), while God is defined by Anselm as being "that than which nothing greater can be conceived", and so cannot belong to the same category as anything else. Therefore, Gaunilo's analogy does not undermine Anselm's Proslogian 2. In my opinion, I believe that the ontological argument is largely just a play on words, a logical sleight of hand that makes use of too many ambiguous words and also words that cannot even be properly defined. Although it does have its strengths, in that it is logical, and does not rely on experience which can be unreliable, I think that there are too many valid criticisms that go against this proof of God for it to be fully workable. Therefore, I believe the criticisms outweigh the strengths of this argument, and it is not a particularly strong one in proving the existence of God. Heidie Park 12HS3 ...read more.

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