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The Ontological Argument

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a) Clarify the key concepts of the ontological argument for the existence of God. (12 marks) The ontological argument is an 'a priori' argument that uses the definition of God to try and prove God's existence. It was first put forward St Anselm of Canterbury. Anselm described God as 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived'. As even an atheist must have a definition of God, God exists in the mind. It is greater to exist in reality than to just exist in the mind. It would be greater for God to exist in reality rather than just exist in the mind. As Anselm describes God as 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived' God exists. If God did not exist in reality something that does exist in reality would be greater than God, which under Anselm's definition of God is not possible. Therefore, God exists. Anselm then goes onto prove that God's existence is not only true but that it is also necessary. Anselm attempts to prove this by stating that it can be thought of that something exists that cannot be thought not to exist. ...read more.


Another modern philosopher to put forward a form of the ontological argument is Alvin Plantinga. Plantinga uses the idea of possible worlds to prove that a being of maximal greatness (i.e. God) exists in our world. For every scenario there is a possible world. For example, there is a possible world where an A grade psychology student would drop psychology and become lazy bum and another possible world where the same student would continue with psychology and become prime minister. These are two examples of possible worlds. There are an infinite number of these possible worlds. Plantinga puts forward the idea of one possible world. In this world Plantinga imagines a world in which a being of maximal greatness exists. This being would have maximal greatness only if it existed in all possible worlds. This being of maximal greatness must also be a being of maximal excellence. A being of maximal excellence must be omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect. Therefore there is a being that is omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect in our world, this is what we call God. Thus God exists. b) ...read more.


Kant said that if you have a triangle it must have three sides, however if you do not have a triangle then you do not have it's three sides either. Likewise, if you believe in God it is logical to think that it is necessary for him to exist. But you do not have to accept the existence of God in the first place. The example of a unicorn is useful here. A unicorn must have a horn. However, this does not mean that unicorns exist it just means that if a unicorn did exist it is necessary for it to have a horn; if God existed his existence is necessary but you do not have to accept that God exists in the first place. As Hicks and Hume have said, the ontological argument just makes philosophical sense of God's existence and necessity but only if you accept that God does exist. Finally, Bertrand Russell also rejects the Ontological argument. He states that however much we define something we have to have evidence as to whether it exists. Something cannot be defined into exists; we must have some experience of it to decide that it exists. This is why Russell does not accept that an a priori argument can prove existence. Philosophy (FM) The Ontological Argument 3/7/07 Russell Wright 1 ...read more.

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