• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Ontological Argument

Extracts from this document...


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Existence of God section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Existence of God essays

  1. "The Ontological Argument fails to prove God's existence"

    If the greatest conceivable thing is not God, then the argument would still go on indefinitely. The whole argument would then break down, because the definition of God being 'the greatest conceivable thing' has no meaning to it, and this is the basis upon which the whole argument is built.

  2. "Modern visions of the Ontological Argument are more successful than early versions"

    The last early philosopher to object was Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). He argued that there were different types of existence, such as if you have an idea of a cow you can go out and find one. However, if you have an idea of a unicorn, that image exists only in the mind.

  1. Explain the Ontological argument.

    Even if Gaunillo had described an island which was 'that which nothing greater can be conceived' it would still not be valid because islands have no intrinsic maximum; one can always add another tree, pond, lagoon etc., something can always be added.

  2. Explain the Ontological

    Once painted, he has it in his mind and knows it exists because he has painted it. Therefore, people who do not believe in god ("the fool") must think that God does not exists because when you cannot understand something it is always in your mind.

  1. qanselms ontological argument

    He stated that there are necessary beings which are things that cannot not exist for example God and contingent beings things that may exist but whose existence is not needed for example an island and humans. Therefore if God's existence is a logical necessity than it is impossible to believe that God does not exist as it will be contradictory.

  2. The ontological argument

    However if one knows of the concept of God they know what attributes he holds a priori, as these predicates are true by definition. Therefore no further empirical evidence is needed. By fully understanding the definition of God Anselm came to realise God must exist.

  1. Assess Critically the Claim that the Concept of Supremely Perfect Being is Incoherent.

    On the other hand, it is still true to say that it was an open possibility for Ghandi to have murdered an innocent, but it seems wrong to suggest it is an open possibility for a Supremely Perfect Being to torture innocents.

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

    However, an analogy compares two things, and they must have some sort of common ground in order for the comparison to work. Many people would therefore argue that analogies in the ontological argument are meaningless, because you cannot realistically compare God with anything we can relate to, since he is beyond our understanding.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work