The Ontological Argument Will Never Be Any Use In Trying To Prove Gods Existence Discuss

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Ammara Khan        L6.06 / 12D        Ms Harbutt

(b): “The Ontological Argument will never be any use in trying to prove God’s existence” Discuss (10 marks)

        As an a priori proof, it one would assume that the Ontological Argument can very effectively prove God’s existence to both theists and atheists. However, this is, clearly, not the case. It can, also be argued that to prove God’s existence, you need only prove it to an atheist as a theist would already believe in His existence in their hearts. A theist may welcome proof for God’s existence, and very strongly support and believe in it, but they will not need it, as they will feel that they do not need proof for something that they already know to be true. An atheist, on the other hand, does not believe in God. They may believe that the natural world is all there is and so any legitimate proof, in their eyes, will be very hard to come by. Therefore, any sort of a proof given to an atheist may be explained by them through nature or, indeed, questionable in its logic, as God is to them. This is the same for all kinds of proof, including the Ontological Arguments.

        Upon reading Anselm’s version of the argument, atheists often claim that they feel as though they are being tricked by it, and yet they aren’t sure about which part of the argument they feel is wrong. Rather than convert them to theism, they feel very suspicious of the argument as being too easy to have come about, or not detailed enough to explain the existence of one as great as God. Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, an 11th Century Benedictine monk felt that he had found the source of “trickery” that the atheists found. Using this, he formed his criticism for the argument, through “The Overload Objection”. Gaunilo felt that the way in which Anselm’s premises were set out and phrased, made it seem as though you can define any seemingly non-existent object into existence by simply substituting it for God. The example that he gives is with the perfect island as he states it in “On behalf of the Fool”, Section 6: Let’s say that there is an island. Now, this island has an “inestimable wealth” and is much more excellent that all other islands. If someone where to say that this island exists somewhere in the ocean, it would be easy to understand and possibly accept this. However, if the person were to say “since it is more excellent not to be in the understanding alone, but to exist both in the understanding and reality, for this reason [the island] must exist”. This example is used through Reductio ad Absurdum, or showing the absurdity of a statement or argument. This is because using Anselm’s logic, you seem to be able to define anything into existence. This is clearly not the case in real life, as we cannot simply say that there is a cake that tastes better than any other. It is surely better to exist both in the mind and in reality as opposed to just the mind. Therefore, my cake, the best tasting cake, must exist in front of me. If this were so, the world would not make sense, but it does, and so this reasoning is false.

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        In response to this, Anselm refined his first argument for God’s existence, and put forward a second version, in which he felt that he had overcome Gaunilo’s objection. In this version, Anselm states that: “It can be conceived that something exist that cannot be thought not to exist. God must be such a thing if He is ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived’. This is because something that can be thought not to exist would be inferior to that which cannot.” Using this definition, there are no loop holes as, in relation to Gaunilo’s criticism, even islands are contingent beings, ...

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