Explain Anselms ontological argument.

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Daryan Omar        Philosophy         

Explain Anselm’s ontological argument.

The ontological argument was put forth at first as a prayer by the eleventh century monk and philosopher Anselm of Canterbury.  In his Proslogion, which means discourse, he presented this argument as a prayer for believers to substantiate their belief in god. Anselm uses ‘a priori’ (which means before experience) reasoning, which conveys that it does not rely or depend on experience and so an argument of this sort is more plausible and likely to intrigue and attract philosophers, by not depending on experience or acquaintances it can be understood and derived purely from logic. Furthermore its truth doesn’t depend on anything apart from logic and can be deduced purely from the meaning of the words used in the argument. The ontological argument uses deductive reasoning, which means its conclusion is contained within the premises presented, and if one accepts these premises to be true then one must accept that the conclusion is also correct; an argument of this sort would be:

  1. Men are all mortal.
  2. René Descartes was a man.
  3. Consequently René Descartes is mortal.                                                

From this example if we accept the premises (1&2) then logically we must accept the conclusion (3) so in some form this argument presents a guarantee of the truth of the conclusion.

Anselm’s argument said ‘God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived’, by greater he means perfect and by conceived he means to think of, so we can put in other words: God is that than which nothing more perfect can be thought of. When Anselm first wrote this in the Proslogion, his intentions for this were not for it to be used as an argument to prove God’s existence but just a mere prayer for believers, but due to his reliance solely on reason and logic it has become popular and has overcome the test of time as it is still relevant today and is being studied.

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The argument can take this form:

  1. God is that than which nothing more perfect can be thought of.
  2. Even a fool can understand this definition. (By fool Anselm most likely meant someone who does not believe in god, and so he said this to show that this argument is nothing of a complex sort but of a simple nature which can be comprehended by anyone, even a fool as Anselm said.)
  3. This fool says that god ceases to exist in reality, merely as an idea.
  4. It is greater to exist both in the understanding and in reality, than ...

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