The Ontological Argument

Examine the major features of the ontological argument. To what extent do the strengths overcome the weaknesses?

 Lily Fox-Davies

The word ontological derives for the Greek word “ontos” which means “to do with being”, thus forming the bases of the argument. St. Anselm was a Benedictine monk hence this argument was coming from a believer, a theistic stance which later we will see to be one of its downfalls.

The argument starts with a definition, ‘God is that which nothing greater can be conceived’. Anselm states that everyone is aware of this definition, therefore if everyone understands God is the greatest being God must exist because if God was only in the mind He would not be the greatest being seeing as a being is the mind everybody will agree is far less than a being in reality. Therefore Anselm states, ‘God cannot be conceived not to exist. God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived not to exist is not God.’ Also Anselm supported this by stating God everyone knows as being a necessary being – therefore he could not not exist seeing as a necessary being is uncaused. Therefore overall it could only be the fool to deny the existence of God.

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Gaulino replied to Anselm on behalf of the fool. He said that if he imagined a perfect island that does not necessarily mean that that Island now exists. Even if existence was in his mind a characteristic of the Island. Anselm replied that because Gaulino had experienced islands he could not possibly imagine an ultimately perfect one seeing as there could always be one more tree or one less rock hence an island is ‘intrinsic maximum’ Also an island is within the realm of space and time – whereas God is not. Anything within this world can never be truly ...

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