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. As God is 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived' he must be that necessary being. This is because it is greater to be necessary than to be contingent. If he was not necessary he would not 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived'. Thus, according to Anselm, God not only exists but God's existence is necessary.

Rene Descartes also put the ontological argument forward. Descartes described God, as 'a supremely perfect being' from this definition, like Anselm, he tried to prove God's existence. Descartes first stated that because God is a supremely perfect being, He possesses all perfections. This perfect state includes existence. Existence is a predicate of a perfect being. Therefore, God exists. Descartes argued that God must exist in the same way as a triangle must have three sides - existence is a predicate of God.
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As well as these two forms of the ontological argument, there are also some forms of the argument put forward by modern philosophers. One such modern philosopher is Norman Malcolm. Malcolm develops Anselm's argument. Malcolm also describes God as 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived'. If God does not exist then he cannot come into existence for if he did he would be nothing more than a contingent being which would make him a limited being. Since he cannot come into exist, if he does not exist then his existence is impossible. If he does exist ...

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