Essay about Ontological Argument

1007 Words Mar 20th, 2013 5 Pages
Ontological Argument
One of the most fascinating arguments for the existence of an all-perfect God is the ontological argument. Ontological arguments are arguments to prove the existence of God based on pure reason alone. They attempt to show that we can deduce God’s existence from, so to speak, the very definition of God. St. Anselm of Canterbury proposed the first and most well known ontological argument in 1078 in his Proslogion, but it was actually Immanuel Kant, an 18th century German philosopher, who first called the argument “ontological.”
In his argument, Anselm defines God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” This can be interpreted as defining “God” as maximal perfection, or the greatest possible being. It
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This, of course, is not necessarily true. Just because we can think of a perfect island, or being, in our minds does not mean that it must exist in reality.
Anselm, of course, made a counter argument to Gaunilo’s criticism. He pointed out that he was not, in fact, arguing about contingent things (i.e. things dependent on something else) like islands, but of a being that is not time-based or contingent on anything (God). In his second form, Anselm argues that God is a necessary being. It is impossible for him not to be. If He were contingent like the islands, we could imagine Him not existing, like we can imagine the perfect island not existing. Anselm concludes that a necessary being is greater than a contingent one since existing in reality is greater than just existing in the mind. Since God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”, then he must be a necessary being, meaning that he must exist.
René Descartes made a similar argument to Anselm’s. He argued that God’s existence could be realized from His nature, like geometric ideas can be realized from the nature of shapes. He proposed that the concept of God is that of a completely perfect being with all perfections. He argued that since existence is perfection, it would be more perfect to exist than to not exist. If God, a supremely perfect being, did not exist, he wouldn’t be completely perfect. Thus, according to Descartes, God must exist.

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