Documents

Anselm's Ontological Argument

Description
An ontological argument for the existence of God
Categories
Published
of 3
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Related Documents
Share
Transcript
  An ontological argument is an argument based not on observation of the world, but rather on reason alone. Specifically, the ontological argument reasons from the study of being (ontology).The first and most popular form of this argument goes back to St. Anselm in the 11th century A.D.Therefore, O Lord, You who give understanding to faith, grant me to understand   to the degree You know to be advantageous   that You exist, as we believe, and that You are what we believe [You to be]. Indeed, we believe You to be something than which nothing greater can be thought. Or is there, then, no such nature [as You], for the Fool has said in his heart that God does not exist? (Psalms 13:1 & 52:1(14:1 & 53:1)).But surely when this very same Fool hears my words  something than which nothing greater can be thought,   he understands what he hears. And what he understands is in his understanding, even if he does not understand [i.e., judge] it to exist. For that a thing is in the understanding is distinct from understanding that [this] thing exists. For example, when a painter envisions what he is about to paint: he indeed has in his understanding that which he has not yet made, but he does not yet understand that it exists. But after he has painted [it]: he has in his understanding that which he has made, and he understands that it exists. So even the Fool is convinced that something than which nothing greater can be thought is at least in his understanding; for when he hears of this [being], he understands [what he hears], and whatever is understood is in the understanding.But surely that than which a greater cannot be thought cannot be only in the understanding. For if it were only in the understanding, it could be thought to exist also in reality   something which is greater [than existing only in the understanding]. Therefore, if that than which a greater cannot be thought were only in the understanding, then that than which a greater cannot be thought would be that than which a greater can be thought! But surely this [conclusion] is impossible.Hence, without doubt, something than which a greater cannot be thought exists both in the understanding and in reality.This can be restructured in the form of a formal argument as follows.Premise 1:Either God exists in the understanding but not in reality, or God exists in the understanding and in reality.Premise 2:If God exists in the understanding but not in reality, then we can conceive of a thing greater than God (a thing different in virtue of existing in the understanding and in reality, but otherwise like God).Premise 3:It is not the case that we can conceive of a thing greater than God.Conclusion:God exists in the undersatnding and in reality.The first test for the argument is that of validity. In order to evaluate this, we must consider the logical form of the argument, which can be made simpler by replacing some of the key phrases with symbols.Premise 1: X or Y  Premise 2: If X, then ZPremise 3: Not ZConclusion: YCertainly, it is impossible that the premises be true and the conclusion false. If it is not the case that Z (premise 3), then it must also must not be the case that X (premise 2), so it must be the case that Y (premise 1).Hence the argument is valid.Whether the argument is sound and potentialy convincing is a more difficult matter to determine, and requires careful analysis of each premise in turn.The statement in premise 1 God exists in the understanding but not in reality can be interpreted as God can be conceived of, or imagined to exist, but he doesn't exist .Interpreted this way, the argument becomes.Premise 1: Either we can conceive of God existing, but he doesn't exist. Or we can conceive of God existing, and he does exist.Premise 2: If we can conceive of God existing but he doesn't exist, then we can conceive of a thing greater than him, a thing just like him, but existing.Premise 3:It's not the case that we can conceive of a thing greater than God.Conclusion:We can conceive of God existing, and he does exist.Premise 1 must be true, provided we can accept that it is possible to conceive of God existing. However, premise 2 seems to be manifestly false by suggesting that God both does not exist amd does exist. So, in this form, the argument is unsound and certainly not persuasive to the reasonable agnostic.Another way of interpreting the statement in premise 1 is there is a God and he has the property of existing in the understanding, but he lacks the property of existing in reality. Interpreted this way, the argument becomes.Premise 1:Either there's a God with the property of existing in the understanding, but lacking the property of existing in reality. Or there's a God with both properties.Premise 2:If there is a God with the property of existing in the understanding, but lacking the property of existing in reality, then we can conceive of a thing greater than him, a thing with the property of existing in reality, but otherwise just like him.Premise 3:It's not the case that we can conceive of a thing greater than God.  Conclusion:There is a God with the property of existing in the understanding and, crucially, the property of existing in reality.In this case, Premise 2 certainly seems true. However, Premise 1 must be false, since the reasonable agnostic must consider the possibility that God does not exist. So, in this form also, the argument is unsound and certainly not persuasive to the reasonable agnostic.
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks