Anselm's Existence of God Refuted

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Anselm's Existence of God Refuted

Anselm's Existence of God Refuted

If the only proofs for the existence of God were Aquinas’s five ways and Anselm’s ontological argument, in my opinion, Anselm provides the best reasoning. I am not saying that Anselm’s argument is good, or even valid, but just that given the set of proofs by Aquinas and Anselm, Anselm’s is better.

Anselm argues, in effect, that the existence of God is built into the very concept of God. He proceeds by a form of argument called reductio ad absurdum -- reduction to absurdity. He attempts to show that the position of the fool -- the non-believer who has said in his heart, "There is no God" -- is incoherent and leads to absurdity. (Cottingham, 1996: 246)

How does Anselm's reductio work? A fully satisfactory answer to this question is not exactly simple. The idea appears to be this: The argument depends on a definition of sorts. Anselm says of God: “We believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be thought.” (Cottingham, 1996: 246) We can put this in shorthand by saying that Anselm understands God to be the greatest conceivable being -- the GCB, for short

Now you might protest that you do not use the word "God" in this way. Nevertheless, that does not really matter. If Anselm can show that such a being exists, then he has shown something remarkable whatever you call the being. Furthermore, it is not clear why anyone should resist calling such a being God.

Now another worry may occur to you: conceivable by whom?

The answer is conceivable by anyone, no matter how imaginative or brilliant. In fact, what Anselm really seems to be after is the greatest possible being, though he proceeds in terms of what we can or do conceive.

The atheist...

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...elieve that Anselm would argue that there could not be two gods. For if there were, then it would be possible to use the same argument to prove that there are an infinite number of gods. Anselm would attack this argument at premise two. Because if God were the greatest that could be conceived, then it would be impossible to conceive of anything greater. Since two gods is greater that one God, then even if it was impossible to conceive of two gods, it would be no greater than conceiving of one God. I will actually agree with Anselm on this argument, given his definition of God. Since he defines his notion of God to be that which a greater could not exist, it is impossible to prove that something greater exists, just by his definition of God.


Cottingham, John. (1996).Western Philosophy: An Anthropology. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell.
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