Cartesian Ontological Argument Analysis

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This paper will attempt to state and explain the Cartesian Ontological Argument, its most promising lines of objection and some of the replies to these objections. Before studying the argument, it is important to notice that this type argument, unlike causal or teleological arguments, tries to be based on reason alone, not observation. Descartes considers that his a priori claims can derive the existence of God from the very concept of God.
The Cartesian Ontological Argument can be formulated as follows: (1) God is that being than which nothing more perfect can be conceived upon. (2) Existence is a perfection. Therefore, (3) God exist.
The argument can also be formulated through reductio ad absurdum: God is the most perfect being that anyone can conceive. One might conceive that God exists just in thought alone and not in reality. However, in that case, the conceived God would not be the most perfect conceivable being because one can think of a more perfect God, namely a God that exists. Thus, it would be a contradiction to conceive a God that does not exist. Therefore, God exists.
There is a third formulation of the argument forwarded by Descartes in his replies to the objections: “(A) That which we clearly and distinctly understand to belong to the true and immutable nature, or essence or form of something, can truly be asserted of that thing (B) With sufficient and careful investigation of what God is, we clearly and distinctly understand that existence belongs to his true and immutable nature. (C) Hence, God does exist.” 1
The first objection is that existence does not follow from essence. One might imagine, for instance, a minotaur and what would constitute its essence. However, even if one could
1 1 DESCARTES, René. “ Repli...

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...rcle. The ideal is always “more perfect” than the real. For this reason, a God that only existed in the intellect would be the best conceivable God because it would avoid the “inherent imperfection” that comes with reality. In this manner, existence is not a perfection.
In short, the Cartesian Ontological Argument attempts to prove the existence of God without any claims based on the external material world. Even though, intuitively there seems to be something immediately wrong with the argument, it is difficult to identify the actual mistakes in the argument. All the objections and replies to the argument have been supported and/or been refuted in conceptual, logical, and analytical grounds. The existence of God has been one of the most debated and intricate topics in Philosophy. As Car Sagan once popularized, “An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.10”
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