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The Ontological Argument

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The Ontological Argument

The Ontological argument is a group of different philosophers arguments for the existence of God. "Ontological" literally means talking about being and so in this case, that being is the existence or being of God. The main component of the Ontological argument can be found in the Anselm’s "Proslogion" which is a short work that tries to demonstrate both the existence and the nature of God. His main aim in writing the Proslogion is not to directly prove the existence of God but to moreover, to show the relationship between faith and reason. Anselm wanted to understand the object of the belief. He is also not trying to defend his belief against the atheist and neither is he trying to convince the atheist that God exists. The ontological argument differs from other arguments in favour of God as it is an ‘a priori’ deductive argument, a priori meaning that can come to a conclusion by the use of reason and not proof. A deductive argument means that if the premises that are put into the argument are true, then the conclusion must be true. Thus, Anselm tends to base his argument on the definitions and terminology used.

Anselm’s first form of the argument is that God is "that than which none greater can be conceived". Firstly, it must be emphasised that Anselm’s definition does not limit God to being the "greatest" but makes it known that nothing greater can be thought than God himself. Therefore, God should not in any way be linked to terms such as ‘omnipotent’ as terminology such as this limit him to what he really is. With this definition, he attempts to prove that not only does God exist in the mind but also in reality. Anselm uses the example of "the fool" to prove his point on God’s existence. He says that when "the fool" says that "There is no God" in Psalms, he must therefore understand what he hears , and what he understands in his intellect by the term "God". Therefore, if he knows what God is, God must exist as it is impossible to know what something is if it does not exist.

In chapter three in the ‘Proslogion’, Anselm contributes his second form to the argument. This form of the argument is that of ‘necessary existence’. He says that "that than which can be thought not to exist is not as great as that which cannot be thought not to exist." Therefore, to say that God can be thought not to exist if the definition of God...

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...elm’s first form of the argument and indirectly also demolishes the argument on the ‘necessary existence’ though his criticism. He criticises and successfully attacks the Cartesian version that in order for there to be a ‘supreme being’, existence must be predicate of God (the supreme being). Norman Malcolm then tried to save this argument by coming up with an argument which Davis seems to have demolished successfully.

Although the argument does not seem to remain too strong in the light of these responses, we can say that although Anselm failed to show ‘the fool’ that God existed, he by acquiring more knowledge and understanding about the Christian beliefs seems to fortify his faith as a believer. Anselm’s second form of the argument seems has kept philosophers interested and fascinated with it throughout time.

The very fact that philosophers such as Descartes, Kant, Malcolm have been intrigued by the ontological argument strongly shows that it is a very important and complex argument which is in favour of the existence of God. Although a final and ultimate answer to the question of God’s existence has yet to be attained, it is still considered to be a remarkable argument.
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