Ontological Argument Essay

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  • Topic: Ontological argument, Ontology, Existence
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Ontological Argument Essay

A:Explain the traditional forms of the Ontological argument as put forward by Anselm and Descartes:

When considering an argument for God, the ontological argument is one of the most intriguing. Mainly because of it's a priori nature, differing from other popular theological arguments which are a posteriori such as the cosmological argument. This means the ontological argument is understood to be true analytically on its own terms without an appeal to experience. Because it does not depend on empirical findings, it - if it is valid - is absolutely certain. Furthermore, the argument intends to prove a supreme being, one which is good and omniscient, and not merely a vague “first cause.” In this essay i shall explain the argument formulated by Anselm, as well as the advancement put forth by Descartes.

St Anselm of Canterbury was a theologian, philosopher, and author of the proslogian in which the first known formulation of the ontological argument for the existence of God was set out. Although, it is widely debated as to whether Anselm intended for his words in the proslogian to be seen as an argument for Gods existence, but rather a prayer to God in which he offers a devout exploration of his faith, searching for greater understanding of Him. Nevertheless, he produced two ontological arguments, which were contained in proslogian chapter two and proslogian chapter three, both will be summarised and then further explained.

The first of his arguments - in summary - is as followed: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, It is greater to exist in reality than in the understanding alone, therefore God exists. Here Anselm presents an reductio ad absurdum for Gods existence, taking a being that than which nothing greater can be conceived, to then make a further assertion about existing in reality being viewed higher than existing in understanding or in the mind alone. Therefore if God is a being that than which nothing greater can be conceived, and to exist in reality is greater than to exist in the mind, by definition God must exist. Anselm summarised 'Therefore, Lord, not only are You that than which nothing greater can be conceived but You are also something greater than can be conceived. Indeed, since it is possible to be conceived to be something of this kind, if You are not this very thing, something can be conceived greater than You, which cannot be done.'

The second of Anselm's arguments to many is viewed as a response to his major criticism presented by a Monk by the name of Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, though it doesn't necessarily relate to the question, a greater explanation of Anselm's Ontological argument can be provided with the knowledge of Gaunilo's criticism explained. Gaunilo stated firstly that he can conceive of an island that than which no greater island can be conceived, if it is better to exist in reality than in the understanding alone, the island must exist. His point being it is obvious that this island does not exist, because he just made up in his head, however by applying what seems to be the same understanding as Anselm, he believes he has arrived at the same conclusion and therefore he has proved Anselm's argument wrong.

However Anselm’s second ontological argument proves Gaunilo’s objection invalid. Again summarised, Anselm's second ontological argument is as followed: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, Necessary existence is a better existence than that which is contingent, therefore God necessarily exists. In his first argument, Anselm simply suggests a proof for God’s existence. However, for God to be the supreme being He is, there must be more to Him than the fact that He simply exists. Anselm therefore argues that God exists because not only is God that than which nothing greater can be conceived, but also that God is a being which has necessary existence showing similarities to Aquinas' third way. This argument...
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