The Flaws in Saint Anselm's Approach on the Ontological Argument

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  • Topic: Ontology, Ontological argument, A priori and a posteriori
  • Pages : 3 (1199 words )
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  • Published : October 17, 2010
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Thanks to Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury1, the ontological argument was born in the early 1100’s. The ontological point of view, according to St. Anselm, describes God as “a being than which no greater can be conceived”.2 St. Anselm concluded that if such being failed to exist, another even greater being could be conceived that does exist. This argument would be illogical, as no being can be greater than the greatest being. Therefore God must exist. As you can see, St. Anselm’s ontological argument attempts to prove the existence of a greater being but his argument contains two flaws within it. The first can be seen in his definition - or lack thereof - in the idea of conceiving. The second flaw lies in what sorts of inferences Anselm asks of his reader. Later in this essay I will defend my view against the charge that St. Anselm’s argument is a priori argument and not a posteriori.

First, we must look at the idea of conceiving. The American Heritage dictionary cites to conceive as “to apprehend mentally; understand”.3 We must also look at to what extent we can conceive. In my mind I can conceive the idea of a unicorn, the body of a horse, the beard of a billy-goat, the tail of a lion and a single spiral horn positioned in the centre of their head. Now each of these properties can very well exist in space in time but together, they have not been proven to exist yet. In the ontological argument, proposed by Descartes, God is described with the traits of perfection, omniscient and omnipotent.4 Now all these traits may exist separately but together, they have not been proven to exist yet. In addition to this I would like to propose the idea’s of Immanuel Kant. Kant describes two different scenes. The first is a man with $100 in space and time. The second is a man that imagines that he has $100. Now just because you have conceived the idea of $100 does not mean that it is exists in space and time. The man with the actual $100 is obviously richer than the...
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