Which of the three Classical Arguments for the existence of God is strongest, in your view, and which is weakest? Why?
Since the beginning of time, mankind as a whole has always had an innate belief in a higher being, whether it be karma, fate or in the case of this essay, God. From the Ancient Greeks' mythological Gods to the current Creationist movement in America, the idea and belief in God has not faltered over time, but why? Why do so many people believe in something of which they have no concrete proof? In reality, I believe that faith in God has nothing to do with having proof of his existence; it is about intimate, deep and spiritual feelings that someone is either born with or gains through life experiences.
Nevertheless, for thousands of years philosophers have been captivated by the prospect of answering the infamous question, does God exist?' Plato and Aristotle started off the quest for the answer to this question, followed by nearly every philosopher that came after them, including Descartes, St Anselm, St Thomas Aquinas and Ibn Rushd to name but a few. Every philosopher has presented new ideas and theories but fundamentally they all fall under three main headings; the ontological, teleological and cosmological arguments. Each of these puts forward its own argument for the existence of God, and in this essay I will be evaluating their strengths and weakness in order to discover which one is the strongest and which is the weakest.
The ontological argument for the existence of God was introduced by St Anselm who was the Archbishop of Canterbury. He wanted to find a proof for the existence of God that was solely based on logic and that could inspire non-believers without the need for scriptures or the Bible. He believed that from the very definition of God, he could prove his existence. In the book entitled Proslogion', he begins his proof by defining God as
something which nothing greater can be conceived,' in other words, the greatest being imaginable. It follows that everyone, even those who do not believe in God, can understand this statement and can imagine that such a being exists,
when the fool hears the words
he understands what he hears and what he understands exists in his understanding, even if he doesn't think it exists.' So now in our mind we have this idea of God as being the greatest being imaginable, however Anselm believes that a being which exists in reality is greater than one which only exists in our mind,
therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived.' Obviously this is a contradiction, and so Anselm concludes by saying
that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.' Going back to the original definition, if something which nothing greater can be conceived exists, God exists.
Anselm succeeds in creating a proof for the existence of God that does not need any knowledge of religion, just logic. However I believe that some of his logic is in effect, incorrect, making is whole proof void. When Anselm first defines God as something which nothing greater can be conceived' he does not explain clearly from where he derived this, it is simply stated as his opinion and he assumes that it is the opinion shared by everyone. However this is not the case, not everyone who believes in God will necessarily think of him as the greatest being imaginable, indeed there are some people who believe that God is not perfect and that he has his limits. For the non believers who Anselm is trying to target with this proof, it is even less likely that they will think of God as being the greatest being imaginable, as they do not believe in him, so how can they think that? It therefore appears that the fundamental definition which Anselm's proof is based in...
References: · St Anselm, Proslogion, quoted from J.L.Mackie, The Miracle of Theism, Chapter 3, Oxford University Press
· Ibn Rushd, Religion & Philosophy, quoted from www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1190averroes.html , 9.01.06, which sources Averröes, The Philosophy and Theology of Averroes, trans. Mohammed Jamil-al-Rahman (Baroda: A. G. Widgery, 1921)
· Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. New Advent Inc, 1996-97, quoted from http://www.saintaquinas.com/philosophy.html , 9.01.06, which also sources Varner, Gary. Introduction to Philosophy and Dr. Tom Morris. Philosophy For Dummies. Foster City, California: IDG Books Worldwide Inc, 1999.
· Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica, quoted from J.L.Mackie, The Miracle of Theism, Chapter 5, Oxford University Press
· Perry & Bratman, Introduction to Philosophy, Classical and Contemporary Readings, Part 2A, 3rd Edition, Oxford University Press.
· S. Blackburn, Think, Chapter 5, Oxford University Press.
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