A defense of the ontological argument
In this essay I will first explain the ontological argument and my reasons for choosing it. I will then discuss why I believe it is a better account for the existence of god than the teleological argument and the cosmological argument. I will then move onto discuss various theologians that oppose the ontological argument and critique their responses. The aim of the essay if to show the strength of the argument and to expose some key weaknesses with its criticisms. Hopefully the essay will be convincing enough for the reader to not accept the words from Scott Aikin that the ontological argument is merely “the litmus test for intellectual seriousness”.
It is interesting to note how this argument is able to deduce God’s existence from our very definition of god as existential claims rarely follow from conceptual ones. For example if I wish to prove that dragons exist I cannot merely reflect on the concept of dragons. I would need to use my senses in the real world to begin an empirical investigation. I would need to do exactly the same thing to prove that dragons do not exist. We can clearly see that most existential claims, both negative and positive can only be established with some sort of empirical methodology. That being said, there can be one type of exception. For example, We are able to prove that there are no rectangular squares without checking every square in existence, because by definition it would be a contradiction if all squares were not square. The ontological argument therefore supposes that it is as much a contradiction to say there are rectangular squares as it is to say that god does not exist. This for me is a different and interesting way of arguing for the existence of god.
The argument first came about from St. Anselm in his Proslogium. It can be summarized as follows. 1) It is true by definition that god is a being than which none greater can be conceived. 2) God exists as an idea in the mind.
3) A being that is able to exist both in the mind and in reality is to be considered greater than a being, which only exists in the mind. 4) Therefore, if god is only an idea in the mind, we can imagine something that is greater than God. 5) We cannot imagine something greater than God. It would be a contradiction. 6) Therefore, God exists.
A crucial point of this argument is that existence in reality is a great-making property. To exist in reality is better to exist just in the mind. Take the idea of imagining a beer that exists only in your mind. You can make this beer however you want, it can be ice cold, hoppy, bubbly etc. but this beer is only in your mind and does not exist in reality. The beer you have imagined is useless if you want to physically drink it. Now compare the beer to one that not only exists in your mind but also in reality, surely you would say that the new beer is better? From this then we can deduce that things that both exist in the mind and in reality are to be considered greater then those that only exist in the mind. This argument for me seems to be the most convincing compared to the cosmological and the teleological argument. The cosmological argument in short asserts that the universe had an “original cause”. The basic idea being that everything that moves is moved by something, that also had to have been moved by something else and so on. So the “original mover”, the one who began the universe would have to be God. Just like the first domino in a cascade, the first domino is to be metaphorically applied to God. The proof for this theory would therefore come from the observations on the nature of causality in the exterior world.
This theory is far less convincing, the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises. Inductive reasoning is a weak basis for an argument. It does not follow that from things in the universe having a cause, that universe has a cause. We do not have any experience of...
David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Book 1: Of the Understanding, Part 3: Of knowledge of probability, Section
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