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Modern philosopher Norman Malcolm offered his version of the ontological argument. He argued that if God does not exist, he never has or never will. He argued that there is a possible world in which there exists a being with maximal greatness and maximal….

Report Thu 21st May, Alevels15 Report Thu 21st May, Sign up to Comment. Philosophy and Ethics Revision. Hence There is in the understanding nothing which is greater than the thing than which there is no greater. From 3 , by another theorem about descriptions.

If that thing than which there is no greater does not exist in reality , then there is in the understanding something which is greater than that thing than which there is no greater. Since they also provide a clear reason for thinking that this new version of the argument is not persuasive, I shall not consider it further here.

Considered as interpretations of the argument presented in the Proslogion , these formulations are subject to various kinds of criticisms. And that is surely a bad result. Second , the Meinongian interpretations of Barnes , Adams and Oppenheimer and Zalta produce arguments which, given the principles involved, could easily be much simplified, and which are obviously vulnerable to Gaunilo-type objections. Consider, for example, the case of Oppenheimer and Zalta.

Plainly though, if Anselm is really committed to these principles, then he could hardly fail to be committed to the more general principles: It would surely be absurd to claim that Anselm is only committed to the less general principles: But, then, mark the consequences. So, by the first claim, there is at least one existent perfect being in the understanding. And, by the second claim, any existent perfect being is existent. So, from these two claims combined, there is—in reality—at least one existent perfect being.

This argument gives Anselm everything that he wants, and very much more briefly. The Proslogion goes on and on, trying to establish the properties of that than which no greater can be conceived.

After all, when it is set out in this way, it is obvious that the argument proves far too much. Third , some of the arguments have Anselm committed to claims about greatness which do not seem to correspond with what he actually says. The natural reading of the text is that, if two beings are identical save that one exists only in the understanding and the other exists in reality as well, then the latter is greater than the former. But Barnes , for example, has Anselm committed to the much stronger claim that any existing thing is greater than every non-existent thing.

Given these kinds of considerations, it is natural to wonder whether there are better interpretations of Proslogion II according to which the argument in question turns out NOT to be logically valid. Here is a modest attempt to provide such an analysis:. Now, entertaining this idea or possessing this concept requires the entertainer or possessor to recognise certain relationships which hold between given properties and the idea or concept in question.

For example, given that you possess the concept of, or entertain the idea of, a smallest really existent Martian, it follows that you must recognise some kind of connection between the properties of being a Martian, really existing, and being smaller than other really existing Martians, and the concept or idea in question. However, in saying this, it must be understood that we are not actually predicating properties of anything: In other words, we must be able to have the concept of, or entertain the idea of, a smallest really existing Martian without believing that there really are any smallest Martians.

It will be useful to introduce vocabulary to mark the point which is being made here. We could, for instance, distinguish between the properties which are encoded in an idea or concept, and the properties which are attributed in positive atomic beliefs which have that idea or concept as an ingredient. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to entertain the idea of a being than which no greater can be conceived—and to recognise that this idea encodes the property of real existence—without attributing real existence to a being than which no greater can be conceived, i.

Of course, the argument which Anselm actually presents pays no attention to this distinction between encoding and attributing—i. And then the reductio argument is produced to establish that that than which no greater can be conceived cannot exist only in the understanding but must also possess the property of existing in reality as well and all mention of the Fool, and what it is that the Fool believes, disappears.

As it stands, this is deeply problematic. How are we supposed to regiment the references to the Fool in the argument? Is the reductio argument supposed to tell us something about what even the Fool believes, or ought to believe? Are the earlier references to the Fool supposed to be inessential and eliminable? How are we so much as to understand the claim that even the Fool believes that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in the understanding? Following the earlier line of thought, it seems that the argument might go something like this:.

Hence Even the Fool believes that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in the understanding. No one who believes that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in the understanding can reasonably believe that that than which no greater can be conceived exists only in the understanding. Hence Even the Fool cannot reasonably deny that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in reality. While this is not a good argument, it could appear compelling to one who failed to attend to the distinction between entertaining ideas and holding beliefs and who was a bit hazy on the distinction between the vehicles of belief and their contents.

When the Fool entertains the concept of that than which no greater can be conceived he recognises that he is entertaining this concept i. Conflating the concept with its object, this gives us the belief that than which no greater can be conceived possesses the property of existing in the understanding. Now, suppose as hypothesis for reductio , that we can reasonably believe that that than which no greater can be conceived possesses the property of existing only in the understanding.

Ignoring the distinction between entertaining ideas and holding beliefs, this means that we when we entertain the idea of that than which no greater can be conceived, we entertain the idea of a being which exists only in the understanding.

But that is absurd: So there is a contradiction, and we can conclude that, in order to be reasonable, we must believe that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in reality. But if any reasonable person must believe that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in reality, then surely it is the case that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in reality.

And so we are done. However, the point of including it is illustrative rather than dogmatic. In the literature, there has been great resistance to the idea that the argument which Anselm gives is one which modern logicians would not hesitate to pronounce invalid. But it is very hard to see why there should be this resistance.

Certainly, it is not something for which there is much argument in the literature. For a more complex analysis of Proslogion II that has it yielding a valid argument, see Hinst Many recent discussions of ontological arguments are in compendiums, companions, encylopedias, and the like.

So, for example, there are review discussions of ontological arguments in: Leftow , Matthews , Lowe , Oppy , and Maydole While the ambitions of these review discussions vary, many of them are designed to introduce neophytes to the arguments and their history. Given the current explosion of enthusiasm for compendiums, companions, encylopedias, and the like, in philosophy of religion, it is likely that many more such discussions will appear in the immediate future.

Some recent discussions of ontological arguments have been placed in more synoptic treatments of arguments about the existence of God. So, for example, there are extended discussions of ontological arguments in Everitt , Sobel , and Oppy His analyses are very careful, and make heavy use of the tools of modern philosophical logic. There has been one recent monograph devoted exclusively to the analysis of ontological arguments: Dombrowski is a fan of Hartshorne: Swatkowski is the most recent collection of papers on ontological arguments.

A significant proportion of papers in this collection take up technical questions about logics that support ontological derivations. Those interested in technical questions may also be interested in the topic taken up in Oppenheimer and Zalta and Gorbacz Finally, there has been some activity in journals. The most significant of these pieces is Millican , the first article on ontological arguments in recent memory to appear in Mind.

Needless to say, both the interpretation and the critique are controversial, but they are also worthy of attention. Among other journal articles, perhaps the most interesting are Pruss , which provides a novel defence of the key possibility premise in modal ontological arguments, and Pruss , which kick-started recent discussion of higher-order ontological arguments.

There is also a chain of papers in Analysis initiated by Matthews and Baker Section 9 is a quick overview of very recent work on ontological arguments: History of Ontological Arguments 2.

Taxonomy of Ontological Arguments 3. Characterisation of Ontological Arguments 4. Objections to Ontological Arguments 5. Parodies of Ontological Arguments 6. A Victorious Ontological Argument? History of Ontological Arguments Criticises an argument which somehow descends from St. Descartes, Discourse on Method. The argument of Discourse 4 is further elaborated in the Meditations. The Objections —particularly those of Caterus and Gassendi—and the Replies contain much valuable discussion of the Cartesian arguments.

Intimations of a defensible mereological ontological argument, albeit one whose conclusion is not obviously endowed with religious significance. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Part IX is a general attack on a priori arguments both analytic and synthetic.

Includes a purported demonstration that no such arguments can be any good. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason. Contains famous attack on traditional theistic arguments. Hegel, Lectures of Hegel makes repeated assertions in these lectures that there is a successful ontological argument, though he nowhere says what the argument actually is.

Some scholars have claimed that the entire Hegelian corpus constitutes an ontological argument. Since no one has ever said what the premises of this alleged argument are, there is good reason for scepticism about this scholarly claim. Frege, Foundations of Arithmetic. Existence is a second-order predicate.

First-order existence claims are meaningless. So ontological arguments—whose conclusions are first-order existence claims—are doomed. Defence of modal ontological arguments, allegedly derived from Proslogion 3. Defence of modal ontological arguments by a well-known ordinary language philosopher. The key critique of ontological arguments. All ontological arguments are either invalid or question-begging; moreover, in many cases, they have two closely related readings, one of which falls into each of the above categories.

Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity. Sobel, Logic and Theism. Detailed critique of ontological arguments. See, especially, chapters 2—4, pp. Taxonomy of Ontological Arguments According to a modification of the taxonomy of Oppy , there are eight major kinds of ontological arguments, viz: Characterisation of Ontological Arguments It is not easy to give a good characterisation of ontological arguments.

Objections to Ontological Arguments Objections to ontological arguments take many forms. The sample argument consists, in effect, of two premises: God exists in at least one possible world. God exists in all possible worlds if God exists in any. Given that that a minimally rational non-theist accepts that there is at least one possible world in which God does not exist, such a non-theist could offer the following counterargument: God fails to exist in at least one possible world.

Parodies of Ontological Arguments Positive ontological arguments—i. Here are some modest examples: The creation of the world is the most marvellous achievement imaginable. The merit of an achievement is the product of a its intrinsic quality, and b the ability of its creator. The greater the disability or handicap of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.

The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence. Therefore, if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator, we can conceive a greater being—namely, one who created everything while not existing. An existing God, therefore, would not be a being than which a greater cannot be conceived, because an even more formidable and incredible creator would be a God which did not exist. A is an essence of x if and only if for every property B , x has B necessarily if and only if A entails B Definition 3: If a property is positive, then its negation is not positive.

The property of being God-like is positive Axiom 4: If a property is positive, then it is necessarily positive Axiom 5: Necessary existence is positive Axiom 6: If a property is positive, then it is consistent, i. The property of being God-like is consistent. Necessarily, the property of being God-like is exemplified.

If a property belongs to the set, then its negation does not belong to the set. The set is closed under entailment. Ontological argument purports to be an a priori proof of the existence of God. The argument was first proposed by St Anselm of Canterbury in the 11 th century. His main aim was to refute claims by some people that God does not exist. In his view, the atheist is not just mistaken but internally inconsistent.

St Anselm in his proposition of the ontological argument claimed to have derived the existence of God from the concept of being than which no greater can be conceived. He reasoned that, in case such a being fails to exist, then a greater being —namely, a being than which no greater can be conceived, and which exists- can be conceived.

However, this would be absurd in that, nothing can be greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived. Thus, a being than which no greater can be conceived- i. The ontological argument asserts that that idea by some people that God does not exist is just as absurd as the idea that a four-sided triangle does. According to the argument, we can easily tell that the claim that God does not exist is false without having to look into it in any detail.


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However, while the ontological argument may be valid, it remains to be shown that it is sound. A sound argument is one which is both valid and contains true premises (Chapter 2, Writing Philosophy). In order to show this, the individual premises of the ontological argument must be evaluated.

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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.

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Ontological Argument. The Ontological argument is an argument for God’s existence based entirely on reason. According to the argument, there is no need to wander around looking for physical evidence of the existence of God; we can easily work out that he exists just by thinking about it. Ontological argument purports to be an a priori proof of . The Ontological Argument is also deductive and analytic as the premises of a deductive argument contain the conclusion that it reaches and is structured so that its conclusion is the only possible one that could be deduced from its premises.

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The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God The ontological argument is an a priori argument. The arguments attempt to prove God's existence from the meaning of the word God. The ontological argument was introduced . Essay Anselm’s Ontological Argument. The ontological argument for God’s existence is a work of art resulting from philosophical argumentation. An ontological argument for the existence of God is one that attempts the method of a priori proof, which utilizes intuition and reason alone. The term a priori refers to deductive reasoning.