Talons Philosophy

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Ontological argument

St. Anselm was the archbishop of Cantebury from 1033 to 1109. He is the originator of the ontological argument, which he describes in his book Proslogium;

God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived.… And [God] assuredly exists so truly, that it cannot be conceived not to exist. For, it is possible to conceive of a being which cannot be conceived not to exist; and this is greater than one which can be conceived not to exist. Hence, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, can be conceived not to exist, it is not that, than which nothing greater can be conceived. But this is an irreconcilable contradiction. There is, then, so truly a being than which nothing greater can be conceived to exist, that it cannot even be conceived not to exist; and this being thou art, O Lord, our God.

 

The argument in this passage can be simplied to standard form:

  1. It is a conceptual truth (true by definition) that God is a being than which none greater can be imagined (the greatest possible being that can be imagined)
  2. A being that necessarily exists in reality is greater than a being that does not necessarily exist.
  3. So,by definition, if god exists as an idea in the mind but does not necessarily exists in reality, then we can imagine something greater than god.
  4. But we cannot imagine something greater than god.
  5. So, if god exists as an idea, then it must necessarily exist in reality.
  6. God exists in the mind as an idea.
  7. Therefore, god necessarily exists in reality.

This passage relies on two important premises. God, by definition, is a being that which a greater cannot be conceived. And the second premises claims that a being whose non-existence is logically impossible is greater than a being whose non-existence is logically possible. Considering these premises are factual correct by definition, premises 3-5 follow the logic of the first 2 premises, which validates premise 6 and the conclusion follows the last premises. If the definition of god is factual correct and the conclusion follow the premises, then Anselm’s argument is valid and factually correct which makes it sound.

I chose Anselm’s argument as my logical argument example because this religious clerk tries to explain the existence of an higher being (god) with a logical argument. Which is fascinating to me because this argument makes me look at monotheism from a different perspective. A lot of people ( believers of a certain faith or critiques of a monotheistic faith) try to discuss the nature of an higher being but most does not put their ideas in a logical idea. Furthermore, the concept of an idea that could be imagined in the human mind is logically a possibility in reality brings up more questions in my mind. To be able to discuss to existence of an higher being, wouldn’t we have to discuss the mere idea of existing and what that would mean to be a higher being that none greater that could be conceived?

 

 

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