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background to anselm's ontological argument

- is it greater to exist in the mind or in existence ?

- study of being

- a priori, analytic argument for the existence of God. Uses reason alone and contains evidence within the argument to prove it.

- Anselm was a monk, Christian. Wanted to use reason to justify his faith

- his argument is in the format of a prayer to God


Anselm starts of with a definition of God. what is this ?

'the being than which no greater can be conceived)

the greatest conceivable being


anselm's 2nd point

- according to the bible the fool (atheist) has said there is no God


anselm's third point

this means that God ( the being than which no greater can be conceived) exists in the mind of the fool, but not in reality


what is anselm's example ? 4th point
give your own example also

- a painter may imagine a picture in his mind. He understand what he will paint but it only exists in the mind. The picture is greater when he paints the picture as now it exists in both his mind and reality

- e.g. thinking of chocolate and what it tastes like isn't as good as actually eating the chocolate


anselm's 5th point

however, existence in reality (in re) is greater than existence in the understanding (in intelkectu)


anselm's 6th point

if God exists only in the mind of the fool, a greater being could be conceived than 'the being than which no greater can be conceived" (God) I.e. any being that exists in reality as well as in the mind of a person


anselm's 7th point

- but this is a contradiction
- because God is 'that which nothing greater can be conceived' and it is greater to exist in mind and reality than in the mind alone


anselm's conclusion

therefore God (the being that which no greater can be conceived ) exists both in the mind and in reality


explain Gaunilo's criticism of Anselm through his island example

- there is an island which no greater island can be thought of (it is the best island possible )

- the island exists in the mind

- it is greater to exist in the mind and reality instead of just the mind

- this is the greatest island so the island must exists in the mind and reality

- following anselm's argument but you would be a fool to believe this perfect island exists. It cannot just pop into existence


what is Anselm's second formulation which can be used as a response to Gaunilo

- God is the being which no greater can be conceived

- possible to think of a necessary being that must exists and possible to think of a contingent being that may not exist

- a necessary being is better than a contingent one

- since God is the being that which nothing greater can be conceived and a necessary being is better than a contingent being, God must therefore be necessary

- therefore God exists as a logical necessity

- Anselm is talking about a necessary being, Gaunilo is talking about a contingent being


how does Plantinga criticise Gaunilo and support Anselm

- there is no such thing as the greatest convincible island

- an island can also be improved e.g. by adding more trees

- the island has no intrinsic maximum - we can always add more to it

- this is unlike God who does have intrinsic maximum due to anselm's definition


what are three criticisms of Anselm's ontological argument

- if you disagree with Anselm's definition of God than the argument doesn't work

- Anselm doesn't use empiricism which is a disadvantage as this is what we use to see the world - counter with our senses can deceive us

- it is just an argument for the existence of God - doesn't actually give us any useful information about ethics or our relationship with God for example


what is Descartes ontological argument ?

- God is the supremely perfect being

- Existence cannot be separated from the essence of God. Like a mountain cannot be separated from a valley

-the idea of existence is a predicate of God, it is part of the essence of God

- not simply that God exists, but God must exists.

- Gods existence is logically necessary


who criticises the ontological argument ?



explain Kants first criticism of the ontological argument that existence isn't a predicate

- it doesn't add anything to the description

- a description includes a list of properties about the subject - it tells you something about the subject

- adding 'it exists' doesn't add anything to its properties

- therefore exists isn't a predicate

e.g. predicates of the idea of a £10 note = paper, rectangle, thin, face of queen on it. Predicates of real £10 note = paper, rectangle, thin, face of queen on it. Adding 'it exists' doesn't add anything to it.

- Kant gave the same example but with thalers ( German silver coins )


explain kants third criticism of the ontological argument about analytic or synthetic arguments

- analytic = truth already in the statement
- Synthetic = needs external evidence to verify it

- existence comes on the synthetic propositions
- statements about existence aren't analytic
- we have to experience existence
- therefore 'God exists' is a synthetic statement that requires verification through evidence


How does Hume support Kants idea that existence is synthetic

- if you want to know if something exists you have to go and find evidence to see if it exists

- you can't just define God into existence

- from Anselm and Descartes definitions of God we can't just then conclude that God exists


explain the argument from syllogism that supports Kant

- if 'exists ' were a predicate these syllogism would be true

Donkeys exist
Eeyore is a donkey
Eeyore exists


what are the four types of logical fallacies

A leap or jump in logic
Is God a special case ?
An alternative explanation


what logical fallacies can be seen in the ontological argument

- assuming definitions of God are correct
- Descartes assumes that existence is a predicate
- God is a special case e.g. necessary being in Anselm's second formulation


three strengths of a priori arguments

- our senses can deceive us

- no empirical evidence against theories. You don't need to look for evidence to prove gods existence

- can asses a prior arguments as usually deductive . Can see its premises leading to a conclusion


5 weaknesses of a priori arguments

- no evidence to back it up

- just because we can reason it doesn't mean it's true

- we need empiricism to survive

- we can't always use reason to work out things. E.g. what goodness is

- if we deny the premises then we don't reach the conclusion


3 strengths of a posteriori arguments

- evidence is available to everyone . E.g. teleological argument - everyone can see the purpose of the human eye

- Swinburnes principle of testimony / credulity

- we learn thorough our senses


3 weaknesses of a posteriori arguments

- senses can't be relied on

- people interpret evidence in different ways. E.g. Wisdoms parable

- senses are only true for today - need to keep checking (Kant )