the ontological argument Flashcards Preview

Philosophy > the ontological argument > Flashcards

Flashcards in the ontological argument Deck (35)
Loading flashcards...

Who came up with the Ontological argument?

St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)


What does ontological mean?

The word ‘ontos’ means ‘being.’ The Ontological argument thus attempts to prove the existence of God a priori by focusing on the nature of his existence or being.


What is a deductive argument?

A deductive argument is one where the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises – if the premises are true then the conclusion must follow. The validity of a deductive argument depends upon its internal logic – i.e. the very definition of words determines whether or not the argument can hold to be true. A deductive argument can be said to be ‘a priori’ as it does not depend upon external validation.


What is an inductive argument?

Inductive arguments are based on observation. The validity of inductive arguments can vary from 0% to 100% as they are based on empirical observation and not internal logic. Premise (1) and (2) may well be true but the conclusion (3) may well be a massive assumption.


What type of argument is the ontological argument?

It is deductive and it is analytic.


What is an analytic statement?

Analytic sentences are true by definition, and are generally self-explanatory - used in deductive arguments.


What is a synthetic statement?

Synthetic statements, on the other hand, are based on our sensory data and experience. - Used in inductive arguments.


What is Anselm's first argument for the existence of God?

God is the greatest possible being (that than which nothing greater can be conceived’)
If God exists in the mind alone (only as an idea), then a greater being could be imagined to exist both in the mind and in reality
This being would then be greater than God
Thus God cannot exist only as an idea in the mind
Therefore, God exists both in the mind (as an idea) and in reality.


What does Anslem's first premise in the first form of the ontological argument mean?

The first premise (1) that God is the greatest possible being stems from the classical attributes of God i.e. omnipotence, omnipresent, omniscience…etc. It naturally follows that there cannot be two rival omnipotent beings…etc. For Anselm (and most theistic thinkers) this understanding of God goes without saying. I. Any other definition of God would not be God.


What do the second and third premises of the first form of the ontological argument mean?

The second and third premises (2 and 3) argue that something that exists in reality is better than something that exists only in ones imagination. For example, which is better imagining that you have £1 million, or actually having £1 million in your bank account?


What does the conclusion of the first form of the ontological argument mean?

The conclusion (4) follows from the first three premises (1,2 and 3). Anselm’s final conclusion (5) is that if all the previous premises are true (1,2,3 and 4) then God must exist


What is an overload objection?

they don't claim to show where or how the ontological argument goes wrong, they simply argue that if it is sound, then so are many other arguments of the same logical form which we don't want to accept, arguments which would overload the world with an indefinitely large number of things like perfect islands, perfect pizzas, perfect pencils, etc.


What problem with Anselm's first form of the ontological argument did Gaunilo of Marmoutiers’ raise?

One problem with Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God is that it invites parody. Parallel arguments purporting to prove the existence of any perfect thing at all can be constructed.


What was Gaunilo of Marmoutiers’ argument against Anselm's first form of the ontological argument?

Gaunilo invited his readers to think of the greatest, or most perfect, conceivable island.
As a matter of fact, it is likely that no such island actually exists.
However, his argument would then say that we aren't thinking of the greatest conceivable island, because the greatest conceivable island would exist, as well as having all those other desirable properties.
Since we can conceive of this greatest or most perfect conceivable island, then it must exist.
Gaunilo argued that this line of argument was no less absurd than Anselm’s orginal argument. This logic is flawed, thus showing the ontological argument is flawed as a perfect island does not exist.


What is the flaw in Gaunilo argument (How did Anslem respond)

There will be disagreements as to what makes an island perfect
By definition any piece of land surrounded by water is an island. In this case all islands are perfect islands.
Anselm argued that he was not talking about temporal contingent things such as islands which are rooted in time and space. Such things are dependent upon other things for their existence. Anselm is talking about the greatest thing that can be thought. God is not contingent or temporal. God’s existence is necessary


What does necessary mean?

inevitably resulting from or produced by the nature of things…etc., so that the contrary is impossible.


What does contingent mean?

that which need not be, that which could have been different; something that has dependency.


What was Gaunilo's main objection to Anselm's argument and how did Anselm respond?

Gaulino’s main objection to Anselm was that he thought no mere mortal could conceive (or understand) God’s nature. Anselm would have agreed with Gaulino – it is impossible to understand God in the same way one might understand geometry. However, this does not rule out the possibility to understand the concept that God is ‘that which nothing greater can be conceived’.


Why did Anselm develop the second form of the ontological argument?

Anselm’s first argument left himself open to criticism from Gaulino and his perfect island.


What was Anselm's second argument?

Either God exists or He does not exist
If God exists, God’s existence must be necessary
If God does not exist, then his existence is logically impossible
God is not a logically impossible thing
Therefore, God’s existence is necessary
Therefore, God exists


What is meant by if God exists, God's existence must be necessary?

It would be inconceivable to thing of God in terms of Him being contingent – i.e. dependent upon something else. If we are going to think of God in terms of Him being omnipotent…etc. then by definition God must be necessary.


What is meant by If God does not exist, then his existence is logically impossible?

There are two kinds of things which cannot exist:
contingent things e.g. Superman, unicorns or Queen Victoria
logically impossible things e.g. square circles, male sisters
God cannot be contingent. If we are going to reject the notion of God then it must be because he is illogical. God is not a logically impossible thing as there is no logical contradiction in the notion of God. It is logically possible for him to exist.


What is meant by Therefore, God’s existence is necessary. Therefore, God exists ?

As God is not logically impossible and also is not a contingent non-existence thing, then there is only one possible state left: that of a necessary being. It, therefore, follows that God’s existence is necessary and God does exist.


How does Anselm conduct this argument as as process of eliminations?

God cannot be an existing contingent being (e.g. like you and me!)
God cannot be a non-existent contingent being (e.g. a unicorn)
God cannot be a logically impossible being (e.g. an omnipotent God who is impotent)
God cannot be a necessary non-existent being (it is logically impossible)
God must be a necessary existent being.


What is the simplified version of the second form of the ontological argument?

It is impossible to conceive of a God not existing (John Hick agreed):
1/ A necessary being is greater than a contingent being since a contingent being depends on something else for its existence and we can be thought of as not existing
2/ God can be defined as ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived’ and therefore God must be a necessary being – his existence does not depend on other forms
3/ It is impossible to conceive of a necessary being not existing
4/ Therefore God must necessarily exist


Who was Rene Descartes?

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is generally regarded the founder of modern western philosophy. Descartes was instrumental in bringing about the Age of the Enlightenment in Western Europe. His writings challenged conventional beliefs which were still based upon Church teachings.


How did Descartes respond to Anselm's ontological argument?

Like Anselm, Descartes thought of God in terms of a perfect being. Following Anselm’s first argument, Descartes was in agreement that existence was more perfect than non-existence. For Descartes, God’s existence was part of His essence. For Descartes, there are some qualities that an object necessarily has or else it would not be that object. To illustrate this Descartes argued that the essence of a triangle is a ‘three sided plane figure’. To say that God does not exist is rather like saying ‘a triangle does not have three sides’ or that the internal angels don’t add up to 180o. In the same way, existence cannot be separated from the concept of God.


How did Descartes respond to Gaulino's criticism of Anselm's first argument?

Descartes took on board Gaulino’s criticism of Anselm’s first argument. Like Anselm before him, Descartes points to the distinction between a necessary being and a contingent being. The argument applies only to an absolutely perfect and necessary being. The argument cannot be applied to islands, dragons, unicorns or even pizzas! For Descartes, God alone is the being whose essence entails His existence. There cannot be more than one such being.


What is Descartes analogy of the triangle?

The analogy of a triangle can be used to explain Descartes’ form of the Ontological argument. A triangle has predicates (necessary characteristics); for example, all of its internal angles must add up to 180°. If these predicates are removed the triangle is no longer a triangle. Anslem said, in the same way, existence is a predicate of God.


How did Caterus respond to Descartes argument?

Caterus argued that the statement ‘If God exists then he is highest being’ was a tautology (the truth of the statement is self evident). But Caterus emphasised the word ‘if’. It was not illogical to say, ‘God does not exist therefore there is no highest being’. To use Descartes’ analogy of a triangle it is possible to say, ‘If a triangle exists it has three sides’. However, all this really tells us is something about triangles. It is equally coherent to say, ‘triangles do not exist therefore three sided things do not exist.’ Likewise, we might say, ‘unicorns have one horn’ but this does not prove there are any unicorns.