The Ontological Argument

opticlops's version from 2015-05-10 11:15

Section 1

Question Answer
Which part of the bible is Anselm's ontological argument based on?Psalm 14; and 53:1
Psalm 14 quote- basis of the Ontological argument“Only the fool says in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 14)
Who gave the ontological argument its name?Kant
Where is the name derived fromIt comes from the Greek “Ontos” meaning being and "logos" meaning study of.
What type of argument is it?A Priori proof (premises which are prior to any sense experience) and is also deductive (the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises)
What is an Analytic statement?Analytic statement – a statement that is ridiculous/impossible to think is false e.g. a triangle has three internal angles which add up to 180 degree (by definition it has to add up to 180 degrees). (impossible to think of a triangle in any other way)
Richard Swinburne quote on analytic statements“An analytic or logically necessary proposition is one which it would be incoherent to suppose to be false” – R Swinburne
What is a synthetic statementSynthetic statement – a statement in which the statement’s truth or falsity depends on evidence which has to be collected e.g. Yeti's walk in the himalayas
What was Anselm's mottoHis motto was "credo ut intelligam" (I believe that I may understand). AKA "faith seeking understanding"

Section 2

Question Answer
What was Anselm's 1st OA developed in response to?The fool in Psalm 14:1
What is Anselm's definition of god?"Aliquid quo nihil maius cogtari possit" Which means “That than which nothing greater can be conceived” (Anselm)
What doesn't anselm do after setting up his definiton of God & why?Anselm makes no attempt to name any attributes of God. These qualities are “rendered irrelevant” (M Palmer)
What does Anselm argue that the fool must have in Psalm 14Anselm argues that the fool described in Psalm 14 must have an idea in intellectui (in the mind) of what God is, even though he denies God’s existence in re (in reality)
What example does Peter Vardy use to make something seem greater in realityAn example P Vardy uses to demonstrate this is of an imaginary £500 pounds and a real £500. Which do we find more powerful?
What does Palmer say must happen for us to deny the existence of something in the first place“To deny the existence of anything must presuppose the existence of that thing as an idea” (M Palmer); Palmer uses the example of a unicorn to explain this
What conclusion does Anselm drawTherefore if God exists as the greatest possible being, then if He is a concept that exists in the mind then due to the definition there must be a greater being who exists in reality as well. Therefore God must exist in reality
Anselm example of intentional and formal causesThe idea of a painting is intentional and the finished product is the actual painting which is formal
Why must God exist in both reality and mind? (P cole)Therefore God must exist both in the mind and in reality since “It is self contradictory to conceive of something than which nothing greater can be conceived and yet to deny that something exists” (P Cole)
Short summary of the argument1. G-d is the greatest possible being which can be conceived of 2. G-d may exist either in the mind alone (in intellectu) or in reality (in re) as well 3. Something which exists in reality and in the mind is greater than something that exists as an idea in the mind alone 4. Therefore, G-d must exist in reality and in the mind
What does it mean to say God's existence is a predicateAnselm claims that it is part of G-d’s nature that G-d exists. He says that a predicate (quality) of G-d is G-d’s existence. To be the greatest possible being, G-d must, necessarily have his property of existence.
Why is God's existence analytic + conclusionbecause G-d is the greatest being that can be thought of, part of being a ‘being’ or ‘thing’ of any sort is that you exist. So G-d must exist. For Anselm, G-d’s existence is thus analytic.

Section 3

Question Answer
Where was Anselm's 2nd OA written and who was it in response to?It was written in "Responsio", it was a reply to contemporary a critique of his known as Gaunilo's Island
How did Anselm begin By defining God in the same way as before.
Short summary of 2nd OA 1. G-d is that being nothing greater than which can be thought of 2. Something which cannot be thought not to exist is greater than anything which can be thought not to exist 3. Therefore, it is impossible to think that this being cannot exist 4. And this being is what we call ‘G-d’
What does Anselm draw a distinction between?Anselm draws a distinction between contingent and necessary existence
What does Anselm conclude about God's necessary existence? (Anselm Quote)Anselm’s second argument concludes that G-d has to exist and cannot fail to exist – ‘necessary existence’: God "cannot not exist” (Anselm)
Why do most things have contingent existence?Most things depend on something else for their existence and so have ‘contingent existence’.
According to Anselm, why can God not exist contingently?Anselm argues that G-d cannot exist contingently because G-d would depend on something else for existence and so therefore would not be as great as a being that existed necessarily.
Response to Gaunilo's islandIslands, even the greatest possible island, can still be thought of as not existing (IE their existence is contingent)
How does Palmer define a contingent being“A contingent thing is something that can exist or not exist” (M Palmer)
Why does contingency not belong to God (Palmer quote)God “belongs to a different order of being” (M Palmer)
Why is God's existence necessary (M palmer quote)God is the only being to which the ontological argument can apply because he is the only being whose non-existence is inconceivable” (M Palmer)

Section 4

Question Answer
What does Descartes' argument do?This version provides support to Anselm’s 2 OA which is presented in his Responsio
Where is Descartes' argument foundThe 5th Meditations
What idea does Descartes begin with?he begins with the idea of a “supremely perfect being” (Descartes)
What must descartes' supremely perfect being have?This being must therefore have all perfections amongst which we must include the perfection of existence
If a being failed to exist what would it meanAny being that failed to exist would be less perfect than any being for which not existing would be an impossibility.
According to Palmer what is existence to a perfect beingTherefore existence is a “necessary attribute” (M Palmer) of the perfect being
What did descartes' use to clarify the necessary existence of a perfect being Descartes clarified this with the idea of a triangle The sum of the three angles equals 2 right angles, and this is understood as a necessary attribute of a triangles existence § In this way, the necessary attribute of a perfect being must be existence, for without it would be as contradictory as having a triangle without three angles adding to 2 right angles
Short summary of Descartes' argument1. G-d is a supremely perfect being 2. A property of perfection is existence 3. Therefore G-d exists
What other example did descarte's use to demonstrate necessityThe idea that when there is a mountain, there must be a valley
Why should we believe that God exists?1. If you study G-d, it is clear that the perfection of existence is part of the way G-d is, necessarily 2. As a response to, ‘one can think of X but that does not mean X exists, Descartes insists that existence is a perfection, and hence G-d being perfect must exist (just repeats his point)


Question Answer
What is Gaunilo's Island?The most famous argument put forward by Gaunilo is that of a perfect island. Anyone can thing of a most perfect paradise island e.g. perfect amount of palm trees, perfect temp. but while it can be conceived of, this does not mean that is exists.The analogy implies that it is absurd to say that just because you have an idea of something, it must exist. Gaunilo then claims that either the perfect island is a joke, the person making the argument is a fool or that the person believing that argument is a fool.Gaunilo concludes that Anselm cannot demonstrate or prove that the idea of G-d as the greatest possible being means that G-d exists in reality.
What is Gaunilo's book called"On behalf of the fool"
Peter Cole Gaunilo Island summary“The thrust of the ontological argument seems to be that by defining God, you can be assured of his existence” (P Cole – Philosophy of Religion)
Peter Cole on defining things into existence" We cannot define something into existence, even if it has all the perfections we can imagine” (P Cole – Philosophy of Religion)
What does Guanilo say about the fool possibly hearing Gossip?What the fool may have heard about God may be gossip; The fool could have in mind all sorts of things that do not exist in reality. For example if you hear about someone from gossip, the gossip is unreliable and could have been made up to trick you.
What does Gaunilo say about defining things into existence?Gaunilo argues that you cannot demonstrate the existence of something by just having an idea about it; you cannot define the idea into existence.

Anselm Responding to Gaunilo

Question Answer
How does Anselm respond to the idea of Gaunilo's island1. Anselm said that G-d’s existence is necessary. Gaunilo’s argument is different, because the island, while being the greatest possible island, does not have to exist – it’s existence is contingent.
Anselm quote on God's existence being necessary"cannot not exist: it must exist” (Anselm)
Anselm response to defining a thing into existence2. Anselm argues against Gaunilo that if you conceive of the greatest possible being you ‘conceive of a being which cannot be even conceived not to exist’. Gaunilo’s island is not a thing which cannot be conceived not to exist, so Anselm rejects Gaunilo’s argument that the island’s existence can be proved from the idea of it alone.
Alvin Platinga response to the island- while he pretends to be anselm3. The philosopher Alvin Plantinga has suggested that Anselm could reply to Gaunilo by suggesting that however great an island is, there could always be one better, as there is no ‘intrinsic maximum’ or limit to the qualities of wealth, treasures and beautiful scenery that the island could have.
Why is the greatest possible being and the greatest possible island not comparable?G-d is maximally great in Anselm’s thought – nothing greater is possible. Therefore the greatest possible being and the greatest possible island are not comparable.

I Kant do it anymore

Question Answer
What was Kant's objection?He didn't believe that existence was a predicate- therefore you cannot define God into existence if existence isn't a predicate
Why didn't Kant believe existence was a predicateThis is because a predicate is a property that tells us something about the object concerned. Kant argued that to “exist” is simply telling us whether or not that concept exists
What example did Kant use to explain his objection in Critique of Pure Reason?“A hundred real thalers do not contain the least coin more than a hundred possible thalers...the content of both must be one and the same” (Kant)
What did Kant further argue about philosophical statements?Kant further argued that all philosophical statements were synthetic (need to be verified), whereas Anselm would have regarded the statement that God exists to be analytic

Responding to Kant

Question Answer
Hartshorne resopnse to KantThere is a big difference between an idea of G-d and G-d existing in reality. Hence he rejects Kant’s claim that existence is not a predicate. Another way of putting his views: there is a big difference between describing the symptoms of an illness and the reality of having the illness.
Hartshorne quote“The conceptual description of a kind of thing may at most account for so much of its quality or value as is expressible in merely abstract terms. But the full quality is not thus expressible.” Hartshorne, Anselm’s Discovery: A Re-examination of the Ontological Proof for G-d’s Existence
Norman Malcolm short summarynecessary existence could be a predicate of G-d. The existence of G-d is either impossible or necessary.
Norman Malcolm long versionMalcolm states that God has to be a necessary being, for if He is not, then he is contingent and therefore limited in power. This contradicts Anselm’s definition of God being the greatest conceivable being than can exist. Therefore God’s existence can either be necessary or impossible. Since the notion of God not existing is self contradictory (or the notion of God existing is not self contradictory) , God must exist, for else the whole definition falls apart and therefore the whole argument.

Further crits and responses

Question Answer
Pierre Gassendi respomseExistence is a perfection which G-d cannot lack. Something either exists or it does not. It is only relevant to discus perfection of something if it exists. If G-d doesn’t exist, G-d is neither perfect nor imperfect; they just do not exist
Descartes response to Gassendi + quotes– existence is necessarily part of the nature or essence of G-d and “the relation between existence and essence is manifestly quite different in the case of G-d from what it is in the case of a triangle” (Descartes, Descartes Replies to Critics)
Plantinga.... ArgumentLet there be another world... M. God's existence is not impossible, therefore let us say God exists in world M. As God is the greatest possible being he must exist in all worlds, and as he exists in world M & it is not impossible for him to exist in this world, he must exist in all worlds including ours.
Plantinga critiquing M world point, if Malcolm does prove the necessary existence of the greatest possible being, it follows that there is a being that exists in all worlds whose greatness in some worlds is not surpassed. It does not, he argued; demonstrate that such a being has unsurpassed greatness in this world.
Aquinas arguing against AnselmAquinas argued that God’s existence cannot be regarded as self evident. He questioned the definition of God, which is fundamental to Anselm’s entire argument. Even if this concept was universally accepted, could such a being exist? We cannot define things into existence. There must be a logical argument
What context was Anselm's argument written inAnselm’s OA is in the context of a prayer and will therefore appeal to the believer rather than the non-believer.
Anselm quote on his thing being a prayer As Anselm himself wrote, “I have written the following treatise in the person of one who seeks what he believes”

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