Anselm & Aquinas. December 23, 2005. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109 AD). The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God. (Text, pp. 263-4). Credo ut intelligam (“I believe that I might understand”). The relationship between faith and reason (Faith must precede understanding?).
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December 23, 2005
Anselm of Canterbury(1033-1109 AD)
The Ontological Argument
Existence of God
(Text, pp. 263-4)
Credo ut intelligam(“I believe that I might understand”)
faith and reason
(Faith must precede understanding?)
Why is the ontological argument called
What is the “ontological reference” of the word “God”?
That is, what kind of being does the word “God” refer to?
According to Anselm, the word “God” refers to
“something than which nothing greater can be thought of.”
Necessary beings(i.e., things with necessary existence) cannot not-exist.
(i.e., things whose existence is contradictory, e.g., round squares)
Is it logically possible for the existence of “something than which nothing greater can be thought of” to be contingent?
is the nonexistence of “something than which nothing greater can be thought of”
Something than which nothing greater can be thought of cannot exist only as an idea in the mind because, in addition to existing as an idea in the mind, it can also be thought of as existing in reality, that is, objectively, which is greater than existing only as an idea in the mind.
Ifsomething than which nothing greater can be thought of exists only as an idea in the mind, then “that than which something greatercannot be thought of” is “that than which something greatercan be thought of,” which is impossible because it is self-contradictory.
Something than which nothing greater can be thought of must exist, not only as an idea in the mind, but in reality.
A God that actually exists is greater than a “God” that exists only as an idea in the mind.
If “God” exists only as an idea in the mind, then “God” is “not-God” (because something that exists only as an idea in the mind is not “something than which nothing greater can be thought of”).
Thus, the claim that God does not actually exist implies a contradiction and is therefore necessarily false.
If the claim that God does not actually exist is necessarily false, then the claim that God actually exists is necessarily true (because the negation of a contradiction is a tautology).
It is possible to think of something that cannot be thought not to exist [that is, anecessary being].
A necessary being [something that cannot be thought not to exist] would be greater than something thatcan be thought not to exist [that is, acontingent being].
Ifsomething than which nothing greater can be thought ofcould be thought of as not existing, thensomething than which nothing greater can be thought of would not besomething than which nothing greater can be thought of, which is an outright contradiction and thus absurd.
Something than which nothing greater can be thought of has such a high degree of existence, that is, necessary existence, that it cannot be thought of as not existing, that is, its nonexistence isimpossible.
God is the ONLY BEING
whose nonexistence is
(That is, no other being deserves the title of “something than which nothing greater can be thought of.”)
How can “the fool” doubt or deny the existence of God?
The “fool” (i.e., the atheist or agnostic) does not understand the true meaning of “something than which nothing greater can be thought of.”
Thomas Aquinas(1224-1274 AD)
existence of God
(Text, pp. 265-8)
1. Some of the things in the world are changing.
2. Whatever changes must be caused to change by something other
3. If anything that causes change must itself be changing, then it
also must be caused to change by something other than itself, and
that cause must also be caused by still another cause, and so on
4. This process of cause and effect cannot go on to infinity because,
if it did, there would be no first cause of change and thus no later
causes of change (since later causes of change are merely the
effects of a first or primary cause -- for example, a stick can
move something only if the stick is moved by a hand).
5. There must be a first cause of change, which itself is not caused
or changed by anything, and this everyone understands to be
[What about human beings? Determinism?]
[“A” first cause? God?]
1. In the world that we perceive with our senses, we find a series
2. Nothing can be the cause of itself [i.e., of its own existence],
for then it would be prior to itself, which is impossible.
3. It is also impossible for a series of causes to go on to infinity.
In every series of causes, the first cause produces one or more
later causes, and the later causes produce the last event in the
series. If a cause were removed from the series, so would its
effect be removed. So if there were no first cause [in a series of
causes], that is, if the series went on to infinity, there could be
no later causes and no last event in the series.
4. It is obvious that there are such causes and events.
5. There must be a first cause, which itself is not caused by
anything, and this everyone understands to be “God.”
[“A” first cause? God?]
1. There are things that can either exist or not [that is, contingent beings], which is
clear from the fact that some things come into being and later pass out of existence
(that is, they exist at some times but not at others).
2. Something like this [a contingent being] cannot always exist because something
whose nonexistence is possible must have not-existed at some time.
3. If everything can not-be [that is, if everything has contingent existence], then at
some time before now there would have been absolutely nothing in existence.
4. If there were ever nothing in existence, then even now there would be nothing in
existence because something that doesn’t exist can begin to exist only if it is
brought into existence by something already existing. If at some time before now
there was nothing in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to
begin to exist, and there would be nothing existing now, which is obviously false
5. It can’t be that everything’s existence is merely possible [contingent]. There must
be something that has necessary existence.
6. There is a being that exists necessarily, and this everyone calls “God.”
[“A” necessary being? God?]
1. Look at the way things happen in the world. Even things that
lack consciousness, such as physical objects, tend toward an
end. In fact, they always (or almost always) behave in such a
way as to produce what is best [with regard to the natural order].
2. Things in nature reach their end, not by chance or accident, but
3. Anything that lacks consciousness can tend toward an end [or
follow a design] only if it is directed to do so by some other
being that is conscious and intelligent (as an arrow is directed
toward a target by an archer).
4. There is some intelligent being who directs all things in nature
toward their end, and this being we call "God."
In other words,
1. Is there? Isn’t there also a lot of disorder in nature?
2. Must there be? Appearance vs. Reality. Why can’t the “order” and “design” of nature be accidental, a product of chance?
3. “An” intelligent designer? Why not more than one? Why must it be “God”?
1. Some things are better than other things.
2. Something can be “better” or “worse” than
something else only if it is closer to or further
away from that which is best [that is,
3. That which is best [that is, perfect] must
exist, and this must be the greatest
conceivable being, that is, God.
What are these theories? You might find it interesting to research them on your own. Which (if any) of them do you subscribe to? Why? (This NOT for extra credit. There are no extra credit opportunities in this course.)