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Chapter 6:. Ontological arguments for God’s existence:. Ontological argument. Derived from the Greek terms ontos (being) and logos (reason or rational account) First developed by Saint Anselm of Canterbury, the argument takes a variety of forms

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Chapter 6

Chapter 6:

Ontological arguments

for God’s existence:


Ontological argument

Ontological argument

  • Derived from the Greek terms ontos (being) and logos(reason or rational account)

  • First developed by Saint Anselm of Canterbury, the argument takes a variety of forms

  • The common theme among them is that they begin a priori – proceeding from the mere concept of God – and conclude that God must exist


Anselm s ontological argument

Anselm’s ontological argument

Everyone is able to understand by the term “God” a being than which none greater can be conceived

So, a being than which none greater can be conceived exists in the mind (the understanding) when one hears about such a being

We can conceive of a being than which none greater can be conceived which exists both in the mind and in reality


Anselm s argument continued

Anselm’s argument continued

  • To exist in reality is better than to exist in the mind alone

  • If, therefore, a being than which none greater can be conceived exists in the mind alone and not in reality, it is not a being than which none greater can be conceived

  • Therefore, a being than which none greater can be conceived exists in reality.


Guanilo s objection

Guanilo’s objection

Everyone is able to understand by the term “Perfect Island” the greatest possible island(GPI).

So, a GPI exists in the mind

We can conceive of a GPI that exists in the mind and reality

Existence in reality is greater than existence in the mind alone

If a GPI exists in the mind alone, then it is not the GPI

Thus, a GPI exists in reality

But since a GPI does not exist in reality, the argument structure (which Anselm also utilizes) must be flawed


Kant s objection

Kant’s objection

  • Existence is not a predicate such that it is a property which can be affirmed of a thing

  • Existence does not add to the concept of a thing; rather, existence is the instantiation of a thing

  • The example of a black, existing cat


Plantinga s modal argument

Plantinga’s modal argument

It is possible that a being exists which is maximally great (a being we can call God)

So, there is a possible world in which a maximally great being exists

A maximally great being is necessarily maximally excellent in every possible world(by definition)

Since a maximally great being is necessarily maximally excellent in every possible world, that being is necessarily maximally excellent in the actual world

Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world


Objections

Objections

  • God’s existence is a logical or metaphysical impossibility

  • Possible worlds and the semantics they employ are problematic

  • Fairies, ghosts, gremlins and unicorns can be made “plausible” through the same argumentation (similar to “Perfect Island”)


Martin s special fairy argument

Martin’s special fairy argument

It is possible that a special fairy exists

So, there is a possible world in which a special fairy exists

A special fairy is necessarily a tiny woodland creature with magical powers in every possible world

Since a special fairy is necessarily a tiny woodland creature with magical powers in every possible world, that fairy is necessarily a tiny woodland creature with magical powers in the actual world

Therefore, a special fairy exists in the actual world


Questions for discussion

Questions for discussion

  • Is it greater to exist than to not exist, as Anselm claimed? How does your answer affect Anselm’s argument?

  • Can you conceive of God’s non-existence? If so, what follows from this regarding the ontological argument?

  • How does the ontological argument differ from other classic arguments for the existence of God?


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