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Ontological argument a level essay

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One Small Step for Trans Rights. And a Moment for Dan Bishop Awareness. So the acceptability of axioms for modal logic depends on which of these uses we have in mind. An approach to supporting the possibility premise in Plantinga's version of the argument was attempted by Alexander Pruss. He started with the 8th—9th-century AD Indian philosopher Sankara 's dictum that if something is impossible, we cannot have a perception even a non-veridical one that it is the case. It follows that if we have a perception that p , then even though it might not be the case that p , it is at least the case that possibly p.

If mystics in fact perceive the existence of a maximally great being, it follows that the existence of a maximally great being is at least possible. Zalta used an automated theorem prover— Prover9 —to validate Anselm's ontological thesis. Prover9 subsequently discovered a simpler, formally valid if not necessarily sound ontological argument from a single non-logical premise. The novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch formulated a version of the ontological argument in her book Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. Though she believed her version of the argument to be superior, she did reserve praise for Descartes' formulation.

Her argument was phrased by her in the following way:. There is no plausible 'proof' of the existence of God except some form of the ontological proof, a 'proof' incidentally which must now take on an increased importance in theology as a result of the recent 'de-mythologising'. If considered carefully, however, the ontological proof is seen to be not exactly a proof but rather a clear assertion of faith it is often admitted to be appropriate only for those already convinced , which could only be confidently be made on a certain amount of experience.

This assertion could be put in various ways. The desire for God is certain to receive a response. My conception of God contains the certainty of its own reality. God is an object of love which uniquely excludes doubt and relativism.

Such obscure statements would of course receive little sympathy from analytical philosophers, who would divide their content between psychological fact and metaphysical nonsense. In other words, atheists may feel objections to such an argument purely on the basis that they rely on a priori methodology. Her formulations rely upon the human connections of God and man, and what such a faith does to people.

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Ontological: Argument based on reason

One of the earliest recorded objections to Anselm's argument was raised by one of Anselm's contemporaries, Gaunilo of Marmoutiers. He invited his reader to conceive an island "more excellent" than any other island. He suggested that, according to Anselm's proof, this island must necessarily exist, as an island that exists would be more excellent. He argued that many theists would accept that God, by nature, cannot be fully comprehended. Therefore, if humans cannot fully conceive of God, the ontological argument cannot work.

Anselm responded to Gaunilo's criticism by arguing that the argument applied only to concepts with necessary existence. He suggested that only a being with necessary existence can fulfill the remit of "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". Furthermore, a contingent object, such as an island, could always be improved and thus could never reach a state of perfection. For that reason, Anselm dismissed any argument that did not relate to a being with necessary existence.

Other parodies have been presented, including the devil corollary , the no devil corollary and the extreme no devil corollary. The devil corollary proposes that a being than which nothing worse can be conceived exists in the understanding sometimes the term lesser is used in place of worse. Using Anselm's logical form, the parody argues that if it exists in the understanding, a worse being would be one that exists in reality; thus, such a being exists.

The no devil corollary is similar, but argues that a worse being would be one that does not exist in reality, so does not exist. The extreme no devil corollary advances on this, proposing that a worse being would be that which does not exist in the understanding, so such a being exists neither in reality nor in the understanding.

Timothy Chambers argued that the devil corollary is more powerful than Gaunilo's challenge because it withstands the challenges that may defeat Gaunilo's parody. He also claimed that the no devil corollary is a strong challenge, as it "underwrites" the no devil corollary, which "threatens Anselm's argument at its very foundations".

Thomas Aquinas , while proposing five proofs of God's existence in his Summa Theologica , objected to Anselm's argument.

Ontological argument - Wikipedia

He suggested that people cannot know the nature of God and, therefore, cannot conceive of God in the way Anselm proposed. Aquinas reasoned that, as only God can completely know His essence, only He could use the argument. Scottish philosopher and empiricist David Hume argued that nothing can be proven to exist using only a priori reasoning.

Nothing is demonstrable, unless the contrary implies a contradiction. Nothing, that is distinctly conceivable, implies a contradiction. Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no being, therefore, whose non-existence implies a contradiction. Consequently there is no being, whose existence is demonstrable. Hume also suggested that, as we have no abstract idea of existence apart from as part of our ideas of other objects , we cannot claim that the idea of God implies his existence. He suggested that any conception of God we may have, we can conceive either of existing or of not existing.

He believed that existence is not a quality or perfection , so a completely perfect being need not exist. Thus, he claimed that it is not a contradiction to deny God's existence.


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Immanuel Kant put forward an influential criticism of the ontological argument in his Critique of Pure Reason. It is shaped by his central distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions. In an analytic proposition, the predicate concept is contained in its subject concept; in a synthetic proposition, the predicate concept is not contained in its subject concept. Kant questions the intelligibility of the concept of a necessary being.

He considers examples of necessary propositions, such as "a triangle has three angles", and rejects the transfer of this logic to the existence of God. First, he argues that such necessary propositions are necessarily true only if such a being exists: If a triangle exists, it must have three angles. The necessary proposition, he argues, does not make the existence of a triangle necessary.

Thus he argues that, if the proposition "X exists" is posited, it would follow that, if X exists, it exists necessarily; this does not mean that X exists in reality. Kant then proposes that the statement "God exists" must be analytic or synthetic—the predicate must be inside or outside of the subject, respectively. If the proposition is analytic, as the ontological argument takes it to be, then the statement would be true only because of the meaning given to the words.

Kant claims that this is merely a tautology and cannot say anything about reality. However, if the statement is synthetic, the ontological argument does not work, as the existence of God is not contained within the definition of God and, as such, evidence for God would need to be found. Kant goes on to write, "'being' is evidently not a real predicate" [60] and cannot be part of the concept of something. He proposes that existence is not a predicate, or quality.

This is because existence does not add to the essence of a being, but merely indicates its occurrence in reality. He states that by taking the subject of God with all its predicates and then asserting that God exists, "I add no new predicate to the conception of God".

The Ontological Argument (Argument for the Existence of God)

He argues that the ontological argument works only if existence is a predicate; if this is not so, he claims the ontological argument is invalidated, as it is then conceivable a completely perfect being doesn't exist. In addition, Kant claims that the concept of God is not of one a particular sense; rather, it is an "object of pure thought". Because we cannot experience God through experience, Kant argues that it is impossible to know how we would verify God's existence. This is in contrast to material concepts, which can be verified by means of the senses. However, although Kant was sceptical of the power of Descartes' and Anselm's formulations of the argument, he nonetheless stated that he believed his formulation to be potent in The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God.

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Australian philosopher Douglas Gasking — developed a version of the ontological argument meant to prove God's non-existence. It was not intended to be serious; rather, its purpose was to illustrate the problems Gasking saw in the ontological argument. Gasking asserted that the creation of the world is the most marvellous achievement imaginable. The merit of such an achievement is the product of its quality and the creator's disability: the greater the disability of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.

Non-existence, Gasking asserts, would be the greatest handicap. Therefore, if the universe is the product of an existent creator, we could conceive of a greater being—one which does not exist. A non-existent creator is greater than one which exists, so God does not exist. Gasking's proposition that the greatest disability would be non-existence is a response to Anselm's assumption that existence is a predicate and perfection.

Gasking uses this logic to assume that non-existence must be a disability.


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Oppy criticized the argument, viewing it as a weak parody of the ontological argument. He stated that, although it may be accepted that it would be a greater achievement for a non-existent creator to create something than a creator who exists, there is no reason to assume that a non-existent creator would be a greater being. He continued by arguing that there is no reason to view the creation of the world as "the most marvellous achievement imaginable". Finally, he stated that it may be inconceivable for a non-existent being to create anything at all. In his development of the ontological argument, Leibniz attempted to demonstrate the coherence of a supremely perfect being.

Broad countered that if two characteristics necessary for God's perfection are incompatible with a third, the notion of a supremely perfect being becomes incoherent.