An Argument

by bellasemplicita

An ontological argument is defined as – “arguments, for the conclusion that God exists, from premises which are supposed to derive from some source other than observation of the world—e.g., from reason alone. In other words, ontological arguments are arguments from nothing but analytic, a priori and necessary premises to the conclusion that God exists”.

The first and the best-known ontological argument was proposed by St. Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century A.D. in his Proslogion.

“Thus even the fool is convinced that something than which nothing greater can be conceived is in the understanding, since when he hears this, he understands it; and whatever is understood is in the understanding. And certainly that than which a greater cannot be conceived cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is even in the understanding alone, it can be conceived to exist in reality also, which is greater. Thus if that than which a greater cannot be conceived is in the understanding alone, then that than which a greater cannot be conceived is itself that than which a greater can be conceived. But surely this cannot be. Thus without doubt something than which a greater cannot be conceived exists, both in the understanding and in reality.”

Two different formulations of the argument –

Formulation 1

  1. God exists in the understanding but not in reality. (Assumption for reductio)
  2. Existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone. (Premise)
  3. A being having all of God’s properties plus existence in reality can be conceived. (Premise)
  4. A being having all of God’s properties plus existence in reality is greater than God. (From (1) and (2).)
  5. A being greater than God can be conceived. (From (3) and (4).)
  6. It is false that a being greater than God can be conceived. (From definition of “God”.)
  7. Hence, it is false that God exists in the understanding but not in reality. (From (1), (5), (6).)
  8. God exists in the understanding. (Premise, to which even the Fool agrees.)
  9. Hence God exists in reality. (From (7), (8).)

See Plantinga 1967.

Formulation 3

  1. There is a thing x, and a magnitude m, such that x exists in the understanding, m is the magnitude of x, and it it not possible that there is a thing y and a magnitude n such that n is the magnitude of y and n>m. (Premise)
  2. For any thing x and magnitude m, if x exists in the understanding, m is the magnitude of x, and it is not possible that there is a thing y and magnitude n such that n is the magnitude of y and n>m, then it is possible that x exists in reality. (Premise)
  3. For any thing x and magnitude m, if m is the magnitude of x, and it it not possible that there is a thing y and a magnitude n such that n is the magnitude of y and n>m, and x does not exist in reality, then it is not possible that if xexists in reality then there is a magnitude n such that n is greater than m and n is the magnitude of x. (Premise)
  4. (Hence) There is a thing x and a magnitude m such that x exist in the understanding, and x exists in reality, and m is the magnitude of x, and it it not possible that there is a thing y and a magnitude n such that n is the magnitude of y andn>m. (From 1, 2, 3)

See Adams 1971.

If you are still interested in ontological arguments – after the inundation that you just received – read more here.

If you actually read through this entire post – Congratulations!  I wish I could by you an ice cream cone!

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