The Ontological Argument and its Nature
The ontological argument was first postulated by St. Anselm of Canterbury in 1078 in his
It is an argument from natural theology and relies upon a priori reasoning to argue for theexistence of God, which means it does not need empirical evidence to be proven correct.
Anselm’soriginal statement of this argument is found in a prayer as he wrestled with how to convince the fool inPs. 14:1 of God’s existence. What he came up with was an argument to prove that God exists from the very concept of God himself. Anselm “wanted to find a single argument that would prove not only that God exists, but also that he has all the superlative attributes Christian doctrines ascribe to him.”
His idea was that God is the greatest conceivable being, which by definition
be true, for if onecould conceive of a being greater than God, then God would not be the greatest conceivable being. Inaddition, a being who exists in reality is superior to one who only exists in the mind; therefore, agreatest conceivable being must exist in reality, which means that God exists.
This argument isdeceivingly simply and most people have a sense that it just cannot be true. Yet pinning down thefallacy is much harder than one may think.
Anselm never put the argument into formal deductive form. However, that is not hard to doand has the benefit of making the argument clear and concise. It would appear as follows:1.
God is defined as a being than which non greater can be imagined.2.
This idea of God exists in the mind.3.
A being that exists in reality is greater than a being that exists only in the mind.4.
If God exists only in the understanding and not in reality, then God is not the greatestpossible being since there would be a being greater still.5.
It is impossible to imagine a being greater than God.6.
Therefore, God exists in reality.
As a deductive argument, the ontological argument becomes very strong and difficult todislodge. A deductive argument is one where if the premises are correct, than the conclusion follows