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Anselm versus Kant: Ontological Repartee

Anselm versus Kant: Ontological Repartee

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Published by Tom
An examination of the ontological argument
An examination of the ontological argument

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Published by: Tom on Mar 22, 2011
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 When reviewing the Ontological Argument, one must keep in mind that St.Anselm sought the perfect argument which would establish the existence and natureof God. Unfortunately for St. Anselm, when in the realm of theory, there is neither the perfect defense, nor perfect offense, which we will examine in depth. To beginreview of Anselm’s argument, one must make the assumption that the term God issynonymous with the concept of a being greater than all others and without equals.To begin the premise, Anselm suggests that the concept of “God” (as definedabove) is understandable by human cognition and therefore is in existence, ascompared to an object or being which cannot be imagined, such as a circular square.By saying God exists in mentality, Anselm then suggests that God might have existedin reality, as compared to a being of solely imaginary origin, much like the differencebetween a horse, and a unicorn. To summarize the main point of his argument,Anselm then draws the conclusion that because God exists in the possible humanimagination and
could 
have existed in reality, in the sense that his existence is possible,with notions of probability aside, the being that is greater than all others is indeed inexistence. Now, according to Anselm, existence is a quality that can make one thingmore worthy than another. For example, because a horse exists in reality, in the sensethat it can be physically interacted with, it is by all means greater than a unicorn, which(most probably) only exists in imagination, because it cannot be physically interactedwith.
 
As the textbook states, the most “famous” objection to Anselm’s OntologicalArgument was made in the eighteenth century by Immanuel Kant. Kant’s criticism issimple, to the point, and in my opinion, the argument which destroys Anselm’sOntological Argument. The central point of Kant’s criticism states that when a persondescribes the qualities of an object or being, such as weight, physical appearance, orpersonality attributes, there is a presupposition that the object or being actually exists.Now, in this sense, the term exist is defined as being logically possible. To explain thisargument, we’ll revert to the concept of the horse and the unicorn. It is as logically soundto say “The horse is brown” as it is to say “The unicorn is white” under both Anselm’sand Kant’s argument. However, when relating to the concept of existence as a predicate,a problem arises.According to Kant, existence cannot be a predicate, simply due to the fact that itis logically inaccurate to assume that it is. Again, in the case of the horse versus theunicorn, if existence were required for something to be “real”, it would be redundant tosay “The horse exists,” because it is a given assumption of any statement involving ahorse that it exists. Likewise, if existence were required for something to be “real”, itwould be contradictory to say “The unicorn does not exist,” because you cannot ascribecharacteristics to a concept which is not logically conceivable. Therefore, becauseAnselm’s defense of his argument relies on the premise that existence is a predicate, hisdefense is invalid.Anselm’s defenses utilize reducing arguments to absurdity. Following hisreasoning, one must start with a refutation of the premise that God exists in reality. Asthe concept of God is conceptual, it is probable to assume that God could have existed,

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