Ontological Argument

An ontological argument is any one of a category of arguments for the existence of God appearing mainly in Christian theology. The exact criteria for the classification of ontological arguments are not widely agreed, but the arguments typically start with the definition of God and conclude with his necessary existence, using mostly or only a priori reasoning and little reference to empirical observation.

It is widely accepted that the first ontological argument was proposed by Anselm of Canterbury in 1078 in his Proslogion. Anselm defined God as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived", and then argued that this being could exist in the mind. He suggested that, if the greatest possible being exists in the mind, it must also exist in reality. If it only exists in the mind, a greater being is possible—one which exists in the mind and in reality. Seventeenth century French philosopher René Descartes deployed a similar argument. Descartes published several variations of his argument, each of which centered on the idea that God's existence is immediately inferable from a "clear and distinct" idea of a supremely perfect being. In the early eighteenth century, Gottfried Leibniz augmented Descartes' ideas in an attempt to prove that a "supremely perfect" being is a coherent concept. A more recent ontological argument came from Kurt Gödel, who proposed a formal argument for God's existence. Norman Malcolm revived the ontological argument in 1960 when he located a second, stronger ontological argument in Anselm's work; Alvin Plantinga challenged this argument and proposed an alternative, based on modal logic. Attempts have also been made to validate Anselm's proof using an automated theorem prover. Other arguments have been categorised as ontological, including those made by Islamic philosopher Mulla Sadra.

The first critic of the ontological argument was Anselm's contemporary, Gaunilo of Marmoutiers. He used the analogy of a perfect island, suggesting that the ontological could be used to prove the existence of anything. This was the first of many parodies, all of which attempted to show that it has absurd consequences. Thomas Aquinas later rejected the argument on the basis that humans cannot know God's nature. David Hume offered an empirical objection, criticising its lack of evidential reasoning and rejecting the idea that anything can exist necessarily. Immanuel Kant's critique was based on what he saw as the false premise that existence is a predicate. He argued that "existing" adds nothing (including perfection) to the essence of a being, and thus a "supremely perfect" being can be conceived not to exist. Finally, philosophers including C. D. Broad dismissed the coherence of a maximally great being, proposing that some attributes of greatness are incompatible with others, rendering "maximally great being" incoherent.

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Other articles related to "ontological argument, argument, ontological, arguments":

Ontological Argument - Criticisms and Objections - Other Criticisms
... his early Hegelian phase, accepted the argument once exclaiming "Great God in Boots!—the ontological argument is sound!" However, he later criticised the argument, asserting that "the ... his book The God Delusion, rejects the argument as "infantile" ...
French Philosophy - 17th Century - René Descartes
... He uses this argument, commonly known as an ontological argument, to invoke the existence of an omni-benevolent God as the indubitable foundation that makes all sciences possible ... Some accused him of circularity, proclaiming his ontological argument uses his definition of truth as a premise, while his proof of his definition of truth ...
Gaunilo Of Marmoutiers
... an 11th-century Benedictine monk, best known for his criticism of St Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God ... Anselm referred to them in developing his ontological argument in the Proslogion ... Anselm's ontological argument fails because logic of the same kind would force one to conclude many things exist which it is certain do not ...
Critique Of Pure Reason - I. Transcendental Doctrine of Elements - Pure Reason - Refutation of The Ontological Proof of God's Existence
... The ontological proof can be traced back to Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) ... However, arguably none have refuted the ontological proof more radically and thoroughly than Kant ... The Ontological Proof considers the concept of the most real Being ("ens realissimum") and concludes that it is necessary ...
Almighty God - Existence of God
... Countless arguments have been proposed in attempt to prove the existence of God ... Some of the most notable arguments are the 5 Ways of Aquinas, the Argument from Desire proposed by C.S ... Lewis, and the Ontological Argument formulated both by St ...

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