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The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God
Anselm of CanterburyThe ontological argument for the existence of God, as it is found in its classical form, was first formulated by the eleventh century Benedictine monk, Archbishop and theologian, St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Anselm had prayed for a single, short argument by which to prove almost everything about God. The result was a simple deductive argument.
Deductive ArgumentsA deductive argument is one where the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises – if the premises are true then the conclusion must follow. For example we could put forward the premise that:
Inductive ArgumentsThe opposite of a deductive argument is an inductive argument. Inductive arguments are based on observation.
The validity of inductive arguments can vary from 0% to 100% as they are based on empirical observation and not internal logic. Premise (1) and (2) may well be true but the conclusion (3) may well be a massive assumption.
A priori vs. a posterioriA deductive argument can be said to be ‘a priori’ as it does not depend upon external validation. The validity of a deductive argument can be ascertained before empirical validation. Because of their internal logic deductive arguments appeal to many philosophers c.f. Immanuel Kant’s ‘Categorical Imperative’.
OntologicalThe term ‘ontological’ is derived from the Greek ‘onto’ meaning ‘being’ and ‘logos’ meaning ‘the study of’. In philosophy ontology is a branch of metaphysics. The ontological argument is so called because it deals with the very being of God.
Anselm’s ArgumentAnselm’s first form of his argument follows:
The second and third premises (2 and 3) argue that something that exists in reality is better than something that exists only in ones imagination. For example, which is better imagining that you have £1 million, or actually having £1 million in your bank account?
The conclusion (4) follows from the first three premises (1,2 and 3). Anselm’s final conclusion (5) is that if all the previous premises are true (1,2,3 and 4) then God must exist.