Anselm’s Ontological Argument
The ontological argument presented by St Anselm is aimed at proving God’s existence using pure logic. Ontological arguments can be evaluated prior to experience and premised on the comprehension and definition of things. First, Anselmâ€™s argument is divided into various Premises. The first one is that God is the greatest of all and nobody can shine of a greater being than him. The second argues that God can be termed as a concept that entirely exists in our minds. The third premise argues that a being existing both in reality and in the mind is far greater than that which exists only as a concept in our minds. The fourth premise is that if God thus exists as a concept only, that means that there is something greater than God in existence, concluding that there is a greater possible being that exists. The fifth premise argues that because nobody can imagine something which is greater than God, since it is a contradiction to imagine that someone can think of a being which is greater than the only greatest possible being that can be thought(Charlesworth, 1979). Although Anselm’s argument just like many other arguments presented by scholars have a similar concept in mind, his argument has a unique approach and is one that is fascinating in comparison to others. Majority of the evidential arguments supporting Godâ€™s existence are grounded on the premise of intelligent designs with God as the designer. Contrary to the others, St Anselm’s Ontological argument is based on the assumption of reduction to absurdity(reductio ad absurdum), implying that the hypothesis is absurd, and thus not true, or false (Clarke, 2008). I do not agree with the argument presented by Anselm. Not because I imagine God does not exist, but instead I do not think that God’s existence could be proved based on the fact that you cannot imagine of a greater being. In this essay, I will argue that Anselm’s argument in support of God’s existence is invalid and unsound through a critical evaluation of the premises in support of his conclusion on Godâ€™s existence given that it relies on fallacies.
In the first section of this essay, Anselm’s argument is reconstructed and evaluated critically based on the soundness and validity of his supporting premises. This shall include an introduction, thesis and arguments reconstructing his ideas. In the second section, I will consider evaluating the view of an opponent, in this case, Gaunilo’s counter. It shall then be followed by an objection and response then finally a conclusion.
Human beings can imagine of a superior and greater being than God although they have no idea of the being’s aspects in reality. St Anselm has undoubtedly provided an invalid and unsound premise stating that God’s existence is so evident that there is no way in which one can think of him being non-existent since he fails to support the claim with applicable assertions. He goes ahead to indicate that human beings have the possibility of thinking about something that cannot be imagined not to be in existence. In addition, they can also imagine of something that could be thought to be non-existent. It follows that, based on a the thoughts of human beings; supreme being or a more superior being might be thought of and be considered to be existing in reality (Eder & Ramharter, 2015). On the other hand, Anselm has contradicted himself by demonstrating that the failure of an individual to comprehend Godâ€™s existence could be thought by such a person or by the some other people. In addition, even if someone comprehends the existence of a superior being in concept or in his mind and in reality, other people could still think of a more supreme being. Besides, the same individual that thinks and has a good understanding in reality that there indeed exists a supreme being that can in no way be compared to another since there is no one who is more superior than Him could also imagine of a being that is more superior. The justification for this argument is that there is no limitation to thoughts in terms of scope imagination (Barrett, 2011).
Anselm also has argued that the existence of God can be proved through the mere fact that nobody can ever imagine of a superior being that is non-existent. This assertion lacks validity since it is impossible to direct how human beings tend to think. Based on the diversity among different human beings, it can be concluded that individuals can posses distinct thoughts concerning particular issue. For example, just like the way some individuals are fully assured that God exists in reality, there are other people who do not think that God exists and thus opposed to that thought (Dicker, 1988). This implies that such individuals might have diverse thoughts and might deduce that no supreme being exists, which contradict the argument presented by Anselm. Now that there is a very high possibility of some individuals having the thought that God does not exist, Anselm’s argument supporting Godâ€™s existence lacks soundness. Therefore, the premise presented by Anselm claiming that it is absurd for any person to imagine of there being something greater than God is entirely fallacious. The idea of such a thought being absurd, in itself, fails to assert Godâ€™s existence.
Anselm goes ahead to admonish a fool for thinking that God does not exist simply because he is of the belief that a fool fails to realize and imagine that God exists more greatly and truly than whatever that is in existence. Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that it is fallacious to consider someone as bring a fool for not having the same thought as others since nature does accommodate diversity. The failure of Anselm to appreciate the existence of diversity asserts that his argument is support of Godâ€™s existence lacks soundness. In certain issues, rationality is subjective and therefore Anselm commits a philosophical error by failing to acknowledge this fact. There exists no universal direction of thinking and therefore regarding people who think contrary to others as irrational is not right. Anselm’s argument supporting that God exists is premises on the understanding who God is. Thus, it is impossible for Anselm to disregard the thought of God being non-existent when he comprehends who God is. In addition, it is posd8bor that there exists individuals who have no idea who God is and can effortlessly fail to think that He exists. It is also difficult for individuals to comprehend and discern God in reality since He is neither tangible nor visible.
According to the argument presented by Anselm, the superiority of God is so complex to comprehend that normal people ought not to think of Him as being non-existent. The existence of God of God based on this assertion is that it cannot be doubted in comprehension, and therefore He must be a supernatural being that exists in reality. Additionally, Anselm assumes that the superiority of God is way high and above all the other human beings to the extent that human beings ought to be in an agreement that He also exists in reality. Each and every one of these premises has no validity given that the superiority of God can be understood and tested. It is only until individuals come to understand God in reality then it an be affirmed that unquestionably, He is supreme (Rushby, 2020). Every existing nature is subject to witnessing, experiencing, and testing, which is necessary for the subjects to acknowledge its existence and the same concept is applicable to the existence of God. Thus, based on such fallacious premises, Anselm’s arguments have no soundness in support of his asserted conclusion.
One of the most significant and outstanding opposing critics against the argument presented by Anselm regarding the existence of God is Gaunilo. Gaunilo went ahead to summarize Anselm’s argument as a mere definition of things into existence rather than being a definition of the existence of something. He expresses his counter against Anselm’s argument of Godâ€™s existence by use of â€œThe Perfect Islandâ€ example. The argument presented by Gaunilo was focused on the view of St Anselm regarding Godâ€™s existence as he argues that if his perspective is sound, then the perfect Island should also exist and can be applied to every other none existing things. He asserts that a Piland is one great idea that anybody could think of, and only exists in our mind. As per Anselm’s viewpoint, provided that something exists within the human mind, and there is no other great island imaginable, then it must be existing. Using this premise, then everything that can be thought of and considered to be the greatest conceivable could be regarded to exist. The problem with Gaunilo’s claim in opposing Anselm’s argument is based on the fact that an island is not something which can be deemed as being perfect, and therefore there are always various ways through which a greater island can be imagined to be, and thus his example is not a good representation of the same valid sense of Anselm’s argument.
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