The formidable intellect for which he was known later in his life was already manifest during his years at Oberlin High School , when he attended college lectures in chemistry. Grice , P. Strawson , and J. It was his year at Oxford that played a seminal role in his decision to study philosophy, and that made him the quintessentially analytic philosopher he soon became.
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These are mostly toy examples. But they serve to highlight the deficiencies which more complex examples also share. See Redding and Bubbio for recent discussion of this point. God is a being which has every perfection. This is true as a matter of definition. Existence is a perfection. Hence God exists. I conceive of a being than which no greater can be conceived. If a being than which no greater can be conceived does not exist, then I can conceive of a being greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived—namely, a being than which no greater can be conceived that exists.
I cannot conceive of a being greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived. Hence, a being than which no greater can be conceived exists. It is possible that that God exists. God is not a contingent being, i. Hence, it is necessary that God exists. Hence, God exists. See Malcolm , Hartshorne , and Plantinga for closely related arguments. Hence, the existent perfect being is existent. Hence, God is existent, i. God exists. The last step is justified by the observation that, as a matter of definition, if there is exactly one existent perfect being, then that being is God.
See Rescher for a live version of this argument. I exist. Therefore something exists. Whenever a bunch of things exist, their mereological sum also exists. Therefore the sum of all things exists. Therefore God—the sum of all things—exists. Say that a God-property is a property that is possessed by God in all and only those worlds in which God exists. Not all properties are God properties.
Any property entailed by a collection of God-properties is itself a God-property. The God-properties include necessary existence, necessary omnipotence, necessary omniscience, and necessary perfect goodness. Hence, there is a necessarily existent, necessarily omnipotent, necessarily omniscient, and necessarily perfectly good being namely, God.
Of course, this taxonomy is not exclusive: an argument can belong to several categories at once. Moreover, an argument can be ambiguous between a range of readings, each of which belongs to different categories.
This latter fact may help to explain part of the curious fascination of ontological arguments. Finally, the taxonomy can be further specialised: there are, for example, at least four importantly different kinds of modal ontological arguments which should be distinguished. See, e. Characterisation of Ontological Arguments It is not easy to give a good characterisation of ontological arguments.
Consider, for example, the claim that I conceive of a being than which no greater can be conceived. However, it is unclear how that traditional characterisation should be improved upon. This procedure would make good sense if one thought that there is a natural kind—ontological arguments—which our practice carves out, but for which is hard to specify defining conditions.
Moreover, this procedure can be adapted as a pro tem stop gap: when there is a better definition to hand, that definition will be adopted instead. On the other hand, it seems worthwhile to attempt a more informative definition. Focus on the case of ontological arguments for the conclusion that God exists. Theists and non-theists alike can agree that there is spatio-temporal, or causal, or nomic, or modal structure to the world the basis for cosmological arguments ; and that there are certain kinds of complexity of organisation, structure and function in the world the basis for teleological arguments ; and so on.
Of course, the premises of ontological arguments often do not deal directly with perfect beings, beings than which no greater can be conceived, etc. However, the basic point remains: ontological arguments require the use of vocabulary which non-theists should certainly find problematic when it is used in ontologically committing contexts i. Note that this characterisation does not beg the question against the possibility of the construction of a successful ontological argument—i.
For it may be that the vocabulary in question only gets used in premises under the protection of prophylactic operators which ward off the unwanted commitments.
Of course, there will then be questions about whether the resulting arguments can possibly be valid—how could the commitments turn up in the conclusion if they are not there in the premises? Uses of Ontological Arguments Before we turn to assessment of ontological arguments, we need to get clear about what the proper intended goals of ontological arguments can be.
Suppose we think of arguments as having advocates and targets: when an advocate presents an argument to a target, the goal of the advocate is to bring about some change in the target. What might be the targets of ontological arguments, and what might be the changes that advocates of these arguments aim to bring about in those targets?
Here are some proposals; no doubt the reader can think of others: The targets might be atheists, and the goal might be to turn them into theists. The targets might be agnostics, and the goal might be to turn them into theists. The targets might be theists, and the goal might be to improve the doxastic position of theists. The targets might be professional philosophers, and the goal might be to advance understanding of the consequences of adopting particular logical rules, or treating existence as a real predicate, or allowing definitions to have existential import, or the like.
The targets might be undergraduate philosophy students, and the goal might be to give them some sufficiently frustrating examples on which to cut their critical teeth.
In the coming discussion, it will be supposed that the targets are atheists and agnostics, and that the goal is to turn them into theists. Suppose that an advocate presents an ontological argument to a target. What conditions must that arguments satisfy if it is fit for its intended purpose? A plausible suggestion is that, minimally, it should make the targets recognise that they have good reason to accept the conclusion of the argument that they did not recognise that they have prior to the presentation of the argument.
Adopting this plausible suggestion provides the following criterion: a successful ontological argument is one that should make atheists and agnostics recognise that they have good reason to believe that God exists that they did not recognise that they have prior to the presentation of the argument. Note that this criterion has a normative dimension: it adverts to what atheists and agnostics should do when presented with the argument.
There is an important discussion to be had about whether we should suppose that the targets of ontological arguments are atheists and agnostics, and that the goal is to turn them into theists. However, it is simply beyond the scope of this entry to pursue that discussion here.
Objections to Ontological Arguments Objections to ontological arguments take many forms. Some objections are intended to apply only to particular ontological arguments, or particular forms of ontological arguments; other objections are intended to apply to all ontological arguments. It is a controversial question whether there are any successful general objections to ontological arguments. One general criticism of ontological arguments which have appeared hitherto is this: none of them is persuasive, i.
Any reading of any ontological argument which has been produced so far which is sufficiently clearly stated to admit of evaluation yields a result which is invalid, or possesses a set of premises which it is clear in advance that no reasonable, reflective, well-informed, etc. For each of the families of arguments introduced in the earlier taxonomy, we can give general reasons why arguments of that family fall under the general criticism. In what follows, we shall apply these general considerations to the exemplar arguments introduced in section 2.
An obvious problem is that claims involving that vocabulary cannot then be non-question-beggingly detached from the scope of that definition. In the example given earlier, the premises licence the claim that, as a matter of definition, God possesses the perfection of existence. But, as just noted, there is no valid inference from this claim to the further claim that God exists.
Often, these operators have two readings, one of which can cancel ontological commitment, and the other of which cannot. In our sample argument, the claim, that I conceive of an existent being than which no greater being can be conceived, admits of the two kinds of readings just distinguished.
On the one hand, on the reading which gives cancellation, the inference to the conclusion that there is a being than which no greater can be conceived is plainly invalid. On the other hand, on the reading in which there is no cancellation, it is clear that this claim is one which no reasonable, etc. Suppose that we agree to think about possibility and necessity in terms of possible worlds: a claim is possibly true just in case it is true in at least one possible world; a claim is necessarily true just in case it is true in every possible world; and a claim is contingent just in case it is true in some possible worlds and false in others.
Some theists hold that God is a necessarily existent being, i. The sample argument consists, in effect, of two premises: God exists in at least one possible world. God exists in all possible worlds if God exists in any. A minimally rational non-theist cannot accept both of these premises — they entail that God exists in every possible world whereas a minimally rational non-theist maintains that there is at least one possible world in which God does not exist.
Given that a minimally rational non-theist says that there is at least one possible world in which God does not exist, such a non-theist can offer a parallel counterargument with the following two premises: God fails to exist in at least one possible world. These premises entail that God exists in no possible world, and hence that God does not exist in the actual world.
Considered together, the argument and the counterargument just mentioned plainly do not give anyone a reason to prefer theism to non-theism, and nor do they give anyone a reason to prefer non-theism to theism. Naive Meinongians will suppose that if F is instantiated with any property, then the result is true and, quite likely, necessary, analytic and a priori.
So, for example, the round square is round; the bald current King of France is bald; and so on. Choice of vocabulary here is controversial: Let us suppose for the sake of example that the right thing to say is that the former things exist and the latter do not.
The point is that non-theists are not prepared to include god s in the former group of objects—and hence will be unpersuaded by any argument which tries to use whatever vocabulary is used to discriminate between the two classes as the basis for an argument that god s belong to the former group. Cognoscenti will recognise that the crucial point is that Meinongian ontological arguments fail to respect the distinction between nuclear assumptible, characterising properties and non-nuclear non-assumptible, non-characterising properties.
It should, of course, be noted that neither Meinong, nor any of his well-known modern supporters—e. Terence Parsons, Richard Sylvan—ever endorses a Meinongian ontological argument; and it should also be noted that most motivate the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear properties in part by a need to avoid Meinongian ontological arguments. It should not be surprising that they fail. But, however the account goes, non-theists will insist that expressions which purport to refer to god s should be given exactly the same kind of treatment.
However, even those who accept principles of unrestricted composition—i. If it is impossible that God exists — as all who deny that God exists suppose, on the further assumption that, were God to exist, God would exist of necessity — then it cannot be true both that the God-properties are closed under entailment and that there are properties that are not God-properties.
Those who take themselves to have good independent reason to deny that there are any gods will take themselves to have good independent reason to deny that there are God-properties that form a non-trivial collection that is closed under entailment.
Talk:Anselm of Canterbury
These are mostly toy examples. But they serve to highlight the deficiencies which more complex examples also share. See Redding and Bubbio for recent discussion of this point. God is a being which has every perfection. This is true as a matter of definition.
LEWIS ANSELM AND ACTUALITY PDF
Kajisida Please, subscribe or login to access full text content. It should not be surprising that they fail. The substantive postscript includes an important retraction viz. But they serve to highlight the actualitty which more complex examples also share.
Anselm and Actuality