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Unformatted text preview: Third discussion group meeting (Sept. 21). Included in this posting: •Explanation of St. Anslem’s ontological argument for the existence of God. •Criticisms of the ontological argument. •Explanations of St. Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God. •Criticisms of St. Aquinas’ arguments. •More practice translation exercises. St. Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God. I would except as a good explanation of the argument something close to the following: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Suppose God does not exist in reality, but only in the mind. If God exists only in the mind, then something greater than God can be conceived, namely, something that has all of God’s properties, plus the property of existing in reality. That’s because if something has the property of existing in reality, then it is greater than (more perfect than) it would have been if it had the property of existing only in the mind. So the assumption that God exists only in the mind leads to a contradiction. For it logically implies that God is not that than which nothing greater can be conceived, which contradicts the truth that God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Therefore, God exists. A couple ways of making the argument more formally precise. You aren’t expected to know these; I offer them only as ways of making it clear (I hope) how the argument is supposed to work. I. One way (probably less clear than the second way): Premise 1 (deFnition of “God”). (The concept of) God is (the concept of) that than which nothing greater can be conceived. [Comment: St. Anselm is thinking of what could be called “qualitative” greatness as opposed to “quantitative” greatness (for example, size). St. Anselm is thinking of qualities (or properties ) like wisdom, goodness, knowledge, etc., of which it is true to say that you can approach an ideal to various degrees. So by “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” St. Anselm means a being that has the properties of being all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good, and so on. By “greater than,” St. Anselm means “closer to perfection than.” In short, St. Anselm deFnes God as the most perfect being that is conceivable.] Premise 2. (An assumption for the sake of argument): God does not exist (in reality). [We can understand this to mean that there is nothing in the real world that corresponds to the concept of God. God “exists” in the mind alone, so to speak, as a mere “object of thought.”] Premise 3. What is conceived as something that really exists is conceived to be greater than that same thing, conceived as existing merely in the mind....
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- Spring '07
- Ontology, Existence, Teleological argument, Arguments for the existence of God