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Anselm Ontological Argument

Anselm Ontological Argument - From Gould James A and Robert...

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From: Gould, James A. and Robert J. Mulvaney, eds. Classic Philosophical Questions, Eleventh Ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey Pearson Prentice Hall: 2004 PART 6: Philosophy of Religion: Can We Prove God Exists? The Ontological Argument From St Anselm, Proslogium, trans. Sidney Norton Deane (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1903). Reprinted by permission of Open Court Publishing Company, a division of Carus Publishing Company, Peru, IL. Anselm ( 1033-1109) of Canterbury was born in Aosta, Italy. In 1093 he was made Archbishop of Canterbury. During his years in the abbey he wrote the two works for which he is best known, The Monologium and The Proslogium. Anselm's name will forever be associated with the ontological argument for God's existence, which holds that the idea of God in one's mind is evidence of a genuinely existing being. Philosophy and religion have always had a close but uneasy relationship. For some, the two mean practically the same thing, since the concept of a way of life seems essential to both of them. Both religion and philosophy seem to share the aim of searching for the key to living well. On the other hand, many have argued that philosophy has no need of a special revelation, or even of the concept of a supreme being, whereas religion seems to require both. And some claim philosophy is regulated by canons of logical procedure, whereas many religions are based sheerly on emotion and feeling. As you think through your own conception of religion, you will want to consider two ways in which philosophers have always thought they could add something to religion. The first of these is a consideration of arguments for God's existence, and the other is a treatment of the definition or nature of God, particularly as it concerns the great problem of human evil and suffering. Most people believe that God exists, and many have attempted to give rational arguments or proofs for his existence. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724- 1804) said that there are only three possible bases on which to prove God's existence: no experience, many experiences, and one experience. He called the first of these the ontological argument, the second the cosmological argument, and the third the teleological argument. The ontological argument was first given by St. Anselm, who claims that once we understand the nature of God as a "being than which nothing greater can be conceived," we realize that his essence implies his existence. One might put the argument in other words, and argue that God is a perfect being, and it is an imperfection not to exist. Hence, since God is perfect, he must exist.
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In the following selections Anselm's extended argument for God's existence is presented along with a counterargument by a certain monk named Gaunilo, who claimed that, if Anselm is correct, then we must conclude the existence of a perfect island, or indeed a perfect anything at all. If it is greater to exist than not to exist, then there must be a greatest member of any class of beings whatsoever. Anselm's response focuses on his position that God alone cannot be conceived not to exist. Anything else can be so
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