Traditional Ontological Argument
The concept of God
We’re talking about the god of classical western monotheism—the
concept common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, theologically
refined. This is the OOO creator god. Call this god ‘
God is omniscient (i.e. knows everything), omnipotent (i.e. can
do anything possible), and omnibenevolent (i.e. fulfills all moral ob-
ligations). God is also infallible (i.e. has no false beliefs). God created
the universe. God is unique.
There are concepts of other gods: Zeus, Osiris, Horus, Krishna,
etc. Different arguments would be relevant to their existence. Our fo-
cus here is God.
Theism, atheism and agnosticism
The question: Does God exist? Three ways of responding: say ‘yes’,
say ‘no’, or suspend judgment.
The traditional ontological argument
This argument is due to the eleventh century Italian monk St. An-
selm, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Says Anselm, “You [God] are a being than which nothing greater
can be conceived. Or is there no such nature, since the fool has said
in his heart, there is no God? At any rate, this very Fool, when he
hears of this being of which I speak—a being than which nothing
greater can be conceived—understands what he hears . . . . Hence
even the fool is convinced that something exists in the understand-
ing, at least, than which nothing greater can be conceived. For when
he hears of this, he understands it . . . . And assuredly that than which
nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding
alone. For suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be
conceived to exist in reality, which is greater.”
Another relevant passage: “if that than which nothing greater can
be conceived exists in the understanding alone, the very being than
which nothing greater can be conceived, is one than which a greater