For and Against Anselm's Ontological Argument

Heloise Tudor
Mind Map by Heloise Tudor, updated more than 1 year ago
Heloise Tudor
Created by Heloise Tudor almost 6 years ago


Very detailed mindmap addressing the strengths and weaknesses of the Ontological Argument. Green is for the argument and Red is against it. Philosophers include: Anselm, Gaunilo, Kant, Descartes, Norman Malcolm and Alvin Plantinga. Ideas include: Gaunilo's Island, Descartes' Triangle, Kant's Coin Analogy etc.

Resource summary

For and Against Anselm's Ontological Argument
1 Against
1.1 Gaunilo: a monk, believer in God. Saw flaws in the argument. It's impossible to think of a fully perfect being. Our sense experience shows there's always potential to improve. He could imagine the most perfect lost island better than anywhere else in the world. Using Anselm's argument, to truly be perfect that island must exist. But it doesn't exist. Conceiving of something doesn't make it exist.
1.1.1 Anselm's response: God can't be compared with an island. An island has a beginning and will probably come to an end - it's contingent. It can exist, but it need not. Islands come into existence through many means. It doesn't have eternal existence. God is unique and eternal and necessary - it's logically impossible for him to not exist. Example - 'a widow is a woman whose husband has died' = a necessary truth. If 'died' was changed to 'separated' then the sentence wouldn't be true! Islands have no intrinsic maximum, you can always think of a better one. God is the maximum in himself.
1.2 Gaunilo: You can't define something you haven't experienced empirically. God's definition is synthetic- it needs to be vertified.
1.3 Existence can mean different things e.g numbers exist without a physical reality
2 For
2.1 Descartes: Developed his own ontological argument. God is a supremely perfect being. A being that is the most perfect would necessarily contain all the attributes of perfection e.g beauty, goodness, existence and eternal life. So God must exist. He used analytic sentences to illustrate his argument. If you speak of a triangle, then you are speaking of a shape with 3 sides and 3 angles (that add up to 180 degrees). Just as a triangle and its attributes are inseparable, God and his attributes are inseparable.
2.1.1 Kant: If a triangle didn't exist in the first place it wouldn't have 3 sides and angles anyway. Defining a thing in an analytic way doesn't make it real e.g. a unicorn had 1 horn- this is true but they still don't exist. He said existene isn't a predicate. There are some sentences where the subject can't be thought of without the predicate e.g 2+2=4. But God and existence aren't like that as it's possible to think of a being who doesn't exist. Coin example: Existing in reality may not add anything to an idea in the imagination. The description of an object doesn't change by saying it's real not imaginary e.g an imaginary pile of 100 coins and a real pile of 100 coins- it's the same amount of money. The cat: saying 'the cat is black' adds to the cat's description. 'the cat exists' tells us nothing more about the cat. If a property IS added as Anselm and Descartes suggest then 'the cat doesn't exist' takes a property away. But this doesn't happen, in reality it's the cat that's take away, not the property.
2.2 Norman Malcolm: If God doesn't exist, he can't come into existence, as that would require another force, meaning God was limited- which goes against God's definition. So, if God exists he can't come into existence. This means that God's existence is either impossible or necessary. but as the idea of God isn't logically absurd, God must necessarily exist.
2.3 Alvin Plantinga: In a possible world, a maximally great being could exist. To be maximally great, he must exist in all possible worlds. So, the being must exist.
2.4 Not an empirical argument, so it's objective.
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