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Anselm’s Ontological Argument

For some reason, this argument has cropped up again in a conversation that I recently had with a Christian. Let me paraphrase the argument:

The definition of God is a being in which no greater being can be conceived. It is greater to actually exist than it is to not actually exist. Therefore, God must actually exist.

This argument is of course ridiculous. First and foremost, it doesn’t attempt to prove or disprove any particular gods like the God of the Bible. Christians often use this argument as if it is some how going to prove their particular religion to be true. Yet this argument has nothing to do with the Christian god at all.

I think Christians seem to think that the god of the Bible is the greatest conceivable being. But after reading the Bible, I can definitely conceive of a being greater that the one found in the “Good Book.” My greatest conceivable being for example wouldn’t be so vein that his first commandment would be thou shall have no other gods before the Lord your God. My greatest conceivable being would be more secure in himself and not be such a jealous god. But I digress. My point here is that the argument doesn’t attempt to prove what Christians seem to think it attempts to prove.

If the definition of God is a being in which no greater being can be conceived and that it is greater to actually exist than it is to not actually exist, than it is also greater to actually show oneself than to hide. Therefore, God must actually show himself… I’m still waiting.

The argument basically amounts to semantics. Wittgenstein once said that all philosophy amounts to is an attempt to untangle our words and to let the fly out of the bottle so to speak. His view was that we are trapped by out language and Anselm’s Ontological Argument is a prime example of exactly that. Anselm has simply tripped over his own words and definitions. It simply is an exercise in imagination, which has no baring on reality.

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  • Barry

    I usually just ask believers, a la Carlin: If God is so awesome, can He make a rock so heavy that even He can’t lift it?”. He should be able to, right? They just laugh. That question makes about as much sense as the argument you referenced. Tit for tat.

  • http://www.myspace.com/theperplexedobserver TPO

    I love this video:-)

  • http://www.myspace.com/rothtalltales Tralf

    Never heard this one before. It’s rather tautological. Like God exists because he must exist, a standard that can be applied to EVERYTHING yet proves nothing.


  • Mike Dean

    HAHAHA… LOVE the video!!!