MYTUTOR SUBJECT ANSWERS

114 views

Critically Analyse Anselm’s First Ontological Argument

Anselm offers a reduction ad absurdum argument. This is an argument whose denial leads to a contradiction or some other absurdity.

Anselm’s Argument from Proslogian 2 is as follows:
Premise 1: Firstly, we must consider what God is said to be like. Anselm says that “we believe” God to be “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”. In other words, God is the greatest thing that a person can think of.

Premise 2: Even a fool “understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his intellect”. There, Anselm means that even the non-believer has the idea of God as the greatest conceivable being. They must do in order to argue against his existence.

Premise 3: From this, Anselm argues that God does exist, if even in the intellect (in intellectu) of a believer or non-believer.

Premise 4: Anselm then argues that it is greater to exist in both the understanding and reality, than merely in the understanding.

Premise 5: The greatest conceivable being must exist in both the understanding and reality if it is to truly be the greatest.

Premise 6: Therefore, God exists in both reality and in the understanding.

Gaunilo’s Criticism

In his work “On Behalf of the Fool”, Gaunilo suggests that using Anselm’s method, we could deduce anything we want into existence, so long as it has superlative qualities such as being the “greatest” or “most excellent”. Gaunilo states:
 

“For example: it is said somewhere in the ocean is an island … And they say that this island has an inestimable wealth … it is more excellent than all other countries … Now if someone should tell that there is such an island, I should easily understanding his words … But suppose that he went on to say … ‘Since it is more excellent not to be in the understanding alone, but to exist both in the understanding and in reality’, for this reason [the island] must exist.”

In other words:
* We can imagine an island which is the greatest conceivable island.

* It is greater to exist in reality than just in the understanding.

* Therefore, the greatest conceivable island must exist in reality.

Plantinga’s Counter Criticism

An issue arises when we consider the subjects being used by Gaunilo and Anselm. Gaunilo’s example of an island is flawed, as it is a subject that can always be improved upon. However, the subject of God is one that by definition cannot be. Plantinga argues that Gaunilo’s argument only works if we use an idea that has a definite condition of perfection, and because Gaunilo’s island can forever be improved, “the idea of a greatest possible island is an inconsistent idea; it is not possible that there be such a thing.”

Further Reading & Next Steps:

Davies’ Orchid Counter Criticism

Anselm’s Second Ontological Argument (Proslogian 3)

Descartes’ Ontological Argument

Plantinga’s Ontological Argument

Kant’s Criticisms

Russel’s Criticisms

Patrick S. A Level Philosophy tutor, GCSE Philosophy tutor, A Level P...

3 months ago

Answered by Patrick, an A Level Philosophy tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist

16 SUBJECT SPECIALISTS

£20 /hr

Oliver W.

Degree: Philosophy (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered: Philosophy, English Literature+ 2 more

Philosophy
English Literature
English Language

“About Me: Hi! My name is Oli. I’m a current undergraduate studying Philosophy at the University of Warwick. My life is a concoction of academic interests, but language, literature and their philosophical applications are at the forefr...”

£20 /hr

Anna S.

Degree: Philosophy, Politics and Economics (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered: Philosophy, Religious Studies+ 4 more

Philosophy
Religious Studies
Philosophy and Ethics
English
Economics
-Personal Statements-

“Hi my name is Anna, I am an undergraduate at the Universtiy of Warwick studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics.  Having just done my A-Levels I am very familiar with the A-Level exam and exactly what it is you need to do to pass, ...”

£30 /hr

Daniel D.

Degree: Philosophy (Bachelors) - York University

Subjects offered: Philosophy, Philosophy and Ethics+ 3 more

Philosophy
Philosophy and Ethics
History
English Literature
-Personal Statements-

“Recent graduate with lots of experience. Excellent credentials. Fun too!”

About the author

£20 /hr

Patrick S.

Degree: Philosophy (Bachelors) - Bristol University

Subjects offered: Philosophy, Philosophy and Ethics+ 1 more

Philosophy
Philosophy and Ethics
English Literature

“Having grown up around numerous teachers, I have always had a natural comfort in teaching environments. As a result, it is not surprising that teaching is my long term goal with my degree, or that I have spent much of my time accumula...”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Posts by Patrick

Critically Analyse Anselm’s First Ontological Argument

Explain Hume’s Argument Against Miracles

Explain Joseph Fletcher’s Approach to Ethics

Explain Paley’s Teleological Argument

Other A Level Philosophy questions

To what extent (if any) do your preconceived ideas affect what you see? Is this a problem for foundationalism?

How would I create a strong argument in a philosophy essay?

What is Descartes' "cogito" argument?

How can I improve my philosophical essay writing?

View A Level Philosophy tutors

Cookies:

We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss

mtw:mercury1:status:ok