Ontological Argument


Ontological Argument Essay, Research Paper

Most people have not witnessed or experienced God and

therefore are confused about its existence. In Western

theology, three theories have emerged to demonstrate the

existence of God. These theories are the ontological

argument, the cosmological argument, and the teleological

argument. St. Anselm of eleventh century, and Descartes of

seventeenth century, have used the ontological argument for

proving the existence of God. The God, for them, is

supreme, "needing nothing outside himself, but needful for

the being and well-being of all things." (Pg. 305).

St Anselm?s account of the ontological argument for the

existence of God deals with the ?existence in the

understanding? vs. ?existence in reality.? He defines God as

the greatest conceivable or possible being. He adds that

any person who hears this statement describing God

understands what is meant. His argument is that if God did

not exist, then a being greater than God would be possible.

This being then would be greater than the greatest possible

being, which is impossible. Therefore he proves that there

is no being greater than God and hence God exists. His

argument is also based on the premise that "the idea of an

eternal being who either does not yet exist or no longer

exists is self-contradictory, so that the very idea we have of

such a being requires existence." (Pg. 307).

In his Meditations, Decartes offers the following version of

the ontological argument. He considers the idea of God, a

supremely perfect being, just as real as the idea of the

existence of any shape or a number. His understanding of

God?s existence is no less clear and distinct than his proofs

for the existence of any shape or number. Therefore he

adds, "although all that I concluded in the preceding

Meditations were found to be false, the existence of God

would pass with me as at least as certain as I have ever

held the truths of mathematics." (Pg. 308). Initially, this

might not be all clear, and may have some appearance of

being a sophism. He argues that unlike other things he might

persuade himself that existence can be separated from the

essence of God, and hence that God can be thought of as

not existing. He adds that ?when he thinks of it with more

attention, he clearly sees that existence can no more be

separated from the essence of God, than the fact that its

three angles equal two right angles can be separated from

the essence of a triangle, or that the idea of a mountain can

be separated from the idea of a valley? (Pg. 308). Hence, it

is just as much of a contradiction to think of God (that is, a

supremely perfect being) lacking existence (that is, lacking

perfection), as it is to think of a mountain without a valley.

His theory is that he can?t think of God without it existing

and therefore it exists. Also he gives God all kinds of

perfection and because existence is one of the perfection,

"God necessarily exists." (Pg. 309).

Kant?s critique of Anselm?s and Descartes? arguments state

that existence is not a perfection because all perfections are

qualities, and existence is not any kind of characteristic,

quality, attribute, or property. When we say that something

exists, Kant argued, we "add nothing to" our concept of

that thing – we merely say that there is something similar to

that concept. It follows that no matter how many

characteristics of a thing we list; we will still not have

answered the question whether there is something having all

those characteristics. "Being is evidently not a real

predicate, or a concept of something that can be added to

the concept of a thing. It is merely the admission of a thing,

and of certain determinations in it." (Pg. 311). His argument

is that it is all right to say that God has certain

characteristics but it is another to say that such a God


Many contemporary philosophers agree with Kant?s

argument, but many others do not. Furthermore,

contemporary logicians have developed versions of the

ontological argument that can even dispense with the

controversial notion of existence as a property. It is clear

that, considered simply as a logical argument, the

ontological argument does not have the power to convert

nonbelievers into believers. Or if you are a believer, it is

clear that an objection to the "proof" is not going to shake

your faith in any way whatsoever. So the significance of the

proof is ambiguous; as a logical exercise it is brilliant, as an

expression of faith it may be edifying, but as an actual proof

that God exists or as a means of converting atheists it

seems to have no power at all. (Pg.313).

I agree with Anselm’s argument that in order for God to be

the Supreme Being, the best, He must exist in both the

understanding as well as in reality. Where did the world

start? Where did everything start? If we believe that one

thing came after another then there has to be a starting

point. The only possible answer to this starting point is

God. Thus, there must have been a creator, the God. From

our experience we know that everything arises from

something else, and therefore God started everything. The

ontological argument does not clearly prove where God is

to show how God started.

What characteristics does God possess? Traditional

theology has believed that God is omnipotent

(all-powerful), omniscient (all knowing), and

omnibenevolent (all good), Omni-present (everywhere),

eternal (with no beginning and no end), etc. In short, God is

the greatest being and none greater is possible. These

characteristics have left people to have faith in the existence

of God. When people can not show cause and effect for

certain happenings they attribute their cause to God. There

must be God to keep order in the world or as some people

say to keep the world going in utter disorder.

Cosmological Argument

The Cosmological Argument: The second "proof" of God’s

existence is a set of arguments that date back to the

Aristotle’s argument for God?s existence. The basis of these

arguments is the concept of intolerability, and the

unthinkability of an infinite regress and the need for some

ultimate explanation. Together, these arguments are called

the cosmological argument, and their best-known

formulation is by St. Thomas Aquinas, who put forward the

first three of his "five ways" of proving God’s existence.


The first part of the argument is based on the concept of

motion. It starts with the idea that it is evident to our senses

and certain that in the world there are things that are in

motion. Now, motion can be also defined as the action that

reduces something from potentiality to actuality. That is

motion leads a thing from being able to go someplace to

actually getting there. Next, it is safe to assume that nothing

can be reduced from potentiality of actuality, except by

something already in a state of actuality. Now it is not

possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality

and potentiality in the same respect, but can only be in

different respects. For example what is ?actually hot?

cannot at the same time be also ?potentially hot;? but it can

be simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible

that a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e., that it

should move itself. Therefore, another must move whatever

is being moved. Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at a first

mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands

to be God.

The second aspect of the cosmological argument for the

existence of God comes from nature of efficient cause.

Here, Aristotle defines efficient cause, as an event or an

agent that brings something about. In our world of sensible

things we also find that there is an order of efficient causes.

Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity,

because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is

the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is

the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate

cause be several, or one only. But if in efficient causes it is

possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient

cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any

intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false.

Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to

which everyone gives the name of God. (Pg.314).

The third aspect of the cosmological argument for the

existence of God is taken from possibility and necessity,

and runs as follows. We find in nature things that are

possible to be and also not to be, since they are found to

be generated, and to be corrupted, and consequently, it is

possible for them to be and not to be. Therefore, if

everything can not be, then at one time there was nothing in

existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be

nothing in existence, because that which does not exist

begins to exist only through something already existing.

Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there

must exist something the existence of which is necessary for

other things to follow. So we cannot but admit the

existence of some being having of itself its own necessity,

and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in

others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.


The cosmological argument, in all of these versions, is

similar to the ontological argument as an attempt at "proof"

and an expression of one’s belief in God. As a logical

argument, two modern objections seem to have

considerable weight. First, even if the argument is formally

valid, it proves only that there is some "first mover" or "first

cause" or "necessary being." It does not prove that this

being has all of the other attributes that allow us to

recognize God. Furthermore, Aristotle, in his Physics,

allows that there might be several prime movers, while

Aquinas is clear that there can be only one. Nevertheless,

one might accept the argument and believe only in a "first

cause" and deny the existence of God. This leads us to the

second objection, which would have been unthinkable to

Aquinas (or Aristotle), but is generally accepted today. The

idea of an "infinite regress," that the universe did not have a

beginning but has always existed, seemed like an obvious

absurdity until the last century. (Pg.315). In fact, Aquinas

admits that there is no valid argument against the claim that

God and universe existed for all eternity, but he has another

argument to help him here. He says that the beginning of the

universe required an act, which means that the universe

could not have been the cause of itself. Therefore, he

concludes, God must exist even if the regress argument by

itself does not prove this.

Humans like the idea of a creator because it gives them

some security that there is some one out there watching out

for them. They do not like to believe that everything is

taking care of itself due to some laws of nature. Therefore

humans like to believe in the cosmological argument that

gives god the stature of first mover, the first cause. The

natural scientific explanation wants to show that the world

evolved from matter governed by certain scientific laws.

These laws would also tend to show that the world could

disappear just like it started. This thought is not comforting

to most humans.

Humans are also not content to accept that something

occurs. They want to explore as to the reasons of its

existence. If they are told that God exists, they want to find

out why and where. They are not satisfied with the answer

that the world came to existence by certain scientific

reasons that are not fully explained. Humans are happier

with a religious explanation because it rests in the idea of a

Supreme Being that people are afraid of, and feel secure in,

like a child is to a parent.

Most humans are religious and generally speaking older

people are more religious than younger people are. Why

do people turn to religion? There are many different

answers given to this question. Some do it for giving

guidance to their lives. For others, it gives them hope, or

gives them rationalization for the lack of justice in this

world. Others turn to religion as a kind of irresponsible

reaction to a world we cannot cope with. This reaction is

similar to a child?s unwillingness to give up an illusion of

security that he or she should have outgrown in

adolescence. Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud were critical of

religion and believed it to be an obstacle to man?s

self-determination and self-realization. Their basic idea was

that humans invented religion to escape their intolerable

social conditions. I do not believe in their premise because

religion gives humans an understanding of their purpose in

this world. Religion keeps people sane and makes them

believe in the order of things.

The basis of Marx?s religious criticism is that man makes

religion; and that religion does not make man. It is the man

that is the human world, a state, society. This state, this

society, produces religion, which is an inverted world

consciousness, because they are an inverted world.

Religion is the general theory of this upside-down world. It

gives the world its logic, its spiritual guidance, its

enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its

general basis of consolation and justification. The struggle

against religion is, therefore, indirectly a struggle against the

world whose spiritual aroma is religion. According to

Marx, religious suffering is at the same time an expression

of real suffering and protest against real suffering. (Pg.347).

Marx advocated that the abolition of religion as the illusory

happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. He

was appalled at the masses flocking to religion. He said, "it

is clear that the arm of criticism cannot replace the criticism

of arms." Material force can only be overthrown by

material force; but theory itself becomes a material force

when it has seized the masses. Theory is capable of seizing

the masses when it demonstrates ad hominem and it is

demonstrate ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical.


Marx?s criticism of religion ends with the thought that man

is the Supreme Being for man. This thought desires to

overthrow all those conditions in which man is an "abased,

enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being – conditions

which can hardly be better described than in the

exclamation of the Frenchman on the occasion of a

proposed tax upon dogs: Wretched dogs! They want to

treat you like men!" (Pg.348).

Friedrich Nietzsche was another critique of religion. He

called the "Bible," the book that is perhaps the greatest

audacity and "sin against the spirit" which literary Europe

has on its conscience. (Pg.348). According to him the

Christian conception of God – God as god of the sick, God

as a spider, God as spirit – is one of the most corrupt

conceptions of the divine ever attained on earth. Not

surprisingly, Nietzsche saw the decline of Christianity and

religion in general, with great enthusiasm. It is Nietzsche

who popularized the old Lutheran phase, "God is dead,"

but with an anti-religious twist and a shout of delight that

declared open war on all remaining forms of religious

"weaknesses." (Pg.349). This call for "God is dead," was

based on the belief that the Christian God had become

unworthy of belief. Many philosophers and "free spirits" felt

redemption in this event.

Another person to attack religion was Sigmund Freud, who

reduced the grand aspirations of religion to, mere illusions,

but, even worse, the illusions of an insecure child who has

never properly grown up. According to him, religious ideas

are given out as teachings, are not precipitates of

experience or end results of thinking; they are illusions,

fulfillment?s of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes

of mankind. An illusion is not the same thing as an error;

nor is it necessarily an error. What is characteristic of

illusion is that they are derived from human wishes. In this

respect they come near to psychiatric delusions. He called

a belief an illusion when a wish-fulfillment is a prominent

factor in its motivation, and in doing so we disregard its

relations to reality, just as the illusion itself sets no store by


All three philosophers agree that the only proper concern

of man is humanity. They believe in man and not God.

These philosophers did not outright hate religion. Freud

was fascinated by Jewish mysticism and Nietzsche offered

extravagant praise of Buddhism. But they felt that the

balance is very important. They argue that no one can deny

that there have been thousands of atrocities – to both spirit

and body – in the name of religion.

I believe that religion has taught humans to behave like a

man. The self-determination and self-realization of man is

not hindered by religion. If people did not believe in God,

there might be lessening of good deeds. For some,

realization of god is like self-realization. Many peoples in

the east believe in re-incarnation and believe that soul never

dies. For them this gives continuity to life as a chain of

things. These people want to believe in God and immerse

themselves in God.

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