Ontological argument

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The ontological argument is an idea in religious philosophy. It is supposed to show that God exists.

There are different versions, but they all argue something like: because we can imagine a perfect being, there must be a god. The idea is that existing makes a good thing better than one that's only imaginary. So the perfect thing we're imagining must exist. Then we call the perfect thing God.[1] The earliest objection was that an argument like that could prove wrong things. You could prove that a perfect island must exist, for example. But no real island is perfect.[2]

Because it starts with imagination, not what you can see or experience, this is a kind of a priori reasoning. David Hume didn't like that way of thinking. He believed that knowledge had to come from experience and called everything else "nothing but sophistry and illusion".[3]

Other versions of the argument start with the idea of the universe, and from that argue that there must be a god.

References[change | change source]

  1. Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century, according to Miroslaw Szatkowski (ed) 2012. Ontological proofs today. Ontos Verlag, p22.
  2. "Gaunilo". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
  3. Hume, David 1777 [1748]. An enquiry concerning human understanding. London: A. Millar, p166.