Arguments For the Existence of God: Part 1 The Ontological Argument

The Ontological Argument Made Simple


The Ontological Argument

Throughout history arguments have been put forward claiming to demonstrate conclusively that God, or an Almighty being exists. In this series we shall examine these arguments, starting with the Ontological argument.

The Ontological Argument

The Ontological argument is solely based on the essence of God (Ontos). This theory is strongly associated with St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury AD 1033 to 1109

Anselm firmly maintained that it is possible to argue for the existence of God, from the very meaning of the word 'God.' He argued that existence is essential to the very idea of God. He stated:

We believe that God is a being that which none greater can be thought. Now, even a fool knows that a being that which none greater can be though exists at least in the mind alone. It could be thought of as existing in reality as well. That would be greater, in which case that than which greater cannot be thought”

So, essentially the word 'God' refers to a perfect being. The Ontological argument has baffled many a philosopher throughout the ages. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) expanded on the theory by arguing , just a triangle would not be a triangle unless it's angles added up to 180 degrees. So, God would not be God if he did not exist.

Gotfried Leibniz (1646-1716) and Georg Hegl (1770-1813) both defended the Ontological argument. Paul Tillich (1885-1969) spoke of God as 'Ultimate Reality' whose nature people could disagree, but not about whether it exists.

How Convincing is the Theory?

The argument has been strongly criticised through the years. For example, one of Anselm's contemporaries Gaunilio accused Anselm of making an illegitimate jump from existence in the mind, to existence in reality.

He said he could define anything into existence, including a perfect holiday island. He argued that it is cutting corners to hide the notion of existence of God in the word 'God.'

The well known German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) argued that the word 'exists' may not be utilised as a predicate quality of God. The word 'God' should include 'goodness', 'almighty' and 'wisdom.' He also argued that essentially existence needs to be proved. Immanuel Kant compared this to $100, he stated that:

“$100 in mind does not mean it exists.”

He said, we need reasons for believing in the existence of God, not just a definition of God. Because that does not indicate that God does indeed exist.

To read about another philosophical topic Utilitarianism go here

Part 2 of our Arguments for the existence of God series will be on the Cosmological argument.


More Information on Ontological Argument

For more information on the Ontological argument, take a look at the following links:

Anselm: Ontological Argument for God's Existence

Anselm of Canterbury

The Ontological Argument: Princeton University

Ontological Arguments: Stanford University

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Comments 4 comments

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 4 years ago

A question almost everybody ponders from time to time.The Ontolgical Argument does not seem to hold much persuasion without faith and if you've got faith your not looking for proof.I look forward to the rest of your series.Up & Interesting.

intriguewriter profile image

intriguewriter 4 years ago from worldwide Author

The ontological argument does not hold much weight....but it is one of the philosophical arguments isn't it. I am not convinced by it at all. However, it does leave you with something to discuss I guess right! Thank you for stopping by and reading my article! means a lot !

penofone profile image

penofone 4 years ago

An argument exists as Kant would say only if the argument is TERSE and is SuBJECTIVE not an anomaly or an social endeavor to say the least. It does represent a theological aspect of divinity as is later described in the verses of Emmanuel. The theory is that god "exists" only if the mind is developed in the area of Godhead or mutual admiration between god and man. That is Kant and that's how it goes....

Love ya less,



intriguewriter profile image

intriguewriter 4 years ago from worldwide Author

Thanks for your comment...glad someone understand the mechanics of philosophy. although no question can ever fully be answered in this field.

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