St. Anselm`s Ontological Argument


St.Anselm`s Ontological Argument

Throughouthuman civilizations, there has been a quest to proof the existence ofa superhuman being. In the modern world, religious literature andarcheological evidences have been used to prove the existence of God.However, some people do not require the physical evidence to proofthe existence of God. There are several philosophical thoughts thathave been developed to explain and proof the existence of superhumanbeing. Among these philosophical thoughts are the ontologicalarguments. Ontological arguments use ontology to explain theexistence of God. St.Anselm of Canterbury, a theologian and a philosopher proposed theontological argument in his Proslogionto explain the existence of God. However, there are severalweaknesses that have been associated with the argument (Oppy, 7).This paper looks at the criticism to the soundness of St. Anselmarguments on the existence of God.

Inhis Proslogion,St. Anselm proposed ontological argument to prove the existence ofGod not because he wanted to prove the existence of God but as ameditation of how the idea of existence of God became evident to him.In his argument, God is a “being that which no greater can beconceived”. He suggested that the being exists both in the mind andreality. Accordingto St.Anselm, in order to believe in something, it must exist in the mindand reality. What exist in reality is easy to believe because you cansense it. Therefore, if you can conceive the “being”, then itexists, which proofs that God exists (Pojman and Rea, 154). According to Himma (1), St. Anselm can be summarized as follows

“Itis a conceptual truth (or, so to speak, true by definition) that Godis a being than which none greater can be imagined (that is, thegreatest possible being that can be imagined).

Godexists as an idea in the mind.

Abeing that exists as an idea in the mind and in reality is, otherthings being equal, greater than a being that exists only as an ideain the mind.

Thus,if God exists only as an idea in the mind, then we can imaginesomething that is greater than God (that is, a greatest possiblebeing that does exist).

Butwe cannot imagine something that is greater than God (for it is acontradiction to suppose that we can imagine a being greater than thegreatest possible being that can be imagined.)

Therefore,God exists” (Himma,1).

Thereis no doubt that ontological arguments on the existence of God areone of the most studies and popular philosophical thoughts in themodern religions. Whether St. Anselm arguments hold water or arephilosophically valid remains a controversial issue. There is nodoubt that there is immense support for St. Anselm thoughts about theexistence of god. However, numerous scholars have criticized St.Anselm thought which suggest that there exist numerous weaknesses inhis ontological arguments. The main argument against St. Anselmarguments is the common theological belief that it is practicallyimpossible to conceive the notion of god. According to St. Anselm, itis possible to conceive the notion of god. Additionally, according toan argument by Gainilo, if St. Anselm ontological argument is valid,all other arguments that use a similar logic are valid. He arguedthat if St. Anselm argument is valid, therefore any argument thatsuggest that something “more excellent” that another necessarilyexists because something must be “more excellent” relative toanother (Himma, 1).

St.Anselm thoughts were also opposed by great philosophers andtheologians such as Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologica, ThomasAquinas gave five proofs that God exists but argued that St. Anselmargument was invalid and did not provide evidence of god’sexistence. St. Anselm attempts to prove the existence of God byformulating the nature of God. However, Thoman Aquinas argued that itis not possible to know the nature of God as postulated by St.Anselm. He also argued that St. Anselm argument could make sense toan individual who understands the real meaning and existence of god.However, only God knows his essence and thus only God can understandSt. Anselm argument. This argument by Thomas Aquinas resulted intonumerous theologians rejecting St. Anselm ontology (Himma, 1).

St.Anselm arguments on the existence of God have also been criticizeddue to the fact that it depends on priorireasoning. Philosophers such as David Hume have argued that theargument can be demonstrated and gives a valid proof if “contraryimplies a contradiction”. Thus, prioriarguments can not be considered as accurate proof. This is because inthe same way we can conceive existence of god, we can also conceivethe non existence of god. Since there is no abstractness in the ideaof existence, the idea of God is not an evidence of God existence.Therefore the conception of a super human being can be conceived asthe existence or not existence of god. Additionally, it is also wrongto apply the concept of necessary being in proofing the existence ofgod. This is because the idea of necessary being is intelligibility.For example, a triangle has three angles. The “necessary being”of three angles does not necessarily mean a triangle exist but if atriangle exist, it has three angles (Himma, 1).


Himma,Kenneth Einar. &quotOntological Argument&quot. InternetEncyclopedia of Philosophy,(2005),

Oppy,Graham. OntologicalArguments and Belief in God.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (2007).

Pojman,Louisand Rea, Michael.Philosophyof Religion: An Anthology,Stanford, CT. Cengage Learning. (2014).