Philosophy of Religion
Anselm’s second ontological argument
Anselm’s first argument left himself open to criticism from Gaulino and his perfect island. Anselm only real reply to Gaulino was to point him to chapter 3 of his Proslogion.
Gaulino’s main objection to Anselm was that he thought no mere mortal could conceive (or understand) God’s nature.
Anselm would have agreed with Gaulino – it is impossible to understand God in the same way one might understand geometry. However, this does not rule out the possibility to understand the concept that God is ‘that which nothing greater can be conceived’.
At the heart of Anselm’s argument is the philosophical understanding of ‘necessary existence’:
Anselm’s second argument follows:
- necessary – cannot not be
- contingent – can cease to exist
Either God exists or He does not exist
- Either God exists or He does not exist
- If God exists, God’s existence must be necessary
- If God does not exist, then his existence is logically impossible
- God is not a logically impossible thing
- Therefore, God’s existence is necessary
- Therefore, God exists
Anselm is on solid ground here with a black and white statement
If God exists, God’s existence must be necessary
It would be inconceivable to thing of God in terms of Him being contingent – i.e. dependent upon something else. If we are going to think of God in terms of Him being omnipotent…etc. then by definition God must be necessary.
If God does not exist, then his existence is logically impossible
God is not a logically impossible thing
There are two kinds of things which cannot exist:
There is no logical contradiction in the notion of God. It is logically possible for him to exist.
Therefore, God’s existence is necessary and therefore, God exists
As God is not logically impossible and also is not a contingent non-existence thing, then there is only one possible state left: that of a necessary being. It, therefore, follows that God’s existence is necessary and God does exist.
Anselm is arguing God’s existence as a process of eliminations:
Anselm’s second argument unlike his first is not dependent upon existence as being a perfection of a matter of greatness. Rather than saying that God must exist because existence is a perfection, Anselm is arguing that God must exist because God is a necessary being.
- God cannot be an existing contingent being (e.g. like you and me!)
- God cannot be a non-existent contingent being (e.g. a unicorn)
- God cannot be a logically impossible being (e.g. an omnipotent God who is impotent)
- God cannot be a necessary non-existent being (it is logically impossible)
- God must be a necessary existent being.
||God cannot be a non-existent contingent being e.g. unicorns, dragons…etc.
||God cannot be an existent contingent being e.g. like me and you!
||It would be logically impossible for God to be a non-existent necessary being i.e. how can something which cannot not be not exist!
||Only available option! God must be a necessary existent being.