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The Ontological Argument

  • James Cargile (a1)

There are several styles of ontological argument. Here are examples of the first style.

God has all perfections.

Existence is a perfection.

∴God exists.

All perfect beings exist.

God is a perfect being.

∴God exists.

God couldn't be improved.

A being that doesn't exist could be improved (by coming to be).

∴God exists.

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1 Malcolm Norman, ‘Anselm's Ontological Arguments’, Philosophical Review, 1960, pp. 4162.

2 I do not stress this point, because I do not know exactly what ‘cognitive’ means.

3 In his paper ‘The Logical Structure of Anselm's Argument’ (Philosophical Review, 1971, pp. 2854)Adams Robert Merrihew puts Anselm's (14) into symbolic logic, using ‘Ux’ for ‘x exists in the understanding’. However, his version of the argument is formally valid even with all occurrences of ‘Ux’ deleted. This is because his quantifier ‘(Ex)’ can be read in the Meinongian way as ‘There either exists or subsists an x such that …’, so that in ‘(Ex) Ux …’. The quantifier has already done the work for which ‘Ux’ was introduced, namely the trick of locating a supreme being ‘somewhere’ so that the definition of ‘supreme’ can be applied to the being to show that it must, after all, really exist.

4 I am indebted to Robin Fleming for a helpful comment on this paper.

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
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