Ontological Arguments
Geisler (Norman) & Corduan (Winfried)
Source: Geisler (Norman) & Corduan (Winfried) - Philosophy of Religion, 2nd Edition, Chapter 7
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  1. It has been suggested in the previous chapter that no rationally inescapable proofs or disproofs of God have been presented from either moral or teleological experience. Indeed, some (following Kant) would argue that the only hope for a theistic proof is to leave the realm of experience and enter the sphere of pure reason. Such is precisely what the ontological argument purports to do. Its proponents have sometimes argued that the existence of God is more necessary than the conclusions of mathematics. Rene Descartes wrote, "As for me, I dare well to boast of having found a proof of God's existence which I find entirely satisfactory, and by which I know God exists, more certainly than I know the truth of any geometric proposition1." As in the previous chapter, we shall trace this argument through its history of defense and critique. It will become evident that perhaps none of the theistic proofs has engendered as much affection on the one hand and outright hostility on the other hand.
  2. The ontological argument has had a fascinating history from Anselm to the present. Most of its proponents have held it to be rationally inescapable once one grants the mere idea of a perfect or necessary Being. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) is the author of the argument (which was labeled ontological by Kant, who thought it to have an ontological invalidity in it). For Anselm it was more of a "proof from prayer," for he came upon it by meditating on the concept of a perfect being, the Christian God.

    Anselm's First Ontological Proof
  3. It is now widely held that Anselm actually offered two forms of the ontological argument. The first one was this2:
    • 1. God is by definition that than which nothing greater can be conceived.
      (This definition is understood by both believers and unbelievers.)
    • 2. It is one thing to exist in the understanding only and another thing to exist both in the understanding and outside the understanding (e.g., a painting existing only in the painter's mind as opposed to one both in his mind and on canvas).
    • 3. It is greater to exist both in the understanding and outside the understanding than in the understanding only.
    • 4. Therefore, God must exist both in the understanding and outside the understanding (i.e., in reality). If he did not, then we could conceive of One who did, which would be greater. But God by definition (agreed upon by both believer and unbeliever) is the greatest Being conceivable, Hence, God must exist.
    This form is the way Anselm presented the argument. It conceals what later analysts feel is a hidden premise. In order to reveal this premise the argument can be stated this way:
    • 1. Whatever can be affirmed (predicated) of the most perfect Being possible (conceivable) must be affirmed of it (otherwise, by definition, it would not be the most perfect Being possible).
    • 2. It is possible to affirm a real existence (outside of our minds) of the most perfect Being possible.
    • 3. Hence, a real existence of the most perfect Being possible must be affirmed.
    The same argument can be put in a negative form:
    • 1. Nothing possible can be denied of the most perfect Being possible (conceivable).
    • 2. Real (extramental) existence is possible for the most perfect Being possible.
    • 3. Therefore, real existence cannot be denied of the most perfect Being possible.
    In brief, when one begins to think or meditate on the concept of an absolutely perfect Being, it is literally inconceivable that such a Being could not exist.

    Anselm's Second Form of the Ontological Proof
  4. In repeating his argument, Anselm gave what some feel is a second form of the ontological argument. In summary:
    • 1. It is logically necessary to affirm of a necessary Existent what is logically necessary to the concept of such a Being.
      2. Real existence is logically necessary to the concept of a necessary Existent. Hence, it is logically necessary to affirm that a necessary Existent really exists.
    The same argument in negative form is this:
    • 1. It is logically impossible to deny what is necessary to the concept of a necessary Existent (for it would be contradictory to say that it is not necessary that it is necessary).
    • 2. Real existence is logically necessary to the concept of a necessary Existent.
    • 3. Therefore, it is logically impossible to deny real existence of a necessary Existent.
  5. The difference between the arguments is that the first form of Anselm's argument is based on predicability of existence to an absolute perfect Being and the second form is based on the inconceivability of the nonexistence of a necessary Being. The first form appears to be subject to some criticism to which the second is not, such as Kant's criticism that existence is not a predicate (see the discussion that follows).

    Anselm's Debate with Gaunilo
  6. A fellow monk, Gaunilo, was not convinced that Anselm's argument was undeniable. The ensuing debate will help clarify the Anselmian argument. First, we will give Gaunilo's objection and then Anselm's answer:
    • Objection 1: The argument is built on the false premise that whatever exists in the mind must also exist in reality outside the mind.
      Answer 1: The argument does not apply to just any being but to only one Being, an absolutely perfect Being (which for Anselm would also have to be a necessary Being, since if it lacked necessity, it would not be absolutely perfect).
    • Objection 2: If God's nonexistence were really inconceivable, then no one could doubt his existence. But people do doubt and even deny it; there are atheists.
      Answer 2: People can doubt or deny God's nonexistence, but they cannot conceive of God's nonexistence. God's nonexistence is affirmable but not conceivable.
    • Objection 3: We cannot even form the concept of the most perfect being possible. It is only a series of words with no empirical reference or meaning.
      Answer 3: We do understand what the word God means as is evidenced by six facts: it is a common, familiar word; our faith and conscience provide content for it; conceptions do not have to be in terms of sensible images-abstract concepts are possible; God can be understood indirectly, the way the sun is understood from its rays; we can form the concept of the most perfect by working from what is less than perfect to the perfect and from there to what is most perfectly possible; and those who deny that they can conceive of God must have some conception of what they are denying.
    • Objection 4: The existence of God can no more be inferred from the idea of a perfect Being than the existence of a perfect island can be inferred from the mere idea of a perfect island.
      Answer 4: The existence of an island cannot be inferred from its idea because it is not an absolutely perfect Being that by its very nature cannot be lacking in anything. The idea of an island may lack existence, but an absolutely perfect Being cannot lack anything, especially being.
    • Objection 5: God's nonexistence is no more inconceivable than my own nonexistence. I can conceive of my own nonexistence, and I can conceive of God's, too.
      Answer 5: This is not so. The nonexistence of everything except a necessary Being is conceivable. Granted that I do exist, I cannot affirm that I do not exist. It is conceivable that I might never have existed. This is not the case with a necessary Being. If it is possible for a necessary Being to exist, then it is necessary that it exist. Its nonexistence is inconceivable.
    • Objection 6: God's existence must be proved before we can discuss his essence. Otherwise there is no basis for saying he is the most perfect Being possible.
      Answer 6: This is not so. We can compare ideal characteristics before we know if they are real.
  7. Finally, Anselm charged that Gaunilo's objections and restatements of Anselm's argument reveal that Gaunilo misunderstood the argument. Gaunilo thought the argument was this:
    • 1. God is the greatest of all beings.
    • 2. It is greater to exist in reality than merely in the understanding.
    • 3. Therefore, God must exist in reality (or else he would not be the greatest).
    This, said Anselm, confuses the greatest actual Being with the greatest Being possible. The correct argument says only that the greatest possible or conceivable Being must exist. Anselm claimed that Gaunilo missed this fundamental distinction and hence missed the central point of the argument.
  8. It appears to us that Anselm won the debate. Gaulino did misunderstand the argument and Anselm did satisfactorily answer his objections. This is not to say that the Anselmian argument is valid. Other objections have been leveled at Anselm's ontological proof.

    Aquinas's Objection to the Ontological Argument
  9. Another medieval monk objected to Anselm's argument. Thomas Aquinas understood Anselm to be saying this3:
    • 1. God is by definition that than which nothing greater can be conceived.
    • 2. What exists actually and mentally is greater than what exists only mentally.
    • 3. Therefore, God must exist actually (for once the sentence "God exists" is understood, it is seen to be a self-evident proposition).
    Aquinas's objections to the argument are three. First, not everyone understands the term God to mean "that than which nothing greater can be conceived." Second, even if God is understood this way, it does not prove that God exists actually but only mentally. Thus the alleged proof of God's existence really presupposes it. Third, the proposition "God exists" is self-evident in itself but is not self-evident to us. We cannot know God's essence (as a necessary Being) directly, but only indirectly through his effects in creation. Hence, the only way we can arrive at God's existence is through the existence of creatures (a posteriori) and not by a direct intuition of that existence (a priori) via a pure conception of it.
  10. Aquinas's objection grows out of the difference of his realistic epistemological starting point (in experience) from Anselm's idealistic one (in thought). In this respect Aquinas was more Aristotelian and Anselm was more Platonic. Other than this, it appears to many that Aquinas does not appreciate the full force of the Anselmian argument when it is stated apart from the alleged Platonic context. Aquinas, too, had the concept of a necessary Being and yet he did not seem to appreciate that Anselm argued that this very concept (however one arrives at it) logically demands that one affirm that such a Being really exists.

    Descartes's Formulation of the Ontological Argument
  11. Eleventh-century history repeats itself with some new advancement in the ontological argument in the seventeenth century. Descartes, too, has two forms of the ontological argument. And, like Anselm with Gaunilo, he held polemics with the priest Caterus4. The second form of Descartes's arguments runs this way:
    • 1. It is logically necessary to affirm of a concept whatever is essential to the nature (definition) of that concept (e.g., a triangle must have three sides).
    • 2. Existence is a logically necessary part of the concept of a necessary Existent (otherwise it could not be defined as a necessary Existent)
    • 3. Therefore, it is logically necessary to affirm that a necessary Existent does exist.
    Briefly stated, if God by definition cannot not exist, then he must exist. For it is impossible to conceive of a Being which cannot not exist as nonexistent, then it is necessary to conceive of such a Being as existing. Descartes’s first form of the ontological argument is as follows:
    • 1. Whatever we clearly and distinctly perceive of something is true. (Clarity and distinctness are the guarantee that there is no falsehood in a thing.)
    • 2. We clearly and distinctly perceive that the conception of an absolutely perfect Being necessitates the existence of that Being.
      a. It is impossible to conceive of an absolutely perfect Being as lacking anything.
      b. But if an absolutely perfect Being does not exist, then it would lack existence.
      c. Hence, it is clear that the concept of an absolutely perfect Being necessitates its existence.
    • 3. Therefore, it is true that an absolutely perfect Being cannot lack existence (i.e., it must exist).
  12. Descartes was careful to qualify his argument to avoid misdirected criticism of the sort Anselm received from Gaunilo. Descartes insisted following propositions:
    • This argument applies only to an absolutely perfect or necessary Being. Any other being can be conceived not to exist. Only a necessary Being cannot be conceived as not existing.
    • It is not necessary for anyone to think of God, but if and when he does begin to think of God, he must conceive of God as necessarily existing. Any conception of a necessary Existent as not existing is contradictory.
    • To conceive of God as a necessary Being is not imaginary but necessary, for God alone is the Being whose essence necessitates his existence; it is impossible to conceive of two or more supremely perfect beings. There can be only one completely perfect being possible; and there is an infinite number of other properties in God that one cannot change by imagination. The concept of a necessary Being must be what it is and it cannot be otherwise. Hence, the concept of a necessary Being cannot be the product of one's imagination.


    The Debate Between Caterus and Descartes
  13. Caterus the priest agreed with Aquinas against Descartes that the ontological argument proves only a conceptual but not a real existence of God. Further, he contended, by way of illustration, that the complex of words existent lion is conceptually necessary as a complex, but this does not prove that a lion must exist. One must look to experience for the existence of a lion and not to any necessary concept about a lion.
  14. Descartes replied by insisting that Aquinas refuted an argument that Descartes did not hold namely, that existence is concluded from the meaning of the word God. Descartes then repeated the argument he did hold in several different forms. The following is Descartes's first restatement of the argument:
    • 1. Whatever we clearly and distinctly perceive is true.
    • 2. We clearly and distinctly perceive that the concept of a necessary Existent necessitates that it exists.
    • 3. Therefore, it is true that a necessary Existent necessarily exists.
    The second restatement by Descartes is as follows:
    • 1. Whatever is of the essence of something must be affirmed of it.
    • 2. It is of the essence of God that he exists (for by definition his essence is to exist).
    • 3. Therefore, existence must be affirmed of God.
    The third restatement in response to Caterus was this:
    • 1. God's existence cannot be conceived of as only possible but not actual (for in such case we would not be thinking of him as God, that is, as a necessary Existent).
    • 2. We can conceive of God's existence (it is not a contradictory concept).
    • 3. Therefore, God's existence must be conceived of as more than possible (as actual).


    Other Reactions to Descartes's Proofs
  15. Certain other seventeenth-century philosophers reacted to Descartes's ontological argument negatively. They restated his argument:
    • 1. If it is not contradictory that God exists, then it is certain that he exists.
    • 2. It is not contradictory that God exists.
    • 3. So, it is certain that God exists.
    In view of this new form of the argument, these philosophers offered two objections which (if true) would invalidate Descartes's conclusion. The first is that the minor premise can be doubted or denied. Hence, the argument does not necessarily follow. Second, Descartes admitted that his idea of God was inadequate. But if it is inadequate, then it is unclear. And if it is unclear, then, on Descartes's own definition of truth as "clear and distinct" ideas, it is untrue.
  16. Descartes replied to each point. First, God's existence is noncontradictory in whichever of the two senses one takes it. If noncontradictory means whatever does not disagree with human thought, it is clearly noncontradictory. For we have not attributed to him anything but what human thought necessitates that we attribute to him. If noncontradictory means what cannot be known by the human mind, then no one can know anything, let alone God’s existence. Such a definition would overthrow all human thought (which is impossible). Second, even if our concept of God is inadequate, it does not follow that it is contradictory, since all contradiction arises from a lack of clarity, and we clearly see that God must be a necessary Being. Descartes further implied that what we do not clearly see does not destroy what we do clearly see. Since we do clearly see that there is no contradiction in the concept of a necessary Being, the argument follows. For this is all that is necessary to support the disputed minor premise of the argument.

    The Debate Between Gassendi and Descartes
  17. A skeptic, Pierre Gassendi, also took issue with Descartes's ontological argument, saying that it confuses existence with a property. Gassendi made seven points.
    • God need not exist any more than a triangle must exist, since the essence of each can be thought of apart from its existence.
    • Existence is not a property either for God or for triangles. Rather, that in the absence of which there are no properties or perfections. What does not exist has no perfections and what does exist has perfections, but existence is not one of them.
    • Descartes begs the whole question by not listing existence as part of the triangle's meaning (he does list existence as part of God's definition).
    • Essence and existence can be distinguished only in thought, not in reality, whether we are speaking of Plato or of God. Hence, we must conclude that either Plato exists necessarily (if essence and existence are identical) or else God does not necessarily exist (if essence and existence are not identical).
    • We are just as free to think of God as not existing as we are to think of Pegasus as not existing.
    • We know triangles have 180 degrees only by demonstration, not by assumption. We need the same kind of demonstration that existence must belong to God, not merely the assumption that it does. Otherwise we could prove that anything exists.
    • Descartes did not really prove that nonexistence is incompatible with God. But unless Descartes can demonstrate that God's existence is not logically impossible, he cannot argue that God's existence is logically necessary.
  18. In his reply to Gassendi, Descartes stressed four points.
    • Existence is a property (like omnipotence) in the sense that it is attributable to something. And necessary existence is a necessary property of a necessary Being, because it belongs to God's essence alone.
    • We cannot compare triangles and God on the question of necessary existence, for existence has a different relation to triangles (a contingent one) that it has to a necessary Existent.
    • In view of this, it is not begging the question to include existence among the attributes of a necessary Existent.
    • Finally, existence and essence cannot be separate in God as they are in all other things, for he would not be God if his existence were not necessary.
  19. One important qualification emerged from this discussion. It is this: the logical inescapability of the ontological argument depends on demonstrating the logical impossibility of there being a contradiction in affirming the existence of a necessary Being. For if it is possible that the concept of a necessary Being is logically contradictory, then the existence of God cannot be affirmed as logically necessary. This point was clearly perceived by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who offered a proof to remedy the situation.

    Leibniz's Consideration of the Ontological Argument
  20. Sensing that the basic ontological argument was valid but that it was necessary to demonstrate that the concept of God was not contradictory, Leibniz restated the argument thus5:
    • 1. If it is possible for an absolutely perfect Being to exist, then it is necessary that it exist, for
      … a. By definition an absolutely perfect Being cannot lack anything.
      … b. But if it did not exist, it would be lacking in existence.
      … c. Hence, an absolutely perfect Being cannot be lacking in existence.
    • 2. It is possible (noncontradictory) for an absolutely perfect Being to exist.
    • 3. Therefore, it is necessary that an absolutely perfect Being exist.
    In support of the crucial minor premise Leibniz gave this argument:
    • 1. A perfection is a simple and irreducible quality without any essential limits.
    • 2. Whatever is simple cannot conflict with other irresolvably simple qualities (since they differ in kind).
    • 3. And whatever differs in kind with another cannot conflict with it (since there is no area of similarity in which they can overlap or conflict).
    • 4. Therefore, it is possible for one Being (God) to possess all possible perfections.
    Even defenders of the ontological arguments do not agree that Leibniz has really proven the compatibility of all possible attributes in God6. N Malcolm saw two problems with the argument. It assumes that qualities are essentially "positive" and others "negative," whereas this may not be the case. Some qualities may be positive in one context and negative in another. Further, Leibniz wrongly assumes that some qualities are intrinsically simple, contrary to Ludwig Wittgenstein, who showed that what is simple in one conceptual system may be complex in another. A third objection may be added. Leibniz's argument depends on the validity of the principle of the actual identity of what is conceptually indiscernable. There is a move from the conceptual to the actual that is open to challenge.

    Spinoza's Ontological Proof
  21. Like Descartes, his contemporary Benedict Spinoza held that the existence of God was mathematically demonstrable. He wrote, "We cannot be more certain of the existence of anything, than the existence of a being absolutely, infinite or perfect—that is, of God." And, like Descartes, Spinoza felt that this certainty was derived from the ontological proof. Spinoza's statement the argument is this7:
    • 1. There must be a cause for everything, either for its existence or for its nonexistence.
    • 2. A necessary Being (God) necessarily exists, unless there is a cause adequate to explain why he does not exist.
    • 3. There is no cause adequate to explain why a necessary Being does not exist,
      … a. For that cause would have to be either inside God's nature or outside of it.
      … b. But no cause outside of a necessary Existent could possibly annul it.
      … c. And nothing inside a necessary Existent could annul it (there cannot be anything inside a necessary Being denying it is a necessary Being).
      … d. Hence, there is no cause adequate to explain why a necessary Being does not exist.
    • 4. Therefore, a necessary Being necessarily exists.
  22. It would seem that the usual objection could be leveled at Spinoza's proof, plus at least one more objection. One may object to the first premise which affirms that "there must be a cause for nothing." Not only is this premise without proof but it would seem to be contradictory. The law of causality8 demands only that "there must be a cause for something." It seems quite unusual to insist on a cause for nothing. Spinoza's defense of the premise is in the statement "The potentiality of nonexistence is a negation of power...." But nonexistence is already a negative and a negation of nonexistence would he an affirmation of existence. However, this would leave the traditional basis for the ontological argument and would begin with existence. This is precisely what Spinoza does in his second form of the argument:
    • 1. Something necessarily exists (to deny this one would have to affirm that something exists, namely, himself).
    • 2. This necessary Existence is either finite or infinite.
    • 3. It is possible for this necessary Existence to be infinite.
    • 4. There must be a cause as to why this is not an infinite existence.
    • 5. No finite existence can hinder this being an infinite Existence (and to say that an infinite Existence hinders its own infinite existence is contradictory).
    • 6. Therefore, this must be an infinite Existence (God).
    There are two important things to note about Spinoza's arguments. First, he borrows from the cosmological argument the premise that something exists, thus leaving a strictly a priori proof, as he admits. Second, the conclusion of Spinoza's argument is not the theistic God of Descartes and Leibniz but a pantheistic God. For this infinite Existence is absolutely one; there are not in addition to it many finite substances or creatures. What theists call creatures Spinoza views as merely modes or moments in this one infinite Substance – God.

    The Objections of Hume and Kant
  23. David Hume laid down what has become a standard objection to the ontological proof as well as to other alleged proofs for God's existence. It has this basic logical form:
    • 1. Nothing is rationally demonstrable unless the contrary implies a contradiction (for if it leaves open any other possibility, then this position is not necessarily true).
    • 2. Nothing that is distinctly conceivable implies a contradiction (if it were contradictory, it would not be distinctly conceivable; if it is impossible, it cannot be possible).
    • 3. Whatever we conceive to exist we can also conceive as non-existent (the existence or nonexistence of things cannot be ruled out conceptually).
    • 4. There is no being, therefore, whose nonexistence implies a contradiction.
    • 5. Consequently, there is no being whose existence is rationally demonstrable.
  24. In essence, Hume reasons that no argument for God is rationally inescapable, because it always contains premises that can logically be denied. The conclusions always lack logical necessity, because the premises always admit of other logical possibilities. Both friend (Malcolm) and foe (Gassendi) have already admitted that there are other logical possibilities than that in which the ontological argument would conclude. According to this, the ontological argument fails to be a rational demonstration in the strict sense.

    Kant's Critique of the Ontological Proof
  25. It was Immanuel Kant who named the argument ontological, since he thought it made an illicit transition from the sphere of pure thought to that of reality (from eidos to ontos). Kant had several objections to the argument which he felt were fatal to the whole theistic cause9. First, he objected to the fact that we have no positive concept of a necessary Being. God is defined only as that which cannot not be. Further, necessity does not apply to existence but only to propositions. Necessity is a logical, not an ontological, qualifier. There are no existentially necessary propositions. Whatever is known by experience (which is the only way existential matters are knowable) could be otherwise. Next, what is logically possible is not necessarily ontologically possible. There may be no logical contradiction in the necessary existence but it still may be actually impossible. Then, there is no contradiction involved in rejecting both the idea and the existence of a necessary Being. Likewise, there is no contradiction in rejecting the triangle along with its three-sidedness. Contradiction results in rejecting one without the other. Finally, existence is not a predicate, as though it were a perfection or property that could be affirmed of a subject or thing. Existence is not a perfection of an essence but a positing of that perfection. Kant implies the following argument to support this point:
    • 1. Whatever adds nothing to the conception of an essence is not part of that essence.
    • 2. Existence adds nothing to the conception of an essence (i.e., no characteristic is added to an essence by positing it as real rather than as imaginary; a real dollar does not have any characteristics that an imagined one lacks).
    • 3. Therefore, existence is not part of an essence (i.e., it is not a perfection which can be predicated of something).
  26. If Kant's last criticism is solid, it invalidates at least the first form of the ontological argument given by Anselm. In view of Kant, Anselm's argument would really amount to this:
    • 1. All possible perfections must be predicated of an absolutely perfect Being.
    • 2. Existence is a possible perfection which may be predicated of an absolutely perfect Being.
    • 3. Therefore, existence must be predicated of an absolutely perfect Being.
    According to Kant's criticism, the minor premise is wrong. Existence is not a perfection that may be predicated of anything. Existence is not a predication of a characteristic but an instantation of a characteristic or thing. Essence gives the definition and existence provides an exemplification of what was defined. The essence is given in the conceptualization of something; existence does not add to this conceptualization but merely provides a concretization of it. Hence, existence neither adds nor detracts from the concept of an absolutely perfect Being. This has been a standard objection to the ontological argument since Kant.

    Supposed Causes of the Ontological "Mistake"
  27. Assuming the ontological argument is invalid, many great minds have been greatly deceived into thinking they held a rationally inescapable argument that is really invalid. There must be some reason for this deception. Opponents of the ontological argument have laid the blame at various doorsteps. Let us examine some of them.
  28. Platonic philosophy. Following Aquinas, it has been common to pinpoint the problem in a faulty Platonic epistemology that supposes one can directly and intuitively know essences. Some claim that if we deny that one's direct and/or distinct insight into the essence of something can yield knowledge of reality and the ontological argument fails.
  29. Metaphysical thinking. Others, since Kant, have preferred to place the blame on any kind of metaphysical thinking. They argue that "is" or "exists" has only a logical but not an ontological status. Theists are duped by the statement "God is a necessary Being" to suppose that the "is" really implies existence, whereas it is merely a copula or logical connective.
  30. Confusion of cause and reason. Arthur Schopenhauer believed the confusion rested in the failure to distinguish between a cause, which demands something beyond it, and a reason, which does not demand something beyond it10. The reason for something can be in itself. The definition of God as an absolutely perfect and necessary Being does not require anything beyond that definition to explain it. Thus the ontological argument is "a joke," a kind of ontological sleight of hand. For it assumes the existence of God in the definition of God and then pretends to arrive at it in the conclusion. To use Schopenhauer's illustration, the chicken was already in the egg the theist was brooding over.
  31. Use of a proper name. Some thinkers11, following Bertrand Russell, feel that the source of the ontological mistake is in the use of a proper name such as necessary Being. In the English language a proper noun signifies existence. We have been duped by the ontological implications of using a proper noun. If the proponents of the argument had used phrases like "whatever gods there are" or "whatever necessary beings there are," they would not have been deceived into thinking that there really was an absolutely perfect Being (God).
  32. The use of the English conditional. Alvin Plantinga traced the problem to the use of the English conditional12. For instance, "If Jones is a bachelor, then he is necessarily not married" does not necessarily imply "Jones is a bachelor." There may be no Jones at all. Hence, "If God exists, then he exists" does not necessarily imply "God exists." There may be no God at all.

    Findlay's Ontological Disproof of God
  33. Whatever the cause of the error in the ontological argument, it has been widely rejected in modern times. Some have even turned the tables on it in a kind of ontological disproof of God. Such was the intention of J. N. Findlay, who argued13:
    • 1. God must be thought of as a necessary Being (i.e., as necessarily existing), for anything short of this kind of being would be unworthy of worship.
    • 2. But existentially necessary propositions cannot be true (as Kant showed), for necessity is merely a logical characteristic of propositions, not of reality.
    • 3. Therefore, God cannot exist.
    Let us put Findlay's argument in this more simple form:
    • 1. The only way God could exist is if he exists necessarily (any kind of existence less than necessary would make him less than God).
    • 2. But nothing can exist necessarily (for necessity does not apply to existence but only to propositions).
    • 3. Therefore, God cannot exist (for the only way he could exist is the very way he cannot exist).
    More properly, however, the argument should be stated this way:
    • 1. The only way a necessary Being could exist is to exist necessarily.
    • 2. The proposition "God exists necessarily" is an existentially necessary proposition.
    • 3. No existentially necessary proposition can be true.
    • 4. Therefore, the proposition "God exists necessarily" cannot be true.
  34. Now, in this latter form, the fallacies of the argument become more apparent. We will pass by the objection to premise 1 from the vantage point of finite godism (that God does not have to be conceived as necessarily existing), since the subject here is whether or not the traditional theistic conception of an absolutely perfect Being is correct. The theist would challenge the next two premises (2 and 3). First, granting for the moment that there are no existentially necessary propositions, a theist could change the proposition "God exists necessarily" to "God exists." The theist could then hold that the proposition "God exists" is a logically necessary proposition to hold14. In this way, necessity applies only to the proposition and not to existence, thus invalidating the criticism. Second, the theist need not grant that there are no existentially necessary propositions. Indeed, some theists have offered examples of what they consider to be existentially necessary statements. Ian T. Ramsey suggests that "I am I" is an example. Malcolm offers "There are an infinite number of prime numbers" as an example. Some feel that "Square circles do not exist" would be existentially necessary, even though it is negative in form. (If there can be negative examples, then why not positive examples? Negatives presuppose positives.) Third, still other theists, taking Anselm and Descartes literally, insist that "God necessarily exists" is a special case. It is the only existentially necessary proposition and it is not only unnecessary but impossible to give any other examples of existentially necessary propositions. Fourth, it seems, however, that the most effective way to eliminate Findlay's ontological disproof is to show that his premise is self-defeating. For the statement "There are no existentially necessary propositions" is itself an existentially necessary proposition. And if it is such, then there are existentially necessary propositions (at least there is this one, and why not others?). If it is not a necessary statement about existence, then it does not really eliminate the possibility that there could be an existentially necessary Existent. So either it does not accomplish its intended task of eliminating the possibility of existentially necessary propositions or else it defeats itself by offering an existentially necessary proposition in order to prove that there are no existentially necessary propositions.

    Hartshorne's Restatement of the Ontological Proof
  35. In its long and checkered history this venerable argument for theism has lived to see a new day. One of the most ardent defenders of the ontological argument is Charles Hartshorne. His statement and defense of the argument in full view of all the traditional criticisms is instructive. Hartshorne state argument like this15:
    • 1. The existence of a necessary being is either
      … a. Impossible, and there is no example of it.
      … b. Possible, but there is no example of it.
      … c. Possible, and there is an example of it.
    • 2. But premise b is meaningless (like saying there is a round square), for a necessary Being cannot be merely a possible being.
    • 3. And premise a is not eliminated by the ontological argument as such but the meaningfulness of the term necessary Being is a justifiable assumption that may be defended on other grounds (see 2 below).
  36. After pinpointing what he felt to be the basic logic of the ontological argument, Hartshorne proceeded to give the fuller elaboration of it. It may be summarized as follows:
    • 1. All thought must refer to something beyond itself which is at least possible, since
      … a. Wherever there is meaning, there must be something meant.
      … b. The only thoughts that are less than possible are contradictory ones.
      … c. Meaning must refer to something more than its own contents or inner consistency or else it is meaningless.
      … d. The move from thought to reality is based on a prior reverse move from reality to thought.
      … e. Total illusion is impossible; illusion presupposes a backdrop of reality.
      … f. Confusion is possible about specific reality but not about reality in general.
      … g. See also the answers to objections 3 and 6.
    • 2. The necessary existence of a necessary Being is "at least possible."
      … a. There is nothing contradictory in the concept of a being that cannot not be.
      … b. The only way to reject this is to plead a special meaning to the word possible. (In the usual logical sense of the word possible there is no contradiction in the concept of a necessary Being.)
    • 3. With a necessary Being an "at-least-possible" existence is indistinguishable from a "possible and actual" existence. A necessary Being cannot have a "merely possible" existence (if a necessary Being can be, then it must be), for
      … a. God by definition is an independent Existence and hence cannot be produced by another as "merely possible" beings can be.
      … b. God is everlasting and so he could not have come into being as "merely possible" beings can come into existence.
    • 4. Therefore, a necessary Being necessarily has both a possible and an actual existence.
  37. Hartshorne answers at least seven different objections to his ontological argument. The objection will be stated in the answer that he gives.
  38. Reply 1: It is not possible that God's nonexistence was always logically possible even though he actually always existed. First, this is a special pleading on the meaning of the word possible. In all other cases, "possible" refers in beings whose nonexistence is both logically and actually possible. Why should God be made an exception by saying that his nonexistence is actually impossible but logically possible? Further, it is not even logically possible for God to be conceived as having come into being. Indeed, by the very conception of his nature he cannot be even logically conceived as having come into existence. For it is contradictory to even think of God as being producible. By his very definition God is a necessary Being and a being so defined cannot be merely possible.
  39. Reply 2: One cannot prove a perfect island or a perfect devil on the same premises of the ontological argument. The perfect island is not indestructible as God is. If it is made indestructible, then it becomes identical with the cosmos as the body of God [Hartshorne's view of God is not theistic nor pantheistic. It is panentheistic—the material universe is viewed as the "body" of God. But there is a transcendent role to God that is more than his cosmic "body"]. A perfect demon is unequivocal nonsense, for it would be both infinitely responsible and infinitely adverse to all that exists; both infinitely loving and infinitely hateful toward all that is; it would be both intimately united and savagely opposed to all that exists. But such contradictory attitudes are impossible.
  40. Reply 3: The ontological argument proves more than the mere self-consistency of the idea of a necessary Being. For all meaning has an external referent that is either possible or actual. And God by definition cannot be merely a possible being. Therefore,
    • 1. All meaning implicitly affirms God in reference to either
      … a. what he has done (called his consequent nature—God's immanence), or
      … b. what he can do (called his primordial nature—God's transcendence).
    • 2. Without God as the universal ground of meaning there would be no meaning for universals16 (i.e., nothing can have objective meaning unless there is a realm that is objectively meaningful).
    • 3. We can be confused as to whether specific things exist but not as to whether God—who is the content of existence itself—exists.
    • 4. The only way to oppose the ontological argument is to make an absolute disjunction between meaning and reality. But this kind of disjunction is meaningless (meaning and reality must meet at some point; that point we call God).
  41. Reply 4: If existence is not a predicate, then at least the mode of existence is implied in every predicate. That is, when a quality is predicated of something, it is implied that that something exists either contingently or necessarily. And a necessary Being (God) cannot exist contingently.
  42. Reply 5: The ontological argument does not make God an exception to general philosophical principles. That essence implies existence in God is not an exception to philosophical principles but a result of a consistent application of philosophical principles to different kinds of beings. God's nature implies existence and no other nature does, because in God alone there is no distinction between the possible and the actual (God is the actualization of all that is possible for him to actualize). "To say a thing might not exist is not to say there might be a thing without existence. It is rather to say that there might be existence without the thing." Existence must necessarily be; this or that existence need not be.
  43. Reply 6: Mere thought does not produce reality, but necessary thought does. There can be no absolute disjunction between thought and reality. Thinking is a real experience, and we do think of God as possible. Hartshorne concludes, therefore, that
    • 1. All thoughts are experiences of what is at least possible.
    • 2. We do have thoughts about a Being which must be (i.e., a necessary Being).
    • 3. But a necessary Being cannot be merely a possible being.
    • 4. Therefore, a necessary Being must be more than merely possible (i.e., it must be actual).
    As Hartshorne put it, "We have only to exclude impossibility or meaninglessness to establish actuality." That is, "Either God is a meaningless term or there exists a divine being." Or, to restate the argument:
    • 1. Either the existence of a necessary Being is
      … a. less than an idea (i.e., contradictory and impossible),
      … b. merely an idea but not a reality, or
      … c. more than a mere idea (a reality).
    • 2. It is not less than an idea, for it is a noncontradictory concept.
    • 3. It is not merely an idea, for it is contradictory to speak of a necessary Being as merely possible (if a necessary Being exists at all, it must exist necessarily; there is no other way it can exist).
    • 4. Therefore, the existence of a necessary Being is more than a mere idea; it is a reality.
  44. Reply 7: The ontological argument is not merely hypothetical; it does not assume existence. The ontological argument is not saying this:
    • 1. If there is a necessary Being, then it exists necessarily.
    • 2. There is a necessary Being (thus begging the whole question).
    • 3. Therefore, a necessary Being exists necessarily.
    This criticism contains the self-contradictory assumption that "if a necessary Being happens to exist as a mere contingent fact, then it exists not as contingent fact but as necessary truth." This is not the meaning of the major premise. The argument, on the contrary, is not contradictory and should be stated like this:
    • 1. If the phrase necessary Being has any meaning, then what it means must actually exist (outside of the mind).
    • 2. The phrase necessary Being does have a meaning (it is not contradictory).
    • 3. Therefore, a necessary Being actually exists (outside of the mind).
    In brief, the "if" does not imply the possibility of nonexistence (for a necessary existence cannot possibly not exist). The "if" means rather the possibility of meaninglessness. And even the possibility of meaninglessness vanishes, for unless there is a basis for meaning (God) there can be no meaning at all.
  45. Some observations are called for at this point. First, Hartshorne rests his case heavily on the ultimate identification of the logical and the ontological, a premise disputed by others. Second, he does not really exclude the possibility that others could show the term God to be meaningless. It may be that someone will yet demonstrate a contradiction in the very concept of a necessary Being. If they do, the ontological arguments fail. Further, the argument rests on the assumption that there must be an objective basis for meaning in order for there to be any meaning. This is precisely what existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus denied. They held to a subjective basis for meaning but did not deny all meaning. Their argument is that there is no meaning "out there" in the universe except the subjective meaning one puts there. Objective absurdity would still be an option unless one considers Hartshorne has given a disproof of objective absurdity.
  46. This leads to our final observation. There is an implied premise in all of the ontological arguments that, if true, would seem to vindicate the argument in the face of its standard criticism (that it makes an illicit transition from the logical to the ontological, from thought to reality). The premise is this: The rationally inescapable is the real. If defensible17, this would prove objective absurdity to be wrong. Indeed, if the rationally inescapable is the real and it is rationally inescapable to think of God as necessarily existing, then it would seem to follow that it is really so that God necessarily exists. But before we assume that the ontological argument has won the day we must examine another statement of it and one final criticism.

    Malcolm's Restatement of the Ontological Proof
  47. Malcolm is credited with reviving the ontological argument in a more viable form, although Hartshorne's work on it said the same thing some twenty years earlier. Malcolm did occasion a popular revival of interest in the argument, at least in the area of analytic philosophy. The first form of Anselm's argument Malcolm considers invalidated by Kant's criticism (that existence is not a predicate); the second form Malcolm believes is immune from this (or any other) criticism of which he knows. Malcolm's restatement of Anselm's first argument may be put in this manner18:
    • 1. God by definition is an absolutely perfect Being possessing all possible perfections.
    • 2. Existence is a perfection (i.e., a possible predicate for God).
    • 3. Therefore God must possess existence (i.e., existence must be predicated of God).
    The minor premise was argued by Kant to be invalid, and accordingly Malcolm rejects this form of the ontological argument as being invalid. Anselm's second argument is a different argument and is not subject to Kant's criticism. Its basic logic is this:
    • 1. The existence of a necessary Being must be either
      … a. a necessary existence (a "must-be" existence),
      … b. an impossible existence (a "cannot-be" existence), or
      … c. a possible existence (a "may-or-may-not-be" existence).
    • 2. But the existence of a necessary Being is not an impossible existence.
      … a. No one has ever shown the concept of a necessary Being to be contradictory.
      … b. There is a basis in human experience for "a greater than which cannot be thought" (e.g., the feeling of guilt or the experience of grace "a greater than which cannot be felt").
      … c. Leibniz's attempt to prove that there is no contradiction fails (there may be one). We cannot show that there cannot be one. We merely know that no one has shown that there is a contradiction. And the proof stands unless or until someone shows that there is a contradiction in the very concept of a necessary Being.
    • 3. And the existence of a necessary Being cannot be merely a possible existence, for a merely possible but not necessary existence of a necessary Being
      … a. Is contrary to the very nature of a necessary Being (A "must-be" Being cannot be a "may-or-may-not-be" kind of being).
      … b. A possible being would be a dependent being, and this is contrary to a necessary Being which is an independent Being by nature.
    • 4. Therefore, a necessary Being necessarily exists.
    Malcolm's argument may be put in hypothetical form:
    • 1. If it is possible for a necessary Being to exist, then it is necessary for it to exist (for the only way a necessary Being can exist is to exist necessarily).
    • 2. It is possible that a necessary Being can exist (there is nothing contradictory about affirming the existence of a necessary Being).
    • 3. Therefore, a necessary Being necessarily exists.
    Or, to restate the heart of the argument in categorical form:
    • 1. A necessary Being by definition is one which cannot not be.
    • 2. That which cannot not be, must be (for this is the logical obverse).
    • 3. Therefore, a necessary Being necessarily must be.
    It would appear that the critical premise in the argument is the one affirming that the mere possibility of a necessary Being is contradictory. Let us state again the argument with Malcolm's fuller defense of this premise.
    • 1. The existence of a necessary Being must be either
      … a. a necessary existence,
      … b. a mere possible existence, or
      … c. an impossible existence.
    • 2. But it cannot be an impossible existence (there is no contradiction).
    • 3. Nor can it be a mere possible existence, for such an existence would be
      … a. a dependent existence (and a dependent existence cannot at the same time be an independent existence such as a necessary existence is),
      … b. a fortuitous existence (for if God just happened to be, then he could not be a necessary Being), and
      … c. a temporal existence (for if God came to be, then he would be dependent, which is contrary to his independent or necessary Being).
    • 4. Therefore, the existence of a necessary Being is a necessary existence (i.e., a necessary Being necessarily exists).
  48. Several observations are called for at this point. Malcolm admits that there might be a contradiction in the concept of a necessary Being and that he knows of no way to prove that there is not a contradiction there. This admission means that his "proof" is not foolproof. It is logically possible that it is wrong. Hence, the conclusion is not rationally inescapable. Thus, even granting the validity of the rest of the argument, it is not a proof in the strongest sense of the word. Furthermore, there is reason to question the validity of the rest of the argument (in premise 3). This will emerge from Plantinga's evaluation of the argument.
    Comment:
    Plantinga's Critique of the Ontological Argument
  49. Plantinga assesses Malcolm's ontological argument in terms of the following logical schema19:
    • 1. If God does not exist, his existence is logically impossible.
    • 2. If God does exist, his existence is logically necessary.
    • 3. Hence, either God's existence is logically impossible or else it is logically necessary.
    • 4. If God's existence is logically impossible, the concept of God is contradictory.
    • 5. The concept of God is not contradictory.
    • 6. Therefore, God's existence is logically necessary.
    Here Plantinga takes issue with premise 2. God could exist without his existence being logically necessary. God's existence could be logically contingent without being ontologically contingent. Or, to put it another way, Malcolm equivocates on the word possible. Malcolm assumes that because it is not "possible" ontologically for God to be contingent is it not "possible" logically for God to be contingent. In fact, there are two meanings to the word possible which Malcolm overlooks. It is logically "possible" that God is a necessary Being. But it is only logically possible that this is so and not logically necessary that this is so. Our own observation here is that Plantinga is right only if the implied premise in the ontological argument is wrong, namely, "The rationally inescapable is the real." For if what is rationally inescapable must be ontologically so, then Hartshorne and Malcolm seem to make a good case against this criticism. They argue that it is logically necessary to think of God as real, since it is logically contradictory to conceive of a necessary Being as not necessarily having being. This does not mean that the ontological argument is valid. There is one final and possibly fatal criticism of it.
  50. Plantinga continues by saying it is also logically "possible" that God never existed at all. In fact, it is logically possible that nothing ever existed, including God. But this may be only an apparent omission in the ontological argument.
  51. Perhaps the reason that this logical possibility does not present itself as evident to the proponents of the ontological argument is that they are assuming a cosmological premise. For it seems most readily apparent to anyone existing that something does exist (himself). And if something exists, it is not true that nothing exists. And if something exists, that makes false the statement that nothing exists. But if something does exist, it is not true to affirm that nothing exists. Hence, Plantinga's criticism, that the ontological argument is unsuccessful simply because it overlooks the obvious truth that nothing exists, fails.
  52. All the proponents of the ontological argument have to do to invalidate Plantinga's criticism is to show that something exists. This is easily accomplished by insisting that no one can deny existence without existing to make the denial. For it is actually impossible to affirm that nothing exists, since there must be someone in existence to make that affirmation. In brief, the ontological arguments based merely on predicability and inconceivability are invalid, but a third argument based on undeniability appears to evade these invalidities. This seems so for the simple reason that the only apparent way to invalidate the second form of the ontological argument is on the conceivability (i.e., logical possibility) of the truth that nothing exists, but this truth is not affirmable because something does exist. Hence, it is undeniable that something exists and therefore God must necessarily exist. Therefore, it would seem that a third form of the ontological argument can successfully defend itself against Plantinga's criticism.
  53. In this revised form, however, it is not really an ontological argument but a cosmological argument. For there is a difference, as Anselm recognized in his reply to Gaunilo, between the logical possibility that nothing, including God, ever existed and the actual affirmability of the statement "Nothing, including God, ever existed" by someone who does exist. Of course, it is undeniably true that something exists, but not because it is inconceivable or logically impossible that nothing exists. It is not logically contradictory to assume that there might never have been anything in existence. Nonbeing is a logical possibility. The only way one can invalidate the logical possibility that "nothing ever was, including God" is to affirm, "Something was or is." But once one affirms the premise "Something is" and argues from that to "God is," he has left the ontological argument for the cosmological argument. He has left the a priori realm of pure reason and entered into the a posteriori domain of existence. The so-called third argument from undeniability of existence is not an ontological argument but a cosmological argument. And it needs more elaboration and defense.
  54. After spending years studying and critiquing the ontological argument, Plantinga has proposed a version of his own, which he considers to be valid. He has provided us with several formulations, one of which can be summarized in ten steps20.
    • 1. The property “has maximal greatness” entails the property “has maximal excellence” in every possible world.
      This first premise establishes the argument clearly within the framework of contemporary modal logic21. A possible world is any logically conceivable world. In simple terms, any time that we can close our eyes and imagine our actual world to be different in some nonabsurd way, we are conceiving of a logically possible world. Obviously the actual world is a possible world. But there are also many other possible worlds (they "are" in the sense that they are logical possibilities, not that they are actual).
      Plantinga asserts that something is maximally great only if it is the best (maximally excellent) in every possible world. If it were not, it could not really be the greatest, for one could conceive of a greater one that was maximally excellent in all worlds.
    • 2. Maximal excellence entails omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection.
      With this premise Plantinga accomplishes two goals. First he defines what one would mean by saying that something is the best. Second, he structures his argument in such a way that the being whose existence he intends to demonstrate will turn out to be God.
    • 3. Maximal greatness is possibly exemplified.
      There is nothing self-contradictory or logically odd about the notion of maximal greatness. Hence we can stipulate a possible world in which we can encounter this quality. This exemplification is elaborated in premise 4, which posits a world W*, an essence E*, and the property of maximal greatness.
    • 4. There is a world W* and an essence E* such that E* is exemplified in W* and E* entails has maximal greatness in W*.
      In this hypothetical world W* this hypothetical essence E* has the property of maximal greatness. Now we must remember that the statement of premise 1 and that which is true of an essence would have to be true of an object bearing that essence.
    • 5. For any object x, if x exemplifies E*, then x exemplifies the property “has maximal excellence” in every possible world.
    • 6. E* entails the property “has maximal excellence” in every possible world.
      Plantinga argues that the same relationship that is necessarily true in W* would have to be necessarily true in any other possible world. Thus he can snake such a general statement concerning this essence and the property that it would entail in any possible world.
    • 7. If W* had been actual, it would have been impossible that E* fail to be exemplified.
      This statement is a simple component of modal logic22. If something holds for any possible world, it would certainly also hold if that possible world were the actual world. Thus if the possible world under consideration were actual, then this essence with maximal excellence in every possible world would have to be real. In fact, given the preceding premises, the denial of this reality would have to be an impossibility.
    • 8. What is impossible does not vary from world to world.
      The differences among possible worlds are factual ones. They do not involve logical absurdities. There is no logically possible world in which circles are square or logical deductions do not follow. Logical relationships ire constant over all possible worlds. Thus logical necessity or impossibility is the same in every world.
      Therefore what Plantinga has said about E" in W* would have to apply to I' in every other possible world. There also it would be impossible for E' not in be exemplified. Hence,
    • 9. There exists a being that has maximal excellence in every world. But I hen it also follows that
    • 10. The being that has maximal excellence exists in the actual world. Thus, using modal logic23, Plantinga has demonstrated that God (the being with omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection) exists.
  55. This is a tight and compelling argument. It avoids many of the criticisms traditionally brought against the ontological argument. But it puts into clear locus the critique we have brought against the argument in this context. This approach based on modal logic24 stipulates from the outset that something exists. The concept of possible worlds makes sense only in contrast to an actual world. Only if we, at least for the sake of the argument, allow that there is a reality, can the argument unfold. Further, to define a maximally perfect being in theistic terms is gratuitous (premise 2). Why could not perfection be viewed in nonmoral, nonintelligent terms?
  56. But finally, and even more to the point, the argument in premise 4 stipulates the reality of E* as an essence. In Plantinga's philosophy essences are not just mental concepts or words flatus vocis, but they exist in a sense as real. Hence the argument is beginning to bear faint resemblance to Descartes's argument in which he stipulates the idea of a supreme Being and then attempts to give an account thereof25. But that argument has also been characterized as cosmological. And the same thing may be true for Plantinga's argument. Perhaps the reason it is valid is that it has left the realm of pure ontological arguments.
  57. Our conclusion, then, is this: the ontological argument as such is invalid. The only possible way to make it valid (if it can be made valid at all) is to assume or affirm that something exists. And once one argues, "Something exists, therefore God exists," he has really argued cosmologically. The point here is that the ontological argument by itself, without borrowing the premise "Something exists," cannot possibly prove the existence of God. For it is always logically possible that nothing ever existed and hence it is not logically necessary to affirm that God exists.
  58. Some have suggested that our conclusion is invalid because the very concept of "nothing" is negative, and thus presupposes that something exists. If this is correct, they contend, then our contention that "it is logically possible that nothing ever existed" is wrong. This objection, however, confuses the concept of nonbeing (which does presuppose the concept of being) and a state of nonbeing that does not presuppose a state of being. We are referring to the logical possibility of the state of nothingness, not to the concept of nothingness.
  59. Several further important conclusions emerge from this analysis of the ontological argument. No valid ontological proof has been given that makes it rationally inescapable to conclude that there is a necessary Being. On the other hand, neither has anyone made a successful ontological disproof of God, making it logically impossible that there is a God. Necessary to a valid theistic argument is the premise that "something exists or existed." If one argues that "something exists, therefore God exists," he has left the purely a priori ontological approach and has moved into an a posteriori cosmological approach. If one could somehow validate a theistic argument by importing the undeniable premise that "something exists" and arguing from this that "something necessarily exists," it is still a long way from this to the one simple and absolutely perfect Being of Christian theism. It is interesting to note in this regard that three different views of God have been concluded from the same kind of ontological argument, and others feel a fourth may be inferred. Descartes and Leibniz concluded a theistic God. Spinoza argued to a pantheistic God. Hartshorne ended with a panentheistic God. Henle insisted that at best, apart from importing some kind of Platonic premise, the ontological argument yields polytheistic gods26. Even many atheists are willing to recognize the universe is somehow necessary, but in no way identify it with God. Since the positions are mutually exclusive, it follows that they cannot all he true. In order to defend theism, one must apparently go beyond the ontological argument. For the ontological argument alone apparently does not designate which kind of God (or gods) is found at the conclusion.




In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Descartes, in a letter to Mersenne, Nov. 25, 1630. See Ralph M. Eaton, ed., Selections (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1927), P. 33.

Footnote 2: The whole discussion between Anselm and Gaunilo is found in The Ontological Argument: From Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers, ed. Alvin Plantinga (Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, Anchor Books, 1965), pp. 3-27.

Footnote 3: Ibid., pp. 28-30.

Footnote 4: Ibid., pp. 31-49.

Footnote 5: Ibid., pp. 54-56.

Footnote 6: Ibid., pp. 156ff.

Footnote 7: Ibid., pp. 50-53.

Footnote 9: Ibid., pp. 57-64.

Footnote 10: Ibid., pp. 65-67.

Footnote 11: See Henle, in ibid., pp. 177-78.

Footnote 12: Plantinga, ibid., pp. 165-66.

Footnote 13: Ibid., pp. 111-22.

Footnote 14: See G. E. Hughes, "Can God's Existence Be Disproved?" in New Essays in Philosophical Theology, ed. Antony Flew and Alasdair Maclntyre (London: SCM, 1963), p. 59.

Footnote 15: See Hartshorne in Ontological Argument, pp. 123-35.

Footnote 17: See the end of chapter 4 and Norman L. Geisler, "The Missing Premise in the Ontological Argument," Religious Studies 9, no. 3 (September 1973): 289-96.

Footnote 18: Malcolm in Ontological Argument, pp. 137-59.

Footnote 19: Plantinga, ibid., pp. 160-71.

Footnote 20: Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: Clarendon, 1974), pp. 214-15. See also Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1974), pp. 111-12.

Footnote 25: Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hackett, n.d.), pp. 23-34.

Footnote 26: See Paul Henle, "A Reply by Paul Henle," in The Ontological Argument: From Saint Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers, ed. Alvin Plantinga (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Anchor Books, 1965), pp. 171-80.


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