- In a recent essay, "Malcolm (Norman) - Anselm's Ontological Arguments", Professor Norman Malcolm employs linguistic analysis for a startling purpose: to justify the ontological proof of the existence of God. The fact that a distinguished Wittgensteinian supports an a priori proof of God's existence would alone make the essay noteworthy. Add to this the ingenuity and originality of Malcolm's defense of the proof, and a careful study of his arguments is called for.
- Let me say at the outset that I do not believe Malcolm has succeeded in proving the existence of God, any more than Anselm or Descartes did. But he has, I think, found some new and very interesting clues to the subtle plausibility of the ontological proof, clues which help to explain why that famous argument, like Zeno's paradoxes and Kant's antinomies, shines with an inner luminosity that no labored refutation seems able to dim. Moreover, in defending Anselm, Malcolm has tried to clarify and unify theological discourse, by indicating a sense of "God" that, he claims, is common to practically all religious and philosophical literature in the Western world. One must admire Malcolm's daring in attempting so difficult and ambitious a task, especially now that linguistic analysis has made us sensitive to the subtle changes that words undergo from one context to another. An evaluation of Malcolm's arguments for a single concept of God may therefore shed further light on the nature of religious discourse as well as on the problem of the validity of Anselm's proof.
- Toward this end I shall discuss two of Malcolm's many points in support of Anselm:
I believe that Malcolm is mistaken in both of these claims, and that it will help to clarify theological discussions if I can succeed in explaining why he is mistaken.
- that necessary existence is a genuine property and thus a "perfection," and
- that the concept of God as a necessary and perfect being (ens realissimum) is invariant in religious discourse.
- Is Necessary Existence a Property?
→ Clue 1. The analogy between theology and mathematics
→ Clue 2. The analogy to empirical properties.
- Are Theological Concepts Consistent and Univocal?
- Theological language games.
→ Old Testament
→ Rational Theology
→ Existential Theology
- Ordinary discourse about God, perfection and necessity.
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