How Does Anselm Prove the Existence of God? Religion is a set of beliefs about supernatural forces that offer to mean to live, suggests an explanation for why things occur, and provides a sense of control over the unexplainable phenomenon. Psychology is often viewed as the building block of religion due to the fact that religious worshippers believe in a supernatural figure that they have yet to see in the physical. Nonetheless, both believers and non-believers are to think that God exists both in the natural and the supernatural…without concrete proof. Theologian and philosopher Anselm proposed an ontological argument which did not intend to prove God’s existence; rather testify how the idea of God became self-evident to him. What’s ontology? It means the study of being. The core of Anselm’s argument is that you can conceive of perfection. Everything on earth is imperfect, but we have the concept of ‘perfection’, so somewhere it must exist. Our idea of ‘perfection’ is God because he is ‘perfect’ by definition. Although he did not propose an ontological system, he was very intrigued by the nature of being. He distinguished those that must exist from those that may exist, but whose existence is not necessary. Below is a summarization of his argument: 1. Assume that God is a being greater than which nothing can be conceived 2. Let’s assume that God doesn’t exist (a redundancy of line #1) 3. If this were true, anything, in reality, would be greater than God (a further redundancy) 4. Keep in mind, nothing can be greater than God 5. Therefore, by default, God must exist (re-instating line #1) His argument is a rational attempt to prove the existence of God. It is based to two great premises that form the majority of its criticism: A. The definition of God as: ‘a being greater than which nothing can be conceived’ and B. Anything that exists in the natural is greater than anything that exists in the supernatural. For instance, eating spam is better than dreaming about eating filet mignon. Anselm’s argument begins with a generalization about God: “Now we believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be thought.” This statement is not intended to assume that God actually exists; rather kick-start his argument that would gain the attention of both believers and non-believers as to who ‘we’ refers to. Anselm then envisions a character, ‘the Fool’, who refutes against God’s existence. He says: “But surely when this same Fool hears what I am speaking about, namely, ‘something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought’, he understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his mind, even if he does not understand that it actually exists.” In defense of this argument, even a non-believer aka ‘Fool’ understands there is a God or a higher being. When there’s tragedies that affect the nation such as terrorist attacks, police brutality crimes and natural disasters, candlelight visuals are held by communities and there are posts on social media promoting prayer. Even a non-believer acknowledges a higher being, but may not identify the being as ‘God’ or just one. Anselm compares his point to a painter executing a painting. A painter might have a certain mental image before painting it on the canvas. Before the painting, it is only in his mind; after the painting, it is both in his mind and on the canvas. Just so, Anselm is arguing, the Fool should admit that God – the thing than which no greater can be thought – exists in his mind, but not in reality: “Even the Fool, then, is forced to agree that something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought exists in the mind, since he understands this when he hears it, and whatever is understood is in the mind.” But, Anselm argues, at this point, the Fool has no other choice but to admit that God not only exists in his mind but also exists in reality. He states, “And surely that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought cannot exist in the mind alone. For if it exists solely in the mind even, it can be thought to exist in reality also, which is greater. If then that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-bethought exists in the mind alone, this same that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought is that-than-which-a-greater-can-be-thought. But this is obviously impossible.” Anselm is arguing that the Fool is inconsistent. On the one hand, the Fool admits that that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought exists in the mind. On the other hand, the Fool is claiming that that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought does not exist in reality. But if that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought does not exist in reality, then there is something which can be thought of which is greater than that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought: namely, that thing existing in reality. I’m no longer confident it really is a valid argument, yet he makes use of the strategies of excellent judgment and rhetoric to instruct his element to his satisfaction. Anselm also began his argument stating his belief that God is the greatest being conceived but threw in a claim he knew people would disagree with. In retrospect, this argument seems like a non-starter. It doesn’t seem possible to prove that something exists because we have an idea of it. Unicorns don’t exist simply because we have an idea of a unicorn. How is the idea of God any different? 1. The idea of God is defined as a perfect being. 2. 2. A perfect being is one whose essence or nature lacks no attributes or properties. 3. 3. To lack the attribute of existence is to be imperfect. 4. Therefore, as a perfect being, God must exist. An objection to his argument: Existence is not an attribute. This was Kant’s objection. • When we say that a lion exists, we are simply saying something is a lion. We are not describing any properties or characteristics of the lion. The nature of the lion remains the same whether or not it exists. Another would be that you cannot analytically create the physical basis for existence and that the definition is based on a manmade concept and so it is flawed to assume it to be infallible or objectively accurate. Anselm’s argument is difficult to follow and evaluate. His argument would’ve been stronger had he split it into a series of claims. His argument is invalid, but it’s somewhat true. His argument doesn’t necessarily prove the existence of God, nor does he make an ‘aha’ moment, rather he makes the mistake of assuming that the existence of God is a property of God’s greatness, which is quite confusing to dissemble. I don’t believe this is a valid argument, but he uses the tools of logic and rhetoric to prove his point to his liking. His ontological argument uses the fact that we have the idea of God to try to prove that God actually exists. In fact, believers tend to give God the credit for any positive thing that occurs to convince people of God’s existence. For example, a believer could’ve been stranded on the road with a dead battery and a Good Samaritan pulls over and gives them a jump. Instead of the believer praising the Good Samaritan for their generosity, he/she would praise God for sending and operating through the Samaritan, as if the Samaritan’s behavior is controlled by God. In Christianity (the religion I grew up in), God encourages his believers to believe that he is the greatest and no other comes before him, but to confess and declare it as well. If God is thought to be the creator of all good things, then there is no such thing as independent thinking. His argument resembles the X, Y, Z arguments covered in the beginning of this course. The guidelines of this argument were that a sound argument must be both valid and true. #1. God is the greatest being imaginable (by definition) is believed to be true – Somewhat True 2. If this thing did not exist, it would not be the greatest imaginable thing (since the same thing that does exist would be greater) – Not necessarily. 3. Therefore, God must exist. – I believe he does, but not based off the previous premises. Since I personally believe in God, I’d conclude the premises is true, but the argument is invalid. Since the premises is true, the conclusion is true. However, the second premises are false. The world is far more complex and life has far more depth and purpose than we’ll probably ever discover, but it is a constant struggle to prove and discover this higher being. Although his argument was executed with eloquence and rhetoric, that failed to support him proving God’s existence.