- June 26, 2020
Does God Exist?
St. Anselm`s Ontological argument in Chapter II of Proslogiumattempts to provide proof that God exists. Anselm`s focus beginswith simple premises whose justification in no way relies onexperience. Based on a reconstruction of the argument and acomparison of premises, he proceeds to draw the conclusion that Godexists. Anselm`s assertion is intended to refute some individualswho, in their hearts, think that God does not exist. This paper givesa brief summary of Anselm`s argument, refutes the argument,highlights possible grounds on which Anselm could counter therefutation, and then finally refutes Anselm`s possible refutationagain, before drawing a conclusion.
Anselm uses two important features to refute the claim that God doesnot exist. First, he states that the `fool` who claims that God doesnot exist understands the claim being made about God`s existence(Princeton 1). Second, he also points out that the `fool` does notbelieve in the existence of God. Anselm intends to show that thecombination of the two factors mentioned is unstable (Princeton 1).Anselm states that the fool clearly understands the concept of `God,`a powerful being greater than all, but that such a person stilldenies the existence of God, even though the `fool`s` mindcomprehends the very aspect of the powerful being (Anselm 1).
The fool`s mind which Anselm refers to as `the understanding` cancomprehend the existence of a powerful being. Such conception occursboth in the mind and in reality, two aspects that when in alignment,improve understanding and can act as proof. Finally, he notes that ifthe `fool` can understand what it means when one speaks of Y, then Yexists in the `fool`s` mind or understanding. From this conclusion,the `fool` clearly acknowledges that God, whom he knows exists inreality and in mind, exists.
First, Anselm assumes that everyone agrees on the concept of `God.`While professional philosophers and theologians have a clearunderstanding and interpretation of God, as the powerful individualas postulated by Anselm, the theological and philosophical meaning of`God` is not clear, apart from the proposition that God is a PerfectBeing (Martin 1). Many religious believers, from this perspective,have a limited view of `God.` This is a key problem as one can onlybelieve in the existence of something that he has an about, not onewhose understanding of it is greatly limited.
According to Martin (22), human beings who believe that God existsbelieve, also, that God does not have particular feelings, such asenvy or lust, but that God has the feeling of anger. Also, ordinarybeings believe that God knows more than anyone else (Martin 22).These two beliefs are however incompatible. First, when one says thatperson X knows Y, then it means X has met or talked to Y, or that heknows Y very well. If God has no lust or envy, then it is alsoarguable that God knows lust and has chosen to stay far from it.Making a choice implies that one has interacted with lust and knowsit. Clearly, God knows lust and other feelings as well. Secondly, theargument that God knows everything, more than everyone implies thathe knows everything on how and what to do, and this leads us to theconclusion that God has moral goodness as he chooses only what isgood to do (Martin 23). However, the first argument that God hasother feelings such as lust and envy, and the second argument aboutGod`s moral goodness are incompatible. This implies the non-existenceof God.
Hume also argues from a cosmological perspective, that pointing toflaws in arguments concerning God`s existence. In Part IX ofDialogues, Hume condenses an argument that involves Clarke, notingthat `whatever exists must have a cause or reason for itsexistence (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1).` He goes on tosay that `it is absolutely impossible for anything to produceitself or to be the cause of its own existence…` He points toan eventuality where there will be attempts to trace `an infinitesuccession with neither an ultimate, cause or recourse (StanfordEncyclopedia of Philosophy 1).` Hume wonders how God can existwithout having been created or with no cause of existence.
Anselm could counter my refutation with three key objections. First,he would state that God`s moral goodness entails what he chooses todo- it does not entail His feelings. On this basis, he would statethat regardless of God`s feelings, only His actions amount to moralgoodness. He would also object to the premise that God is affected bysuch feelings as lust and envy. He argues that if such feelingsaffected him, they would cloud his moral judgment thus affecting Hismoral goodness. However, his powerful nature does not allow suchfeelings to affect or destruct him. The fact that God is all-knowingimplies that He cannot be affected by feelings.
His last argument would touch on the argument raised by Hume thatGod cannot and did not create Himself. In refuting this claim, Anselmwould point to the fact that the universe could most likely, havearisen from some necessarily existent Being whose Reason of existenceis only known to himself, and that such a Being cannot be said not toexist without an express contradiction (Stanford Encyclopedia ofPhilosophy 1). The existent being, in this case, is God.
Often in judging a person`s moral quality, one considers only theaction (Martin 24) As such, a person who has no envy or lust maystill a good person but he would be a more morally qualified personif he did good deeds without having lust or such other feelings inhis heart. In this regard, it is impossible to consider a God who hassuch feelings despite being a powerful, morally just being.
His second assertion about God`s great power not allowing him toharbor such feeling as envy can be refuted based on the principlethat if one has such feelings in his heart, he would be prone toacting in ways that match those feelings. If God had such feelings,it would take away the moral goodness that would otherwise beassociated with him. It would also affect him and cause him to knowless than some human beings, as he would have to succumb to suchfeelings, for instance, lust. This would contradict the `allpowerful, all knowing` concept associated with such a being. Theargument about His existence would then be invalid.
Anselm`s cosmological argument would still be wrong. Clarke notesthat it is impossible to have matter being the `final and theoriginal being.` There is no way that something can come fromnothing. Therefore, it is incorrect to allege that a Being causedmatter to be or to occur (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1).
From both an ontological and cosmological perspectives, there isadequate evidence to advocate for the existence or non-existence ofGod. This paper has taken a look at St. Anselm`s ontological argumentfor the existence of God, and using a combination of bothcosmological and ontological perspectives, has refuted Anselm`sclaim. The existence of God has been refuted and a conclusion reachedbased on three premises: emotional discrepancies, knowledge and moralgoodness, and issues touching on the creation and cause of God`sexistence.
Anselm. Medieval Sourcebook: Anselm (1033-1109): Proslogium.Fordham University. 2016.
Princeton. Anselm`s Ontological Argument. 2016. https://www.princeton.edu/~grosen/puc/phi203/ontological.html
Martin, Michael. A Disproof of God`s Existence. Darshana 10(1970): 22-26.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Hume on Religion. 1 Feb.2013. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume-religion/#EmpSceVerIdeGod.Accessed 28th Nov. 2016