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St. Anselm

’s God Necessarily Exists Essay, Research Paper Throughout history It has been man kinds quest to find a proof of the existence of God. Even today, religious archeologist, plunder the Earth, looking for Noah’s Ark, The Ark of the Covenant, or the site Jesus Christ was thought to have been buried. These men and women are searching for artifacts to prove the existence of God to people who believe there is no God.

’s God Necessarily Exists Essay, Research Paper

Throughout history It has been man kinds quest to find a proof of the existence of God. Even today, religious archeologist, plunder the Earth, looking for Noah’s Ark, The Ark of the Covenant, or the site Jesus Christ was thought to have been buried. These men and women are searching for artifacts to prove the existence of God to people who believe there is no God. Many people, however, do not need artifacts to prove God’s existence, they have faith, and like St. Anselm of Canterbury, believe that God is the greatest of all conceivable things, nothing else can be thought to exist greater than God.

St. Anselm states that he wants to find a proof of God, not because he does not believe in God, but because he believes in God, he wants proof of his belief. This means he is not searching for proof for his own sake, for he already believes God exists, he is searching for proof for his belief’s sake. He believes he was put on Earth to find God, and he has not yet accomplished what he is searching for. Knowing this, St. Anselm sets up an ontological argument to prove the existence of God.

First of all, to fully understand this perplexing argument, you must strongly believe the definition of God St. Anselm gives, which is as followed: God is something that which nothing greater can be conceived. This means that no one can think of anything that is greater than God. Even if a person does not believe that God exists, as long as the person believes this definition of God, St. Anselm can prove the existence of God. The second idea you must believe, in order to fully understand the argument, is, it is greater to exist than not to exist.

Next, St. Anselm describes two kinds of existence: existence in the mind, and existence in reality. Existence in reality is very easy to believe. If you can touch, see, smell, hear, or taste something, in reality it exists. Existence in the mind is harder to understand for some, because many people only believe what they see. St. Anselm gives a beautiful illustration of how he can prove that something can exist in the mind, and also in reality. He gives us the example of a painter, before the painter paints a picture, in his mind he has an understanding of what the painting will look like. After the painter has made the painting, the painter will believe it exists in his mind, for he had the vision of the painting before he performed it, and in reality, because now he can see the painting with his own eyes.

Now, St .Anselm has proven two things: God is that which nothing greater can be conceived, and it is greater to exist than not exist. Given you already know that something can exist in the mind as well as in reality, you are now fully ready to understand St. Anselm’s ontological argument. Which is as follows:

God is by definition the greatest being possible.

A being who fails to exist is less perfect than a being who exists.

Therefore, God must exist, necessarily.

If a being failed to exist, the being would be, that than which nothing greater cannot be conceived. Since God is a being that than which nothing greater can be conceived, God must exist not only in your mind, or understanding, but also in reality. Therefore God exists. Now then, anyone who truly believes the definition of God can still say God does not exist in their mind. However, in reality, the person who truly understands this ontological Argument cannot deny the existence of God. For God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived.

After St. Anselm first interpreted this ontological argument, it was no surprise to that some one would say that his argument was flawed. Gaunilo was a monk in the church along with St. Anselm. Gaunilo believed that you could set up this argument with anything, as long as it was by definition perfect, and make it seem to exist. The example Gaunilo gives is an argument of the perfect island. Gaunilo says that there is a lost island that no one has ever found, it possess the most fertile soil and riches beyond any mans dreams. Having no people on it, the island is more perfect than any other country. The argument is as follows:

The perfect Island is the greatest possible island.

An island that fails to exist is less perfect than an island that does exist.

Therefore, the perfect island exists, necessarily.

St. Anselm responds by saying that, this would be true if perfect island was defined as that than which no greater can be conceived. Since almost anyone can conceive something greater than an island, Gaunilo’s argument is flawed.

Gaunilo is not the only other philosopher who has tried to find flaws in St. Anselm’s otological argument. Many have tried but it is almost impossible. First of all, no one can conceive of anything greater than God, even if you did St. Anselm would say it is inconceivable. It could be possible to turn this ontological argument into a mathematical equation to find just how flawless the argument is. For example, you can change the sentence, ” God is by definition the greatest being possible,” into, God is the greatest number possible. Given that you know that the greatest number possible is infinite, we would call God- all numbers imaginable. The next sentence is “A being who fails to exist is less perfect than a being who exists.” We could turn this sentence into, a number who fails to exists is not imaginable and a number that does exist is imaginable. Therefore, God is all imaginable numbers. Here again, if I cannot think of a number it does not exist, if I can think of a number no matter how big it is, it will never be bigger than God. This equation was not set up to show any significance or to disprove St. Anselm argument, it was set up to reinforce just how flawless it is.

The only real flaw in the argument is how one sided it is. First of all, if you do not believe in St. Anselm’s definition of God, or if you do not believe to exist is greater than not to exist you cannot use this argument. The argument only proves that God exists only if you believe that God is the greatest possible being. It has been proven over time that this argument has not changed everyone’s mind that God exists. If an archeologist was to find the Ark of the Covenant, or Noah’s Ark it would have much more impact on peoples beliefs in God than this argument. Secondly, If a person believes that something, besides God, is the greatest possible being, then the argument would work for that. Then again, I am sure St Anselm would say that whatever it was I believed in that was the greatest possible being, that thing would be the same as God.

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