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This was the first of many parodies, all of which attempted to show that the argument has absurd consequences. Later, Thomas Aquinas rejected the argument on the basis that humans cannot know God's nature. Also, David Hume offered an empirical objection, criticising its lack of evidential reasoning and rejecting the idea that anything can exist necessarily. Immanuel Kant 's critique was based on what he saw as the false premise that existence is a predicate. He argued that "existing" adds nothing including perfection to the essence of a being, and thus a "supremely perfect" being can be conceived not to exist.

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Finally, philosophers including C. Broad dismissed the coherence of a maximally great being, proposing that some attributes of greatness are incompatible with others, rendering "maximally great being" incoherent. The traditional definition of an ontological argument was given by Immanuel Kant. Graham Oppy , who elsewhere expressed the view that he "see[s] no urgent reason" to depart from the traditional definition, [3] defined ontological arguments as those that begin with "nothing but analytic, a priori and necessary premises" and conclude that God exists. Oppy admitted, however, that not all of the "traditional characteristics" of an ontological argument analyticity, necessity, and a priority are found in all ontological arguments [6] and, in his work Ontological Arguments and Belief in God , suggested that a better definition of an ontological argument would employ only considerations "entirely internal to the theistic worldview".

Oppy subclassified ontological arguments into definitional, conceptual or hyperintensional , modal, Meinongian, experiential, mereological, higher-order, or Hegelian categories, based on the qualities of their premises.

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William Lane Craig criticised Oppy's study as too vague for useful classification. Craig argued that an argument can be classified as ontological if it attempts to deduce the existence of God, along with other necessary truths, from his definition. He suggested that proponents of ontological arguments would claim that, if one fully understood the concept of God, one must accept his existence. Rowe defined ontological arguments as those that start from the definition of God and, using only a priori principles, conclude with God's existence.

Although a version of the ontological argument appears explicitly in the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Xenophanes and variations appear in writings by Parmenides , Plato , and the Neoplatonists , [10] the mainstream view is that the ontological argument was first clearly stated and developed by Anselm of Canterbury. Theologian and philosopher Anselm of Canterbury — proposed an ontological argument in the second and third chapters of his Proslogion.

In Chapter 2 of the Proslogion , Anselm defined God as a "being than which no greater can be conceived". The concept must exist either only in our mind, or in both our mind and in reality. If such a being exists only in our mind, then a greater being—that which exists in the mind and in reality—can be conceived this argument is generally regarded as a reductio ad absurdum because the view of the fool is proven to be inconsistent.

Therefore, if we can conceive of a being than which nothing greater can be conceived, it must exist in reality. Thus, a being than which nothing greater could be conceived, which Anselm defined as God, must exist in reality.

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Anselm's argument in Chapter 2 can be summarized as follows: [22]. This contains the notion of a being that cannot be conceived not to exist. He argued that if something can be conceived not to exist, then something greater can be conceived. Consequently, a thing than which nothing greater can be conceived cannot be conceived not to exist and so it must exist.

This can be read as a restatement of the argument in Chapter 2, although Norman Malcolm believed it to be a different, stronger argument. Generally speaking, they are less formal arguments than natural intuition. Descartes wrote in the Fifth Meditation :. But, if the mere fact that I can produce from my thought the idea of something entails that everything that I clearly and distinctly perceive to belong to that thing really does belong to it, is not this a possible basis for another argument to prove the existence of God?

Certainly, the idea of God, or a supremely perfect being, is one that I find within me just as surely as the idea of any shape or number. And my understanding that it belongs to his nature that he always exists is no less clear and distinct than is the case when I prove of any shape or number that some property belongs to its nature.


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Descartes argued that God's existence can be deduced from his nature, just as geometric ideas can be deduced from the nature of shapes—he used the deduction of the sizes of angles in a triangle as an example. He suggested that the concept of God is that of a supremely perfect being, holding all perfections. He seems to have assumed that existence is a predicate of a perfection. Thus, if the notion of God did not include existence, it would not be supremely perfect, as it would be lacking a perfection. Consequently, the notion of a supremely perfect God who does not exist, Descartes argues, is unintelligible.

Therefore, according to his nature, God must exist. He starts off by saying: "whether there is a God, this, we say, can be proved". Descartes attempts to prove God's existence by arguing that there "must be some one thing that is supremely good, through which all good things have their goodness". Spinoza says that man's ideas do not come from himself, but from some sort of external cause.

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Thus the things whose characteristics a man knows must have come from some prior source. So, if man has the idea of God, then God must exist before this thought, because man cannot create an idea of his own imagination. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz saw a problem with Descartes' ontological argument: that Descartes had not asserted the coherence of a "supremely perfect" being.

He proposed that, unless the coherence of a supremely perfect being could be demonstrated, the ontological argument fails. Leibniz saw perfection as impossible to analyse; therefore, it would be impossible to demonstrate that all perfections are incompatible. He reasoned that all perfections can exist together in a single entity, and that Descartes' argument is still valid.

Mulla Sadra c. Sadra discussed Avicenna's arguments for the existence of God, claiming that they were not a priori. He rejected the argument on the basis that existence precedes essence , or that the existence of human beings is more fundamental than their essence. Sadra put forward a new argument, known as Seddiqin Argument or Argument of the Righteous.

The argument attempts to prove the existence of God through the reality of existence, and to conclude with God's pre-eternal necessity. In this argument, a thing is demonstrated through itself, and a path is identical with the goal. In other arguments, the truth is attained from an external source, such as from the possible to the necessary, from the originated to the eternal origin, or from motion to the unmoved mover.

In the argument of the righteous, there is no middle term other than the truth. Existence is a single, objective and simple reality, and there is no difference between its parts, unless in terms of perfection and imperfection, strength, and weakness And the culmination of its perfection, where there is nothing more perfect, is its independence from any other thing.

Nothing more perfect should be conceivable, as every imperfect thing belongs to another thing and needs this other to become perfect. And, as it has already been explicated, perfection is prior to imperfection, actuality to potency, and existence to non-existence. Also, it has been explained that the perfection of a thing is the thing itself, and not a thing in addition to it.

Thus, either existence is independent of others or it is in need of others. The former is the Necessary, which is pure existence. Nothing is more perfect than Him. And in Him there is no room for non-existence or imperfection. The latter is other than Him, and is regarded as His acts and effects, and for other than Him there is no subsistence, unless through Him.

For there is no imperfection in the reality of existence, and imperfection is added to existence only because of the quality of being caused, as it is impossible for an effect to be identical with its cause in terms of existence. Although Kant was critical of Descartes' formulation of the ontological argument, he did believe that the argument was persuasive when created correctly.

Kant's argument rested on the belief that everything that it is possible may exist must have a grounds for this possibility: in other words, nothing is possible merely in virtue of its nature. He thus concludes that every possibility must be based upon a single necessity, which he identified as being God. Kant attempted to show in his works that this being possessed many of the common attributes of God, such as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. Although the argument could be identified as being cosmological, Kant felt that his proof was based upon reason instead of observation, and he thus identified it as being ontological.

He provided an argument based on modal logic; he uses the conception of properties, ultimately concluding with God's existence. Definition 1 : x is God-like if and only if x has as essential properties those and only those properties which are positive. Definition 2 : A is an essence of x if and only if for every property B, x has B necessarily if and only if A entails B. Definition 3 : x necessarily exists if and only if every essence of x is necessarily exemplified. Axiom 2 : Any property entailed by—i.

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Theorem 2 : If something is God-like, then the property of being God-like is an essence of that thing. He left the term "positive" undefined. He warned against interpreting "positive" as being morally or aesthetically "good" the greatest advantage and least disadvantage , as this includes negative characteristics. Instead, he suggested that "positive" should be interpreted as being perfect, or "purely good", without negative characteristics.

He suggested that if these positive properties form a set, there is no reason to believe that any such set exists which is theologically interesting, or that there is only one set of positive properties which is theologically interesting. Modal logic deals with the logic of possibility as well as necessity. Paul Oppenheimer and Edward N.

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Zalta note that, for Anselm's Proslogion chapter 2, "Many recent authors have interpreted this argument as a modal one. Nevertheless, the authors write that "the logic of the ontological argument itself doesn't include inferences based on this modality. The [modal logic version] of these forms of defense of the ontological argument has been the most significant development. Charles Hartshorne and Norman Malcolm are primarily responsible for introducing modal versions of the argument into the contemporary debate.

Both claimed that Anselm had two versions of the ontological argument, the second of which was a modal logic version. According to James Harris, this version is represented by Malcolm thus:. If it [that than which nothing greater can be conceived] can be conceived at all it must exist. For no one who denies or doubts the existence of a being a greater than which is inconceivable, denies or doubts that if it did exist its nonexistence, either in reality or in the understanding, would be impossible. For otherwise it would not be a being a greater than which cannot be conceived.

But as to whatever can be conceived but does not exist: if it were to exist its nonexistence either in reality or in the understanding would be possible. Therefore, if a being a greater than which cannot be conceived, can even be conceived, it must exist. Hartshorne says that, for Anselm, "necessary existence is a superior manner of existence to ordinary, contingent existence and that ordinary, contingent existence is a defect.

However, "Anselm's point is that what exists and cannot not exist is greater than that which exists and can not exist.