By Peter Cole
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Additional resources for Access to Religion and Philosophy. Philosophy of Religion
Scholars seem divided as to whether Anselm meant the argument to be effective to the atheist. As we have noted above, the argument differs from all other proofs in being a priori (prior to experience) since it proceeds from the idea of God – instead of arguing a posteriori (based on experience), that is, from some feature of the universe. As an a priori argument it has as its ground a logical demonstration that either totally succeeds or totally fails. Its scope is greater than that of the other arguments since they can give only a limited view of what God is like, while the concept of God as ‘the most perfect being’ implies a whole range of other qualities.
It could not have failed to exist. There is not a reason – it is just brute fact. Thus the great ultimates of the universe are about matter, not about a metaphysical being called God. In reply it is argued that since everything in the universe is contingent, everything could cease to exist simultaneously, and then the universe itself would cease. But if it can cease to exist, then it must be contingent. Recent thinking in physics has also questioned the eternal nature of matter. Figure 7 Aquinas’ three ways of the cosmological argument AQUINAS’ FIRST THREE WAYS Unmoved Mover Uncaused Causer Possibility and Necessity Why only one cause?
If you can, then the statement is not logically PROFILE Descartes (1596–1650) THE EXISTENCE OF GOD –1 25 impossible. For a statement to be logically necessary it would have to be true in all possible worlds. ). ). Our world is a possible world (since our world exists). Therefore in our world there is this being! Figure 5 Various forms of the ontological argument Supporters Anselm Descartes Malcolm Plantinga Greatness Perfection Necessary existence Possible worlds 4 Criticisms of the ontological argument The ontological argument faces a number of different criticisms.
Access to Religion and Philosophy. Philosophy of Religion by Peter Cole