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St Anselm’s ontological argument is based on the premise that God exists through analysis of nature, existence and reality (Ajkin & Hodges 116). A proper understanding and analysis of nature reveals that there is a system that was properly constructed to ensure inter-dependence and correlation. A slight change in one aspect of nature would have led to completely different results. This means that there was and still is a supernatural being that ensures that everything interacts in accordance to the desired end result (Edgar & Ramharter 56). The argument states that an orderly and perfect God exists and this explains the reason as to why all things work in accordance to the fulfillment of his will. Conversely, there are no facts or empirical evidence to support this argument and in the end it becomes more of a myth than an argument with facts.
The argument is based on various analogies that form the core aspect of the explanation on how the world exists the way it does. The first argument is that there is a God and he is a supernatural being that cannot be completely understood and imagined by man. The second argument is that God is an idea that exists in the mind. The mind of men throughout time has been able to come up with the concept of what and how God looks like and how he works. The third argument is that God being an idea that exists in the minds of men and is seen in their realities i.e. nature makes him to be greater than an idea without reality and a reality without an idea in the mind (Edgar & Ramharter 56).
The other argument is that the human mind cannot possibly be able to fully imagine and comprehend the concept of God the supernatural being. This is why there are so many beings that are in existence and concepts in the reality that man cannot be able to fully explain using his understanding (Ajkin & Hodges 126). In this case, the supernatural being, God, is known to man but remains mysterious as well. This is the argument that proves that God is supernatural because he is in control of human beings and their reality and always knows more than they do about it.
Objections to the Arguments
According to St Anselm’s ontological the supernatural God is good and ensures that everything works for the betterment of every individual and creature. In this case anything that is not of beneficial to the rest is rid-of instantly and existence is maintained. Conversely, according to Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, the arguments never covered the reason as to why bad things always exist and how St Anselm’s ontological concluded that if the slightest thing was altered in nature then the end result would be completely different (Edgar & Ramharter 98). According to Gaunilo, if there exists a supernatural God aimed at making things all good, then there is a supernatural Devil who is bad and aims at making things all bad. There are times when the devil will win and there are other times when God will win in a situation.
This brings forth the second objection which states that God is in control of everything and it happens according to his divine plan. Human beings have the power of deciding what they wish to do, meaning that they have a certain level of control that cannot be controlled by the supernatural God (Oppy 81). Conversely, just like in the physical world there is always an equal reaction to every action, there is always a reaction to every human action which is seen as the consequent and not the actions of a supernatural God who controls everything on earth.
Bertrand Russell argues that St Anselm’s ontological argument is based on faith rather than factors that can be proven. In this case, it is not applicable to the modern mind and the beings. People in modern times are accustomed to accepting truth based on facts that can be tested and retested (Layton 101). Needless to say, there is no way to be able to test the existence of a supernatural God that cannot be seen, heard or touched. In this case, people will believe what they have been told because it is passed down from one generation to another and not because it can be proven right or wrong. The lack of any aspects that can be proven about this supernatural God makes it impossible to accept St Anselm’s ontological argument. It makes it seem as more of a story told by people who did not have access to modern equipment and wanted to explain phenomena.
Responses to the Argument
St Anselm’s ontological highly quotes versus from the bible like Psalms 53:1 which says that ‘a fool says in his heart that there is no God’. The bible contains doctrines that are highly accepted by Christian followers globally (Oppy 23). By the time the argument was being put forward, it was easily accepted as science had not been improved to the level at which it is right now. It is easier to conclude that, the philosophy was easily accepted because any theory that quoted the bible and used it as evidence was readily accepted during that era. Needless to say, the argument was presented at a point where questioning the bible and the church doctrines was termed as a crime that was punishable by law and people feared.
Over time, the response to St Anselm’s ontological argument has changed. This is because there are variables that can be used to come to the conclusion. The existence of the premise is used to make the conclusion. The critiques of the argument came later on after it had presented and accepted. The critiques also came after there were clear separations between the church and the state; faith and law. What is considered as sin is not necessarily considered as a crime punishable by law. This paved way for other philosophers to critique and argue against this notion (Layton 78). Needless to say, it led to the presentation of other theories and arguments that tried to explain the world and whether there truly exists a supernatural being.
Critical and creative thinking that is based on facts as a product of the scientific revolution that started in Europe played a major role in the poor response in which the argument gets from modern society. The scientific revolution sparked a need to only believe what can be proved using scientific methods and applications (Layton, 156). This made people to further question not only the argument but also the bible, the book on which it was basing most of its arguments from. The bible is known to contain satanic verses aimed at incorporating the cultural beliefs of the people that are immediately being targeted. This makes certain aspects of the bible to be un-relatable and irrelevant to many.
Difference in religion has also limited the amount of influence the argument could have had globally. The fact that it uses the bible makes it to be associated with Christianity, which is an Abrahamic based religion that beliefs Jesus Christ was the ultimate redeemer crucified in order to save mankind. This is a belief that is not shared in Asia, Middle-East, Africa and Australia.
St Anselm’s ontological argument explains nature, being, becoming and reality by using the premise that there was a superpower force that led to the creation of the earth as it is and this means that there is a supernormal being; God. The argument lacks empirical evidence and over time it has become associated with the Christian faith and in the scientific world it is a myth yet to provide any proof.
Ajkin, S. Hodges, M. St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument as Expressive: A Wittgensteinian Reconstruction, Journal of Philosophical Investigations, 2014; volume 15: issue 3
Edgar, G. Ramharter, E. Formal Reconstructions of St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument, Springer Publishers, 2015
Layton, E. M. A Contextual Examination of St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument, McGraw Hill Publishers, 2008
Oppy, G. Ontological Arguments and Belief in God, Pearson Prentice Hall Publishers, 2007