An ontological argument deals with the very being of God. It is a Greek word ‘onto’ meaning ‘being’ and ‘logos’ meaning ‘the study of.’ St Anselm argued on the existence of God. His ontological argument appears in Chapter II of his prologue, where part A provides for the definitive statement of the argument. The forms that can be adduced here are reduction and absurdum, meaning there is a hypothesis showing that it has weird or otherwise undesirable effects, and so the conclusion is the idea that God is non-existent is not true. The basis of Anselm’s idea is on the commencement of God as “that than which no greater can be conceived.” This perception of God’s existence is the kind of theory that is supposed to conflict.
Anselm argues that if God is that than which no greater can be conceived, then nothing can be greater than God, for example, a God that does exist. Therefore, the idea that God does not exist raises logical absurdity; that nothing is or can be illusioned to be superior to God. There is something more significant because the thought that God does not exist is quite impossible and there is nothing because it is not possible to imagine the existence of something more superior to the most excellent thing imaginable. There is a possibility that the hypothesis that gives rise to a logical absurdity is not correct. So, the hypothesis that God does not exist is not correct because God exists (Eder & Grootendorst 2016).
This type of argument is inductive: This is because inductive arguments are based on observation. For example;
However, the legitimacy of inductive opinions can differ from 0% to 100% as they are based on the preliminary remark and not internal sense. This means that the first and the second premises may be true but the third one can be an assumption.
Ontological argument according to Anselm can be formally constructed as follows:
The first stated principle that God is that than no superior can be perceived is derived from God’s attributes that he is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient meaning he is the most significant being. Naturally, there can never exist two omnipotent people. For Anselm, this indulgence of God is very substantial. It is self-evident to say that God is omnipresent; thus any other description of God would not be God. The second and third premises infer that something existing, in reality, is better than that which exists only through imagination. For example, which is better between imagining owning a good house, and having one? The fourth premise is as a result of the first, second and third premises. Therefore, Anselm concludes that if all the above assumptions are correct, then God undoubtedly exists.
Examples of fallacies used include Appeal to Authority (Argumentum ad verecundiam). This type of fallacy occurs where there is a misuse of authority. Only authorities can be cited avoiding inconvenient evidence because expert opinion is not always correct. Such inconsistency is seen when irrelevant, inadequate, or false authorities are cited. In this case, this kind of fallacy can be seen when Anselm confidently wrote that God is omnipotent, omniscient, among other attributes. This statement relied too much on authorities which is very wrong because what is the proof of it exactly? Bodies also deserve a fair share of skepticism because they too can make mistakes.
Another significant fallacy is Red Herring (ignoratio elenchi) which is very common in political settings. It is a distraction from the argument primarily with a little sentiment that looks like it’s essential but clearly, it is off-topic. Even though the case sounds relevant, it is usually not part of the topic and is heading to address something else which is more comfortable or safer to deal with. Even though this case is not politically related, Anselm convinces the readers that God exists by arguing that God is perceived both in mind and in reality. Here, there is no clarity thus confusing and causes a distraction (Nelson, 2016).
Also, the Circular Argument (petitio principii) was used. This fallacy means there is an assumption of the original thing which commonly means ‘ the question is being begged.’ This type of fallacy implies that the argument is quite presumptuous. It is easily noticeable when the conclusion is based upon all the premises of the argument. In this argument, Anselm’s conclusion that God exists was based on his four premises. There is an assumption about the perception in the mind and reality. These arguments start where they finish, and finish where they started.
Lastly, there is hasty generalization which means the statements do not have enough proof to back them up. They are claims made hastily, thus committing wrong assumption, stereotyping, unwarranted conclusion, overstatement, or exaggeration. Anselm concluding that God exists unwarranted as there was no sufficient evidence (Van & Grootendorst 2016).
A philosophical theorist that can be used to suggest improvements on this argument is Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) with his philosophy dubbed ‘Existence is not a predicate.’ Kant is against Anselm’s argument that the predicate of existence can be demonstrated for the concept of “God.” He believes there should have been more declaration would have improved the quality. Kant points out that what Anselm was trying to argue that it is true that human beings must think that a supreme existing not only in mind but also in reality ( Paulsen, 2017). This is just an assumption based on thoughts alone. Kant gives three situations;
3 is the best situation. However, it does not add money to your total amount. Kant’s point is that thinking that God exists must be in reality and not just in the imagination. However, just thinking that God exists does not prove real existence because this is just an idea of what exists.
Eder, G., & Ramharter, E. (2015). Formal reconstructions of St. Anselm’s ontological argument. Synthese, 192(9), 2795-2825.
Nelson, L. (2016). A theory of philosophical fallacies. Springer International Publishing.
Paulsen, F. (2017). Immanuel Kant. BoD–Books on Demand.
Van Eemeren, F. H., & Grootendorst, R. (2016). Argumentation, communication, and fallacies: A pragma-dialectical perspective. Routledge.