The Instigator
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Con (against)
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St. Anselm's Ontological argument for the existence of God is unsound.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/29/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 861 times Debate No: 41415
Debate Rounds (4)
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Round 1 is for acceptance.

This is the formulation of his argument that we'll be using for this debate:

P1 - God is defined as the greatest being conceivable.
P2 - It is greater for something to exist than not exist.
C - Therefore, God exists.

I hope for a good debate.


I accept, Sounds like a good debate!
I look forward to it
Debate Round No. 1


Nice one.
(Thank you to Con for accepting this debate)

So, we start with the concept of God, the greatest thing conceivable. Anselm says that it is greater than something to exist than not to exist, so God exists. However, this is incorrect. It means that by the definition of God, if something is to be God, then it must exist. This does not mean that God exists like I or you exist, but that if this concept of God is actually the concept of God, then the definition of God used in the concept must incude being existant, omnipotent, etc. So, what we have is the concept of an Existant God who is omnipotent omniscient etcetra, not a God existing physically.

Also, where does the God come from? What Anselm fails to recognize is that the concept of something is not the something it is a concept of. What he's saying is that the concept of God doesn't exist like God would if he existed, but when we're conceiving, the concept of a God is the same as the concept of an existant God, because no conept can be more real than another.

I hope for Con's response and backing of the argument soon.

Thank you.



Hi, Pro!

Note; I'm not entirely sure what you are saying here, so correct me if i'm misrepresenting what you say!
Well if you look at the argument, If the two premises are correct, then the conclusion 'Therefore, God exists' follows logically.
We know that God exists in the mind; we can imagine what a maximally great being would be like. But, that is the thing - it is maximally great. It is greater to exist than to not exist. That is the basis for the argument.
My opponent says that this doesn't show that God physically exists, but rather establishes his characteristics (if that is what you are saying?). But the fact is, existence will be one of those characteristics! This is what Anslem argued - that existence is a great-making
I'm not definite if I have got it right, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anslem said that of a being which nothing greater can be concieved, existence is a property - as to exist in reality is greater than to not exist in reality. In other words, God is a necessarily existent being, like numbers are.
Anslem says that God exists in the mind, so I think he would have said that God came from our understanding of him in the mind. Anslem then said that because God exists in the mind, God must also exist in reality.
My opponent says that "no concept can be more real than another". However, I would stress that the concept of God in the mind is not actually real. If there are 2 rooms, and we imagine a box in the middle of 1 room, and there is a real box in another, the real box is more real than the imagined box; we can interact with the real box, but not with the imagined box.

Debate Round No. 2


Thank you to Con for his responce.

Pro doesn't respond to what I had to say here. He makes the same mistake I pointed out Anselm's argument making, in fact. However, he does recognize the difference between a concept and a physically existing object, something Anselm's ontological argument does not.

A concept of something is not the something it is a concept of. Therefore, it won't be the same as the thing it is a concept of; meaning different properties, however we still conceive of God as having these properties, meaning the properties the concept of God has is the concept of existence.
The concept exists and has the concept of existence as a property. However, the concept of God is different from God if he existed, meaning that the concept (what we conceive, imagine etcetera) of God will not exist physically like I or you do.

There is a quote that may help Con understand what I mean, that goes like this:

"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." - Yogi Berra [1]

Another claim of Con's is "God is a necessarily existent being, like number are". However, numbers are concepts and the necessarily existent thing that Con is referring to is actually the concept of God, not God himself.
I agree with Con (as I've said numerous times before in this debate) with what he says next; that the concept of something is not the same as the thing it's a concept of. We cannot interact with a concept. I also still agree that no concept is more existent than another; that the concept of God is the same as the concept of a physically existent God, as the property (that it has as a concept in this case) of physical existence is assumed; we conceive of God as having physical existence. A concept does not have the same physical existence as the thing it's a concept of and so won't have the same properties as it, however we still conceive (imagine, think etc.) of it as having those properies. The concept of God has the concept of physical existence as a property.

Thank you.




Thank you Pro for your response.

So pro says that the concept of God; i.e all his great-making properties; is different to the actual God. But while this may be true for most theories and concepts - such as philosophical theories like Plato and Aristotle's philosophical concepts, you cannot tar everything with the same brush.
If we are to adhere to Pro's statement, then there would be very little science. The majority of science - in particular in Physics, is almost entirely dependent on theory and concept. But by no stretch does that mean that these concepts are false - on the contrary, they are often been proven to be true. So you can't say that any concept is different to the real thing - we don't have the knowledge to make such a claim. But we can, if we are using the rules of logic like Anslam's Ontological argument, or the theory of evolution, say with some certainty that the concept is true

Pro then says that numbers are concepts - not actualities. But I would emphasise that the existing reality between one quantity and another is, I think, a necessary and existing truth. In any world, there will be different quantities of things. Those are numbers and so I think that they are an example of a necessarily existing entity - just like God in Anslam's argument. Numbers aren't merely concepts, rather they really do exist and we can test for them.
What Anslam tries to convey is the fact that with a maximally great being, it's attributes are the things that make the jump between concept and existence. You cannot have the concept of an omnipotent being without it actually existing.
Pro continues, and says that you can still have the concept of physical existence in a concept. However, it won't be as maximally great than a being which actually does have those properties - as I mentioned, a being which you can interact with is greater than a being which you cannot. So, a concept that only has the concept of physical existence is not as great as something which actually physically exists - and we can differentiate between the two through genuine interaction.

Debate Round No. 3


Con attacks my claim that the concept of a physically existing thing is different to the physically existing thing it is a concept of. I am not saying that all theories are false or anything like that. For a concept of something to be the same as the thing it's a concept of, it too must be a concept which means it's not a physically existing thing.
Con then attempts to prove that numbers exist in the physical world; he doesn't do this, what he does is prove that quantities of things exist. Numbers are still only concepts in that you cannot interact with a number . You can't move a number, see one, hear one, etcetera.
Con then rambles on about the concept not having physical existence, forgetting the fact that the concept of a physically existant thing is different to what the physically existent thing would be like if it were to exist - a concept is but a concept.

I'm still paying no attention to Con's sources because he doesn't link to them in any part of his argument - therefore they are not relevant and shouldn't count for the sources vote.

Thank you for an interesting debate, though.



Thanks to Pro for his response.

Firstly, Pro says:
"I am not saying that all theories are false or anything like that"
Absolutely not. And I am not accusing Pro of suggesting that. But I'm saying that you cannot use the point that a concept is different to the actual existent thing, because there are many examples where it is the case in which the concept is the same as the actuality. In terms of God, you may include cosmological, or teleological proofs to suggest that the concept of God physically exists.
Can we interact with numbers? Well, I guess it depends what you mean by 'interact'. Does solving math problems count as interaction? If we interact with objects that follow the laws of mathematics, does that count as interaction? I think so. We can use numbers in the real world - and see them in nature. So I would go far as to say that numbers are more than just concepts - but things that exist in the real world.

Pro says that because I don't link them to my argument, my sources should be disregarded. But I used them in my debate! Just because i didn't link to them during my argument doesn't mean I didn't use the content!

Thank you for the debate!
Debate Round No. 4
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