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The Ontological Argument is insufficient proof for the existence of God

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/21/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 564 times Debate No: 63618
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
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I am currently studying the ontological argument for my a-levels, so an intellectually stimulating debate on this will help me to learn more about it.

1st round - Acceptance
2nd round - Argument
3rd round- Rebbutals

I thank anyone who accepts this challenge and I hope that I prove a worthy opponent for this debate.


Interesting notion.

No doubts in my mind we will have a whale of a time! :D
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you user_name for accepting this debate. I hope I do not disappoint you with the arguments that I present. :)

Now, for my argument I will structure it in terms of Anselm, then Descartes, then modern thinkers like Malcolm and Plantinga, throughout this I will be referring to critiques such as Kant, Gaunilo, Dawkins, Gaskin etc.
First, let"s look at the idea that this argument is a priori. The Oxford definition of a priori is as follows:
"Relating to or denoting reasoning or knowledge which proceeds from theoretical deduction rather than from observation or experience"

This simply means that the argument uses logic and reason instead of empirical evidence to make its point. This is a point that Aquinas and Kant would already agree with; how could an argument that uses no empirical evidence (evidence that can be tested using the senses) that therefore cannot be tested using our senses creating undeniable evidence, be at all convincing to someone who does not already believe in God? I find that an a posteriori argument, such as Aquinas" cosmological argument, is more convincing because it uses universal evidence that cannot be denied.

Another point on the type of argument that this is; the ontological argument is analytical and deductive. It uses a set of premises to argue its points, and that the conclusion of these premises is based on the language used in them. This creates a problem, as premises that are based on sound logic can still lead to a false conclusion. For example let"s look at the premise that Anselm presents in his formulation of the argument:

1. God exists either in the understanding alone or in the understanding and in reality
2. That which exists in reality is greater than that which exists in the understanding alone
3. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived
4. If God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, then he must possess all perfections, including real existence
5. If God does not possess real existence, something else, which did possess real existence, would be greater than God
6. This is a logical impossibility, given the definition of God (3)
7. Therefore, God exists in reality

This explains that God is the greatest being conceivable according to his definition (given by Anselm) and to be the greatest being conceivable you have to exist, because if God did not exist then a greater being than God would exist.
What Gaunilo did was take this premise and show the arguments fallacy by changing the word "GOD" with the word "ISLAND". The "lost island" is "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" and for it to be the greatest thing conceivable, it must exist, for if it did not exist then something greater would exist. Therefore the "lost island" exists. Gaunilo takes the logic used by Anselm and reaches a false conclusion, showing that Anselm must have reached a false conclusion as well.

I would also like to criticise the fact that Anselm gave a definition for God, and that God exists because of this definition. Having a definition does not give you existence; there is a definition for Klingons" That does not mean that Klingons must exist. You cannot define something into existence. Anselm argued that anybody who does not agree with this argument just does not understand the definition of God. I understand the definition of God, but I still disagree with the idea of God because of what Kant says on the subject: "Existence is not a predicate" meaning that existence tells us nothing about God, therefore it should not be used to define him.

A thinker that turns the argument onto its head is Paul Gaskin. Gaskin creates an a priori argument to disprove God, but it intentionally fails in the same way that the ontological argument fails. His argument is:
1. The creation of the world is the most supreme achievement conceivable
2. The value of an achievement is measured by its intrinsic quality and the ability of the creator
3. The greater the limitation of the creator, the more impressive the achievement
4. The greatest limitation of the creator would be non-existence
5. Therefore, a world created by a non-existent creator would be greater than one created by an existent creator
6. An existing God is therefore not the greatest conceivable being, since an even greater being is one that does not exist
7. God does not exist

This argument clearly does not disprove God, but the logic is that which is used by Anselm, and so Anselm"s argument fails in the same way.

Let"s look at a thinker that added a lot to the argument, but focused more on the idea of perfection; Descartes! Descartes was a French rationalist philosopher who came to his arguments for the ontological argument whilst locked in an oven for a few days having tried to escape the cold weather at his station. Descartes made his own premise based on the idea that God is perfect:
1. I exist
2. In my mind, I have the concept of a perfect being
3. As an imperfect being, I could not have conjured up the concept of a perfect being
4. The concept of a perfect being must therefore have originated from the perfect being itself
5. A perfect being must exist to be perfect
6. Therefore, a perfect being exists

The problem that I find with Descartes ideas are that I do not agree with the fact that we have a notion of a perfect being. A perfect being is completely inconceivable, and even if it could be conceived we would all have different ideas of what this being would be like. Therefore Descartes second premise is false, we do not have the concept of a perfect being because a perfect being is inconceivable.

To criticise the argument using logic given by Ayer and Wittgenstein is a risk, because their views are not popular, but I believe that they have a big role to play because they are atheists and the aim of this argument is to convince the atheist of God"s existence. Wittgenstein says that this argument is a religious language game, meaning that the argument only makes sense to the people playing this game. He is saying that the argument works for theists who already believe in God, but it does not convince people who do not believe in God.

In conclusion I believe that the ontological argument is insufficient evidence for the existence of God because:
- A priori evidence is less convincing than a posteriori evidence because a posteriori evidence can be empirically tested and undeniable.
- The logic that Anselm uses only works in the case of God, not in the other cases that the logic was used in. To accept this debate is to accept fallacious logic, as it only works in the case that people want it to work in.
- Descartes suggests that God exists because we can conceive perfection, however perfection is inconceivable and relative to the person trying to conceive it.
- It only works as support for people who already agree with God, it does not convince the atheist.

I hope that this has given a good opening argument for the debate, and I wish my opponent luck with his opposing argument. :D

Location of information:


user_name forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Since it's unlikely that user_name was scared off by my argument, I am assuming he forgot to post his requested rebut.

If he still wishes to argue this, then I shall repost the argument in the next couple of weeks. This goes for anybody else who wishes to challenge the notion.

Please write in the comments if you wish to challenge the argument that I have put forward.


user_name forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by DraftyBasilisk 2 years ago
Thanks for the advice!
Posted by Pfalcon1318 2 years ago
Just for future reference, a 4-round debate should be your go-to if you don't start arguments in R1.
Posted by DraftyBasilisk 2 years ago
Sure thing, sorry about the poor structure, still getting used to this website
Posted by user_name 2 years ago
Can I rebut in round 2 because otherwise you won't have a chance to defend yourself.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Imperfiect 1 year ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: FF