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What is the ontological argument?


Question asked by: knowitall

This classic a priori argument (e.g. not from experience and needing no empirical knowledge) goes something like as follows:
- the concept of God is that of a perfect being
- one of the qualities of being perfect is existence (e.g. perfection entails existence)
- therefore God necessarily exists (e.g. the concept of God entails God's existence)

It is now not thought to be valid but rather a logical or linguistic trick. It seems it can be used to conjure into existence the perfect anything - the perfect island, person, argument and much else besides. It cannot be that the concept of something being perfect is alone enough to magic it to existence!

The most celebrated criticism came from Kant, who said that existence is not a property of an object, but rather a property of a concept, and it is a further question whether that concept is instantiated. In other words, existence is not a predicate. If I say 'God is perfect' then 'God is perfect and exists' I have not changed the concept of what God is by adding in the 'and exists' part of the sentence.

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