St. Anselm argued that the very concept of God entails its existence as a necessary consequence, to wit: “And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater. Therefore if that than which a greater cannot be imagined is in the understanding alone, that very thing than which a greater cannot be imagined is something than which a greater can be imagined.
But certainly this cannot be. There exists, therefore, beyond doubt something than which a greater cannot be imagined, both in the understanding and in reality. ” (Anselm’s Ontological Argument: Proslogium) If God is indeed that greatest being of which He has no equal then it is necessary that He must have the attribute of existence. If he does not exist then he is not the greatest being because a greater being can be conceived, one that both exist in concept and in reality.
This means that for God to be the greatest being He must exist not just in the mind but also in reality. Because existence in the mind alone lacks an important aspect of perfection and that is existence. Thus God exist. I have read several statements attempting to prove God’s existence using arguments. I found most of these arguments logically convincing and philosophically sound. These arguments are the Cosmological Argument, Teleological Argument and the Religious Experience Argument.
I however find St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument the least convincing of all these arguments that I am familiar with. After reading and understanding this argument it is as if I am back to where I started – ignorant. I share the same objection with the other philosophers who think that this argument runs around in circles. Based on St. Anselm’s argument, perfection implies that which no other greater being can be conceived. Perfection also implies existence because something will not be perfect if it does not have the attribute of perfection.
I can use the same argument to argue that there exists a perfect parent, or a perfect professor or a perfect president or a perfect friend. In my example, if my concept of perfect parent is one who provides me with more than enough money for my allowance, it is always possible for me to think of another parent who can give me more money. For this reason, not only that the very nature of a perfect parent is logically not plausible it also cannot exist in actuality.
According to Gaunilo of Marmoutier, St. Anselm committed the mistake of confusing the existence of an idea with the existence of the thing that corresponds with the idea. (Kenneth Einar Himma) In my example, St. Anselm thought that what is in the mind is the same as that which is in actuality. This is not always the case since I can always think of a perfect ice cream which have never existed and may never exist. My third objection against St.
Anselm’s Ontological argument is that it presumes that the existence of something is good and that existence is an attribute of perfection. I disagree. The presence of pimples on my face will not make me perfect. Dandruff on the scalp of my hair is no way near perfection. The presence of murder in every society is far from being considered a perfect society. I would rather want that there will be no more genocide, abortion, and infanticide in our society. The point is that it does not always follow that existence of something is good.