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Giving the Ontological Argument Its Due

Abstract

In this paper, I shall present and defend an ontological argument for the existence of God. The argument has two premises: (1) possibly, God exists, and (2) necessary existence is a perfection. I then defend, at length, arguments for both of these premises. Finally, I shall address common objections to ontological arguments, such as the Kantian slogan (‘existence is not a real predicate’), and Gaunilo-style parodies, and argue that they do not succeed. I conclude that there is at least one extant ontological argument that is plausibly sound.

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Notes

  1. This is a neo-Cartesian/Leibnizian version of the ontological argument. For the historical statements, see Descartes (1993) and Leibniz (1964).

  2. For other recent defenses of versions of the ontological argument, see Pruss (2009, 2012b) and Maydole (2003, 2012).

  3. Maydole (2003, p. 302).

  4. Another account, which I prefer, is the following: P is a perfection just in case P in no way detracts from its possessor’s greatness, and P*, its complement, does. Pruss (2009, p. 203) calls this ‘the excellence view.’

  5. A similar parody is anticipated by Maydole (2003) and defended by Oppy (2004, p. 207).

  6. Thanks to an anonymous referee for suggesting that I include this objection.

  7. See, e.g., Oppy (2013).

  8. This is the line Swinburne (2012, p. 345) takes: not only is God not a necessary being, but it is impossible that anything exists necessarily. On this view, God is only factually necessary.

  9. For a defense of PSR, see Pruss (2006, 2012a).

  10. For arguments for (2) not found in this paper, see Leftow (2010).

  11. For the objection and replies, see Kant (2008, p. 8), Davis (1997, p. 35), and Maydole (2012, p. 569–570).

  12. See Gaunilo (1965).

  13. More will have to be packed into this definition, but the point should be clear.

  14. For the evidence, see Craig and Sinclair (2012).

  15. Thanks to David McNaughton and an anonymous referee for their very helpful comments and suggestions on this paper.

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Correspondence to C’Zar Bernstein.

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Bernstein, C. Giving the Ontological Argument Its Due. Philosophia 42, 665–679 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11406-014-9529-7

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Keywords

  • Ontological argument
  • God
  • Perfection
  • Gaunilo
  • Necessary being