Question Ruth Social Sciences

Ontological arguments for the existence of God

How do ontological arguments for the existence of God work?

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Ontological arguments for the existence of God aim to prove that God exists by virtue of the very definition or idea of God, or by deriving God’s existence from the necessary existence of something God-like. There are a number of such argument that have been posited; many of them are variations on the following (heavily simplified) argument:

  1. God is perfect by definition.
  2. Something that exists is more perfect than something that does not exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Naturally, such an argument rests on what might appear to some to be an arbitrary definition of God, so an alternative argument can be constructed which does not require a consensus on God’s qualities:

  1. It is possible that a perfect being exists.
  2. Existence is more perfect than non-existence.
  3. Therefore, a perfect being must be existent.

At this point, the distinction between God and the perfect being can be argued to be trivial – if there exists a perfect being then we might as well call it God. Note that even this formulation of the argument requires additional work, as (1) perfection might not be internally consistent as a concept and (2) the status of the property of ‘existence’ might be disputed.