The ontological Argument
What is the ontological argument for the existence of God?
Depends whom you ask.
Let's begin with the name of this argument.
What does "ontological" mean?
Here we go with the ancient Greek again.
"Ontos" is the present participle, in noun form, of the Greek verb for "to be."
So, its meaning is "being", or, "the thing that is being."
"Logos," as you know by now, means "true account of," or "story about."
If we put the two words together we get "The true account of being," or the "true account of what is."
With reference to the question of the existence of God, the term has a very technical meaning. When we talk about the "Ontological Argument" for the existence of God, we are talking about an argument that attempts to prove that God exists by analyzing the idea we have of Him.
How does this work?
Here is the nub of the idea.
When I think about God, I am thinking about the perfect being, or, more technically expressed, that being than whom no greater being can be conceived, or thought.
OK. This is probably not what you think of when you think of God. But in a technical, logical sense, this is what the concept, "God," means – the being than whom no greater being can be thought.
Let's examine this a little more closely.
If I think of God ad the perfect being, this means that in my idea, the idea of God, I just also be thinking of all the things needed to make any being perfect.
One of the key things that a perfect being has to possess to be perfect is real existence. If I think of a perfect being, God, and then think that He is just a great idea, but that He has no greater existence, the people who advance the ontological argument will accuse me of contradicting myself.
Well, if I claim to be thinking of the perfect being and then claim that thinking of this being does not include the idea that He really exists, it looks as if I am denying the perfect being one of the attributes that would make Him perfect – namely, real existence.
The idea here is that I cannot even think of the perfect being without thinking that he has to exist in reality because otherwise I would be saying that I am thinking of the perfect being but I would be denying Him one of the essential features of his perfection, namely his real existence.
Therefore, if I can think of a perfect being I have to be able to think that He really exists.
There is one further step here about which we have to be perfectly clear.
This argument only has a chance of making sense if we add the idea that if we can think of a perfect being, when we ourselves are clearly not perfect, then the idea of such a being had to have been implanted in our minds by – you guessed it – a real perfect being.
Thus the real argument is tnat if an imperfect creature can think of a perfect ond, then there must be a perfect being who implants the idea of Himself in our minds. Thus the very fact that we can think og Him means that he must really exist.
Thus, the very act of thinking about how God is, about His act of being, requires that we admit that such a being really exists.