Anselm's Existence of God Refuted

Anselm's Existence of God Refuted
If the only proofs for the existence of God were Aquinas?s five ways and Anselm?s ontological argument, in my opinion, Anselm provides the best reasoning. I am not saying that Anselm?s argument is good, or even valid, but just that given the set of proofs by Aquinas and Anselm, Anselm?s is better.
Anselm argues, in effect, that the existence of God is built into the very concept of God. He proceeds by a form of argument called reductio ad absurdum ? reduction to absurdity. He attempts to show that the position of the fool ? the non-believer who has said in his heart, ?There is no God? ? is incoherent and leads to absurdity.
How does Anselm?s reductio work? A fully satisfactory answer to this question is not exactly simple. The idea appears to be this: The argument depends on a definition of sorts. Anselm says of God: ?We believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be thought.? (Cottingham, 1996: 246) We can put this in shorthand by saying that Anselm understands God to be the greatest conceivable being ? the gcb, for short
Now you might protest that you do not use the word ?God? in this way. Nevertheless, that does not really matter. If Anselm can show that such a being exists, then he has shown something remarkable whatever you call the being. Furthermore, it is not clear why anyone should resist calling such a being God.
Now another worry may occur to you: conceivable by whom?
The answer is conceivable by anyone, no matter how imaginative or brilliant. In fact, what Anselm really seems to be after is the greatest possible being, though he proceeds in terms of what we can or do conceive.
The atheist, Anselm points out, can understand the phrase ?being than which none greater can be thought.? Therefore, God is in the atheist?s understanding. However, just because something ?exists in the understanding,? we would not normally conclude that it also exists in reality. As Anselm himself points out, a painter may have the completed work of art in his mind, but that does not make it a real painting. (Cottingham, 1996: 246)
What Anselm tries to show next is that in this case, having an idea in the understanding requires one to admit that the thing exists in reality as well. For suppose that God exists only in the understanding. Then we can conceive of a greater being: one who exists in reality as well. Moreover, that would mean that this God who exists only in the understanding is not the greatest conceivable being. (Cottingham, 1996: 246)
Now we have a contradiction.
Now come to the case of God. The gcb would have to be wise, because a wise being is greater than a being that is not wise. In addition, the gcb would have to be just, because justice is better than injustice. What Anselm is claiming is that the gcb must also exist, because a being that exists in reality is greater than one that exists merely in the understanding. So:
It would be a contradiction to say; ?God (the gcb) is not wise?
It would be a contradiction to say, ?God is not just.?
In addition, it would be a contradiction to say, ?God does not exist.?
There are many arguments as to why Anselm?s argument is invalid. I have chosen three of them, and have illustrated how these arguments make Anselm?s proof invalid, and possible ways around there counter-arguments.
Analytic vs. Synthetic
The most basic criticism of Anselm?s argument is that he tries to prove a synthetic statement as if it were an analytic statement. Analytic statements are those that can be said to be true or false by reason alone. For example: ?A triangle has four sides?, is an analytical statement and it is false because it is against the definition of a triangle. Also analytic is ?There is an infinite number of prime numbers?. This is true, although it is a lot harder to prove. However, reason alone can do it. No additional sensory information is needed. There cannot be any discussion about the truth-value of an analytic statement. Either it is true, it is false, or one cannot prove either of those possibilities. One cannot differ in opinion when looking at an analytic statement. Synthetic statements are those that are not analytic. Synthetic statements cannot be answered by reason alone; in addition, one needs evidence given by the senses. ?An apple always falls to the ground? is synthetic; I can try to prove this by empirical evidence, but I can find no mathematical proof of it. It is impossible to prove any synthetic statement with 100% evidence. Therefore, in the case of synthetic statements, we can do two things: believe them, disbelieve them or suspend judgment.
He tries to prove the existence of something without any reference to the world. It seems reasonable to assume that it is impossible to prove whether something does or does not exist from its definition alone.
Existence as Attribute
Kant reasoned that ?existence? is not an attribute of an object, like ?temperature?, ?size? etc. According to Kant existence is not something that can be associated with the definition of an object. (Cottingham, 1996: 245) For instance, take the definition for ?quircle?: A quircle is a circle that exists. Now it seems impossible for us to reach any other conclusion than that a quircle, and thus a circle, exists, for that?s what the definition tells us. But this is obviously not good reasoning, for we could prove that anything exists, using this method. We conclude that ?existence? is not an attribute that can be used in a definition. Therefore, the existence or non-existence of God cannot have anything to do with the definition of God, and Anselm?s Ontological Argument fails.
Is God the greatest thing that can be conceived?
What is greater than a huge birthday cake? Two huge birthday cakes! A very bad children?s joke that can be applied to everything, and has through the years been applied to many things, suddenly gets a philosophical meaning. What is greater than God? Two gods! Surely this is true? But by definition, if two gods are greater than God, then God is not the greatest thing that can be conceived, which is a contradiction. Let me write it down:
1. God is the greatest thing that can be conceived.
2. Two Gods are greater than God.
3. 1 and 2 are in contradiction.

If we agree that 2 is true, we must see that 1 false. But if God is not the greatest, than something else is the greatest, and the argument just continues infinitely. We must agree that ?X is the greatest thing that can be conceived? is a meaningless sentence, and Anselm?s argument breaks down.
Now we have seen how critics have responded to Anselm. Following here are examples of how Anselm may have responded to these critics, based on my readings of Anselm.
I believe Anselm would argue that there is no such thing as synthetic statements; everything clearly has a truth-value. For if there were such statements that were not true and not false, then there would be no way to prove if God existed or not. Thus, God must exist using the original argument because everything must have a truth value. However, this is a typical example of circular thinking. Here, Anselm argues that God exists because God exists. This is clearly not a good counter-argument, and thus it appears Anselm?s argument does fail in this instance.
I believe that Anselm would continue to argue that existence is an attribute. Something can exist in a physical nature, or it cannot. Things that are not physical in nature do not exist. Nothing I image is physical in nature. Because I can image something that is not real, it must not exist. I would argue against Anselm in this case again. Consider the example of a unicorn. Somewhere in our childhood, as Americans, we were taught what a unicorn would look like, and be like if it existed. However, I argue that the idea of the unicorn does exist. We know what it is, what it does, and why it does it. And if we don?t then it is possible to extrapolate the information from our prior knowledge of them.
I believe that Anselm would argue that there could not be two gods. For if there were, then it would be possible to use the same argument to prove that there are an infinite number of gods. Anselm would attack this argument at premise two. Because if God were the greatest that could be conceived, then it would be impossible to conceive of anything greater. Since two gods is greater that one God, then even if it was impossible to conceive of two gods, it would be no greater than conceiving of one God. I will actually agree with Anselm on this argument, given his definition of God. Since he defines his notion of God to be that which a greater could not exist, it is impossible to prove that something greater exists, just by his definition of God.

Anselm's Existence of God Refuted 7.4 of 10 on the basis of 1278 Review.