St Anselms Argument for Existence of God

This is revision people! This is one of tme msot famous A priori arguments for the existence of God – please comment.

St Anselm’s Ontological Argument: (A priori,)

  1. God is something which nothing greater can be conceived (Read possible)
  2. Even the fool understands that if God exists, he would be something which nothing greater can be conceived.
  3. It is one thing for something to exist in our understanding, and another thing for us to understand that it exists in reality. (Eg. A painters idea of his painting exists in his understanding, but it is not until it is painted that he understands that it exists in reality.)
  4. Something that exists in reality is greater then that which exists in our mind/understanding.
  5. ‘That which nothing greater can be conceived’ cannot exist only in the fools understanding, because if it can be conceived of only in our understanding, it cannot be conceived to exist in reality, which is greater.
  6. Therefore ‘that which nothing greater can be conceived’, God, undoubtedly exists in relation to our understanding and in reality.

Major Criticisms:

Gaunilo: Substitute ‘the greatest island’ for ‘God’ and you can deduce a false conclusion.

Anselms response: The argument only works for ‘God’ as god is the only thing we can really understand in our hearts (Conceive) as being ‘that which nothing greater can be conceived’


  1. Anselm treats existence as a property and tehn proceeds to conclude that God has this property.
  2. To say God exists does not atttribute a property of existence to God
  3. To say that God exists is only to say that the concept of God has an instantation in the actual world; that there exists at least one thing which matches our concept of God.

Damians comment: This is an interesting argument, but I think Kant is correct, and Gaunilo points out how absurd it is – in that it only works for the definition of God, and is hence logically invalid, but still seems to logically valid. However, a key factor in all of tehse types of arguments is that God is defined as ‘that which nothing greater can be conceived’ and in reality, this could be anything. God could be the universe (If it is infinite) God could be so great we cannot actually conceive of him – the argument doesn’t actually say what god is, rather what God is not, and it certainly provides no support to St Anselms Christian God.

One thought on “St Anselms Argument for Existence of God

  1. Herman, Heath, Rupe and Ange (before she received a phone call and got evicted from the room) watched “What the bleep do we know?”I highly recommend you take out about 2 hours of ur busy schedule and have a look at it… mixture of quantom physics, Philosphy, psychology, theology… you get the idea. Got about 2 sentenced reading ur post and my brain was fried after watching that movie. I’ll have another go tomorrow!

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