Back to the Ontological Argument

Edwin Curley

in Early Modern Philosophy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780195177602
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835553 | DOI:
 Back to the Ontological Argument

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This chapter revisits the ontological argument, to reconsider what was said about it in 1978 in the light of some of the work done since then by Descartes scholars and by other philosophers concerned with the philosophy of religion in general. It argues that the argument ultimately fails in its Cartesian form. The objection to the Cartesian argument is not that it falsely assumes existence to be a predicate, but that it assumes a quite traditional Christian understanding of God's nature which is, unfortunately, incoherent. The chapter restates Descartes's argument briefly and then takes up four philosophical questions it raises: (1) Is existence really a perfection? (2) What is it for something to be a perfection anyway? (3) Is Descartes's definition of God as a supremely perfect being a reasonable one? and (4) Is it really possible, as Descartes assumes, for a being to possess all perfections?

Keywords: Descartes; existence; perfection; God; Cartesian argument; philosophy of religion

Chapter.  11098 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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