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    I was wondering if anyone would be able to explain Descartes ontological argument to me? I've picked a philosophy module as one of my subsiduarys for my first year, but am really struggling with understanding it. I have never done anything like philosophy before, and am finding it quite hard to get to grips with, any help please ?
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    Such a daft argument. This is off the top of my head so may be a little shaky. Might go and fetch my notes later if you still don't understand.

    Ontology: study of existence.

    Do you remember his analogy of the 3 sides triangle? To understand the concept of a triangle but to reject its attributes as having 3 sides or interior angles of 180 degrees is contradictory to its nature. In the same way that understanding the concept of God (as being all powerful) but rejecting his physical existence is also contradictory to His nature, because to state He is "all-powerful" but to reject his existence would be to undermine his "power". God's existence, therefore, is purported to be as obvious and self-evident as the most basic mathematical truth.

    Of course, this analogy simply reinforces the Ontological argument's simplicity.
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    descartes says that he has an idea of a perfect being (which he can clearly and distinctly perceive)
    this perfect being must have all perfections
    existence is a perfection
    therefore the perfect being (God) exists.

    it's open to a massive amount of criticism (most notably from Kant and Gaunilo)
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    Existence as a predicate, basically.
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    (Original post by wawa1906)
    descartes says that he has an idea of a perfect being (which he can clearly and distinctly perceive)
    this perfect being must have all perfections
    existence is a perfection
    therefore the perfect being (God) exists.

    it's open to a massive amount of criticism (most notably from Kant and Gaunilo)
    The way I heard it, just to clarify a little, is that Descartes says he can imagine a perfect being (so there is nothing BETTER). However something just like that which he imagines but ACTUALLY exists would be better, and since God is perfect and nothing can be better, then God must exist.

    I only read about this in Blackburn's introduction to philosophy (Think). He points out that it is like saying that the perfect island getaway exists because we can imagine it, and if it is perfect then it must exist beyond our imagination (in real life). Of course we know that simply imagining something perfect does not ensure its existence.

    He goes on to point out that he thinks the problem is that you can't really compare things that you imagine and things that exist, for you would say that, for example, "real books are heavier than imaginary books," only we can imagine a book heavier than any real book... that means nothing to us though, and really you cannot compare imagined turkeys to real ones, or something to that effect. So we have to realize that the ontological argument uses a comparison like this, and is invalid.
 
 
 
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