To What Extent Was Kant Successful in His Criticisms of the Ontological Argument?

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The German philosopher Immanuel Kant raised many objections and criticisms to the ontological argument. In Descartes’ formulation of the ontological argument he states that God is a supremely perfect being and thus has all perfections. He then goes on to argue that existence is a perfection and a supremely perfect being (God) has the perfection of existing. In essence, Descartes argues that existence is a predicate of God. However Kant challenged Descartes argument, he said that an idea of something does not make that something exist. Kant used the example of a unicorn to help demonstrate his point: we may have an idea of exactly what a unicorn is in our head; however this idea does not cause the unicorn to exist in reality. Kant then concludes that existence is something additional to the mere idea of a thing and then criticises the ontological argument by stating that existence is not a predicate of God. Kant also criticised the ontological argument in the form of drawing a distinction between analytic and synthetic statements – he said that analytic statements tell us something factual and true whereas synthetic statements tell us something about what exists in reality, and can also be untrue. Kant then argued that God’s existence in the ontological argument is based on a synthetic statements (‘God is that which than greater cannot be imagined’ and ‘existing is greater than not existing’) therefore more evidence and proof is required in addition to the ontological argument in order to verify the existence of God. The ontological argument also features the idea that God has necessary existence – because his definition is that he is perfect and existing is more perfect than not existing, God must have necessary existence. However Kant opposed this idea and said that if we reject the whole idea of God that his definition is no longer important and thus he

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