Gareth B. Matthews and Lynne Rudder Baker explained that Anselm’s ontological argument continues to fascinate philosophers as it still finds sophisticated defenders and critics. Matthews and Baker offered a dialogue-form version to restore the simplicity they believe is ignored or misrepresented of Anselm’s argument.
They offered a simplified argument as follows:
Anselm: (in prayer) You, O God, are something than which nothing greater can be conceived.
Fool: (i.e. atheist, who has overheard Anselm’s prayer) God is just an object of the imagination.
Anselm: So you agree that the something than which nothing greater can be conceived is at least an object of the imagination; it is therefore something conceivable.
Fool: All right, it is conceivable. But it isn’t real. It has been conceived to provide an ideal object of worship. It doesn’t exist in reality.
Anselm: Would it be greater to have unmediated causal powers than it would be to have only mediated causal powers?
Fool: Of course it would be greater to have unmediated causal powers; but God doesn’t have any. Being just an idea made up to provide, as I have just said, an appropriate object of worship, God has only mediated causal powers, that is, powers through the believers in God. They do all sorts of things in the belief that they are fulfilling God’s will. However, in and of himself, God has no causal powers whatsoever.
Anselm: So, according to you, something than which nothing greater can be conceived is only an idea in people’s minds and therefore has only mediated causal powers.
Fool: You got it right.
Anselm: But then a greater than God can be conceived, namely, something than which nothing greater can be conceived that actually has unmediated causal powers. According to you, something than which nothing greater can be conceived, by having only mediated causal powers, is something than which a greater can be conceived. By contradicting yourself in this way you have offered an indirect proof, that is, a reductio ad absurdum, that God, i.e. something than which nothing greater can be conceived, actually exists. (Matthews & Baker 2010, 211 )
What is your thoughts on Matthews & Baker’s simplified ontological argument?
Matthews, Gareth B. & Baker, Lynne Rudder (2010) The ontological argument simplified. Analysis Vol 70 | Number 2 | April 2010 | pp. 210–212 doi:10.1093/analys/anp164 © The Authors 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Analysis Trust.