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Early Modern PhilosophyMind, Matter, and Metaphysics$
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Christia Mercer and Eileen O'Neill

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195177602

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195177606.001.0001

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Back to the Ontological Argument

Back to the Ontological Argument

(p.46) Back to the Ontological Argument
Early Modern Philosophy

Edwin Curley

Oxford University Press

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

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