Existence Of God For being accustomed in all other things to make a distinction between existence and essence, I easily persuade myself that existence may perhaps be separated from the essence of God, and thus God might be conceived as not existent actually. PROP. XI. God, or substance, consisting, of infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality, necessarily exists. Proof.–If this be denied, conceive, if possible, that God does not exist: then his essence does not involve existence.
–Of everything whatsoever a cause or reason must be assigned, either for its existence, or for its non-existence –e. g., if a triangle exist, a reason or cause must be granted for its existence; if, on the contrary, it does not exist, a cause must also be granted, which prevents it from existing, or annuls its existence. If, then, no cause or reason can be given, which prevents the existence of God, or which destroys his existence, we must certainly conclude that he necessarily does exist. For if it were of the same nature, God, by that very fact, would be admitted to exist. But substance of another nature could have nothing in common with God (by Prop.
ii.), and therefore would be unable either to cause or to destroy his existence. As, then, a reason or cause which would annul the divine existence cannot be drawn from anything external to the divine nature, such cause must perforce, if God does not exist, be drawn from God’s own nature, which would involve a contradiction. To make such an affirmation about a being absolutely infinite and supremely perfect, is absurd; therefore, neither in the nature of God, nor externally to his nature, can a cause or reason be assigned which would annul his existence. Therefore, God necessarily exists. –The potentiality of non-existence is a negation of power, and contrariwise the potentiality of existence is a power, as is obvious.
–In this last proof, I have purposely shown God’s existence a posteriori, so that the proof might be more easily followed, not because, from the same premises, God’s existence does not follow a priori. Imperfection, on the other hand, does annul it; therefore we cannot be more certain of the existence of anything, than of the existence of a being absolutely infinite or perfect –that is, of God. Our idea of a most perfect being, not the sole proof of a God. –How far the idea of a most perfect being which a man may frame in his mind, does or does not prove the existence of a God, I will not here examine. See now how existence follows from this notion.
To exist is something more than not to exist, or rather, existence adds a degree to grandeur and perfection, and as Descartes states it, existence is itself a perfection. KANT The proposition, God is almighty, contains two concepts, each having its object, namely, God and almightiness. If, then, I take the subject (God) with all its predicates (including that of almightiness), and say, God is, or there is a God, I do not put a new predicate to the concept of God, but I only put the subject by itself, with all its predicates, in relation to my concept, as its object. If we were concerned with an object of our senses, I could not mistake the existence of a thing for the mere concept of it; for by the concept the object is thought as only in harmony with the general conditions of a possible empirical knowledge, while by its existence it is thought as contained in the whole content of experience. Then we have the question coming in, Does God exist? The ontological proof, which is the first properly metaphysical proof of the existence of God, consequently came to mean that God as the Idea of existence which unites all reality in itself, also has the reality of existence within Himself; this proof thus follows from the Notion of God, that He is the universal essence of all essence.
For if it is accepted as in thought alone, we may go on farther to accept it as existent; that, however, is something greater’ than what is merely thought. ‘Thus were that beyond which nothing greater can be thought merely in the understanding, that beyond which nothing greater can be thought would be something beyond which something greater can be thought. But that is truly impossible; there thus without doubt exists both in the understanding and in reality something beyond which nothing greater can be thought.’ Secondly, there are two sorts of objects of thought –one that is and another that is not; the object that is only thought and does not exist, is as imperfect as that which only is without being thought. Undoubtedly God would be imperfect, if He were merely thought and did not also have the determination of Being. But in relation to God we must not take thought as merely subjective; thought here signifies the absolute, pure thought, and thus we must ascribe to Him the quality of Being. On the other hand if God were merely Being, if He were not conscious of Himself as self-consciousness, He would not be Spirit, a thought that thinks itself.
God is the infinite, just as body and soul, Being and thought are eternally united; this is the speculative, true definition of God. The thought of God, which is always given, and the being of which is to be proved, claims, at any rate, to be the highest thought possible; indeed, upon close comparison with all other thoughts which come and go, with thoughts of such things as may just as well not exist as exist, it has the essential peculiarity, the prerogative, so to speak, –and this is Anselm’s discovery, –that, if it is actually thought of as the highest conceivable thought, it is also thought of as existent. Were it not thought of as being, it would not for a moment be actually thought. The fool (Ps. xiv.) denies the existence of such a Being.
For did it exist only in intellect, the thought might be framed that it was realised, and that would be a greater thought. Consequently, there exists, in reality as well as in the understanding, something a greater than which cannot be thought. And this is so true that its non-existence cannot be thought. Something may be thought which is only to be thought as existent, and that is a majus than that the non-existence of which may be thought, and that You are, O Lord, my God, I must think though I did not believe.’ The nerve of the Anselmic argument lies therefore in the notion that an idea which has an objective existence is a majus than that to which mere subjective existence appertains; that, consequently, as under the idea of God the highest thought possible is at any rate expressed, the idea of God is not thought unless it is thought as existent. That Anselm also undoubtedly knew, but he opined that the concept of God is different to any other thought, which remains unaltered, whether it is thought of as existent or non-existent; the concept of God is that thought, which is no longer thought unless it is thought as existent, and which, therefore, essentially involves being. But, of course, it is insufficiently established by Anselm that a concept of God which does not necessarily include existence, is not the highest thought, and therefore is not the concept of God, and that, consequently, the really highest thought must also be thought of as existent.
Inasmuch as Anselm treated existence as a majus compared with non-existence, he treated existence as an attribute, whereas it is the bearer of all attributes. So it is not proved by Anselm that the origin of this idea, which, when thought, is thought as existent, is not contingent to the reason, but necessary; and that reason only remains reason by virtue of this idea. Finally, Anselm thinks, thus overrating the Ontological moment, that he has already attained therein the full concept of God. For what would it matter if that which is thought as most perfect were, as thought, less than the least reality? Why should this thought disturb us? That than which a higher cannot be conceived cannot exist merely as an idea, because what exists merely as an idea is inferior to what exists in reality as well as in idea. The idea of a highest Being which exists merely in thought, is the idea of a highest Being which is not the highest even in thought, but inferior to a highest Being which exists in fact as well as in thought.’ The argument merely assumes that be who denies that there is a God must have an idea of God.
There is also no force, as Anselm showed, in the objection of Gaunilo, that the existence of God can no more be inferred from the idea of a perfect being, than the existence of a perfect island is to be inferred from the idea of such an island. The argument is that a certain thought of God is found necessarily to imply His existence. The objection that existence is not a predicate, and that the idea of a God who exists is not more complete and perfect than the idea of a God who does not exist, is, perhaps, not incapable of being satisfactorily repelled. Mere existence is not a predicate, but specifications or determinations of existence are predicable. Now the argument nowhere implies that existence is a predicate; it implies only that reality, necessity, and independence of existence are predicates of existence; and it implies this on the ground that existence in re can be distinguished from existence in conceptu, necessary from contingent existence, self-existence from derived existence.
That the exclusion of existence –which here means real and necessary existence –from the idea of God does not leave us with an incomplete idea of God, is not a position, I think, which can be maintained. Take away existence from among the elements in the idea of a perfect being, and the idea becomes either the idea of a nonentity or the idea of an idea, and not the idea of a perfect being at all. Philosophy Essays.