Stanley Jaki on Kant and the Ontological Argument

‘Kant’s criticism of it [the ontological argument] shows him both a poorly informed and a poorly reasoning philosopher. If not from Scotus ( a paradigm of obscurantism in Kant’s time), at least from Leibniz he might easily have learned that the weakness of the ontological argument , in which he saw the basis of the cosmological, is not in its major premise – if God (perfect being) is possible, he exists – but in its minor – but God is possible. The latter can be securely asserted only if the existence of God has already been established a posteriori. Kant’s two objections to the ontological argument show him a poor reasoner. They are based on his failure to perceive the conceptual difference between infinite and finite being. Concerning the latter, be it Kant’s hundred thalers or the perfect island of Gaunilo (Anslem’s first critic), the existence of a thing is wholly extrinsic to the concept of it, but not in the case of an infinite, that is, infinitely perfect being.

The poor reasoner in Kant is once more revealed by his objection to the cosmological argument on the ground that it rests on the ontological. He overlooked the fact that the existence of a necessary being has been proved from the existence of things not necessary by the time the argument turns to the infinite perfection of that necessary being.’ (Stanley Jaki, ‘The Road of Science and the Ways to God’, p. 121)

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