Ontological argument

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Ontology is the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being.

The classic ontological argument for the existence of God runs as follows:

  1. God is the greatest imaginable being.
  2. All else being equal, a being or entity that exists is greater than one that doesn't.
  3. Therefore, God exists.


In this argument, existence is given as one of God's attributes as part of the definition: if X is God, then X has the property of existence. This is logically equivalent to "if X does not exist, then X is not God." It does not prove that there are any entities that actually match the definition.

Existence can hardly ever be considered a attribute, as something nonexistent cannot have attributes. Therefore, making conclusions about existence of an entity based on its properties is not logically sound. In short, this argument boils down to "show me a god, and I'll show you an existing god." It is a form of circular reasoning because the existence is built into the assumptions.

Here are some examples of this proof that highlight the fallacy.


  1. Let us define a unicorn as a magical equine being that has one horn, and that exists.
  2. By the above definition, such a being must necessarily exist.
  3. Therefore unicorns exist.


  1. Shangri-La is the greatest place on earth.
  2. A place that exists is greater than one that doesn't.
  3. Therefore, Shangri-La exists.


  1. Hercules is the greatest warrior in history.
  2. A warrior that existed is greater than on that did not.
  3. Therefore, Hercules existed.
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