The existence of God has been questioned, debated, argued, pondered, philosophized by the ancients, by the sages throughout history and even by the social media commentators of today; and yet a definitive answer continues to elude mankind. This paper will provide reasoning to suggest that God does exist by presenting findings from Anselm’s Proslogion where he surmised that because a person has the ability to conceive a perfect entity, namely God, then God must exist; and from Descartes’ Meditations where he posited that one must discard all beliefs and reestablish only those that can be proved as certain thus determining the actuality of the existence of God.
As a Benedictine monk in the 11th century, Anselm wrote Proslogion for his fellow Christians as a means of explaining the existence of God through reasoning and not through Scriptural authority. Anselm believed that people needed only to have the idea of God in their mind to prove that God exists. His discussion was developed through a methodology termed the Ontological Argument, a way of proving God’s existence through reason, and not just observations. Essentially, Anselm states that if we can imagine the greatest possible being, an omnipotent sentient being, that being, God, exists as an ideal. If we try to imagine an even greater being than that, we fail. Anselm states therefore God exists. If nothing greater than God can be imagined, then it is reasoned that God is at the top and nothing can be above, therefore he must exist.
Six hundred years later, another philosopher examined the existence of God. In the 17th century, Rene Descartes, a philosopher best known today for the phrase “cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”) attempted to prove that God existed. Descartes is remembered for one of his most famous works, Meditations on First Philosophy, which he wrote to outline his path to seek out truth. He questioned the external world, how we can believe what we see, and how to establish a baseline for his study and knowledge of the world. His work consisted of six chapters, or meditations. In his Meditations he believes, though reasoning, that he himself exists and from that, he eventually moves on to prove the existence of God.
In the First Meditation Descartes calls out things that can be doubted. When we see something in the distance what is the reality of the object? He even discusses what we hold to be true in dreams, and if they can be trusted.
In the Second Meditation, Descartes proposes that he knows he is, because he thinks. No one, not even an evil demon, can make him think. This reasoning allows Descaters to accept that he is.
In the Third Meditation, while thinking of God, Descartes questions what caused him to think this particular idea. Now since he is finite and has less reality than God, and God is infinite, only God could cause the idea of God. Therefore, Descartes asserts God exists. Descartes thinks that we are born, or stamped with the idea of God from conception.
Free will, errors, mistakes and truth are investigated in the Fourth Meditation. We must ask ourselves, if God created us, and God is perfect, why did He create us imperfectly? Descartes talks about this saying that God gave us free will. So, if we jump to the conclusion without doing due diligence, or if we follow a hunch without facts, and if we do not worry about consequences, we will make errors. God did not make us with imperfect tools, rather He gave us both mind and free will. It is up to us as sentient beings to make the right choices.
Descartes, moving to geometry shows it is not evident that the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, but that once we have verified the theorem we do not need to keep reproving its truth. The evil demon is not fooling us. In the Fifth Meditation, Descartes states that intrinsically the concept of God’s essence contains the ideas of perfection and eternity. Therefore God can not exist since non-existence is not possible for the essence of God.
In the Sixth Meditation, we learn of the distinction of the mind and the body. Descartes concludes that he possesses a mind and a body and that lives in a world of other material bodies and that God exists.
However, not everyone has always followed or believed the writings of both Anselm and Decartes. Just because a person thinks that God exists, that doesn’t mean He exists. Gaunilo, a fellow Benediction month in the 11th century, wrote a paper where he tried to poke holes in the Proslogion.
After exploring the philosophies of St. Anselm and Rene Descartes, it is up to each individual to raise the eternal questions of God, truth, justice, and beauty. Questions may be answered only partially as we go through life. The answer to the question “Does God Exist” may be answered differently by a woman with a newborn child, or one who has lost a child through cancer. This question might be answered differently due to cultural upbringing, or changing times, but the question will always be asked.