Hegel's Defense of the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

Dissertation, University of Kentucky (2004)

Authors
Kevin Harrelson
Ball State University
Abstract
The following dissertation is a study of the "ontological proof' for God's existence, specifically of the controversy concerning this proof from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. As the title indicates, the primary theme is Hegel's defense and reformulation of the proof. I argue for a metaphysical interpretation of Hegel's Science of Logic, by showing that one of Hegel's chief goals in the Logic is to provide a demonstration for the thesis that "necessary existence belongs to God's nature." I conclude that while Hegel offers a coherent and informative account of this thesis, his analysis does not overcome one of the principal shortcomings of the ontological proof, namely, that the argument involves an appeal to intuition. The ontological proof is thus, if in some sense valid, not persuasive. The discussion of Hegel is preceded by a detailed analysis of Descartes' formulation of the proof. I argue that Descartes consistently defends his argument by appealing to metaphysical and epistemological doctrines as premises, so that the proof represents a conclusion of his entire philosophical system. I also provide a lengthy treatment of Kant's objections to the proof, and I conclude (1) that most of his arguments are repetitions of older objections and (2) that even his best arguments are question-begging. I show that Hegel sides with Descartes, and against Kant, on every relevant issue, and that Hegel's metaphysical system brings Descartes' assumptions to their ultimate consequences. In the concluding chapters I examine some of the problems that underlie the theoretical philosophies of Kant and Hegel. I argue that Hegel fails to show that Kant's philosophy is self-refuting, and that Kant's critique of the ontological argument is consistent with the basic principles of his philosophy. The shortcoming of Kant's view is merely that he fails to justify some of those principles. In the final chapter I argue that any transcendental critique of the ontological argument, or of metaphysics in general, is doomed to failure.
Keywords Hegel  Kant  Ontological Argument  Descartes
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