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Durham e-Theses
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'God exists': meaning, reference and Anselm’s proslogion

Foyle, Stuart Mark (2002) 'God exists': meaning, reference and Anselm’s proslogion. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Over the last century, philosophy has comprehensively criticised the 'common- sense' view of the proposition 'God exists' as being meaningfixl. The purpose of this thesis is therefore to show that instances of 'God exists' can be considered meaningful, whether or not God does in fact exist. From the intuitive premise of compositionality - that the meaning of a proposition is determined by the meaning of its parts - I ask what options 'God exists' presents. Its appearance is that of a simple subject-predicate sentence, restricting possible difficulties in interpreting compositionality; it appears to take a subject and attribute a property to that subject. However, several problems are apparent. The first is the concept of existence. The first chapter, therefore, compares the views of Bertrand Russell with recent work by Colin McGinn, arguing in favour of existence as a predicate. McGinn presents a challenge to allowing the predication of existence of 'God’, centred around the concepts by which ontological arguments characterise 'God'. The second chapter, as an historical-theological angle on the meaningfulness of 'God exists’, takes up this challenge in an attempt to resolve it using Anselm's Proslogion, which is traditionally thought to demonstrate the existence of God by using the idea of God. Analysis of the Proslogion and the thought underlying it do not provide an entirely acceptable resolution, but lay the foundations for the remainder of the thesis.The third chapter argues for the rejection of McGinn's challenge. Having provided arguments for seeing 'God exists' as a subject-predicate sentence, and noted the difficulties in conceiving adequately of God, I address the problem of what account to give of 'God’. Against a background of debate in the philosophy of language, I advocate understanding 'God' as a name in God exists', and argue for a view of the meaning and reference of 'God’ based upon the work of Jerome Gellman. Finally, I combine relevant elements from existence, reference and meaning - incorporating theological suggestions arising from Anselm - to provide a model for the meaningfulness of 'God exists' which, I argue, demonstrates God exists' to be a meaningful proposition if God does in fact exist or if God does not in fact exist.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2002
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Jun 2012 15:25

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