If I said that unicorn exists, an animal of a kind, or that there is a flower which has been born from the sky exists. As a definition a flower is a flower, whether it grows in the sky or not. It may not really exist, but as definition you can’t reject it. A horse with wings exists. Supposing I say what is a concept that horse is an animal like any other horse with this different it is got wings, like the wings of a bird, in the concept there is no problem. Whether such a thing exists or not, is a different question.
Similarly, the first proposition of this argument is that it is only a definition of God. It does not say therefore God exists. It doesn’t start with the proposition God exists and God is than whom nobody is greater that is not the point he simply says, God is by conception than whom nothing greater can be conceived that is all.
The second step of the argument which is very important – God who really exists is greater than God who only exists in conception; this is the master stroke of the argument. ‘God who really exists is greater than God who only exists in conception’ and your definition was that ‘God is that than whom nothing greater can be conceived’. Therefore, god who is only in conception is not the answer to the definition, what is conceived is ‘God who really exists’. So, the conclusion is ‘God Exists’. In other words to think of God and not to think of him as existing is impossible that is the whole … . of the argument. Among the whole area of the world there is not a single thing about which you can give this argument. It is only about God that you can give this argument. A winged horse can be conceived but may not exist because in the definition of the horse, such a thing does not come into the picture at all, which comes in the definition of God. Truly speaking this argument although many people have criticized it in many ways, it is fundamentally a correct argument from the rational point of view. It is a very powerful argument and when you think deeply on this question you will find that this argument is really a convincing argument but the formulation of it can be of a different kind.
As I told you one of the sharpest arguments against this proof was one which was formulated by Kant and I shall repeat the argument that he had advanced. He had said that this argument rests on the assumption that ‘existence’ is the predicate and then I will explain what is the meaning of predicate. He had explained that anything that may be considered to be quantity, quality, relation, modality can be a part of predicate, but in none of these, existence comes into the picture. Quantity, quality, relation, modality none of them can be described as existence, they are all predicates. The simple example that Kant has given was hundred dollars in existence are not more than hundred dollars in conception. Of course there is a difference between hundred dollars in imagination and the hundred dollars in actuality. You can go to the market and get things against hundred actual dollars, so there is a difference between hundred dollars in conception and hundred actual dollars, but that actuality does not add to the dollars, it does not become hundred and one dollars. If existence was a predicate than it would have added something to hundred–ness, predicate always add something to the subject. If existence was a predicate, it would have made difference to hundred–ness. According to Kant ‘existence’ is not a predicate and the whole argument assumes that existence is a predicate therefore, the argument is erroneous that was his argument. As against this argument supposing we agree and say that ‘yes, it is true, existence is not a predicate’. We may even agree that the formulation of Anselm, in his argument seems to make a mistake in thinking that ‘existence’ is a predicate but then does it mean that ‘existence is nothing’. If it’s not a predicate, does it mean that existence is nothing? So our formulation will now be on a different plane, it’s a same argument but formulates in a different question. Existence is not a predicate but existence is the subject, this is the new formulation that ‘existence’ is really speaking the subject.
Quantity, quality, relation, modality these are all predicates, predicates can be conceived or may not be conceived that is to say all predicates are optional as far as conception is concerned. But there is one thing which can be conceived and you cannot help conceiving and that is ‘existence’. You do any conception; the only thing that you can conceive is existence. You must have seen one sentence of Sri Aurobindo where he says ….also last time that sentence that existence without quantity, quality, relation, modality is not only something that can be conceived but is the only thing that can be conceived, other things this object may be one or multiple or total is optional, it may be, it may not be. It may be red or black or white, it may be white, it may not be white. We are not obliged to think that this object must be white necessarily, but whatever conception there may be of any kind, the first thing you have to conceive is that of ‘existence’ that is something which you cannot rub out from pure reason. To show this I had started right from the beginning a proposition and asked you nothing exists and asked you to conceive ‘nothing exists’ and you have seen that this statement is inconceivable.