Stephen Davis’s objection to the second ontological argument



Stephen Davis has argued that the second ontological argument (OA) fails as a theistic proof because it ignores the logical possibility of what he calls an ontologically impossible being. By an “ontologically impossible being” (OIB) he means a being that (a) does not exist, (b) logically-possibly exists, and (c) would exist necessarily if it existed. In this brief essay, I argue, first, that even if an OIB is logically possible, its logical possibility is irrelevant to the OA at issue; and second, that an OIB is in fact logically impossible, because the predicates which define it are inconsistent. The concept of an OIB may be coherent if necessity is understood as ontological self-sufficiency, but even so the OIB is irrelevant to the OA.


Stephen Davis Second ontological argument Ontologically impossible being (OIB) Necessary being 



I am very grateful to Stephen Davis for reading and commenting on multiple drafts of this essay. I also thank an anonymous reviewer who offered helpful suggestions for improving clarity and readability.


  1. Barth, K. (1960). Anselm: fides quaerens intellectum. London: SCM Press.Google Scholar
  2. Davis, S. T. (1997). God, reason & theistic proofs. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Malcolm, N. (1960). Anselm’s ontological arguments. The Philosophical Review, 69(1), 41–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Claremont McKenna CollegeClaremontUSA

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