Now this is the Augustinian argument that God is truth, and truth is the presupposition which even he who is the skeptic acknowledges. God is identical, then, with the experience of the unconditional as true and good and beautiful.
What the ontological argument really does is to analyze in human thought something unconditional which transcends subjectivity and objectivity. This is necessary because otherwise truth is impossible. Truth presupposes that the subject which knows truth and the object which is known are in some way on one and the same place.
But it is impossible – here I come to the second part of the argument – to conclude from that a separate existence. In this we cannot follow medieval realism. The so- called ontological argument is a phenomenological description of the human mind, insofar as the human mind, by necessity, points to something beyond subjectivity and objectivity, points to experience of truth. But you cannot go beyond this, and in the moment in which you do so, you are open to a devastating criticism. This is proved through the whole history of the ontological argument. The history of this argument is dependent on the attitude towards form or content. If the content of the argument is emphasized, as all great Augustinians and Franciscans until Hegel have done, they all have accepted the ontological argument. If the argumental form is emphasized, as equally great men – namely, Thomas and Kant – -have done, then the argument must fall down. It is very interesting that this argument is going on all the time, even today, since Plato’s period. And its most classical formulation in Christianity is that of Anselm. But it is much older and much younger; it is always there. Now how is that possible? You would say: If some of the greatest are completely split about this argument, and you hardly can say that Thomas was much cleverer than Augustine, and Kant much cleverer than Hegel, or vice versa – they all are supreme minds and nevertheless they contradict each other – what about this situation? How can it be explained? What I here try to give is an explanation of this phenomenon, which no one can deny. It is historically evident – read the history of philosophy – that this argument is passionately accepted and passionately rejected by the greatest men. How is this possible? The reason only can be that they look at something different. Those who accept the argument look at the fact that in the human mind, in spite of all its finitude, something unconditional is present. And the description of this something unconditional is not an argument, but it is a right description. That is what actually is behind all those who affirm the ontological argument. (I myself am of their number). On the other hand, people like Thomas, Duns Scotus, Kant, reject the argument because they say it is not an argument, the conclusion is not valid. And certainly they are right. So I try to find a way out of this world-historical conf lict – it has much more consequences than the seeming Scholastic form shows – by saying that these people do different things: those who are for it are for the insight that the human mind, even before it goes (outside) to its world, has in itself an experience of the unconditional. And secondly, those are right who say the second part of this argument cannot be done because this never leads to the highest being, which exists. Kant’s argument that existence cannot be derived from the concept is absolutely valid against this. So one can say: Anselm’s intention never has been defeated, namely, to make the certainty of God independent of any encounter with our world, and to link it entirely to our self-consciousness.
Now I would say that here the two ways that the philosophies of religion part from each other. The one looks at culture, nature and history theonomously, i. e., on the basis of an awareness of the unconditional – -and I believe this is the only possible philosophy of religion.