Marcus Publishes Book Review
December 17, 2010
Assistant Professor of Philosophy Russell Marcus published a book review in The APA Newsletters (Fall 2010). Marcus reviewed The Ontological Argument from Descartes to Hegel, by Kevin J. Harrelson (Amherst NY: Humanity Books, 2009).
Harrelson's book traces the history of the ontological argument for the existence of God. The ontological argument, perhaps original with Anselm in the 11th century, found its most elegant formulation in Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy in the early 17th century. Descartes concludes the existence of God from the premise that the concept of a perfect being includes existence necessarily, since existence is a perfection.
In the two centuries following Descartes's work, almost every prominent philosopher weighed in on the argument, leading to what is ordinarily taken as its refutation, Kant's claim that existence is not a perfection. Harrelson argues that the Cartesian argument is free from error, indeed is unassailable. In his review, Marcus claims that Harrelson's usefully comprehensive work fails to establish this conclusion.