Russell and the Ontological Argument
It is well known that in Principia Mathematica Russell oﬀers a theory of deﬁnite descriptions and holds that ‘existence’ is not a property. It is less well known that in “On Denoting” he discusses the version of Anselm’s ontological argument for God formulated by Descartes, accepting the premiss “Existence is a perfection” and assessing the argument as valid but question-begging. This is diﬀerent from his later comments in A History of Western Philosophy which ﬁnd the argument invalid. Indeed, given the sanctions of Principia, one might have thought he would ﬁnd the argument logically ungrammatical. This paper shows how Russell might formulate and evaluate Anselm’s ontological argument and the version oﬀered by Descartes in a way that avoids the conﬂict.