For those of us familiar with the ontological argument, we may also be familiar with Immanuel Kant’s “textbook critique” of the Anselmsian proof. To be clear, Kant’s criticism is two-fold: (1) A concept cannot be formed to guarantee its own instantiation (i.e., have an instance) in extra-mental reality. For instance, whether or not the idea of a supreme being corresponds to any reality outside the human mind cannot be settled a priori (as Anselm allegedly tried to do). (2) Although existence is a grammatical predicate, it differs from other predicates in that its logical function is not to add a further component to a concept.
The “textbook criticism” that I am referring to is (2) – the famous “existence is not a predicate” objection. This is a philosopher’s fancy way of saying that you can’t define something into existence. A common analogy used is the idea of having 100$ dollars in my pocket compared to actually having 100$ in my pocket. Surely the latter is greater, but that doesn’t mean that there actually exists 100$ in my pocket.
(I) The Ontological Flaw of Kant
I wanted share some thoughts given to me by my personal mentor (you can view his pagehere). Kant’s criticism is similar to Aquinas’ but with an important and different emphasis. Aquinas would have one concern with regard to God’s essence is his existence and vice versa. However, only God has this pure “esse.” The reason Kant’s criticism holds some weight is because we don’t know God directly, so we can’t know God through the linkage of essence and existence. However, God in Scripture still reveals Himself as such a being (e.g., “I AM who AM”). So, on some level Kant and criticism (2) is flawed. Specifically, not in an epistemological sense but ontologically in regard to God.
However, in regard to us and all created beings it is a legitimate objection as accidents exist only in the context of matter and differentiation of such matter (or, in the case of angels as differentiated essence with limited accident attributes; or even possibly as unique created essences much like Leibniz’s monads). Created matter is an instantiated essence and that essence will always have accidents. The absence of either on some level implies the absence of the other.