Gce religious Studies



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Challenge from Gaunilo
Gaunilo’s analogy of the island in On Behalf of the Fool

  • Students draw their perfect holiday island. Explain to them that it has to exist! Students may then be able to predict Gaunilo’s reasoning.

  • Explain Gaunilo’s attack in your own word.

  • The Question of God (Palmer).




The Ontological Argument from Anselm
His understanding of the differences between contingent and necessary existence

  • Anselm’s second Ontological Argument explored step by step. Review the words necessary and contingent.

  • Consider strengths and weaknesses of this argument. Does it counter Gaunilo?

  • Philosophy of Religion: Access to Philosophy.’ (Peter Cole).

  • Have each step on PowerPoint or OHT.




The Ontological argument from Descartes
Descartes understanding of existence as a perfection which God cannot lack

  • Explore the properties of triangles. What has to be true of them?

  • Explain how Descartes uses this idea of necessity in relation to God. Formulate argument step by step.

  • Descartes’ Meditation 5 available on internet and in ‘Question of God’ (Palmer).

  • Introducing Descartes (Robinson & Garrett) a cartoon guide!

  • Descartes: a beginner’s guide (Kevin O’Donnell).




Challenge from Kant
Kant’s argument that existence is not a predicate

  • Explain the difference between analytic and synthetic statements. Students practise making analytic and synthetic statements about triangles, bachelors etc. Explain that Kant argues that ‘God has necessary existence.’ Is an analytic statement.

  • Draw up a list of attributes of a good RS teacher? What is added by having existence as a criterion? What if a candidate was to have all attributes except this one? Explain the link to Kant’s view that existence is not a predicate.

  • Layered OHT’s showing two teachers/bicycles or other objects surrounded by list of properties. (Take one away and illustrate what happens to the properties if something does not have existence).

  • Questions about God (Patrick Clarke).

  • Source material for Kant available in ‘The Question of God’ (Palmer).

  • See Sample Lesson Plan.

Consolidation or extension

  • Consolidation: students produce a revision booklet giving key points of each thinker and strengths and weaknesses.

  • Extension: consider whether there is any place for the Ontological Argument today by researching modern versions such as those of Malcolm and Plantinga.

  • Philosophy of Religion: Access to Philosophy.’ (Peter Cole).

  • Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate).

  • The Question of God (Palmer).

  • Differentiation by student choice: Depending on group and time students could do both activities or may choose to do one or the other depending on how confident they feel on the Ontological Argument.

Exam Practice

  • Students attempt a past question on this topic.

  • Past examination papers.






Sample Lesson Plan: Religious Studies H172 Philosophy of Religion G571

Kant’s Criticism of The Ontological Argument

OCR recognises that the teaching of this qualification will vary greatly from school to school and from teacher to teacher. With that in mind, this lesson plan is offered as a possible approach but will be subject to modifications by the individual teacher.

Lesson length is assumed to be one hour.

Learning objectives for the lesson

Objective 1

Students to understand Kant’s challenge to the Ontological Argument.

Objective 2

Students to be able to explain his idea that existence is not a predicate.

Objective 3

Students to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Kant’s argument.

Recap of previous experience and prior knowledge


  • Quiz on the Ontological Argument so far. How is the argument different from other arguments? Why does Anselm think that God has to exist? How does Gaunilo attempt to disprove this? What conclusions does Descartes come to about triangles? How does he apply this to God? Why do Descartes and Anselm think that these arguments will only work for God? (Could be differentiated so that questions get harder in the style of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’.

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