Gödel's ontological proof is a formal argument by the mathematician Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) for the existence of God. The argument is in a line of development that goes back to Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109). St. Anselm's ontological argument, in its most succinct form, is as follows: "God, by definition, is that for which no greater can be conceived. God exists in the understanding. If God exists in the understanding, we could imagine Him to be greater by existing in reality. Therefore, God must exist." A more elaborate version was given by Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716); this is the version that Gödel studied and attempted to clarify with his ontological argument.
Gödel left a fourteen-point outline of his philosophical beliefs in his papers. Points relevant to the ontological proof include
- 4. There are other worlds and rational beings of a different and higher kind.
- 5. The world in which we live is not the only one in which we shall live or have lived.
- 13. There is a scientific (exact) philosophy and theology, which deals with concepts of the highest abstractness; and this is also most highly fruitful for science.
- 14. Religions are, for the most part, bad—but religion is not.