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intro general

brief intro on who anselm was - 11th-12cent theologian, consolidation of Norman influence over English church

in his proslogion, some view Anselm as offering an 'ontological' argument that emphasises appeal to reason via. reductio ad absurdum and deductive structure

but...are they arguments?? prayer? - look at doxological register (parallels Augustine confession I, 'great are you o lord'). diverges from Augustine in self-focused nature. reflection is humiliating but necessary to get to god. Augustine goes further and shows knowledge of outside world (southern)


intro - argument and plan

I would argue that they are alloquiums - not trying to directly prove that god exists but indirectly justify the idea that god is something than which nothing greater can be thought. belief is presupposed - not trying to appeal to th atheist but the benedictine theologians of his day
- limit to reductio ad absurdum is suggested by alloquium form. not merely rational and emotionless

therefore successful as justification but would not say it is successful as a direct argument/proof. but this is not what Anselm wants

themes: god as a supreme perfection; deductive form and reductio ad absurdum; development in proslogion 3 of god as a necessary being


1 - The premise of God as supreme perfection must be accepted in order for the Proslogion to successfully justify belief in God - pros 2

- understanding god = quest of faith
- pros 2 opens with direct address, 'grant that I may understand'
- meditation is key to idea that Anselm is not trying to prove but meditate on the existence of god. he clearly already believes
- faith and understanding = augustinian idea. Anselm original title for work fides quarens intellectum
- def of god = if accepted as a priori premise can be used to understand god's perfection


1 - The premise of God as supreme perfection must be accepted in order for the Proslogion to successfully justify belief in God - pros 3

- platonic idea of perfection = developed in pros 3. defines god in relation to creatures
- campbell: dual argument. Anselm presents the theological proposition that it is absurd to think of anything superior to one’s creator, as well as a metaphysical argument that everything that is not God must be contingent.
- Anselm presents impossibility of idea of a creature being superior to its creator
- if you accept original premise of god as greatest possible being and creator, then the deductive justification for god's existence = successful


1 ao2 - johnson

is the definition accurate?
johnson - shouldn't use value judgment of 'greater'. too quantitative
- however this is an inevitable impact of the limitation of human language. Anselm is using the term to present god as beyond the scope of human measurement and infinitely superior to creatures
- this can be seen in pros 3.7, god as having most great sense of being


1 ao2 - aquinas

- subjective understanding of God makes it impossible for one to present a universal definition of God (summa, whether the existence of god is self-evident)
- however, whilst experience of god can vary, idea of god as supreme perfection is universal for xians
- aquinas himself accepts this idea in summa 1.2.3 -‘There must…be something which is to all beings the cause of…every…perfection; and this we call God’


1 ao2 - Bradley and conclusion

As Bradley convincingly summarises, ‘the ontological argument…makes no pretence of being applicable to every finite matter: it is used of the Absolute, and if confined to that, will be surely legitimate’. Therefore, it is clear that Anselm’s definition of God does not pose a threat to the success of the Proslogion as an indirect argument for God’s existence since it is addressed to believers, who despite having their own interpretations of God’s qualities, are united in viewing God as beyond the realm of human understanding of greatness.


2 - Once the original premise of God’s is accepted, Anselm introduces his deductive style of reasoning, which when paired with reductio ad absurdum provides a logical and successful way of indirectly proving the existence of God.

both faith and reason are important
- logan: Anselm must find right balance between the two to remain loyal to doctrine
- reductio ad absurdum suggests that Anselm seeks to logically justify rather than prove existence - demonstrates how a rejection of original premise would result in logical contradiction
- biblical figure of fool from psalm 13
He exposes how in conceiving of ‘something than which nothing greater can be thought’, the fool can understand the basic premise, despite not believing in its existence. However, this is where reductio ad absurdum comes in. For if the fool understands the basic premise, he must similarly understand that ‘than which a greater cannot be thought cannot be in the understanding alone’, as since existing in reality is superior to existing in the mind, by virtue of being the greatest possible being, it must exist, ‘both in the understanding and in reality’. This, for Anselm, proves that ‘something than which nothing greater can be thought’, which he believes to be God, must exist in reality.


2 - ao2, general

- an argument is only reductio ad absurdum if the rejection of every premise is logically incoherent
- hume, not raa as unlike triangle, 'god exists' is not a priori or logically necessary
- barth responds: in God, essence and existence are one
- in Summa Theologiae 1.3.4, where Aquinas states, ‘God is not only His own essence…but also His own existence’.


2 - ao2, gaunilo

lost island
- criticism fails: islands = contingent, god is not dependent on anything for his existence
- Anselm is not trying to prove but justify
- viola: differentiates direct arguments from reductio arguments, on the basis that reductio arguments establish necessity, rather than simply the proof of conclusions


3 - In the light of Gaunilo’s criticism, Anselm successfully develops his previous argument by arguing in Chapter 3 that God is necessary and therefore, cannot be thought not to be.

Barth distinguishes between the two chapters on the basis that whilst Chapter Two justifies belief in God existing generally, Chapter Three establishes the unique nature of God’s existence
- chapter 3 requires acceptance of chapter 2 conclusion. but 3 seeks to demonstrate the idea that 'god exists' is an analytic statement
- Indeed, Anselm states, that ‘something than which nothing greater can be thought’ is true insofar as ‘it cannot be thought not to exist’. In other words, we can conceive of a being that has to exist i.e. a being who is necessary and since this is superior to a being who can be thought of as not existing i.e. a being who is contingent, the greatest possible being must be necessary.
- doxological conclusion, 'and you are this thing, o lord our god'
- secundum argument?
- Whilst Chapter Three is focused on God’s necessity rather than his general existence, the fact that it adapts and requires an acceptance of the conclusion of Chapter Two suggests that it is a development, rather than a completely new argument


3 ao2 - kant

- first, unconditional necessity does not equal absolute necessity, and second, existence (whether it be necessary or not) is not a predicate
- threatens success as A aligns value with supervenience (stearns)
- but...this criticism seems to depend on Kant’s own highly contestable critical approach to metaphysics in general and modality in particular.
- and fails to recognise the idea that A is not offering proof but justification via. deduction and acceptance and that A presents existence and essence as one
- . He does not try to directly prove that God exists, but rather show that through deduction and an acceptance of his original premise, his conclusion that God exists can be rationally accepted. As Plantinga states, Anselm does not ‘prove or establish (his) conclusion. But since it is rational to accept (his) central premise, (he does) show that it is rational to accept that conclusion’.


conc in full

Overall, it has become clear to me that insofar as Anselm’s argument for God’s existence is considered indirect, it is successful. This is particularly the case with Chapter Three, which convincingly distinguishes God’s existence from other creatures based on his necessity. The pairing with reductio ad absurdum allows for a deductive way of justifying belief in God’s existence. Whilst this would not be satisfying for atheists, it is important to recognise that the argument does not prove but rather seeks to justify an already held belief. I found the relationship between the argument’s deductive form and Anselm’s doxological style particularly interesting; the resulting marriage of rational argument and meditation allowed Anselm to successfully combine both worship and reason. An area that I believe warrants further study is not only the contemporary reception of Anselm’s argument, but also the impact of Anselm’s context on the deductive and a priori nature of his argument. Through further study of Anselm, I would gain a more in depth understanding of how and why Anselm continues to impact modern day theology. Indeed, Anselm was not only a source of inspiration for Enlightenment scholars such as Descartes, but also more modern scholars such as Norman Malcolm, both of whom adopt Anselm’s deductive style in their arguments for God’s existence.