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1

title of chapter 2 (that god truly exists) - Logan

‘The title of the chapter is interesting, because in it Anselm does not do what the chapter heading appears to suggest he will. He does not draw the conclusion that God exists from his argument. Certainly, in the preamble to the argument he states that he believes God exists, and that God is believed to be 'something than which nothing greater can be thought'. He also proves (or so he believes) that this 'something' exists. But he does not yet prove that this 'something' is 'God'.

2

2.2 - grant understanding

- ‘therefore, Lord, you who grant understanding to faith, grant that I may understand (to the extent you consider it profitable that you exist as we believe, and are that which we believe’
o you = direct address
o understanding to faith = link to faith seeking understanding
o prayer like
o testimony of faith. Wants to understand the nature of God
o understanding = gift, supernatural character

3

2.3 - definition

- And indeed we believe You to be something than which nothing greater can be thought.
o Definition – can it be disputed?
♣ Limits to attributes
• Omniscience = incoherent. To experience being you, they’d have to cease to be omniscience, even if you are omniscient
• Omnipotence = incoherent. Wouldn’t have power to feel afraid
♣ Conflicting attributes e.g. omnipotence and omniscience
♣ Conflict between attributes and outside world e.g. God’s relationship with time/problem of evil
o We believe implies that existence is assumed
o Cannot be viewed as a definition – God is undefinable
o Axiomatic principle in Xian tradition
o similarly reflecting Platonic thought i.e. searching for truth

4

2.4 - fool

o allusion to psalm 14:1/53:1
o uses literary figure of fool from Psalm 13 – there are no atheists at the time
♣ illustrates that even the atheist must conceive of what he is rejecting i.e. God
o ‘aliqua talis natura - Anselm makes it clear that the sense in which he is usmg in the formula' aliquid quo nichil maius cogitari potest' is yet to be detennmed. HIS argument can be seen as a proof that aliquid is being employed in the proper sense of the term.’ (Logan p.93)
o ‘Anselm possesses the scnptural authonty to pursue the notion that unbelief arises out of, and can be addressed as, an error of understanding.’ (L, 93)

5

2.5 - fool understands

- But surely this same fool, when he hears this very thing that I say, ‘something than which nothing greater can be thought’, understands what he hears and what he hears is in his understanding, even if he should not understand that it exists’
o if you can think of it, you can understand it
o Platonic idea that the fool must have an idea of God for him to then reject it.
♣ However, Proslogion lacks idea of Platonic ascent
o Can we understand God if he is transcendent?
o Does this put God inside our conceptual space, or is he rather on the boundary of human conception?

6

2.6 and 2.7 - existing in understanding vs. reality

- 2.6. – For it is one thing for a thing to exist in the understanding, and another to understand a thing to exist
- 2.7 - For when a painter thinks in advance of the things which he is about to make, he has that which he has not yet made in his understanding at least, even though he does not yet understand that it exists. Once he has painted it, he both has what he has now made in the understanding and understands that it exists.

o cannot fully understand something unless/until it exists
o draws analogy between God and painter – h, paintings are contingent
o pictorial description is not relevant for God – cannot imagine God

7

2.8 - fool understands both

- Thus, even the fool is convinced that there is in the understanding at least something than which nothing greater can be thought, because he understands this when he hears it, and whatever is understood is in the understanding.
o Can conceptualise the idea of something than which nothing greater can be thought
Hearing it means you understand it

8

2.9, 2.10 - need for existence in reality

- 2.9 - And certainly that than which a greater cannot be thought cannot be in the understanding alone.

o it cannot only be in the mind by virtue of being something than which nothing greater can
- 2.10 - For if it is in the understanding alone, it can also be thought to exist in
- reality, which is greater.

o if it can’t exist out of the mind, it is not the greatest possible being
o ‘He can be understood as making the point either (i) that it is generally greater to exist in reality than in the understanding alone or (ii) that it is specifically greater for X to exist in reality than in the understanding alone. (i) The justification for understanding him in the former sense is that it is consistent with an Augustinian or worldview concerning the goodness or greatness of being.. On the other hand, Anselm can be understood in the latter sense, since his argument does not require such a general Platonic ontology... Consequently, I take Anselm's meaning in the second sense.’ (L, 94-5)

9

2.11 - 12 conclusions

- 2.11 If therefore that than which a greater cannot be thought is in the understanding alone, that same thing than which a greater cannot be thought is [something) than which a greater can be thought. But this cannot be the case.
o This cannot be the case = reductio ad absurdum
o ‘However, it is important to remember that, in spite of the chapter heading, Anselm does not here establish that God exists. He has stated 'we' believe God to be 'something than which nothing greater can be thought'. He has, he believes, established the existence of that 'something', but has not established the identity of God and that 'something'.’ (L, p.95)
- 2.12 – Therefore without doubt something than which a greater cannot be thought exists, both in the understanding and in the reality
o Hence, that than which nothing greater can be thought exists both in mind and reality

10

3.1-3.3 cannot be thought not to exist

Chapter 3.1 – That he cannot be thought not to exist
- 3.2 – surely this truly exists in such a way, that it cannot be thought not to exist
- 3.3 - for there can be no thought to exist something that cannot be thought not to exist, (and) this is greater than what can be thought not to exist. Therefore if that than which a greater cannot be thought can be thought not to exist, this same thing than which a greater cannot be thought is not than which a greater cannot be thought, which cannot be logically consistent.
o We can conceive of a being that has to exist i.e. necessary (cannot not exist)
o This is superior to a being who can be thought of as not existing (i.e. contingent)

11

3.4 and 3.5 - god is introduced

- 3.4 – therefore something than which a greater cannot be thought truly exists in such a way that it cannot be thought not to exist
- 3.5 – and you are this thing, O Lord our God. Therefore, O Lord my God, You truly exist in such a way that You cannot be thought not to exist.
o If God = supreme perfection, we are reduced to heteronomy. How does this impact free will/our sources for morality?

12

3.6 - why god is greatest

- 3.6 – and rightly so. For if some mind could thinking something better than You, the creature would ascend above the Creator, and would pass judgment on the Creator, which is quite absurd.
o can we not judge God? Problem of evil etc.
o Anselm is trying to understand God, not a form of judgment
o ‘The absurdity of the idea of the creature judging its creator lies in the gulf that man cannot bridge, given his limitedness and God's unlimitedness.’ (L, 96)

13

3.7-8 conclusion

- 3.7 – and indeed whatever is other than You alone can be thought not to exist. Therefore, You alone have being most truly of all, and thus most greatly of all, because whatever is other (than You) truly does not exist in this way, and for this reason has less being.
- 3.8 – Why then has the fool said in his heart, ‘there is no God’, when it is so obvious to a rational mind that You exist most greatly of all? Why, except that he is stupid and foolish.