Skip to comments.Catholic Word of the Day: ANSELMIAN ARGUMENT, 12-15-12
Posted on 12/15/2012 12:52:02 PM PST by Salvation
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The famous argument of St. Anselm (1033-1109) of Canterbury (1033-1109) for the existence of God. It is an argument a priori, drawn from the idea of God rather than a posteriori, from the works of God. Anselm used it to refute the fool who says there is no God (Psalm 13). He argues as follows: We call God a being so great that nothing greater can be conceived. This definition is accepted even by the atheist, who admits that God exists at least in the mind of the believer. But that which is so great that one cannot imagine anything greater, cannot exist only in the mind. why not? Because on this supposition one could think of something greater, namely, the same being existing outside the mind, i.e., in reality. Therefore, God exists both in mind and reality. Anselm's argument depends on the realistic metaphysics of Plato and has been the subject of learned discussion over the centuries.
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Appropriate to the argument: a spell-checker is useful, but only by definition if it is used. One can imagine the most perfect spell-checker in the world, but it becomes a spell-checker — that is, a thing which actually checks spelling — when it exists outside the imagination.
I’ve always thought it strange that St. Anselm is noted primarily for his circular Ontological Argument, and his theory of the Atonement, neither of which holds water.
One of St. Thomas’s elegant statements is that Anselm was right—the existence of God is self-evident in itself, i.e., to God. But not to us.