11
ANSELM AND GAUNILO

St. Anselm (1033/34–1109) was abbot of Bec and later archbishop of Canterbury. He wrote several important treatises on theological subjects, including Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man). In this selection from his Proslogium he begins with the definition of God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” Today we might translate this as “the greatest possible being.” From that definition Anselm proceeds to argue for the necessary existence of God, known as the Ontological Argument for the existence of God. Although a version of this argument can be found in Augustine, Anselm's rendition is more complete and better developed. He believes that God's existence is so certain that only a fool would doubt or deny it. Yet he desires understanding to fulfill his faith. The Ontological Argument is the product of this desire.

Anselm's contemporary, Gaunilo, a Benedictine monk, sets forth the first objection to Anselm's argument, centering on a delectable lost island, one that is more excellent than all lands. Since it is better that such a perfect island exists in reality than simply in the mind alone, this Isle of the Blest must necessarily exist.

Anselm's reply to Gaunilo is included in our readings.


FOR FURTHER READING

Evans, G. R. Anselm and Talking About God (Oxford University Press, 1978).

Harshorne, C. Anselm's Discovery (Open Court, 1965).

Hick, John and Arthur McGill, eds. The Many-Faced Arguments (Macmillan, 1967).

Hopkins, Jasper. A Companion to the Study of St. Anselm (University of Minnesota Press, 1972).

Plantinga, Alvin, ed. The Ontological Argument (Doubleday, 1965).

Southern, R. W. Saint Anselm: A Portrait in a Landscape (Cambridge University Press, 1990).

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Classics of Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Time Line xi
  • Part One - The Ancient Period 1
  • 1: The Pre-Socratics 3
  • 2: Plato 20
  • 3: Aristotle 240
  • 4: Epicurus 357
  • 5: Epictetus 363
  • 6: Sextus Empiricus 374
  • 7: Plotinus 391
  • Part Two - The Medieval Period 405
  • 8: Augustine 407
  • 9: Boethius 447
  • 10: Avicenna 455
  • 11: Anselm and Gaunilo 458
  • 12: Thomas Aquinas 462
  • 13: William of Ockham 486
  • Part Three - The Modern Period 493
  • 14: RenÉ Descartes 495
  • 15: Thomas Hobbes 525
  • 16: Blaise Pascal 566
  • 17: Baruch Spinoza 570
  • 18: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 618
  • 19: John Locke 652
  • 20: George Berkeley 690
  • 21: William Paley 723
  • 22: David Hume 726
  • 23: Immanuel Kant 819
  • 24: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 914
  • 25: SØren Kierkegaard 922
  • 26: Mary Wollstonecraft 935
  • 27: John Stuart Mill 942
  • 28: Friedrich Nietzsche 1030
  • Part Four - The Contemporary Period 1059
  • 29: W. K. Clifford 1061
  • 30: Charles Sanders Peirce 1066
  • 31: William James 1076
  • 32: Bertrand Russell 1100
  • 33: G. E. Moore 1142
  • 34: Ludwig Wittgenstein 1150
  • 35: Edmund Husserl 1168
  • 36: Martin Heidegger 1185
  • 37: Jean-Paul Sartre 1207
  • 38: A. J. Ayer 1225
  • 39: Thomas Nagel 1234
  • 40: Philippa Foot 1242
  • 41: Nelson Goodman 1249
  • 42: John Rawls 1254
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