Anselm's Discovery: A Re-Examination of the Ontological Proof for God's Existence

By Charles Hartshorne | Go to book overview
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Preface

In a thesis written at Harvard in 1923 I termed the Ontological Argument invented by Anselm "an incomparably brilliant and cogent course of reasoning." I was already familiar with Kant's famous refutation. Since that time frequent rereading of Kant and examination of scores of other refutations have failed to convince me that the Argument is a mere fallacy. However, I now think that both the standard criticisms and the older defences, including mine of forty years ago, are all seriously--even disgracefully--defective. In 1923 I had, like so many others, failed to read Anselm with scholarly care; and I certainly took my self-appointed task of rebutting Kant far too casually. Today, instead of brashly asserting, as I recall doing in another student essay, that the Argument "sums up what is most sound in philosophy," I should make a qualified statement. I still hold that there is no shorter way to an understanding of essential metaphysical issues than the careful consideration of the challenge that Anselm issued to his contemporaries and successors. However, I have come to see that the simple acceptance of the reasoning as Anselm left it (were this today still possible) is no better calculated than its simple

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