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

By Charles Hartshorne | Go to book overview

be refuted by formulations so full of paradoxes as those just considered.

On the whole, Thomism sheds not much light and some darkness on our topic.


5. Descartes, Gassendi, and Hobbes

According to Gilson, it is not provable that Descartes had read Anselm. He may have taken the Argument from Thomas, which would explain why he put it in the weaker form of Prosl. II until, under Gassendi's prodding, he came to his own version of the second and stronger argument. In any case, there can be no doubt that he knew some of the usual objections --this being the least that everyone has known who ever discussed the subject! On the whole, Descartes did not reach Anselm's level in this matter. He did, however, furnish an interesting reason for taking the idea of God to be logically admissible. If we doubt, and hence realize our cognitive imperfection, it must mean something to talk about a degree of clarity and distinctness which excludes all doubt, that is, the divine clarity, infallible or omniscient awareness. But Descartes weakened his argument here by claiming--or seeming to claim--absolute clarity and distinctness for us human beings in certain cases.


[Echo of Prosl. II]

Being accustomed in all other things to distinguish between existence and essence, I readily believe that existence can also be disjoined from the essence of God, and that God can therefore be conceived as not actually existing. But on closer study, it becomes manifest to me that it is no more possible to separate existence from the essence of God than . . . the idea of a mountain from that of a valley. . . .

Nor may it be objected that though it is indeed necessary to grant that God exists, provided the supposition has antecedently been made

-164-

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