Three Philosophical Dialogues

Three Philosophical Dialogues

Three Philosophical Dialogues

Three Philosophical Dialogues

Synopsis

In these three dialogues, renowned for their dialectical structure and linguistic precision, Anselm sets out his classic account of the relationship between freedom and sin-its linchpin his definition of freedom of choice as 'the power to preserve rectitude of will for its own sake'. In doing so, Anselm explores the fascinating implications for God, human beings, and angels (good and bad) of his conclusion that freedom of choice neither is nor entails the power to sin. In addition to an Introduction, notes, and a glossary, Thomas Williams brings to the translation of these important dialogues the same precision and clarity that distinguish his previous translation of Anselm's Proslogion and Monologion, which Professor Paul Spade of Indiana University called 'scrupulously faithful and accurate without being slavishly literal, yet lively and graceful to both the eye and ear'.

Excerpt

If you asked me, or just about any other scholar familiar with Anselm's work, what the three dialogues translated here are about, you would probably be told that they are all three about topics in metaphysics, with some ethics thrown in as well. On Truth concerns the nature of truth, a metaphysical topic, although it also discusses the nature of justice, an ethical topic. On Freedom of Choice and On the Fall of the Devil both focus on the nature, extent, and exercise of free will, again metaphysical topics, with a considerable emphasis on the purpose of free will, an ethical topic. But when Anselm described these dialogues in his Preface, he called them “three treatises pertaining to the study of Holy Scripture.” Now either Anselm and his modern readers have entirely different ideas about what's important in these dialogues, or else they have entirely different ideas about what it means for something to pertain to the study of Scripture—or perhaps both. The matter deserves a close look, since if Anselm is doing something other than what we naturally take him to be doing, we will risk grave misunderstanding if we don't try to understand what exactly that is. (Of course, we may decide in the end that what's interesting about Anselm's discussion in these dialogues is not what he thinks is interesting. But we should want to know whether we are reading Anselm on his own terms or using Anselm to pursue our own independent interests.)

So we have two questions before us. First, does Anselm mean something different from what we would mean in saying that these dialogues pertain to the study of Holy Scripture? And second, are the discussions that modern readers find central to these dialogues entirely different from the ones that Anselm thought were central? I will begin by answering the first question, explaining what Anselm has in mind when he says that these dialogues pertain to the study of Holy Scripture. Now even if you're not . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.