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

By Charles Hartshorne | Go to book overview

pations of the Proof (see Bibliography), considers a number of pre-Anselmian proofs and rightly dismisses them as not proofs from the more idea of God. Esser ignores Philo and the most relevant passages in Plato and Aristotle; but I incline to agree with him that before Anselm there was no Ontological Proof.

Anselm's formula for deity is perhaps less novel. Collingwood mentions some precedents in Boëthius, and he should have mentioned Philo and Augustine. (See Sec. 15, p. 250.) Nevertheless, here, too, Anselm remains distinctive. He alone puts sufficient emphasis upon the difference between greatest, or unsurpassed, in fact and not conceivably surpassable.

No one before Anselm gave so neat a formula for the divine excellence. Correctly interpreted, as to be sure he did not interpret it, it remains without a flaw, precisely as he stated it. I hold that this definition, and the deduction of noncontingency therefrom, constitutes the greatest single step forward in constructive metaphysics taken after Philo and prior to Leibniz. It is also the least understood, the most carelessly treated, by scholars.


2. A Strange Story

The history of discussions concerning the ontological argument might have been that of a collective inquiry into the validity of the reasoning of Prosl. II-IV, with reasonable account taken of later passages. This inquiry might also, after a few centuries perhaps, have led to the discovery of the abstract-concrete paradox as inherent, not in the Argument as such, but in classical theism, yet made more apparent by the Argument. All this might conceivably have happened.

-149-

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

Table of contents

  • The Open Court Library of Philosophy i
  • Title Page v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xv
  • Part One 3
  • 2. the Overestimation of Gaunilo 18
  • 3. What the Proof Claims to Prove 22
  • 4. the Definition of God: A Dilemma 25
  • 4. the Definition of God: A Dilemma 28
  • 6. Existence a Predicate? 33
  • 7. the Second or Strong Form of the Proof 33
  • 7. the Second or Strong Form of the Proof 36
  • 7. the Second or Strong Form of the Proof 41
  • 7. the Second or Strong Form of the Proof 48
  • 7. the Second or Strong Form of the Proof 49
  • 12. the Role of Faith 53
  • 13. is the Proof Platonic? 55
  • 13. is the Proof Platonic? 60
  • 13. is the Proof Platonic? 62
  • 13. is the Proof Platonic? 65
  • 17. Anselm's Appeal to Rules 70
  • 18. Refutation of Some Refutations 73
  • 18. Refutation of Some Refutations 85
  • 20. Proslogium Ii, Iii, and Anselm's Principle 99
  • 21. Definite Thought is About Something 106
  • 23. Some Recent Criticisms of the Proof 110
  • 24. the Proof and the Other Theistic Arguments 134
  • Part Two a Critical Survey of Responses to Anselm's Proof 139
  • 2. a Strange Story 149
  • 2. a Strange Story 150
  • 2. a Strange Story 154
  • 2. a Strange Story 164
  • 2. a Strange Story 173
  • 2. a Strange Story 176
  • 2. a Strange Story 178
  • 2. a Strange Story 201
  • 2. a Strange Story 208
  • 2. a Strange Story 234
  • 2. a Strange Story 237
  • 2. a Strange Story 238
  • 2. a Strange Story 240
  • 15. R. G. Collingwood 250
  • 16. Hans Reichenbach 253
  • 16. Hans Reichenbach 255
  • 16. Hans Reichenbach 261
  • 16. Hans Reichenbach 265
  • 16. Hans Reichenbach 267
  • 16. Hans Reichenbach 278
  • 16. Hans Reichenbach 297
  • Bibliography 305
  • Acknowledgments 311
  • Index of Names 313
  • Index of Topics 319
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