|Name: Anselm of Canterbury|
|Birth: 1033 (Aosta, Burgundy)|
|Death: April 21, 1109 (Canterbury, England)|
|School/tradition: Founder of Scholasticism|
|Metaphysics (incl. Theology)|
|Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Gregory the Great||Bonaventure, Aquinas, Leibniz, Hegel|
Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033 – April 21, 1109) was an Italian medieval philosopher, theologian, and church official who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. He was one of the most important Christian thinkers of the eleventh century. Called the founder of scholasticism, he is famous as the originator of the ontological argument for the existence of God and as the archbishop who openly opposed the Crusades. But his thinking extended to many other philosophical and theological topics, including, among others, the aspects and unity of the nature of the divine, the extent of our knowledge and understanding of God, why God became man, human will and free choice, the problems of truth and justice, evil as privation, and original sin and its consequences.
Anselm was a true philosopher in that he used arguments that were not dependent on Sacred Scripture, Christian doctrine, or tradition. He developed a sophisticated analysis of language (thus foreshadowing the most important developments of twentieth century western philosophy). He also attempted to resolve contradictions and paradoxes through making subtle distinctions of language and thought.
Anselm was born in the city of Aosta in the Kingdom of Burgundy (currently the capital of Aosta Valley region of northern Italy). His family was accounted noble, and owned considerable property. Gundulph, his father, was by birth a Lombard, and seems to have been a man of harsh and violent temper. His mother, Ermenberga, was a prudent and virtuous woman, who gave the young Anselm careful religious training.
At the age of 15 he desired to enter a monastery, but he could not obtain his father's consent. Disappointment brought on an apparent psychosomatic illness, and after he recovered he seems to have given up his studies for a time and lived a more carefree life. During this period his mother died, and his father's harshness became unbearable. In 1059 he left home, crossed the Alps, and wandered through Burgundy and France. Attracted by the fame of his countryman Lanfranc, then prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec, Anselm entered Normandy. The following year, after spending some time at Avranches, he entered the abbey as a novice at the age of 27.
Three years later, in 1063, when Lanfranc was made the abbot of Caen, Anselm was elected prior of Bec. This office he held for 15 years, and then, in 1078, on the death of the warrior monk Herluin, founder and first abbot of Bec, Anselm was elected abbot. Under his jurisdiction, Bec became the first seat of learning in Europe, although Anselm appears to have been less interested in attracting external students to it. It was during these quiet years at Bec that Anselm wrote his first philosophical works, the Monologion and Proslogion. These were followed by The Dialogues on Truth, Free Will, and the The Fall of the Devil.
Meanwhile, the monastery had been growing in wealth and reputation, and after the Norman Conquest had acquired considerable property in England. It became the duty of Anselm to visit this property occasionally. By his mildness of temper and unswerving rectitude, he so endeared himself to the English that he was looked upon as the natural successor to Lanfranc as Archbishop of Canterbury. Upon Lanfranc's death, however, King William II seized the possessions and revenues of the see, and made no new appointment.
About four years later, in 1092, at the invitation of Hugh, Earl of Chester, Anselm crossed to England. He was detained by business for nearly four months, and when about to return, was refused permission by the king. In the following year William fell ill, and feared his death was at hand. Eager to make atonement for his sin with regard to the archbishopric, he nominated Anselm to the vacant see, and after a great struggle compelled him to accept the pastoral staff of office. After obtaining dispensation from his duties in Normandy, Anselm was consecrated in 1093.
As the conditions of his retaining office, Anselm demanded of the king that he return the possessions of the see, accept Anselm's spiritual counsel, and acknowledge Urban II as pope in opposition to Antipope Clement III. He only obtained a partial consent to the first of these demands, and the last involved him in a serious difficulty with the king. It was a rule of the church that the consecration of metropolitans could not be completed without their receiving the pallium from the hands of the pope. Anselm, accordingly, insisted that he must proceed to Rome to receive the pall. William would not permit this, however; he had not acknowledged Urban, and he maintained his right to prevent any pope being acknowledged by an English subject without his permission. A great council of churchmen and nobles was held to settle the matter, and it advised Anselm to submit to the king. Anselm remained firm, however, and the matter was postponed. William meanwhile privately sent messengers to Rome, who acknowledged Urban and prevailed on him to send a legate to the king bearing the archiepiscopal pall. A partial reconciliation was then effected, and the matter of the pall was compromised. It was not given by the king, but was laid on the altar at Canterbury, whence Anselm took it.
Little more than a year after, fresh trouble arose with the king, and Anselm resolved to proceed to Rome and seek the counsel of his spiritual father. With great difficulty he obtained the king's permission to leave, and in October 1097 he set out for Rome. William immediately seized the revenues of the see, retaining them until his death. Anselm was received with high honor by Urban at the Siege of Capua, where Anselm is said to have garnered high praise also from the Saracen troops of Count Roger I of Sicily. At a great council held at Bari, Anselm was put forward to defend the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Ghost against the representatives of the Greek Church. As to Anselm's dispute with William, however, Urban did not wish to become deeply involved. Anselm left Rome, and spent some time at the little village of Schiavi, where he finished his treatise on the atonement, Cur Deus homo, and then retired to Lyons. When he attempted to return to England, William would not allow him to enter the realm.
William was killed in 1100 and his successor, Henry I, at once invited Anselm to return to England. But Henry demanded that Anselm should again receive from him in person investiture in his office of archbishop. The papal rule in this matter was plain: all homage and lay investiture were strictly prohibited. Anselm represented this to the king; but Henry would not relinquish a privilege possessed by his predecessors, and proposed that the matter should be laid before the Holy See. The answer of the pope reaffirmed the papal rule as to investiture. A second embassy was sent, with a similar result. Henry, however, remained firm, and at last, in 1103, Anselm and an envoy from the king set out for Rome. The pope, Paschal II, reaffirmed strongly the rule of investiture, and passed sentence of excommunication against all who had infringed the law, excepting King Henry.
This left matters essentially as they were, and Anselm, who had received a message forbidding him to return to England unless on the king's terms, withdrew to Lyons, where he waited to see if Paschal would not take stronger measures. At last, in 1105, he resolved himself to excommunicate Henry. His intention was made known to the king through his sister, and it seriously alarmed him, for it was a critical period in his affairs. A meeting was arranged, and a reconciliation between them effected. In 1106 Anselm crossed to England, with power from the pope to remove the sentence of excommunication from the illegally invested churchmen. In 1107 the long dispute as to investiture was finally settled with a compromise in the Concordat of London. In this Henry relinquished his right to invest his bishops and abbots but reserved the custom of requiring them to come and do homage for the "temporalities" (the landed properties tied to the episcopate). Anselm was allowed to return to England and for the remaining two years of his life were spent in the duties of his archbishopric. He died on April 21, 1109. He was canonized in 1494 by Alexander VI.
Anselm wrote many letters to monks, male relatives and others that contained passionate expressions of attachment and affection. These letters were typically addressed "dilecto dilectori," sometimes translated as "beloved lover." While there is wide agreement that Anselm was personally committed to the monastic ideal of celibacy, some academics, including Brian P. McGuire and John Boswell, have characterized these writings as expressions of a homosexual inclination. Others, such as Glenn Olsen and Richard Southern describe them as representing a "wholly spiritual" affection, "nourished by an incorporeal ideal" (Southern).
Anselm may, with some justice, be considered the first scholarly philosopher of Christian theology. His only great predecessor, Scotus Eriugena, had more of the speculative and mystical element than is consistent with a schoolman. In Anselm, by contrast, one finds the special characteristics of scholastic theological thought: a recognition of the relationship of reason to revealed truth, and an attempt to elaborate a rational system of faith.
Anselm's constant endeavor was to render the contents of the Christian consciousness clear to reason, and to develop the intelligible truths interwoven with the Christian belief. The necessary preliminary for this is the possession of the Christian consciousness. As Anselm wrote: "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam. Nam et hoc credo, quia, nisi credidero, non intelligam." ("Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand.") But after the faith is firmly established, then the attempt must be made to demonstrate by reason the truth of what we believe. Indeed, it is wrong not to do so: "Negligentiae mihi esse videtur, si, postquam confirmati sumus in fide, non studemus quod credimus, intelligere." ("I hold it to be a failure in duty if after we have become steadfast in our faith we do not strive to understand what we believe.") Anselm's stance on this is often characterized as "Faith seeking understanding."
The groundwork of Anselm's theory of knowledge is contained in the tract De Veritate, in which, from the consideration of truth as in knowledge, in willing, and in things, he rises to the affirmation of an absolute truth, in which all other truth participates. This absolute truth is God himself, who is therefore the ultimate ground or principle both of things and of thought. The notion of God comes thus into the foreground of the system; before all things it is necessary that it should be made clear to reason, that it should be demonstrated to have real existence.
This demonstration is the substance of his works Monologion and Proslogion. In the first of these the proof rests on the ordinary grounds of realism, and coincides to some extent with the earlier theory of Augustine, though it is carried out with singular boldness and fullness. Things, he says, are called good in a variety of ways and degrees; this would be impossible if there were not some absolute standard, some good in itself, in which all relative goods participate. Similarly with such predicates as great, just; they involve a certain greatness and justice. The very existence of things is impossible without some one Being, by whom they come to exist. This absolute Being, this goodness, justice, greatness, is God.
Anselm was not thoroughly satisfied with this reasoning; it started from a posteriori grounds, and contained several converging lines of proof. He desired to have some one short demonstration. Such a demonstration he presented in his Proslogion; this is his celebrated proof of the existence of God, sometimes referred to anachronistically as the ontological proof—a term first applied to the arguments of seventeenth and eighteenth century rationalists by Kant. Anselm's argument proceeds to demonstrate the existence of God as follows: I can think that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Now, if that than which nothing greater can be conceived existed only in the intellect, it would not be that than which nothing greater can be conceived, since it can be thought to exist in reality which is greater. It follows, then, that than which nothing greater can be conceived exists in reality. The bulk of the Proslogion is taken up with Anselm's attempt to establish the identity of that than which nothing greater can be conceived with God, and thus to establish that God exists in reality.
Anselm's reasoning has been the subject of great and continuing controversy since he first "published" it in the 1070s. It was opposed at the time by the monk Gaunilo, in his Liber pro Insipiente, on the ground that we cannot pass from idea to reality. The same criticism is made by several of the later schoolmen, among others by Aquinas, and is in substance what Kant advances against all ontological proof. There is no evidence that either Aquinas or Kant read the Proslogion. Anselm replied to the objections of his contemporary, Gaunilo, in his Responsio. The ontological argument, or variations thereof, have been both advocated and attacked by various philosophers and theologians to this day.
Anselm also authored a number of other arguments for the existence of God, based on cosmological and teleological grounds.
The existence of God being thus held proven, Anselm proceeded to state the rational grounds of the Christian doctrines of creation and of the Trinity. With reference to the Trinity, he says we cannot know God from himself, but only after the analogy of his creatures. The special analogy used is the self-consciousness of man. The peculiar double nature of consciousness, memory and intelligence, represent the relation of the Father to the Son. The mutual love of these two, proceeding from the relation they hold to one another, symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The further theological doctrines of man, such as original sin and free will, are developed in the Monologion and other mixed treatises.
In Anselm's greatest work, Cur Deus Homo ("Why did God become Man?"), he undertook to make plain, even to infidels, the rational necessity of the Christian mystery of the atonement. The theory rests on three positions: that satisfaction is necessary on account of God's honor and justice; that such satisfaction can be given only by the peculiar personality of the God-man Jesus; that such satisfaction is really given by the voluntary death of this infinitely valuable person.
The demonstration is, in brief, this: All the actions of men are due to the furtherance of God's glory; if, then, there be sin, i.e., if God's honor be wounded, man of himself can give no satisfaction. But the justice of God demands satisfaction; and as an insult to infinite honor is in itself infinite, the satisfaction must be infinite, i.e. it must outweigh all that is not God. Such a penalty can only be paid by God himself, and, as a penalty for man, must be paid under the form of man. Satisfaction is only possible through the God-man. Now this God-man, as sinless, is exempt from the punishment of sin; His passion is therefore voluntary, not given as due. The merit of it is therefore infinite; God's justice is thus appeased, and His mercy may extend to man.
This theory has exercised immense influence on church doctrine, providing the basis for the Roman Catholic concept of the treasury of merit. It is certainly very different than the older patristic theory, insofar as it substitutes for a contest between God and Satan, a contest between the goodness and justice of God. However, it can be said that Anselm puts the whole issue on a merely legal footing, giving it no ethical bearing, and neglects altogether the consciousness of the individual to be redeemed. In this respect it can be said to contrast unfavorably with the later theory of Peter Abélard.
This dialogue is different from the rest of Anselm's writings. It focuses on solving some problems of language, qualities, and substances. Anselm's solutions depend on making proper distinctions and on making explicit what is contained tacitly or cloudily in various particular expressions. Anselm ends by solving the problems he has tackled, but he also makes clear tha his are provisional solutions and that someone else may come up with more powerful arguments that would destroy them.
This dialogue deals with the study of Sacred Scripture. The student begins by asking for a definition of truth. Anslem says that a statement is true when "what it states, whether in affirming or in negating, is so." This seems to be a correspondence theory of truth, but Anselm's theory is more complex in that it melds together a correspondence notion of truth with a Platonic notion of participation.
This treatise also pertains to the study of Sacred Scripture. It deals with the nature of the human will and its relation to justice or rightness of will. One of the important problems raised in it is whether the fallen angels and first human sinned from free choice, because Anselm had held that being able to sin and freedom are foreign to each other. But if those first beings did not sin by choice, it seems that they must have sinned by necessity. Ther eis also the problem ofwhether after having sinned they become a servant of sin or retain free choice. Anselm attempts to answer this problem with an analogy in which he says that one can have an ability or an instruemnt, but when the conditions for its use are lacking, then it cannot bring about anything by itself. So one still has the ability, but lacks the conditions for using it.
In this longer dialogue Anselm took up, among some other things, the difficult problem of the origin of evil and divine responsibility for evil. The central question is how the Devil could be responsible for sin, since everything he had came from God. Anselm's argumentation here is complex, but the core of it involves a distinction between receiving an ability and will and perseverence from God (to do something) and one's actually persevering in carrying it out. One's initial will is changed in the course of the activity before the thing is finished. The Devil went wrong, Anselm held, because he willed something beneficial, but which he did not have and was not supposed to have at the time he willed it. So his will was disordered.
In addition to those mentioned above, Anselm wrote a work entitled Epistola de Incarnatione Verbi (on the Incarnation of the Word, De Conceptu Virginali et de Originali Peccato (on the Virgin Conception and Original Sin), and De Processione Spiritus Sancti (on the Procession of the Holy Spirit). All these contain both philoosphical and theological reasoning.
Anselm left fragments of an unfinished philosophical work that consists of an analysis of concepts and terminology that were central to other parts of his work.
In the Middle Ages, Anselm's writings did not receive the respect they later would. This was probably due to their unsystematic character, for they are generally tracts or dialogues on detached questions, not elaborate treatises like the great works of Aquinas, Albert of Aix, and Erigena. They have, however, a freshness and philosophical vigor which more than makes up for their want of system, and which raises them far above the level of most scholastic writings.
The anniversary of his death on April 21 is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church, much of The Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Church as Anselm's memorial day. Anselm was proclaimed as a Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XI. Eight hundred years after his death, on April 21, 1909, Pope Pius X issued an encyclical Communion Rerum praising Anselm and his ecclestical career and his writings. His symbol in hagiography is the ship, representing the spiritual independence of the church.
An ontological argument for the existence of God is one that attempts the method of a priori proof, which utilizes intuition and reason alone. In the context of the Abrahamic religions, it was first proposed by Anselm in his Proslogion, and important variations have been developed by philosophers such as René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, Norman Malcolm, Charles Hartshorne, Alvin Plantinga, and Kurt Gödel. A modal logic version of the argument was devised by mathematician Kurt Gödel. The ontological argument has been a controversial topic in philosophy. Many philosophers, including David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Gottlob Frege, and Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, have openly criticized the argument.
The argument works by examining the concept of God, and arguing that it implies the actual existence of God; that is, if we can conceive of God, then God exists. However, this type of argument is often criticized as committing a bare assertion fallacy, meaning that it offers no outside premise to support its argument other than qualities inherent to the unproven statement.
The argument's different versions arise mainly from using different concepts of God as the starting point. For example, Anselm starts with the notion of God as a being than which no greater can be conceived, while Descartes starts with the notion of God as being maximally perfect (as having all perfections).
The ontological argument was first proposed by Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) in Chapter 2 of the Proslogion. While Anselm did not propose an ontological system, he was very much concerned with the nature of being. He stated that there are necessary beings—things that cannot not exist—and contingent beings—things that may exist but whose existence is not needed.
Anselm presents the ontological argument as part of a prayer directed to God. He starts with a definition of God, or a necessary assumption about the nature of God, or perhaps both.
Then Anselm asks: does God exist?
To answer this, first he tries to show that God exists 'in the understanding':
Anselm goes on to justify his assumption, using the analogy of a painter:
Now Anselm introduces another assumption (some authors have argued that this assumption introduces a new version of the argument):
Anselm has thus found a contradiction, and from that contradiction, he draws his conclusion:
Anselm's Argument may be summarized thus:
This is a shorter modern version of the argument. Anselm framed the argument as a reductio ad absurdum wherein he tried to show that the assumption that God does not exist leads to a logical contradiction. The following steps more closely follow Anselm's line of reasoning:
Anselm in his Proslogion 3 made another a priori argument for God, this time based on the idea of necessary existence. He claimed that if God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, it is better to be necessary than contingent. Therefore, God must be necessary. To sum it up:
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
All links retrieved April 1, 2016.
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