Anselm's Other Argument

Anselm's Other Argument

A. D. Smith
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wprk6
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  • Book Info
    Anselm's Other Argument
    Book Description:

    Some commentators claim that Anselm's writings contain a second independent "modal ontological argument" for God's existence. A. D. Smith contends that although there is a second a priori argument in Anselm, it is not the modal argument. This "other argument" bears a striking resemblance to one that Duns Scotus would later employ.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-72600-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS OF ANSELM’S WORKS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    I write this book primarily for philosophers, and philosophers are by and large interested in St. Anselm (1033–1109) for one thing: his formulation of the so-called Ontological Argument for God’s existence. This argument, which is to be found in the second section of Anselm’sProslogion, explicitly concerns, not God, butsomething than which nothing greater can be conceived.¹ Since you understand this last phrase, something than which nothing greater can be conceived exists at least in your mind or understanding (in intellectu). Moreover, you can conceive such a thing existing in reality as well as in your understanding. It...

  6. 1 THE MODAL ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
    (pp. 17-31)

    I propose to begin our investigation of the Modal Ontological Argument with Norman Malcolm, since, as I mentioned in the Introduction, it was he who brought this form of argument for God’s existence to the general attention of the contemporary philosophical world. Like all versions of the modal form of the Ontological Argument, Malcolm’s hinges on the claim that God could only exist non-contingently: that is to say, with logical (or “metaphysical”: i.e.,absolute) necessity.¹ Malcolm, of course, based his own argument on Anselm, and he characterizes Anselm as making two claims: “First, that a being whose nonexistence is logically...

  7. 2 ANSELM’S UNDERSTANDING OF CONCEIVABILITY
    (pp. 32-61)

    If there is to be any hope of finding a version of the Modal Ontological Argument in Anselm’s writings, some argument of Anselm’s for the existence of God—or, at least, for the existence ofsomething than which a greater cannot be conceived(which I am abbreviating as “G”)—must be taken as being concerned, at least implicitly, with what is and is not “logically” possible or necessary.¹ Both Malcolm and Hartshorne focus on various arguments Anselm offers in which he is explicitly concerned with what can and cannotbe thought—or, as I shall usually put it, with what...

  8. 3 ANSELM’S UNDERSTANDING OF POSSIBILITY
    (pp. 62-80)

    In the previous chapter I claimed that when Anselm states that something is “not possible” or that it “cannot” be the case, he is not, at least in the passages that are relevant to us, invoking a notion of “logical” or absolute impossibility. The notions of possibility and impossibility that Anselm has in mind, I suggested, are broadly Aristotelian in character, so that they are to be understood in terms of the powers, capacities, and incapacities of things. In the present chapter I substantiate this claim. The purpose of the present chapter is not, however, simply to tie up a...

  9. 4 THE PROSLOGION III ARGUMENT
    (pp. 81-107)

    The first half of Anselm’sProslogion IIIcontains an argument that both Malcolm and Hartshorne focused on as providing the principal evidence for their claim that Anselm propounded a version of the Modal Ontological Argument. In this chapter we shall investigate whether such an argument is to be found there, perhaps implicitly. As I have already mentioned, there is an issue concerning precisely how the passage in question is to be translated. Here it is in the well-known Charlesworth translation—though I replace Charlesworth’s “thought” with my preferred “conceived”:

    And certainly this being so truly exists that it cannot be...

  10. 5 ARGUMENTS IN THE REPLY TO GAUNILO
    (pp. 108-124)

    Although attempts to find a Modal Ontological Argument in Anselm’s writings have concentrated primarily on the passage fromProslogion IIIthat we considered in the previous chapter, both Hartshorne and Malcolm claimed that such an argument can also be found in Anselm’sReplyto Gaunilo.¹ One especially promising passage occurs in the first section of this work. I have quoted parts of it in the previous chapter. Here it is in its entirety:

    For no one who denies or doubts that there is something than which a greater cannot be conceived denies or doubts that if it existed, it would...

  11. 6 ANSELM’S OTHER ARGUMENT
    (pp. 125-149)

    In the previous chapter we saw how in hisReplyto Gaunilo Anselm presents a number of arguments for the existence ofGthat are independent of the traditional Ontological Argument ofProslogion II. We considered the suggestion that these arguments are, perhaps implicitly, versions of the Modal Ontological Argument, and found this not to be so. The arguments in question are, rather, grounded on highly contentious, not to say implausible, metaphysical views. We have seen, for example, that Anselm holds that anything can fail to exist only if something else does exist—something that has the power to prevent...

  12. 7 AN ASSESSMENT OF THE ARGUMENT
    (pp. 150-174)

    In the previous chapter I extracted a thesis from Anselm’s writings that I dubbed “Anselm’s Principle.” In one of its possible formulations it is the following:If anything that cannot be conceived to be caused can be conceived to exist, it actually exists. I claimed that it forms the basis of Anselm’s “other argument” for the existence ofG. That argument, in a corresponding formulation, runs as follows:

    If anything that cannot be conceived to be caused can be conceived to exist, it actually exists.

    Gcan be conceived to exist but cannot be conceived to be caused.

    Therefore,G...

  13. APPENDICES
    (pp. 175-190)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 191-222)
  15. REFERENCES
    (pp. 223-232)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 233-235)