St Anselm (1033-1109) fame rests on his belief that faith is prior to reason: “I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this I also believe- that unless I believed, I should not understand”. Anselm employed his powers of reason in order to establish, by rational argument, the existence of God (Ally 2010:62). Anselm’s ontological argument
When we are really thinking of something (and not merely uttering the associated verbal symbol), that thinking is our understanding (2010:63). Of course, we need not understand that it exists, for we may be thinking of something which we believe does not exist, or we may be thinking of something of whose existence we are uncertain (2010:63). But in any of these cases, if we are thinking of something, if we understand it, then it, and not something else, is in the understanding (2010:63). This point applies to our thoughts of anything including God (2010:63). However, in the case of God, we are thinking of a unique thing, for we are thinking of the greatest thing conceivable, the being “than which nothing greater can be conceived”( Stumph & Abel 2002:107). Now if a being exists in the understanding alone, it cannot be the greatest conceivable thing, for a being that exists in reality as well as in the understanding would be greater (2010:63). Consequently, since God is the greatest being conceivable he must exist in reality as well as in our understanding (2010:63). Or, to put it another way, if the greatest conceivable being exists in the understanding alone, then it is not the greatest conceivable being- a conclusion which is absurd (2010:63). Gaunilos objections
Do we in fact have an idea of an absolutely perfect being? This was the question posed by Anselm’s contemporary, Gaunilo, who noted that the sceptic who is not convinced of God’s existence would not grant Anselm’s assumption that people have an idea of a most perfect being (2010:63). To this Anselm could...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document