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Anselm's Philosophy

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Anselm's definition of a God starts by saying that God is the greatest being we

can possibly think of. When Anselm states this, it essentially means that it is not possible

to think of a being greater than God. Anselm also states that if God is the greatest thinkable

being, he is referring to the fact that it would be impossible to imagine or to create in ones

mind someone or something being better than God. Therefore, it would be impossible to

say that God only exists in ones mind because it is much greater to exist in reality than it is

to exist only in ones mind. Anselm then suggests that God has many attributes which

describe him. Among these being: self-existent, a necessary being, omnipotent,

omniscient, completely just and timelessly eternal. After reading the Proslogion by

Anselm, it gave me a greater understanding of these attributes listed above. Although, they

are all of equal importance, I feel the most prominent of God=s attributes is the fact that

he is self existent. In essence, that means that God depends on nothing else for his

existence, he is uncaused. Therefore, his existence is timelessly-eternal. This means that

God cannot stop existing. On the other hand, contingent beings (such as ourselves) depend

on something else for their existence. One example of this is, that as a child we utterly

depended on our parents for food, clothing, and shelter. Contingent beings therefore can

begin to be or cease to be at anytime. They can, unlike God, be here today and gone


Anselm uses the definition of God (the ontological argument), in which I have

described above, to prove God=s existence. As I mentioned, Anselm believes that God is

the greatest being we can possibly think of. He does this by first trying to prove the

opposite of what he really wants to prove. For example, lets suppose God does not exist in

reality. We then could think of something greater, a being that has all the same virtuous

characteristics as we think God as having, but also being able to exist in reality. He then

tries to prove that this supposition leads to a conclusion which cannot possibly be true.

Then the original God would not actually be the greatest thinkable being, this new

something else, that actually exists would be. This new God which actually exists would

then be able to be seen, heard and touched by the individuals who believe he exists as the

greatest thinkable being. Nevertheless, it is obviously impossible that the greatest being we

can think of should not be the greatest being we can think of. Therefore, the conclusion that

God does not exist must be false. Anselm then believes that the opposite of this

supposition must then be true. A perfect God must actually must exist in reality.

Otherwise, God would not be totally perfect. Existence is perfection. AIt is one thing for

something to exist in a persons thought and quite another for the person to think that thing

to exist.@ (Anselm Chapter 2) A modern day example of Anselm=s theory is that if I can

really imagine a perfect girl for me. This girl would actually exist somewhere in the world.

A girl with all of the best qualities that I can possibly imagine someone as having. She

would be everything that I am looking for. According to Anselm=s beliefs, she would most

defiantly exist. AFor if it exists only in the understanding , it can be thought to exist in

reality as well, which is greater.@ (Anselm p.380 Chap.2)

Anselm uses God=s definition to argue that God cannot be thought not to exist.

Anselm does this by stating that God cannot even be thought not to exist, not only is his

existence a fact but his non-existence is completely impossible. He confirms this by

saying AAnd indeed whatever exists except you alone can be thought of as not existing. You

alone of all things most truly exists and thus enjoy existence to the fullest degree of all

things, because nothing else exists so undoubtedly, and thus everything else enjoys being in

a lesser degree.@ (Anselm Chapter 3) The nonexistence of all other beings is possible, but

when it comes to the nonexistence of the most perfect thinkable being, it is not possible.

The argument for God=s existence is very similar to the argument that it is impossible for

one to believe that God does not exist.

After reading Anselm=s ontological argument, I had a difficult time debating

whether I believed his theories justified God=s existence. Basically, I came to the

conclusion that Anselm has not thoroughly proven his theories to be true. Also, after

reading Gaunilo=s Reply on Behalf of The Fool, it greatly confirmed my doubts and

uncertainties about Anselm=s ontological theories. Gaunilo did a superb job at dissecting

each of Anselm=s theories, point by point. He did this best by using strong arguments and




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