Chapter 10. "The Ontological Argument by St. Anselm"

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from the Proslogium
The Reading Selection from the Proslogium
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Canterbury Cathedral, Library of Congress, ©Detroit Publishing

About the author…

St. Anselm (1033-1109), a member of the Benedictine Order and Bishop of Canterbury, extended the Augustine tradition of seeking to believe in order to understand the truth and existence of God rather that seeking to understand in order to believe in the truth and existence of God. Even so, St. Anselm does not distinguish clearly between religious and philosophical pursuits. Many theologians avoid trusting reason from the fear of the specter of skepticism; however, Anselm believes reason is necessary to elucidate and validate faith. Anselm is often considered to be the father of scholastic philosophy since his work emphasizes linguistic and analytical thinking. Scholasticism was the dominant approach to philosophical and theological problems during the medieval period.

Ideas of Interest from the Proslogium

  1. Explain whether you think St. Anselm believes understanding the nature of religious belief is a necessary condition for believing in the nature and existence of God.

  2. As clearly as possible, restate Anselm's ontological argument.

  3. Clearly explain what St. Anselm means when he writes there is only one way God can be conceived not to exist.

  4. Explain why, according to St. Anselm, only God and nothing else cannot not exist? According to Anselm, why couldn't other necessary beings exist?