Anselm of Canterbury


Anselm of Canterbury
(c. 1033-1109)
   Sometimes called 'the father of scholasticism', Anselm bequeathed to Christian philosophy the method of 'faith seeking understanding' (refined from Augustine of Hippo) and an argument, the ontological argument for the existence of God, to be found in his Proslogion ('Address'). Scholarly controversy rages, however, over whether Anselm really meant his meditation, composed, as it was, in a Benedictine abbey, to be understood as an argument to convince the unbeliever, and philosophical argument rages as to whether the ontological argument ought to convince anyone. Many modern Christian philosophers have adopted Anselm's method of thinking through their already held religious commitments. This method may be seen in the Proslogion and its companion the Monologion ('Soliloquy'), in which Anselm gives a version of the cosmological argument for the existence of God and then gives a list of God's attributes with supporting argument, based on his famous definition of God as 'that than which no greater can be conceived'. It may also, however, be seen in some of Anselm's more theological works, such as Cur Deus Homo ('Why God Became Human'), which is an investigation into why the incarnation and atonement were necessary, arguing that God's honour must be satisfied, and that it can be satisfied only by an infinite sacrifice from a member of the offending family, humanity. Anselm's significance can be judged from the fact that the original title of the Proslogion, Augustine's phrase 'fides quaerens intellectum' ('faith seeking understanding'), could well be said to be the slogan of the contemporary revival in Christian philosophy, along with another phrase from Anselm, 'credo ut intellegam' ('I believe in order that I may understand').
   Further reading: Anselm of Canterbury 1938-61, 1998 and 2000; Davies and Leftow 2004; Hopkins 1972

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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