Book Review, Sort Of

The next of my gleanings from a pile of Roman Catholic texts is a typical college reader-style text, a collection of translated primary source materials.  The book is called A Scholastic Miscellany: Anselm to Ockham and is part of a larger series from the late 60’s to early 70’s.  It purports to be a good introduction to the scholastic theologians of the Middle Ages (1100-1400), with the exception of Thomas Aquinas who gets his own volume.

I just finished reading Saint Anselm of Canterbury’s most famous work, Proslogion.  A passable translation can be read for free here.  It is here Anselm formulates his proof for the existence of God as a being than which no greater can be conceived.  This is also referred to as the ontological proof for the existence of God, and it arose out of Anselm’s desire for a single, simple proof of God’s existence that was not in itself reliant on any other argument.  It’s been some years since I read Proslogion, and the simplicity of the argument is sometimes seen as a reason to dismiss it.  While Anselm offers his definition in chapter 2 of this work, he goes on for another score or so of chapters, applying this definition to other aspects of the nature of God and to resolve apparent contradictions in the nature of God (mercy & justice, for example).

Of course Anselm’s argument has been controversial from the beginning, eliciting contention even from his contemporaries, notably Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, but continuing throughout Western philosophical history.  Anselm refutes Gaunilo’s criticism (the next selection in this book), but others have felt it necessary to address Anselm’s basic premise.

Good, short, but very thought provoking!

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