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History of Philosophy|
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)
|Life. St. Anselm is a type of Scholastic altogether different
from Roscelin and Abelard. He was born at Aosta in Lombardy, in 1033.
In 1060 he entered the monastery of Bec. In 1078 he succeeded Lanfranc
as abbot of Bec, and in 1093 became Lanfranc's successor in the
archiepiscopal see of Canterbury. As primate of England he resisted
with extraordinary firmness the encroachments of the secular power. He
died in 1109. His life, written by his friend and disciple, Eadmer, a
monk of Canterbury, is published by Migne.  Sources. The works of St.
Anselm  include the following treatises: Monologium, Proslogium,
De Veritate, De Libero Arbitria, De Fide Trinitatis (against
Roscelin), Cur Deus Homo? (on redemption and atonement), De
Incarnatione Verbi, and Dialogus de Grammatico. Among recent
additions to our secondary sources mention must be made of Rule's
Life and Times of St. Anselm (2 vols., London, 1883) and Vigna,
Sant' Anselmo, Filosofo (Milan, 1899), Rigg, S. Anselm of
Canterbury, London, 1896.
 Patr. Lat., Vol. CLVIII, coll. 50 ff.
 Ibid., Vols. CLVIII-CLIX.
Problem of Universals. St. Anselm seems to have attempted a
compromise between the exaggerated realism of Erigena and the
nominalism of Roscelin. He is a realist, as appears from his refutation
of Roscelin and from his use of the term substance to designate
the universal. But what is his precise position as to the manner in
which the universal exists outside the mind? In the first place, he is
clearly and unmistakably an Augustinian Platonist as to the existence
of universals ante rem in the mind of God.  In the second
place, he speaks of goodness (and what he says of goodness he implies
to be true of other universals) as existing "in diversis, sive in illis
aequaliter, sive inaequaliter consideretur." It is impossible to
determine more accurately St. Anselm's doctrine of universals, because,
apparently, he did not succeed in finding a more definite answer to
Porphyry's questions. When, however, he called attention to the sensism
latent in Roscelin's nominalism, and when, as in Monologium, X,
he insisted on the distinction between sense by which the singular is
perceived and intellect by which the universal is known, he prepared
the way for the moderate realism which is based on a psychological
analysis, and which could never have been discovered by means of the
dialectical disputes of Roscelin and Abelard.
 Monologium, XXVI-XXVII.
Relation of Philosophy to Theology. Faith and reason, far from
contradicting each other, aid each other. Intelligo ut credam
has for its complement Credo ut intelligam. Reason, of itself
feeble and liable to error, is illuminated by the supernatural light of
faith, so that the new fields of inquiry opened up to it by revelation
are not beyond its scope. Indeed, St. Anselm attaches more importance
to the Credo ut intelligam than to the Intelligo ut
credam. The relation between
reason and revelation between philosophy and theology -- is further
elucidated by the following principles:
 Cf. Proslogium, Cap. 1.
Rectus ordo exigit ut profunda Christianae fidei credamus priusquam ea
praesumamus ratione discutere. Negligentiae mihi esse videtur si
postquam confirmati sumus in fide, non studemus quod credimus
 Cur Deus Homo, I, 1-2.
The Credo ut intelligam is evidently an echo of St. Augustine's
Crede ut intelligas. The Intelligo ut credam is the
formula of Scholasticism, the justification of the use of dialectic and
of the application of dialectic to dogma within the limits of
orthodoxy. It is interesting to note in St. Anselm's philosophy the
development of another element which is as essential to Scholasticism
as is the use of dialectic, namely, the union of faith and reason, of
theology and philosophy. Erigena united the two sciences by identifying
them; St. Anselm recognizes that they cannot contradict each other, yet
he contends that each has its separate sphere. It was left for the
masters of Scholasticism in the thirteenth century to trace the lines
by which the field of theological inquiry is marked off from the domain
St. Anselm's Method. St. Anselm adheres closely to the doctrines
of St. Augustine. He states explicitly that St. Augustine is his
favorite author, and that he never said anything which could not be
corroborated by the writings and sayings of the bishop of Hippo. We are
not surprised, therefore, to find that both in his philosophical method
and in the contents of his philosophy Anselm reproduces the Christian
Platonism of St. Augustine. God and the human soul are for him, as they
were for his favorite author, the great subjects of inquiry: "Noverim
me, noverim te!" He starts, for example, with the idea of the good, the
just, the great, and rises by what has sometimes been called Platonic
induction to the idea of goodness, justice, greatness, -- to the idea
Theodicy. In the opening chapters of the Monologium
Anselm recites the various Platonic and Augustinian arguments for the
existence of God, -- from the necessity of a permanent, immutable
standard of justice, goodness, etc., from the evidences of order in the
universe, and from the gradation of beings. While acknowledging the
force of these arguments, St. Anselm (as he tells us in the
prooemium to the Proslogium) began to inquire whether an
argument could not be found which would of itself be sufficient to
prove the existence of God. Such a proof he finally discovered and
formulated in the Proslogium. It is known as the ontological
argument, and is as follows: We define God as a being than which
nothing greater can be thought. Now, there is in the mind the idea of
such a being. But such a being must exist outside the mind; for, if it
did not, it would not be that than which nothing greater can be
thought. Therefore, God exists not only in the mind, as an idea, but
also outside the mind, as a reality. St. Anselm presents the argument
in two slightly different forms.  The résumé
just given is a brief form of the argument as it occurs in the third
chapter of the Proslogium. 
 Cf. Chapters and 3 of the Proslogium.
Anselm, in formulating the argument, alluded to the fool
(insipiens) who, according to the Psalmist, "hath said in his
heart: There is no God." Gaunilo, a monk of the monastery of
Marmoutiers, criticised the argument in a work entitled Liber pro
Insipiente,  to which Anseim replied in a Liber Apologeticus
contra Gaunilonem. The controversy was conducted with the greatest
courtesy. Gaunilo acknowledged the merit of
Anselm's work, and Anselm praised his adversary and thanked him for
his criticism. At a later time St. Thomas examined the ontological
argument of St. Anselm and called attention to what is really the fatal
flaw in every ontological proof, -- the transition from the ideal to
the real, from the world of thought to the world of things. 
Albertus Magnus neither approved nor disapproved the argument. St.
Bonaventure did not mention it; Duns Scotus adopted it and endeavored
to give it greater strength; Ockam and Gerson rejected it; and in
modern times it has been renewed in a slightly different form by
Descartes and Leibniz. Of Kant's criticism of the argument mention will
be made in the proper place.
 The following is a stricter form of the argument: "Nomine Dei
intelligitur id quo nihil majus cogitari potest. Atqui id quo majus
cogitari nequit, existit non solum in intellectu, sed in re; si enim in
solo intellectu est, potest cogitari esse et in re; quod majus est: nam
quod existit in intellectu et re simul, certe majus est quam quod
existit in mente solum. Ergo, . . ." cf. Divus Thomas,
Series 2, Vol. II, p. 307.
 Cf. Migne, Patr. Lat., Vol. CLVIII, col. 242.
It is necessary to remark that in a philosophy based on the
ultra-realistic doctrine of universals, according to which the highest
ideas of the human mind, substance, body, etc., as well as the generic
concepts, animal, plant, etc., are realities existing as such, one may
consistently maintain that the highest and most perfect of all our
ideas -- the idea of a being than which nothing greater can be
thought -- necessarily possesses objective reality.
 Cf. Sum. Theol., Ia, II, 1, ad 1um; and Contra
Gentiles, I, 11.
From the idea of God as supremely perfect (quo nihil majus cogitari
potest) St. Anselm deduces a whole system of natural theology: God
is infinite, eternal, the sum of all perfection, the origin of all
Psychological Doctrines. St. Anselm did not compose a separate
treatise on psychology: the points of doctrine which are here gathered
under the title "Psychological Doctrines" are found scattered through
his different works. For instance, in the Monologium  he
describes in general terms the origin of ideas:
 Cap. 33.
Quamcumque rem mens, seu per corporis imaginationem, seu per rationem.
cupit veraciter cogitare, ejus utique similitudinem quantum valet in
ipsa sua cogitatione conatur exprimere.
From which one may conclude that our philosopher, rejecting the
doctrine of innatism, teaches that our ideas are formed from things by
the abstractive power of the mind. By the words imago,
exprimere, etc., he suggests the doctrine of intentional
species which afterwards became so well known in the schools.
In the treatise De Veritate, St. Anseim distinguishes three
kinds of truth, -- veritas enunciationis, veritas cogitationis,
and veritas voluntatis. A proposition is true when it expresses
the relation existing between things; a thought is true when we judge
(cogitamus) that to be which is, and that not to be which is
not; the will is true when we will what we ought, to will. The truth of
the will is moral rectitude. In fact, truth of whatever kind is
rectitude; truth may, therefore, be defined "Rectitudo sola mente
 De Veritate, col. 469.
In the Monologium  he speaks of the immortality of the soul.
In his treatment of this, as well as of other questions, he deals
chiefly with the religious and moral aspect of the problem, arguing
that the soul is immortal because otherwise it could not love and enjoy
God for all eternity. St. Anselm attached special importance to the
will and its freedom, devoting to this subject the incomplete treatise
De Libero Arbitrio, and the more comprehensive work De
Concordia Praescientiae cum Libero Arbitrio. In these treatises he
is concerned not so much with proving that the will is free as with
showing that freedom does not consist in the power of sinning, that no
will is so free as that of the righteous man, and that neither
temptation nor sin can take away our freedom so long as we live. 
 Capp. 68, 69, 72.
Moral Doctrines. Like St. Augustine, St. Anselm is at pains to
show that evil is merely the absence or negation of good. Passing from
the notion of evil to that of moral good (rectitudo), he
identifies the latter with justice. Man, he teaches, should do good for
the sake of the good itself: "propter ipsam rectitudinem."
Herein Anselm's teaching apparently approaches very near to the
Kantian doctrine of autonomous will and moral purism. The resemblance
is, however, merely apparent. St. Anselm never intended us to forget
that, while the good, for its own sake, is the immediate motive of
action, the ultimate reason of all moral action is the will of God.'
Moral evil (injustitia), since it is a negation, does not require a
cause. Physical evil such as pain, blindness, etc., which St. Anselm
calls incommodum, may be a positive thing, and may be caused by God.2
 Cf. De Lib. Arbitr., Cap. 1.
Historical Position. Perhaps the most important of all the
theological treatises of the Middle Ages before the time of St. Thomas
is St. Anselm's Cur Deus Homo? a work in which is propounded the
Catholic doctrine of redemption and atonement. St. Anselm as a
theologian does not, however, interest us here. As a philosopher he is
best known by his ontological argument, which is his most important
contribution to philosophy. The argument is one of many indications of
the similarity of our philosopher's method and spirit to the method and
spirit of St. Augustine. St. Anselm has been styled "the last of the
Fathers," "the Augustine of the eleventh century." And indeed one
cannot fail to observe the tendency of his mind to take the
Augustinian, which is ultimately the Platonic, view of philosophical
method, -- to proceed by way of descent from the higher to the lower,
rather than by way of ascent from the lower to the higher, in human
thought and human knowledge. Still, our saint is a genuine Scholastic,
a continuator of the tradition of the schools, a precursor of Albert
and St. Thomas, a genuine representative of the Neo-Latin civilization.
He is the monk-philosopher. His lifelong training in the cloister left
its impress on his character as a man and on the style as well as the
contents of his philosophical works.