Anselm, The Archbishop Of Canterbury

Good Essays

Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the first person to present an ontological argument for the existence of God. He actually proposes two different ontological arguments at different points in the Prosologium.
His first Ontological Argument for God’s Existence starts by defining God based on Christian belief as “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.” It is on the foundation of this definition that he builds his argument.
Anselm’s first point is that anyone who hears about God, this “being than which nothing greater can be conceived,” will be able to understand what he is hearing and grasp that definition of God. He then goes on to say that once a person has been told and has understood that definition, then they have …show more content…

The first critic is a monk named Gaunilo of Marmoutier, who lived at the same time as Anselm. His critique of Anselm’s first Ontological Argument for God’s Existence is that using the same argument one could prove the existence of things that do not actually exist.
Gaunilo supports his objection by presenting Anselm’s argument except with an island in the place of God as the thing “than which none greater can be conceived.” The argument seems to prove conclusively that there is an island “than which none greater can be conceived,” but since there is not objectively a maximally great island, the argument form is seemingly discredited.
Himma argues, however, that Gaunilo’s objection points out a limit to Anselm’s argument but does not actually disprove it. The properties of an island that make it great are not ones that have a conceptual maximum. Himma points out that it is this lack of properties with conceptual maximums that makes the island argument fail, not the argument form itself. On the other hand, the properties of Anselm’s Christian God that make that God great do have a conceptual maximum, properties such as perfect knowledge and perfect power. One cannot conceptually have greater knowledge than knowing “all and only true propositions,” or greater power than “being able to do everything that is possible to do.”
Therefore, Himma points out, the example of the greatest island simply shows that Anselm’s

Get Access