Augustinian Intellectual Tradition, Perfect Being Theology, Philosophy, Saint Anselm, Scholasticism

Anselm’s Ontological Argument

Saint AnselmSaint Anselm’s ontological argument:

“Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which nothing greater can be conceived. But obviously, this is impossible. Hence, there is no doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.”

Descartes’s ontological argument:

“But from the fact that I cannot think of God except as existing, it follows that existence is inseparable from God, and that for this reason he really exists. Not that my thought brings this about or imposes any necessity on anything; but rather the necessity of the thing itself, namely of the existence of God, forces me to think this. For I am not free to think of God without existence, that is, a supremely perfect being without a supreme perfection…”

The ontological argument for the existence of God is one that is rarely loved, let alone even liked, and is most often maligned as religiously motivated sophistry.

I have always been intrigued by the ontological argument. And I must admit, contrary to many detractors, I find it to be convincing. Maybe, if I am completely honest, my favorable disposition for the ontological argument is based, quite heavily, on the fact that it is controversial. The premises of the argument are are completely loaded; Anselm makes the argument from the context of a faith already accepted, the argument posits the absolute supremacy of God, it is couched within the context of ‘perfect being’ theological methodology, the argument utterly ignores the culturally engrained modern notion of empirical verification, and champions the a priori over the a posteriori, which is anathema in our scientific age.

Indeed, what are often considered deficiencies of the argument, I consider its strengths. If a naturalist opponent were going to be honest about the context of their arguments, for better or for worse, they too have loaded premises. The arguments are made within the context of an epistemological scientism already accepted rather than critically examined, they posit the supremacy of the scientific method over that of revealed truths, they utterly ignore the a priori rational foundation of which their strict empiricism rests, all while explicitly mistaking method for metaphysics.

Saint Anselm’s ontological argument is found within the context of a prayer – faith seeking understanding. The naturalist’s argument is found within the context of a denial of prayer – faith seeking scientific verification.


– Lucas G. Westman


2 thoughts on “Anselm’s Ontological Argument

  1. I think you made a typo in Anselm’s argument, because you lack the contradiction.
    I love this argument too. It feels like a proper proof, the kind mathematicians use and you can’t deny. I recently found Bonaventure’s expressions of the argument, which I think are perhaps even better than Anselm’s.
    God bless!


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