Reading Anselm: Context and Criticism

A conference to be held at Boston College, 27-30 July 2015.

For more details go to conference website.
This Blogsite is dedicated to the work and legacy of Anselm of Aosta, Bec and Canterbury, who died in Canterbury on 21 April 1109.

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Saturday, 30 January 2010

Ralph McInerny (1929-2010)

I was saddened to hear that Ralph McInerny, who had been ill for some time, died yesterday (29 January 2010). He was well-known as a teacher, Thomist philosopher and novelist, but also for his translations of some of Anselm's works in the edition produced by Brian Davies and Gillian Evans, Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works. I had the good fortune to meet him when he was a visiting professor at Blackfriars in Hilary term 2008. He is remembered here and here.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Anselm's argument and the 'devil' parody

Yujin Nagasawa has just published an article which attempts to refute two versions of the 'devil' parody of Anselm's argument (those of Millican and Chambers). (See Y. Nagasawa, 'The ontological argument and the devil' in The Philosophical Quarterly, 60 (2010) 72-91.) Nagasawa's conclusion is that such attempted parodies fail as parodies because they are not structurally parallel to Anselm's argument (to which he unhelpfully, but in common with so many others, insists on referring as the ontological argument) or because they make assumptions that a proponent of Anselm's argument does not need to make. If one restructures a parody argument to meet these points, it is no longer a parody argument, but the argument itself (p.91).

One point that Nagasawa does not address is my suggestion that the proof of anti-God is a proof of the non-existence of anything that is nothing. (See Reading Anselm's Proslogion, p. 183). My view is that 'nothing' is a more accurate inversion of 'God' than 'devil'. In this way we can have a parody of Anselm's argument, which is not Anselm's argument, but is formally valid and produces a true conclusion. Of course, this would support the contention that Anselm's argument is sound.

My parody runs thus:

'Anti-God is that than which a lesser cannot be thought.
Anti-God does not exist in the understanding [alone] or it is not anti-God, since it is less great for it not to exist in reality than for it not to exist in the understanding [alone].
Therefore anti-God does not exist in the understanding or in reality, since this is less great than not existing in the understanding [alone].'