Reading Anselm: Context and Criticism

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Friday, 29 April 2011

Gareth Matthews 1929-2011

The philosopher, Gareth Matthews, died in Boston, USA, on 17 April. An obituary can be found here. May he rest in peace.

He wrote on Anselm over many years. Here are some articles that I am aware of.

'On conceivability in Anselm and Malcolm' in Philosophical Review, 70 (1961) 110-111

'Aquinas on Saying That God Doesn't Exist' in The Monist, 47 (1962/3) 472-477.
Ian Logan comments: Matthews presents a brief but interesting critique of Aquinas on Anselm and an equally brief and interesting critique of Anselm's argument as a proof that there is a contradiction involved in saying that God does not exist. Matthews argues that since there is no contradiction in saying 'For any given thing, a greater thing can always be conceived' and 'There is nothing than which a greater cannot be conceived', Anselm's argument, as proof of such a contradiction, fails. The problem with Matthews' objection is that it overlooks the uniqueness of 'that than which a greater cannot be thought', which for Anselm is so great that 'definitionally' nothing greater than it can be thought. Thus, talk about something than which a greater can be thought is talk about something other than 'that than which a greater cannot be thought'. The contradiction occurs when the atheist talks not about something else (as they do in the examples Matthews cites) but when they talk about that 'than which a greater cannot be thought', i.e. God.

'Anselm, Augustine and Platonism' in B. Davies & B. Leftow, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Anselm, CUP, Cambridge 2004, 61-83.

'Anselm's argument reconsidered' in The Review of Metaphysics 64 (2010) 31–54 (with L.R. Baker).

Recently Matthews and Baker were engaged in an exchange with Graham Oppy.

Matthew and Baker, 'The ontological argument simplified' in Analysis, 70 (2010) 210-212.

Oppy, 'Objection to a simplified ontological argument' in Analysis, 71 (2011) 105-106

Matthews and Baker, 'Reply to Oppy's fool' in Analysis, 71 (2011) 303-303.

Oppy, 'On behalf of the fool' in Analysis, 71 (2011) 304-306.