Faith or Reasons Essay

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Anselm's "ontological argument": faith or reason? It is sometimes alleged that Anselm's argument for God's existence in Ch. 2 of the Proslogion -- often called his "ontological argument" -- is not a purely rational argument but in some way depends on his Christian faith. It seems to me, however, that it does not depend on faith in any formal way. In this post I will suggest some reasons why someone might think differently and then argue that none of these reasons show that Anselm's argument formally depends on faith. But before I do that, let me comment on a couple related issues. First, some people say that Anselm does not have only one argument for God's existence in the Proslogion but two. M.J. Charlesworth, for example, thinks that in Ch. 3 there is an argument that is logically independent of the argument in Ch. 2. I have no quarrel with that view but do not intend to take a position on it here. I only wish to consider the Ch. 2 argument. Second, Aquinas and others argue (for a variety of reasons) that Anselm's argument for God's existence in Ch. 2 is unsound. I too am skeptical of its soundness. But I am not interested in that question here. I should also add that when I speak (perhaps infelicitously) of a "purely rational argument" in contrast to an argument that depends on faith (i.e., requires premises that can only be known through faith), I do not mean to imply that arguments that depend on faith are necessarily irrational. By a "purely rational argument" I simply mean an argument that only accepts premises from what reason can know by its own investigation of things without the aid of revelation. So, let's move on to some reasons why people might think that Anselm's Ch. 2 argument depends on his Christian faith: 1. There is the prayer to God in Ch. 1. Rational arguments do not typically include prayers to God. 2. At the conclusion of Ch. 1 Anselm

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