St. Aquinas and St. Anselm

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Stevez0r, Nov 29, 2006.

  1. Stevez0r macrumors member

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    #1
    Working a question for philosophy, which is the difference between St. Aquinas and St. Anselm in their arguments for the existence of god. Any help will be much appreciated.
     
  2. iSaint macrumors 603

    iSaint

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    South Mississippi y'all, near the water!
    #2
    I reviewed this article and found it sufficient to answer your question.

    Just kidding, I didn't really review it, but it looked like it could give you a lot of info. Call your local priest!
     
  3. scem0 macrumors 604

    scem0

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    #4
    Anselm's argument for the existence of God was that God was the most perfect being imaginable and existing is greater than not existing therefore god, being perfect in every way, must exist.

    I do not know about Aquinas, but a minute or two of research reveals his argument against the ontological is as follows:

    Kind of hard to work through. I don't want to try to interpret it myself and give you a wrong interpretation so I won't do so. And as for his personal arguments for the existence of God, I don't know what they are.

    My thoughts on the ontological argument, if you're interested:

    Anselm’s Ontological argument has always stood out in my mind above the other philosophical arguments I’ve been exposed to. The Ontological argument simply states, “a being than which no greater can be conceived” – God – must exist because existing is greater than not existing (Oppy). While many statements by philosophers lack clarity and are often susceptible to subjective interpretations, the Ontological Argument is as clear and as logical as a mathematical equation – 1 + 2 = 3. I find Anselm’s argument to be brilliant, but not without flaws.

    Firstly, the argument rests upon the idea of existence being greater than non-existence. I agree with Anselm., but I am not completely sure of myself. How can anyone say for sure that existence is ‘greater’ than non-existence? Non-existence is not an easy concept to wrap one’s mind around. But there are some inferable qualities of non-existence that most could see as desirable. That which doesn’t exist can’t feel pain. That which doesn’t exist does not have to endure hardship. That which doesn’t exist does not have to endure anything at all. Some would argue that these qualities, among others, make non-existence greater than existence, disproving the base of Anselm’s argument.

    But even if the greatness of existence is assumed, Anselm’s argument is still flawed. Doesn’t everyone have a different idea of what is great? To me, the greatest conceivable being would love to eat a nice steak. To a vegetarian person the greatest being would probably not be a rampant steak eater. There are millions of qualities and attributes in each thing that exists. Would this perfect being have a physical form at all? Would it be kind or angry? Would it like to dance? Would it prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream? Would it give us money if we asked for it? No two people in this world could possibly agree about what’s ‘perfect’. So how can over 6 billion people agree on what is the greatest conceivable entity?

    Anselm might argue that the perfect being wouldn’t be subject to personal opinions and personal moral theory. It doesn’t matter that, to me, the perfect being would eat steak, because there’s only one ‘right’ thing to do regarding meat eating. Anselm might not know whether meat eating is immoral – I sure don’t - but the perfect being – ‘God’ – would, and he’d do what was morally right whether I liked it or not. But when personal morals are taken out of the equation the ontological argument loses any kind of purpose it has. Theists use the ontological argument to prove that the god(s) they believe in exist. They believe that their god(s) is the ‘perfect being’. That is not a supportable belief though. What if, in my opinion, the greatest conceivable entity has a physical form and it eats children in order to sustain itself? I could use the ontological argument to prove that this children-eating being exists. The ontological argument could be used to prove any kind of theistic belief.

    In fact, it can be used to prove just about anything. When Anselm first proposed the argument, a monk named Gaunilo retorted him. Gaunilo said that one could use the same logic to prove the existence of a perfect island. He told Anselm to imagine the greatest conceivable island. If existing is better than not existing then, according to Anselm’s logic, this island must exist (Williams). However, this island probably does not. The same goes for the greatest conceivable restaurant, the greatest conceivable roller coaster, the greatest conceivable dancer, et cetera. The only explanation I can think of for why this logic does not apply to worldly things is that other material, worldly things bind them. There’s not enough material in the world to build the greatest conceivable roller coaster. God, assumably would not be bound by such material limitations. However, I still think Gaunilo’s point illustrates a major flaw in the ontological argument.

    Despite the many downfalls of the ontological argument, I see it as a brilliant piece of philosophical logic. Few arguments have inspired so much thought. Many revisions to the argument have been written and many people have written solid refutes to its claims. I’ve been agnostic for years, and the ontological argument certainly doesn’t convince me that God, or a perfect being, exists, but it does make me more open to theistic beliefs in general.

    Bibliography

    Oppy, Graham, "Ontological Arguments", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
    <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2005/entries/ontological-arguments/>.
    Williams, Thomas, "Saint Anselm", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2005/entries/anselm/>.

    By the way, I wrote that for a class, not for you specifically :).

    Hope that helps a little.

    e
     
  4. thedude110 macrumors 68020

    thedude110

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2005
    #5
    Mmm.

    Start here.


    Then go here.

    Hint: In the Summa, Aquinas wipes the floor with St. Anselm. What happens when we don't agree on the thing that's bigger than you can think? Problem of reference, not beginning. Don't take the idea as the given, take the world as the given.

    And don't copy and paste what scem0 said. Or what the really smart Fordham guy said. 'Cause this here site is googleable.

    And then your professor will kick your metaphorical butt like Aquinas kicks Anselm's ontological butt.
     
  5. iSaint macrumors 603

    iSaint

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    South Mississippi y'all, near the water!
    #6
    dang boy!!!! wheredja get all them smarts?!?!



    :D
     
  6. scem0 macrumors 604

    scem0

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    back in NYC!
    #7
    hah, I don't got any :).

    e
     
  7. iSaint macrumors 603

    iSaint

    Joined:
    May 26, 2004
    Location:
    South Mississippi y'all, near the water!
    #8
    As I correct my students: "I don't got none" or "I ain't got none"

    If you're going to slang, go all out.

    I teach English BTW.

    :D
     
  8. Stevez0r thread starter macrumors member

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