———. 1979. "The Ontological Argument." In God and Atheism. A Philosophical Approach to the Problem of God, 107-170.
Washington: Catholic University of America Press.
This chapter is a combination, with some minor changes, of two essays which appeared in Studies in Philosophy and the History of
Philosophy, ed. John K. Ryan (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press), i.e., "Duns Scotus and St. Anselm's Ontological
Argument," vol. IV (1969), pp. 128-41, and "The Ontological Argument: Proponents and Opponents," vol. VI (1973), pp. 135-92.
"St. Anselm's ontological argument is one of the most provocative and fascinating topics in the field of philosophy. Although the
subject of endless discussion, the argument continues to draw the attention of philosophers of different persuasions. New interpretations have superseded those
of the past and new insights into the controversy have been revealed which point out, among other things, the difficulty and complexity of the issue.
It has been customary to dismiss the Anselmian argument for the existence of God on the ground that it involves a transition from the ideal
to the real order, from a concept in our mind to the existence of the being so conceived. This transition, it is asserted, is never permissible, not even in
the case of the greatest conceivable being, as the argument seems to imply. The fact that many great thinkers, such as Aquinas and Kant, have felt a need to
refute the argument is a further proof, so it is claimed, that the ratio Anselmi has little more than a historical value. St. Anselm would have fallen
victim to an illusion, and no dialectical effort could ever rescue his argument from the attacks of its critics, even though no serious scholar would subscribe
today to Schopenhauer's view that the ratio Anselmi is merely a charming joke.
Yet, despite the many attacks and "refutations", the argument has a peculiar power of survival. There is a growing realization,
even among those whose philosophical background is very different from St. Anselm's way of thinking, that the argument is not as simple as it first appears to
be and that much of the criticism directed against it is due to a superficial knowledge of its context and the general framework of Anselm's thought. As a
contemporary author points out, "If Anselm is to be refuted, it should be for what he said, taken in something like the context which he provided, and not
for something someone else said he said, or a fragment of what he said, torn wholly out of context.'' (1) The Anselmian argument, which has been called
"one of the boldest creations of man's reason and a credit not only to its inventor, but to human reason itself," (2) is not to be treated lightly,
nor are some of its later formulations.
An objective study of the Anselmian argument in its actual context and historical development may reveal that, while undue credit has been
given to certain modern and contemporary thinkers for their role in the controversy about it, the actual contribution of philosophers who long preceded them in
the academic arena has often been neglected or even completely ignored. Yet it is perhaps in the writings of these forgotten masters, who both historically and
intellectually are closer to the "father of scholasticism" than their later contenders, that one may find a clue to a better appreciation of the
To avoid misunderstanding, a distinction must be made at the very outset between two different issues: first, the nature and scope of the
argument in the mind of its author, and second, the validity of the argument as an attempt to prove the existence of God. The first issue must be solved in
terms of the argument's original text as contained in the Proslogion and set in relation to Anselm's other writings where his philosophical, and
especially his epistemological, doctrines are more clearly stated. The solution of the second issue rests to a great extent on the critic's conviction as
regards the possibility, ways, and means of attaining to any knowledge of a Supreme Being by unaided reason. The failure to make such a distinction has
contributed to much of the confusion in appraisals of the Anselmian proof.
The purpose of this chapter is to present the essential features of the ontological argument as stated in the Proslogion and follow
the history of the controversy it has generated from Anselm's first debate with his fellow-monk Gaunilo down to the present day. The presentation will be
followed by a critical evaluation of the argument itself and of the argument's interpretations by succeeding philosophers and commentators." pp.
(1) Charles Hartshorne, Introduction to the Second Edition of Saint Anselm: Basic Writings, trans. by S. W. Deane (La
Salle, Ill.: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1962), p. 2.
(2) Richard Taylor, Introduction to The Ontological Argument from St. Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers, ed. by Alvin
Plantinga (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday "Anchor Books, 1965), p. XVIII.
Streveler, Paul. 1976. "Two "New" Critiques of the Ontological Argument." In Saint Anselme ses précurseurs et ses
contemporains, edited by Kohlenberger, Helmut, 55-64. Frankfurt: Minerva.
"We need only look back upon the history of medieval philosophy to become immediately aware that it was not only Gaunilon who saw reason
to criticise Anselm's famous argument. I would like to examine here, in a rather sketchy manner, two medieval critiques of Anselm's argument which, to my mind,
are quite unique and which, in many ways, far surpass in cogency and relevancy the common criticisms found in textbooks. The first I gather from certain
remarks of William of Occam which, are not directed precisely at Anselm's argument, but which are naturally applicable to it. The second is the critique of
Gregory of Rimini.
Occam's critique, it will be seen, rests upon a very subtle logical point, which is somewhat unique in medieval philosophy and which
anticipates views in modern symbolic logic. Occam was recognized even in his own day as somewhat of an innovator, although we have since learned that there
were others of his contemporaries of even more radical stature.
The second critique I gather from Gregory of Rimini, a younger contemporary of Occam, whose thought evinces certain affinities to that of the
latter. Rimini's fame among logicians of modern symbolic logic who attempt to see anticipations of later more sophisticated developments in medieval
philosophy, rests upon his doctrine of the cornplexe significabile which seems to be a subtle anticipation of our modern notion of a proposition, or at least
of the Fregean notion of the "object" of thought.
It should be remarked also, by way of introduction, that a great deal of the ideas and interpretations as well as of the scholarly references
utilized in this paper came to me through discussions with my former teacher and friend of happy memory, the late, Julius R. Weinberg." (pp.