Anselm_Proslogion.pdf - God and Religion Introduction In...

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GodandReligionIntroductionInthepast,philosophyandreligionwereoftennotclearlyseparated,bothbeingconcernedwithunderstandingthenatureoftheuniverseandtheplaceofmankindwithinit.AssomeofreadingsinPartII(above)makeclear,severalofthegreatmetaphysicalsystem-buildersofearlieragesdevelopedtheoriesofrealityinwhichGodoccupiedanabsolutelycentralplace.Butitisequallytruethatthepracticeofreligiondoesnotalwaysrequirecomplextheoreticalspeculation.Along-standingtraditioninreligiousthoughtallowsthatsimplefaithcanbeassoundaroutetoawarenessofGodasthataffordedbyintellectualdebate:theroadtoheaven’,asDescartesobserved,invokinganancienttheme,‘isjustasopentotheignorantastothelearned1Nevertheless,withtherevivalofphilosophicalthoughtinWesternEuropeaftertheDarkAges,manyscholarsandtheologiansbecameincreasinglypreoccupiedwithshowingthattheChristianreligiondidnotdependonrevelationalone,butcouldbedefendedwithalltherigourofphilosophicalargument.Inthisclimate,itbecameacentraltaskofphilosophicaltheologytobeabletoprovideclearandcompellingproofsoftheexistenceoftheonetrueGodoftheBible,theomnipotentandperfectcreatoroftheworld.ThisPartofthevolumebeginswithanumberofclassiccontributionstothisprojectof‘naturaltheology’,theattempttodemonstratetheexistenceofGodbyrationalargument.Thestorythenmovesontothevexeddebatesoftheearlymodernperiodoversuchcriticalissuesastheproblemofevil,thepossibilityofdivinerevelation(throughmiracles),andthestatusofappealstotheorderfoundinthenaturalworldassupposedevidenceoftheworld’sdivineauthorship.Finally,aswemovecloser tothepresent,theclaimsoftraditionalreligioncomeunderincreasingpressure;andourconcludingextractsexaminethestruggleofnineteenth-andtwentieth-centuryphilosopherstoachievenewkindsofunderstandingofthenatureofreligiousbeliefandthemeaningofreligiouslanguage.DiscourseontheMethod[1637],parti.
1TheExistenceofGod:AnselmofCanterbury,Proslogion*PerhapstheshortestandmostelegantproofofGod’sexistenceeverdevisediswhathassincecometobecalledthe‘ontologicalargument’.OriginallyformulatedintheeleventhcenturybyStAnselmofCanterburyinhisProslogion(‘Discourse’),theargumentworksentirelyapriori-thatistosay,itdoesnotrequireanypremisedrawnfromexperience orobservationoftheworld.InsteaditfocusessimplyontheconceptordefinitionofGodastheutterlysupremebeing-orasAnselmputsit,‘thatthanwhichnothinggreatercanbethought’.Sofar,ofcourse,nothingisassumedaboutwhethersuchabeingactuallyexists,sincethatwouldbegthequestion.

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