Anselm and Aquinas

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Both Anselm and Aquinas, through their writings, affirmed their belief in the existence of God. Saint Anselm, who was born in Aosta, Italy around 1033 and served the church as prior, abbot, and Archbishop, shared this conviction. Likewise, Thomas Aquinas, a scholar priest born in Roccasecca Italy around 1224, also held firm to the belief in God’s existence. Despite living two centuries apart from each other, both Anselm and Aquinas demonstrated immense dedication to the church.

In this essay, I will discuss the beliefs of Anselm and Aquinas regarding God. I will explore their areas of agreement and disagreement on certain topics. Additionally, I will examine their responses to individuals who expressed doubts about God’s existence. Anselm defines God as “a being than which no greater being can be conceived.” He emphasizes the relationship between existence and reference in his argument, presenting a strong case for God’s existence without explicitly connecting Him to an ontology theory. Anselm further elaborates on the distinction between “existence in the understanding” and “existence in reality.”

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Anselm asserts that possessing a general notion of something is necessary to truly understand it. He further contends that if something only exists within the realm of understanding, it does not have actual existence in reality; only its concept exists. This suggests that what truly exists holds greater superiority over what doesn’t exist. Existence enhances the possessor and can result in a more satisfying life or a better perception of one’s way of living. Individuals who lack faith in God are frequently regarded as untrustworthy and unreliable.

According to Anselm, it is possible for us to conceive of God’s existence, but impossible for us to conceive of anything greater than God. The phrase “that than which nothing greater can be thought of” implies that grasping this concept requires imagining something beyond our imagination. From this line of thinking, we can deduce that this concept truly exists and is not limited to the realm of our thoughts. Aquinas backs up this notion by illustrating how certain things are in motion and potential motion transforms into actuality.

Aquinas argues that all motion requires an external force to initiate it and this sequence of motion cannot be infinite. Hence, he concludes that God must be the first mover since there is no alternative explanation. Aquinas believes that everything in the world depends on a cause for its existence; without a cause, there can be no effect. He questions why certain natural phenomena exist despite defying explanation, such as animals with common ancestors that should not exist. Aquinas also contemplates the state of existence before anything existed and ponders about the origin of life in our world.

Some entities on this planet are not of earthly origin, yet their existence requires an explanation. It is commonly held that God is the ultimate source for all beings and their characteristics, encompassing both positive traits and imperfections. Occasionally, nature exhibits puzzling behaviors that appear purposeful rather than random. Even though certain natural occurrences may lack intelligence, there must be a underlying motive driving their movements. These two individuals share both disparities and likenesses.

Both men share a common belief in God, although Jesus Christ is not extensively mentioned. Church played a significant role in their lives, as they pursued education and became dedicated members. Eventually, both men were recognized as Saints by a pope. Despite their involvement in the church, they also had a profound interest in philosophy. Furthermore, both individuals were highly educated. The existence of God, although unproven, was a subject of lively debate for these men.

Aquinas asserted that God was necessary to define all existing things, the functioning of the world, and the cosmos. Through the argument that physical entities are dependent and ultimately presuppose an independent entity, he posited that God became the cause and purpose behind the existence of the galaxy. Anselm explored the ontological concept that something cannot be greater than what exists in one’s mind and understanding, leading to the conclusion that it must also exist in reality.

Aquinas and Anselm hold different views regarding the search for evidence. Aquinas investigates the physical world to find evidence, while also recognizing the need for the mind to comprehend it. Conversely, Anselm believes that evidence can be found within one’s own mind. Each philosopher presents their own analogy: Anselm’s analogy is “And so, Lord, do thou, who dost give understanding to faith, give me as far as thou knowest it to be profitable, to understand that thou art as we believe.”

Anselm and Aquinas have contrasting views on the existence of God in their writings. Anselm believes that God is a being beyond imagination, while Aquinas argues that an infinite chain of movers cannot exist and therefore concludes that God is the ultimate mover. Despite their differing perspectives, both authors strongly defend their arguments.

Anselm responded to Gaunilo’s argument about the existence of a greater island than can be conceived. Gaunilo suggested that if someone tried to prove the existence of such an island, he would either think it was a joke or question who is the biggest fool – himself for accepting the proof or the person claiming to have established the existence of the island. Anselm then elaborated on the definition of God and explained that it is impossible to imagine God as not existing.

Anselm and Gaulino engaged in a debate about the existence of God. Anselm argued that God exists both in reality and understanding. In contrast, Aquinas not only wrote objections to his own writings but also considered objections from others. One objection raised was that proving the existence of God is impossible because it relies on faith. Aquinas responded by explaining that the existence of God, along with other truths about Him that can be understood through reason, serve as preambles to faith rather than being solely based on it. He compared this to how grace builds upon nature and perfection assumes something capable of being perfected. Although some may struggle to understand these proofs, they can still accept them as matters of faith. This objection was addressed in Aquinas’ second article.
In the third article, another objection stated that if one contrary is infinite, it would completely annihilate the other. Since “God” signifies infinite goodness, there should be no evil in the world if God truly exists. However, since evil does exist in the world, this objection concludes that God does not exist.Aquinas and Augustine strongly believed that as the highest good, God could not allow evil unless His power and goodness enabled Him to bring about good even from evil occurrences.This demonstrates His infinite goodness Both Aquinas and Augustine passionately expressed their convictions in their writings, emphasizing the significance these works held for themBoth philosophers, despite writing in different eras, put forth convincing arguments in their individual texts.

Both of these men may have been able to persuade an Atheist through argumentation. However, the drawback of their writings is their lack of access to the extensive information available in today’s world. This information could potentially have influenced their perspective on God. It is intriguing to consider what these men would have written if they lived in the present. Would they have focused more on the subject or altered certain details?

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Anselm and Aquinas. (2017, Jan 06). Retrieved from

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