Compare and Contrast Two Ancient Philosophers
For purposes of this essay, the writer will use the works of St - Compare and Contrast Two Ancient Philosophers introduction. Thomas Aquinas and St. Anselm. St. Thomas’ work for this essay will include his dissertation entitled ‘Summa Theologica’ and the concepts it presents on the question of God’s existence.
Similarly, St. Anselm’s treatise on the same subject, entitled ‘Proslogium’ will be examined wherein he expounds on the existence of God through an ontological argument.
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To begin, the writer’s understanding of both philosophical concepts will be presented to give context to the essay.
St. Thomas Aquinas’ discussion on the existence of God and the nature of His existence is composed of a series of questions which he answers in the ‘Summa Theologica’. These questions revolve around the subjects of man, his purpose, his relationship to God, compassion, theology and the Sacraments as well. Indeed, the Summa Theologica is St. Thomas Aquinas’ complete body of work and belief, which he must have hoped would lead fellow Christians to an understanding of God.
For purposes of this essay, the first part of the Summa Theologica will be examined, starting with the second question which Thomas Aquinas presented, wherein he wishes to inform readers of the existence of God and then proceeds to provide five proofs.
The first proof of God’s existence, according to St. Thomas, is that of motion. He explains that every object or entity is set into motion by another object or entity and the latter object may inflict force on another. This process is repeated continually and infinitely for all objects and enteritis—except for God. For St. Thomas Aquinas, God is considered the first mover, and he was not moved or may be moved by anyone or anything before or after Him.
He then uses this same distinction in the question of causes wherein God is described as the first cause. Causes apparently acted and functioned in the same manner as motion, wherein they may extend infinitely in one direction but must originate from a single source, or at the very least start from one ‘mover’. As God is designated this ‘first mover’, He is also considered the first cause, or without a cause.
ST. Thomas goes further again to explain the existence of all things. He explains that this existence may only be possible because of a necessity. This necessity is borne out of other objects.
One example may be clothing. Clothing would not exist if people did not have a need for it. If temperature was of no consequence then being unclothed all the time would not have any meaning and would be normal. However, necessity created clothing as human beings needed some form of protection from the elements.
However, St. Thomas Aquinas considered God a certain form of existence which did not warrant necessity that was actually necessity in itself. For the author, this would mean that this necessity was God itself, and perhaps he caused everything else to be necessary in the first place.
St. Thomas then begins to touch on God’s greatness, beyond His existence. He compares varying degrees of certain entities, positing that some are nobler, better and purer than others.
However, to be able to have any point of comparison, the least and the greatest must be established. It is here that St. Thomas describes God as the noblest, the best, and the greatest entity of all. He even quotes Aristotle and posits that the entity that exhibited the best qualities would no doubt be the perfect being. St. Thomas Aquinas described this perfect being to be God.
Finally, to finish his fivefold proof on the existence of God, St. Thomas Aquinas deals with the nature of objects and entities that are inanimate or do not have a mind of their own to make choices for them or to guide them.
These objects, according to St. Thomas, always followed a path wherein their purpose of existence would best be fulfilled, even if common knowledge shows that they are not capable enough of thought to induce this path of action.
St. Thomas Aquinas posits that God is the being which guides all these inanimate objects. The latter is responsible for guiding them to function in the best possible way to fulfill their purpose and as such they are able to perform so well.
One example perhaps could be water. Water could not have a mind of its own and acted based on its own physical properties. God, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, commands water and is responsible for its physical properties. Thus St. Thomas Aquinas establishes God’s power and the objects and entities He commands.
The next topic of discussion for this essay would be St. Anselm’s Proslogium, wherein he discusses the existence of God in an ontological argument and is said to give Christians a validation of their faith.
St. Anselm’s Proslogium is a short series of works that primarily deal with the existence and justification of the existence of God as well as the morals and values that govern Him and His followers. Not actually intended to convert and convince non-believers on the existence of God, it was actually intended to tell fellow Christians of how he (St. Anselm) believed there was a God and how it could not possibly conceived to be otherwise.
At first, one may think that St Anselm would talk and treatise in circles and roundabout arguments, but in the writer’s opinion, this is the nature of an ontological argument. The premise of the argument is actually the argument’s conclusion, and the said conclusion relies solely on the premise. That the argument even exists is proof of the subject’s existence. Commentary on the nature of the ontological argument will be discussed later in the essay.
For the author, an ontological argument would be an argument based on a definition. Using intuition and reasoning, St. Anselm assumed and reasoned the existence of God based on the concept of ‘being’ and thus treated God as a ‘being’ with certain special and enormous capabilities.
The implication that God exists is in itself proof that God does exists. The fact that there are so many arguments, so many proofs and counterproofs is enough to say that God exists in all people’s minds. Even those who do not think positively of God or who do not even think God exists contributes to this argument, because merely the consideration in one’s mind or the imagination of God in one’s mind is proof of His existence.
St. Anselm goes even further to present that God is a Supreme Being and that He exists as the highest power of all. St. Anselm argues this to his fellow Christians by distinguishing between reality and imagination and the nature of being between these two planes of existence.
Having already established that God exists in the imagination or in one’s mind, St. Anselm then moves to verify God’s existence in reality. By positing that God is a being that has no greater power than anything else, and conceiving it in one’s mind, one must then clarify that God exists in the same way in reality for one’s imaginary belief to be true.
St. Anselm’s definition of God as a Supreme Being with the greatest power in all existence is the central concept to his treatise. It is common in many arguments about the existence of God, but in the writer’s opinion, the nature and especially the length of St. Anselm’s work relies heavily and even solely on his own definition.
From the two philosophical perspectives presented, the writer will now form an opinion as to which of the two is the most lucid, real and supportive of moral and values.
One may initially think that St. Anselm’s short works and ontological argument in the existence of God would definitely not be commended on its lucidity. However, the intended target readers or audience that St. Anselm wished to reach out to may perceive his account as validation for their own faith.
Indeed, arguments based on faith are often subject to objective fallacies and the writer thinks that St. Anselm’s treatise is one of these. From a highly objective point of view, his argument, ontological and a priori in nature offers little for support and credence and does not give way to lucidity in a completely objective world.
However, to a Christian, his lucidity would be unquestionable and would even be praised for his higher understanding. Reality, according to the Proslogium, is a reality in which God is the greatest being merely because God exists in one’s mind. One may easily argue that not all that happens in one’s mind is real. One may well think that he or she is the supreme ruler of a country but this would not actually happen.
Having discussed two ancient philosophers’ accounts on God’s existence, it is time to evaluate their arguments. Using the existence of God as a basis of comparison and contrast, the essay will now attempt to see which account supports the existence and power of God best.
One thing must be noted, and this is that both accounts of God’s existence are based on the assumption that God is responsible for everything in existence, being the creator. Indeed, from reading the two accounts, one might be able to say that God is shown to be the Creator.
It is also noticeable that God is always the first in all things and had started all cycles. St. Thomas Aquinas shows this the greatest, describing God as the first cause, the first mover, the first of everything. It may be said that St. Thomas attributes all beginnings with the will of God.
St. Anselm, on the other hand, wishes to explain God as an existence warranted by an argument, by a collective imagination which is so strong that it could not exist without any form of proof, physical or non-physical.
This way, St. Anselm may very well be describing the existence of God akin to a rumor. This rumor is true because everyone thinks it is true, because the rumor is so widespread and it is uniform, it is consistent and it is imagined. The lack of physical evidence, or at the very least, documented physical evidence just strengthens the rumor and cements the argument.
In the writer’s opinion, ontological arguments are often found to be a fallacy and a very faulty one at that. Perhaps a presumption of faith is required to fully appreciate St. Anselm’s ontological argument. If one already believed in God without a philosophical argument, then St. Anselm’s treatise would no doubt cement this belief.
If St. Anselm’s treatise was cyclical in nature, always referring to God as both the cause and the conclusion, St. Thomas Aquinas saw God as the Originator, the First and Reason behind everything. Instead of a cycle, St. Thomas Aquinas presented an infinity sparking from one entity, which is God.
In the writer’s opinion, one must be a Christian and have some measure of faith to be able to appreciate both arguments. The question of lucidity concerning both their arguments is an extremely relative concern, wholly depending on one’s beliefs. But from an objective point of view, this writer would sooner accept St. Thomas Aquinas’ explanation of an infinity started with a supreme being than a cause supported by the conclusion.
This would be because at certain times some things may not be explained but in the future or at some other point in time they would be when understanding has reached higher levels. Simply interposing causes and effects with one another warrants a form of reasoning which lacks evidence.
Wolff, Robert. Ten Great Works of Philosophy. London: New American Library,