Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) was a medieval philosopher, theologian, prior of Bec, and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. This volume includes the Monologion, the Proslogion, Gaunilo's reply to the ontological argument, and Anselm's reply to Gaunilo's reply. Anselm is known by the motto "faith seeking understanding." However, it should be noted that Anselm is not "hoping to replace faith with understanding" (xiii) but rather the better that you come to know God "the more you will see that he is worthy of all your love" (xiv). The Monologion proceeds on these themes, exploring God's Divine attributes and provides a few arguments for the existence of God. The reader will be immediately struck by Anselm's obsession with semantics - Anselm argues that "systematic reflection on the language of Christian doctrine is... always in the service of a better understanding of God" (xv). Anselm also discusses the question of Biblical metaphor, Trinitarian theology, and the rational soul.
The Proslogion contains the famous ontological argument. Anselm's ontological argument is as follows. Premise I: God is by definition that than which no greater can exist meaning that God is the most perfect object, the most perfect being that can be thought about. Secondly, it is understood that it is greater to exist in reality and the mind than to exist only in the mind. If you tell the fool who does not believe in God to think about the concept of that than which no greater can exist, that concept exists in his mind. Even the fool cannot doubt that the concept exists in his mind since he had heard it and understood it and "whatever is understood is in the mind" (pg 150). Premise II: Anselm states that that which exists in both the mind and in reality is greater than that which exists only in thought. God by definition is that than which no greater can exist and if it does not exist in reality it contradicts itself. Conclusion: God exists. The rest of the Proslogion applies this "proof" to other attributes of God.
Gaunilo's primary objection to Anselm's ontological argument takes the form of an island. Premise I: Imagine the perfect island, the island that no greater than be thought. Premise II: The Island of that than which no greater can be thought plus existence is greater than the island in the mind. Conclusion: Thus, the perfect island of that which no greater can be thought exists in reality. But we know that that island surely cannot exist in reality. Then Gaunilo shows that one can prove every highest form of any kind using his argument. Thus, man can think of the perfectly evil being in the mind and prove its existence.
Anselm replies that Gaunilo application of the island is a type of form, and the perfectly evil is a type of being. While in his ontological argument he was arguing for the greatest extent of being possible, not just a form of perfection, but ultimate perfection itself. In response to the argument that the mind cannot hold truth from "the verbal formula" (pg 150) Anselm states then the mind is not actually thinking of that than which no greater cannot be thought. And if the concept of than which no greater cannot be thought can be thought to exist then it must exist "of necessity" (pg 156).
Sadly, the Introduction to this work is almost to brief to be of much use besides explaining Anselm's Proslogion and Monologion. Gaunilo's reply is practically ignored and the ramifications of Anselm's ontological argument are not even touched on. Anselm's proof has long reaching Philosophical implications and influence and this volume apply lays out for the diligent reader the necessary primary sources. A must buy for the those interested in Medieval History and Medieval Philosophy (and hopefully other philosophy buffs)!