Anselm and Descartes’ Philosophical Thoughts

Free «Anselm and Descartes' Philosophical Thoughts» Essay Sample
  1. Introduction

Anselm and Descartes fall within the realm of the greatest religious and theological philosophers of all times. They both put forward an ontological argument for the existence of God using different methods. Anselm lived between the years 1033 and 1109. His philosophical thoughts, however, go beyond just the existence of God to explain human freedom, divine nature, redemption, and finally sin. Descartes, on the other hand, was born in 1596 and died in the year 1650. He was called the father of the modern philosophy. Apart from the idea of the existence of God, Descartes also engaged in other philosophical arguments such as Dualism and emancipation of the church. The paper will, therefore, discuss Anselm and Descartes’ philosophical thoughts, the principles of their epistemological and metaphysical theories and analyze how they represent the ancient, medieval, and modern times.

      2. Anselm

2.1. His Philosophical Thoughts

In his works about the monologion, Anselm argues that in the world, there must exist something that is good where all the good things on earth derive their goodness (Davies n.p.). He says that since good things vary in degrees, there must be that one thing that represents the greatest good. He, therefore, concludes that all things exist through that one great thing which is the source of goodness and is greater than any other thing in the world (Davies n.p.). The greatest thing that Anselm was referring to is God. After proving the existence of God in what he refers to as the monologion and the proslogion, Anselm goes further to examine the attributes of God. First, the states that since there is no other thing greater than God, the God is omnipotent (Davies n.p.). He goes further to state that God must surely be eternal in time. He is also merciful, non-physical, and invulnerable to human suffering; if He did not possess these qualities, then it is impossible to conceive Him as a supreme being. He argues that God is invulnerable to human suffering because He lacks emotions (Davies n.p.). According to him, God is impeccable and free from any imperfections (Davies n.p.).

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Anselm proves that God is a God of justice because of His merciful attitude towards sinners. He says that if God were unjust, He would punish every person accordingly. In response to the proposition about evil, Anselm argues that God and His Angels are not evil and cannot perceive evil because they are good. In contrast, human beings exercised their free will in committing evil (Davies n.p.). The proposition is reflected in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God. For the Angels, God gave them the choice of will in two folds; one is the choice of happiness, and the second is the choice of justice. For this reason, the Angels who are deemed as being good are incapable of committing sins. Anselm further puts forth a case for the redemption of human beings after committing a sin by stating that since human beings chose to exercise their choice of happiness over the choice of justice, God gave them a second opportunity when He sent Jesus Christ to die for the salvation of the human race (Davies n.p.). Therefore, human beings can acquire their choice of will by accepting Jesus Christ as their savior.

2.2. The Principle Features of Anselm’s Epistemology and Metaphysics

While epistemology is concerned about uncovering the beginnings of things as they exist in the world, metaphysics tries to answer questions asked but unanswered in science. Anselm relied much on the ontological theory of metaphysics to explain the existence of God (Davies n.p.). He believed in picking an idea that is not well-argued or developed by scientists like the idea of the existence of God. The next principle is to pick an alternative way of getting an answer to the unexplained idea. The model adopted must be made greater through a human value (Davies n.p.). The next principle is to come up with a metaphysical claim and expose it to criticism. If the critics falsify the proposition, then one must return to the development of another model. If it stands out, the proposer must then focus on the reality. These are the main principles used by Anselm in explaining the existence of God. Regarding epistemology, Anselm used the principles of reason and logic to explain the idea of God’s existence. He follows the formula if A, then B. For example, if goodness exists in degrees, then something which is a greater good must exist.

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 2.3. How Anselm Represents the Ancient, Medieval and the Modern Times

The medieval philosophers to which Anselm belonged tried to uncover the existence of God. The use of scholasticism method by Anselm identifies him with the medieval period. Apart from this, the use of logic as demonstrated by Anselm also relates him with the ancient times philosophers. As a representative of the modern era, Anselm uses reason to address the questions unanswered by the scientists of the modern times.

      3. Descartes Philosophical Thoughts

Descartes just like Anselm used both epistemology and metaphysics in relaying his philosophical thoughts. First, Descartes puts forth an argument in rejection of the use of senses in the acquisition of knowledge (Lacewing n.p.). He, therefore, explains God’s existence in his ontological theory using both reason and substance. First, Descartes refers to God as the only substance in the world. Other substances in the world were created out of this substance. Human beings, therefore, are also substances as they are derived from God, who is the substance as well (Lacewing n.p.). He further advances his ontological argument by stating that since the Universe was created in an orderly fashion, there must exist a supreme being responsible for its creation. The Supreme Being is, therefore, God. As a result, God is omnipotent which depicts His orderliness (Lacewing n.p.). Descartes uses a triangle to explain the perfection of God. He argues that just like the sizes of the Angles of A triangle are perfect, so is God; therefore, it would be unintelligible of any person to imagine the inexistence of God. According to him, the idea of God is intertwined with the idea of existence (Lacewing n.p.). In summary, since there exists a perfect Supreme Being, the existence by itself is perfection meaning that God must exist

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3.1. The Principle Features of Descartes Epistemology and Metaphysics

Concerning epistemology, just like Anselm, Descartes used both reason and logic to uncover the existence of God and the Universe. He used skepticism, objectivity, and subjectivity as well as the source of knowledge to advance his arguments (Brown n.p). Concerning metaphysics, Descartes used the mind and body as substances to prove the existence of things like religion, science as well as the free will (Brown n.p.). These components form the major principles of Descartes’ metaphysical arguments. He incorporates theology and natural science in uncovering the mystery of the existence of God (Brown n.p.). Descartes further depicts God as the only substance, which is responsible for the creation of other substances in the world.

3.2. How Descartes represents the Ancient, Medieval and Modern Times

Descartes himself belongs to the modern period as he is deemed the father of the modern philosophy. This is because of the introduction of the idea of reasoning in science and mathematics. By his ontological argument, Descartes represents the medieval period as the idea was introduced by Kant and then Anselm. He also associates himself with the Ancient period because of his use of logic and reasoning as the ways of reveale the existence of God

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      4. Conclusion

In conclusion, Anselm and Descartes share a lot of things in common. Through their ontological arguments, the two philosophers agree that there exists a supreme being who is responsible for the creation of the Universe. They further agree that the Supreme Being is greater than any other thing in the Universe. He is omnipotent and merciful. The two philosophers also use the metaphysical and epistemological thoughts in their arguments which identifies them with the ancient, medieval and modern times.


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