Feeling Proovy

Hello, girls!

We were talking about little Anselm, the 11th century Italian-French dreamer who proved the existence of God. Or did he?

Something of an intellectual athlete, Anselm wrote a complicated classical-style work called the “Monologion” that presented a portfolio of proofs nobody reads anymore. Then he realized his pretzel-chain of logic was too curvy for something as simple as God. So he went back to work.

The effort in which he formulated his famous proof was more of a meditation on faith than a piece of classical philosophizing. Called the “Proslogion,” the key, much-noodled-over passage goes like this:

“It is quite possible to think of something whose nonexistence cannot be thought of. This must be greater than something whose nonexistence can be thought of. So if this thing … can be thought of as not existing, then, that very thing … is not that than which a greater cannot be thought. This is a contradiction.”


Try this instead:

  1. Define God as the thing that is so great nothing greater can even be conceived
  2. In other words, God is “That Than Which Nothing Greater Can Be Thought” (famous phrase)
  3. Now imagine this God does not exist
  4. You can’t – as Anselm says, what you’re thinking is “a contradiction”
  5. How so?
  6. Because if you are thinking of a God who exists only in your mind – not in reality – than you are NOT thinking of the greatest thing ever
  7. Why not?
  8. Because it is “greater” to exist in reality than to exist only in the mind
  9. QED
  10. There is no #10
  11.  This proof does not go to 11

Tomorrow: The famous “Lost Island” — Or, how a contemporary of Anselm seemed to utterly destroy this argument …


11 responses to “Feeling Proovy

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    Why do you sometimes say “Hello, girls!” as if to assume all your blog readers are of the female sort?
    Just wondering.

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