Here’s the thing. King Kong Kant is depressing, at least to us here at TGPDN. We mourn. His simple statement that “Existence is not a predicate” seems to put a death-squeeze (or whatever King Kong’s technique is called) on the ontological pursuit of proving the existence of God using only our minds.
It gets worse. In the words of our secret celebrity crush, this is “pretty major!” There’s this thing called metaphysics, the discipline concerned with fundamental truths. For a millenium before Anselm, metaphysics included in its gorilla-hug a lot of what we today would call science (like cosmology and astronomy), philosophy, and theology (God’s existence).
You can see this in Anselm: He’s definitely doing philosophy (proceeding step-by-step from axioms, and so on) … theology, obviously … and science?
Stop all the clocks; cut off the telephone. I feel like we’re at the heart of matter here. Why Anselm – who was, let’s remember, an actual MONK – was so excited by a “Proof” that seems so obviously flawed to modern people. Why somebody like Kant found it such an easy target.
We modern types have a clear division in our minds: there’s Science, derived from the senses or things we have built to enhance them (like telescopes) … and there’s Speculation, including theology. Seems obvious, right: If something is not derived from sense evidence it is Speculation, which is unproven, open to debate, and – let’s face it – probably wrong.
Pre-moderns like Anselm did not think this way. There was no such split. It wouldn’t even occur to little Anselm that there was a categorical difference between what was revealed to him in his Speculation and something else called … well, a Proof.
So here’s what Kant does: he makes this difference explicit. He says proof of existence requires scientific evidence. Otherwise it isn’t proof. He and his cabal cleaved apart philosophy, science and theology, maybe forever!
He diabolically chauffeurs us to a location where God is just an educated guess, a hobby – a perfectly respectable belief, but not one that need engross us.
This is something people organize their LIVES around? Are they HIGH?
Hume may have been the first bold atheist in the great books canon, but there’s something about how utterly, meticulously, surgically Kant pisses on the burning fire of God that made religious thinkers get defensive (19th century), self-righteous (20th century) and finally just rude (21st century). Kant makes self-doubt a modern way of life. Danke, Herr Kong!
So where are we in our search for God? Anywhere?
Hmmm. There’s two ways to go here. Aquinas came up with proofs for God based on observations about the world (bottom-up). We’ll have to look at those. The other way is back to Anselm.
See, I think he’s been misunderstood. Augustine can help us here. Don’t give up yet. Light shines in the darkness and the darkness begins … slowly … to comprehend … 🙂