Anselm’s writings carry the same theme as Augustine’s writings, that faith by nature seeks understanding. Anselm in the first chapter explains that he does not approach the existence of God as the fool but rather as faith seeking understanding. “But I do desire to understand Your truth a little, that truth that my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand (87).”
The fool to Anselm is the non-believer in God. In Chapter 2, he gives an ontological argument for God’s existence. He argues that God is “that which nothing greater can be conceived.” He says that the fool must admit that this exists in the mind. They of course will, but then deny that “that which nothing greater can be conceived” exists in the actual world. Anselm argues, that “that which nothing greater can be conceived” must exist beyond the mind in order to be “that which nothing greater can be conceived.” Because of this, there must be a thing that exists in reality, which is “that which nothing greater can be conceived.
The fool might respond by saying it’s possible for God to be thought to not exist so it follows that he does not. Anselm simply replies “And certainty this being so truly exists that it cannot be even thought not to exist (88).” If it could be thought not to exist than it would not be “that which nothing greater can be conceived”. This is a general summary of Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God.
Anselm’s epistemology has a starting point of faith so that you may understand. This is true, that one must trust something or someone in order to understand. Everyone as a child had to trust their parents and teachers in order to understand basic knowledge. At one point, we can understand on our own by having appropriate research skills, but you still trust your sources. Anselm’s epistemology of faith is true of all knowledge, you start with truth and trust that it is real to understand it. With God, you must first trust his revelation in order to know him. Even when the non-believer engages God’s revelation, they are seeking truth, which is faith seeking understanding.
Truth is usually defined as that which corresponds to reality. This is the correspondence theory of truth that deals with realism. If someone believes that they know true statements, then those statements must correspond to their reality. Anselm will give his thoughts on truth in a very similar way. This Book will take us through a dialogue between a student and teacher (Anselm). This dialogue is a way of how Anselm will show what truth is and what it entails.
Truth is eternal, meaning that there was never a moment in which truth never existed. For if there was a time in which truth did not exist, then it would be true that truth did not exist. This of course is self-refuting and contradictory because there is a reality in which things are true. Truth exists throughout all moments and even if there were somehow no moments, truth would still exist. This is the main point of Chapter 1 that Anselm makes about the very nature of truth,
Truth propositions describe right rectitude and or signifies something’s essence correctly. This is hinted at in chapter 2. “A statement then is right and true either because it is correctly formed or because it fulfills its function of signifying correctly (154).” Anselm gives the example of the proposition “Man is an animal”. This is an affirmation that denotes something positive over its negation that Man is not an Animal. This is defining the essence of man and makes ontological claims. A negative proposition “Man is not a stone” affirms that men do not carry the same ontological status of a stone. Affirmative statements are known as declarative statements with subjects and predicates. The point of all this is to show what something’s rectitude and truth is.
Truth has been defined, but rectitude has not. Rectitude has to do with statements that correspond to their orderness, casual relationships, purposes in reality, ect. These statements can only be known on realism, which says that we can know true things about reality. Anti-Realism would state that we cannot have precise claims about the nature of reality so we cannot know a thing’s rectitude. “Therefore if truth and rectitude are in the essence of things because they are that which they are in the highest truth, it is certain that the truth of things is rectitude (160).” If something has rectitude, then they “ought” to be that way. Anselm argues that rectitude is the highest form of truth that something can be.
Anselm shares in common with Augustine on the role of senses, the inner sense, and rationality. They both argue that we basically receive sensory information from the five senses. There is a type of inner sense that reflects on these and makes statements that are sense perception truths. The final stage would be the rational of these statements, for Anselm most likely, this would be the state that leads to the highest truth. When something goes through sense perception and the inner sense, then the rectitude of that thing can be discovered. “Therefore something is truly said to have been because it is so in reality, and therefore there is something past because so it is in the highest truth (165).”
Anselm is very similar to Augustine’s view of truth; they both would agree that all truth is God’s truth. The correspondence theory of truth is how we should perceive reality because in investigation of it presupposes this theory. Anselm truly shows this in his book on Truth. Things truly have rectitude and have purposes imposed by God since all truth is his. To know truth according to Anselm, it must first start with faith.
On Free Will:
“Therefore justice is not rectitude of knowledge or action, but of will (167).” This is Anselm’s definition of justice, which has to do will. “Therefore whatever does not will rectitude, even if it has it, does not merit praise for its rectitude. One who does not know it cannot will it (167).” It’s important to get his definition of justice in order to discuss his views of free agency since justice presupposes the acts of said free agents.
Every will according to Anselm has two components to it. “Every will wills both something and for the sake of something (168).” The Will is free, yet it is not an arbitrary act since willing has reasons. Every will has a what and why. Without the what and why, there is no willing. For a just will must will what it ought and the reason for why it ought to. This can be called a rectified will. This will follow moral obligations for the very reason it ought to.
Sin is what poisons the rectified will, which a true rectified will wills things of God. Sin by definition is willing against what God’s prescriptive will is and his moral obligations for his image bearers. It’s important to define what Anselm seems to hint at what the will is. The will is the capacity to act in some way according to the what and why. The will that abandons rectitude is sin itself. According to Anselm, man and angels free sinned prior to sin and needing the work of God for restoration. Man can abandon rectitude of will if he wills what temptation lusts after. Matthew 5 seems to hint at the desire that we can fall into, that why Christ says the lusting starts with the heart, which is used to say will. The rectified will that submits to God is more free than the will that submits to sin.
Anselm connects the will to the truth of things. Something’s rectitude is its truth and things should will towards what their rectitude is. God has created humans in his image which resembles his rectitude. Of course, this does not mean we are God, but are like him. Our own rectitude is similar with God’s rectitude. Our purpose is to will what God wants of his moral agents, to place their faith in him so that we may understand. Jesus Christ claimed to be the truth and to understand you must place your faith in him. All three of Anselm works here fit nicely on how salvation works. God’s will is for everyone to come to a saving knowledge of the truth, but humans must have a rectified will(faith) in order to understand him. These are true statements about God and his causal relationships with humans in the act of salvation.
Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works