Anselm on truth

Abstract
A good place to start in assessing a theory of truth is to ask whether the theory under discussion is consistent with Aristotle’s commonsensical definition of truth from Metaphysics 4: “What is false says of that which is that it is not, or of that which is not that it is; and what is true says of that which is that it is, or of that which is not that it is not.”1 Philosophers of a realist bent will be delighted to see that Anselm unambiguously adopts the Aristotelian commonplace. A statement is true, he says, “when it signifies that what‐is is.”2 But the theory of truth that Anselm builds on this observation is one that would surely have confounded Aristotle. For no matter what the topic, Anselm’s thinking always eagerly returns to God; and the unchallenged centrality of God in Anselm’s philosophical explorations is nowhere more in evidence than in his account of truth. Indeed, we see in the student’s opening question in De veritate that the entire discussion has God as its origin and its aim: “Since we believe that God is truth, and we say that truth is in many other things, I would like to know whether, wherever truth is said to be, we must acknowledge that God is that truth.”3 The student then reminds Anselm that in the Monologion he had argued from the truth of statements to an eternal Supreme Truth. Does this not commit Anselm (the student seems to be asking) to holding that God himself is somehow the truth of true statements? But what definition of truth could make sense of such an odd claim? Anselm is happy to take up the challenge of showing that his description of God as “Supreme Truth” is no mere metaphor, but the expression of the deepest insight into the nature of truth. An account of truth is just theology under a different name. This first distinctive characteristic of Anselm’s theory, the centrality of God as Supreme Truth, helps account for a second distinctive characteristic: its strong insistence on the unity of truth. All truth either is God or somehow reflects God; thus, one simple being provides the....
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