Ratio, Intelligere, and Cogitare in Anselm's Ontological Argument

Throughout Anselm’s writings one can trace what seems to be a paradoxical inconsistency in his treatment of reason (ratio), understanding (intelligere) andthought (cogitare). The Monologion begins by proposing that even an unbeliever can convince himself of truths about God, “simply by reason alone,” while in theProslogion Anselm claims, to the contrary, “I believe so that I may understand.” Much of this confusion can be resolved by clarifying Anselm’s distinctions betweenreason, understanding and thought. Thought follows reason, but reason can surpass understanding; one need not understand a conclusion reached through reason. Ultimately, one must understand what God is—‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannotbe-thought’—in order to prove through reason that one cannot think of God as non-existent, but the deeper understanding that God exists must come, not from reason, but through God’s illumination of one’s soul
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Conference Proceedings  History of Philosophy  Philosophy and Religion
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ISBN(s) 0065-7638
DOI 10.5840/acpaproc20098316
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