Metodebesinning in die Proslogion van Anselmus Cantuariensis

Venter, J J
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The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
In this (the fourth) article on Anselm’s method, the results of the previous article, an analysis of Anselm’s methodical practice in the Proslogion, are tested against the explicit indications he gives of his method in this work. This also gives more support to the thesis that Anselm’s method changed (deepened) from the Monologion to the Proslogion. This time he did not attempt again to place faith completely between brackets. Through this the fall into sin and salvation in Christ could now be made available to intellectual thinking. In the Proslogion the problem of intellectual insight into God (or the intelligible) is approached more from an epistemological angle (by means of a transcending construct, discussed in the previous article). But the Proslogion is not more ‘theological’ and less ‘philosophical’ in its approach than the Monologion. It only gives clearer expression to specifically Christian aspects (in a transcendental context) which had been suppressed in the Monologion. We are faced here with thinking in a tradition which presents itself from early Christianity as a philosophical search for God, which has its grounds in Stoic definition of wisdom as the knowledge of divine and human affairs, fused with the Platonistic idea that wisdom is knowledge of the intelligible. When Anselm characterises his thinking as sola ratione, he expresses a radicalised version of this tradition. The transcending and transcendental aspects of Anselm’s method are explained by analysing Anselm’s statements about method, specifically his intention (the ‘economy’ of meditation in the unum argumentum), as well as the conditions of arguing in search for God (faith on the way to understanding, no Scriptural authority, and illumination). The analysis leads to general inferences about the nature of the Proslogion, and dialogue with other characterisations of it. These cover a range stretching from ‘purely rational’ (and therefore ‘philosophical’) on the one hand to primarily a work of faith (and thus ‘theological’). F. S. Schmitt believes the Proslogion has basically the same character as the Monologion: the object being faith, but the content a purely rational presuppositionless defence of faith, which implies that the Proslogion is an ‘apologetical’ work. Stolz, on the other hand, argued that the Proslogion is an attempt to move from faith via reason to the vision of God, which, for him, implies that it is both a theological and a mystical writing. Gilson denies the work either a theological or a philosophical character, and sees it in line with the ‘Christian gnosticism’ of Clement of Alexandria. Gilson is correct that Anselm’s approach is similar to that of Clement, in following a path from faith through rationality to vision and unification with God in love, but this is also true of Augustine and the medieval mystics. Even though Clement typified himself as a ‘Gnostic’, he shared only the idea of a hidden (in his case allegorical) knowledge with the Gnostics (not their occult ideas and their theogonical thought). What they all have in common is an intellectualist form of semi-mysticism. It is not a complete mysticism in which the individual human is unified with the substance of God. It is rather a question of making room for a true intellectual approach within a context framed by faith and love, in such a way that faith purifies in advance, but does not intervene in the content of the argument, while love is intensified by depened insight. At the basis of this is the belief that the intelligible reality of Platonism and Neo-Platonism (the Ideas or blueprint for creation) had been identified with the Logos and therefore found its place in God. Every approach to deeper insight, regardless of how we characterise it, had therefore to go through the avenue of the intellect focused on the intelligible. This implied that God had to be the focal point of philosophy in search of the one, the good, the true being (or however one would choose to name the intelligible in Neo-Platonist Christianity). In a certain sense Anselm’s method can be studied from the point of view of any agenda, since in his intellectualist approach he simply meditated about the intelligible as part of a meditative attitude, in which ‘philosophical’ and ‘theological’ thinking, theory and life practice, form one and the same integral whole. Or stated otherwise: if ‘Ideas’ and ‘God’ are identical in the simplicity of the divine, then what Anselm can offer is nothing but a ‘theologised philosophy’, which for him was no problem since he was simply continuing in the tradition coming over a thousand years from Early Christianity.
Middle Ages -- Periodicals. , Renaissance -- Periodicals. , Middle Ages. , Renaissance.