Introduction to Saint Anselm by Marciano Guerrero
Brief Biography of Saint Anselm
Saint Anselm (1033 - 1109) Archbishop of Canterbury, England.
Born near the border between what are now Italy and France, Anselm entered the monastic school of Bec in Normandy in 1060.
Anselm's interest was captured by the Benedictine abbey at Bec, whose famous school was under the direction of Lanfranc, the abbey’s prior. Lanfranc was a scholar and teacher of wide reputation, and under his leadership the school at Bec had become an important center of learning. Anselm entered the abbey as a novice, but given his intellectual and spiritual gifts brought him rapid advancement, and when Lanfranc was appointed abbot of Caen in 1063, Anselm was elected to succeed him as prior.
He eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, and is considered one of the most influential thinkers —together with Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas— of medieval Europe and Christianity.
Although he wrote many books, his Proslogion (1077–78), which includes his ontological proof of the existence of God, is what contributed to his lasting fame.
About Saint Anselm’s ontological proof that God exists
St. Anselm’s motto credo ut intelligam (“I believe so that I may understand”) reflected his intention to explain faith in God through reason. St. Anselm achieved fame for his ontological argument that proves the existence of God:
We understand God to be the greatest possible being, ‘that of which nothing can be greater.” But a God who exists only in our minds isn’t as great as one who is in our minds and also who exists in reality. So, since God is, by definition, the greatest possible being, he must exist in our minds and in reality.
From the above premises, Saint Anselm proceeds first to give a proof by reductio ad absurdum, also called indirect proof or proof by contradiction. So, reduction proves something to be true by showing that the opposite is untrue. The form or the argument is as follows:
Major premise: The more sleep one gets, the healthier one is,
Minor premise: Rip van Winkle slept 20 years
Conclusion: Rip van Winkle was the healthier for that.