Today, in the calendar of the Episcopal Church, is the day we commemorate Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1109. He was born in Aosta, in northern Italy, around 1033 CE. He left home as a young man, traveling north, until he reached the Abbey of Bec in Normandy, where at Lanfranc’s urging, he embraced monastic life and took his vows in 1060 — succeeding Lanfranc as Prior in 1063 and later as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093. So he was roughly 27 years old when he finally settled down.
Anselm is probably best known for his ontological argument for the existence of God — which I studied way back in college. Basically it says that since God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, and since we have the idea of God (as unconditional being) in our mind, such a being has to exist (or there would be something greater) and we could not even talk about such a being if it did not exist outside of our mind.
I’m probably not doing a fair summary of the argument, possibly because it has always seemed a circular and unconvincing argument. (more…)