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Mind Association

The One Fatal Flaw in Anselm's Argument
Author(s): Peter Millican
Source: Mind, New Series, Vol. 113, No. 451 (Jul., 2004), pp. 437-476
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the Mind Association
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The One FatalFlawin Anselm'sArgument

Anselm'sOntologicalArgumentfails,but not for anyof the variousreasonscommonlyadduced.In particular,
its failurehasnothingto do withviolatingdeepKantianprinciplesbytreating'exists'asa predicate
or makingreference
to 'Meinongian'
entities.Itsone fatalflaw,so farfrombeingmetaphysically
deep,is in factlogically
shallow,derivingfroma subtlescopeambiguityin Anselm'skeyphrase.Ifwe avoid
of reference
to whichit givesrise,thenhis argumentis blockedevenif his supposedMeinongianextravagances
Moreoverit is blockedin a waywhichis straightforward
andcompelling(bycontrastwiththe Kantianobjections),andwhichgeneralizes
easilyto otherversionsof
the OntologicalArgument.A significantmoralfollows.Fearof Anselm'sargument
hasbeenhugelyinfluentialin motivatingontologicalfastidiousness
to countenance
talkof potentiallynon-existingentities.Butif thispaper
is correct,thentheOntological
cannotproperlyprovideanysuchmotivation. Someof the mostinfluentialcontributions
to ontology,fromKantto Russell
andbeyond,reston a mistake.

The OntologicalArgument,and Anselm'sversionin particular,has
long held a fascinationfor philosophers,but not usuallybecausethey
havefoundit convincing.On the contrary,mosthaveconsideredthe
argumentto be unquestionablyfallacious,no doubt often on the
groundthatit is just'too good to be true',purportingto demonstrate
the existenceof God fromwhatlooks like a meredefinition.Butthe
remainsintriguingbecausedespitethe effortsof
many notable philosophersover the centuriesit has provedto be
extremelydifficultto pinpointexactlywherethefallacylies.Manydiagnoseshaveof coursebeenproposed,andone of these,namelythe Kantiandoctrinethat'existenceis not a predicate'(especially
by the Fregeanquantificational
treatmentof existence)hasfor mostof
the last centuryassumedthe statusof orthodoxy.But eventhis most
popularobjectionto the argumenthasnot stoodup entirelyconvincinglyundercriticalscrutiny,partlybecauseit hasneverbeenfullysatisfactorily elucidated and defended, but also partly because its
implicationsfor the argumentareanywayratherobscure:supposewe
Mind,Vol. 113 . 451 . July2004

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Millican 2004

438 PeterMillican

acceptthat'exists'is not 'logically'a predicate how exactly doesthis
undermineAnselm'sreasoning:whichparticularstep in it failsto go
through,andwhatrighthavewe to presumethatit cannotbe reformuThesequestionsof detail
latedwithoutthe objectionable
duringtheheydayof theKantianslogan,
which was commonlyassumedto demolishthe foundationsof the
argumentso completelyas to renderit unworthyof furtherdiscussion.
Howeverthis sort of dismissiveattitudecan,paradoxically,
argumentwith morestatusthanit wouldotherwiseenjoy.Forif it is
frameattackedonly by meansof a generalassaulton the metaphysical
workwithinwhichit functions,thenthe impressionmaybe giventhat
Andthe historyof philosophical
it standsor fallswiththatframework.
debateindicatesthatfundamentalobjectionsto metaphysicalframeArgument's
worksareseldombeyonddispute,so thatif theOntological
validitywerethoughtto dependexclusively on whetheror not 'exists'is
a predicate,then this wouldbe likelyto encouragethe viewthatperhapstheargumentmightindeedbe worthtakingseriously.Becauseit is
surelynot, afterall,so very obviousthat'exists'can never functionas a
genuinepredicate(consider,for example,the questionof whether
In myviewa farbettermethodof refutinga philosophicalargument
is, wherepossible,to challengeit at thelevelof detail,takingforgranted
its fundamentalframeworkbut then showingthatit failsevenon its
sucha refutationcan
owntermsto establishitsconclusion.If successful,
founthanan attackon an argument's
be farmoresolidandpersuasive
dations,if onlybecauseit is so mucheasierto be confidentaboutshaltheories.This,then,is
Argument,develtheapproachthatI shalltaketo Anselm'sOntological
opingon his behalfa radicallynon-Kantiantheoryof existence-independent'natures'withinwhichhis argumentcan be framedso as to
resistthe standardobjections,but thengoingon to identifya hitherto
flawin his reasoningwhichnot onlyinvalidatesthe arguunremarked
mentin its originalform,butwhichalso,unlikethosestandardobjections, operatesat a levelwhichmakesit ineradicableby anyplausible
Argument,in otherwords,failsto prove
the existenceof God even at the relativelysuperficiallevel of logical
detail.Andit failsfora refreshingly
of its
it tradeson anequivocation
centralconcept:one underwhichit providesan invalidargumentfor
' Indeed the Kantiandoctrine can and has been challengedmore generally,as recentlyfor example by McGinn (2000, Ch. 2), who advancesa number of strong argumentsagainstit.

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God'sexistence,and anotherunderwhich it is valid- and indeed
sound butfailsto provethe existenceof God.
2. Anselm'stext
AnselmsOntologicalArgumentis presentedin his Proslogion, starting
with ChapterII)thoughwherethe argumentendsis morecontroversial.Hereis theentiretextof ChapterII,entitled'ThatGodtrulyexists',
generallyfollowing with one footnotedexception the deliberately
by Charlesworth
II Wellthen,Lord,Youwhogiveunderstanding
to faith)grantme thatI
mayunderstand,as muchas Yousee fit, thatYouexistas we believe
Youto exist,andthatYouarewhatwe believeYouto be. Nowwe believe that Youare somethingthan which nothing greatercan be
thought.Orcanit be thata thingof sucha naturedoesnot exist,since
'theFoolhassaidin hisheart,thereis no God'?[Anselmherealludesto
Psalms13:1and 52:1 in the Vulgatgwhichare Psalms14:1and 53:1 in
Hebrewand moderneditionsof the Bible.] But surely,whenthissame

Fool hearswhat I am speakingabout)namely)'something-thanwhich-nothing-greater-can-be-thought',
he understandswhat he
hears,arldwhathe understands
is in his mind,evenif he doesnot understandthatit actuallyexists.Forit is one thingforan objectto exist
in the mind,andanotherthingto understandthatan objectactually
exists.Thus,whena painterplansbeforehand
whathe is goingto execute}he has [thepicture]in his mind,buthe doesnot yetthinkthatit
actuallyexistsbecausehe has not yet executedit. However,whenhe
has actuallypaintedit, then he both has it in his mind and understandsthatit existsbecausehe hasnow madeit. Eventhe Fool,then,
is forcedto agreethatsomething-than-which-nothing-greater-canbe-thoughtexistsin the mind, since he understandsthis when he
hearsit) andwhateveris understoodis in the mind.Andsurelythatthan-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought
cannotexistin the mind
alone.Forif it existssolelyin the mind}somethingthatis greatercan
be thoughtto existin realityalso.2If thenthat-than-which-a-greatercannot-be-thoughtexistsin the mind aloneathis samethat-thanI am





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of any




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the 'Gaunilo'


Hartshorne(1967).and will takefor grantedthathe intendedit as a contributionto naturaltheology. This content downloaded from 163. lo. Henry (1967)pp. 3 See Campbell (1976) pp. 40-8.440 PeterMillican is that-than-which-a-greaterwhich-a-greater-cannot-be-thought can-be-thought. and Campbell(1976)pp. 51-68.the'fatalflaw'referredto in mytitle concernsthe keyphrasewhichis commonto both chapters.Also pertinentare Charlesworth(1965)pp. 198-206. 12-28. 172-8.Whether than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought Anselmsawthis as equivalentto establishingthat Godexists(as suggestedby the chapter'stitle) is debatable-Campbell.see especially McGill(1967)pp.5Myaimhereis logicalratherthantheological to get to the bottomof a puzzlethat interpretationof his key phrasewhich will prove of significancelater (cf.10. 6-8.Butthis is obviouslyimpossible.evenif willinevitablyinfecttheargumentof Proslogion thatargumentis supposedcapableof standingentirelyalone. Barnes(1972)pp. fn.going on to deducean importantcorollaryregardingGod'sspecialmodeof existence ('thatGod cannotbe thoughtnot to exist')usingan argument andPlantingahave suchasMalcolm.3Butit is anywayevidentthat untilthe secondparagraph Anselm'strain of thought continuesinto that chapter. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Henry (1967)pp.becausealthoughI shallbe examiningonlyChapterII. see for example Malcolm (1960). 142-50 provides a detailed and illuminating discussion of the logical relation between ProslogionII and III. 41 below).Hartshorne.Thereforethereis absolutelyno doubtthat something-than-which-a-greater-cannotbe-thoughtexistsbothin themindandin reality. Lewisultimatelyexploitsthis to drawa characteristicmoral. for example.and Plantinga(1974)Ch. arguesquite persuasivelythat the definiteidentificationof God as be-thought is not achieved something-than-which-a-greater-cannotof ChapterIII.68 on Mon.rather thana vehicleformysticalilluminationor a workof Konklusionstheologie (theinferringof one articleof faithfromanother). 4 For defence of Anselm'ssupposed 'second'OntologicalArgumentin ProslogionIII.0. 148-50. that the seductivefallaciousnessof the OntologicalArgumentgoes hand in hand with a prejudicefor the actual.I shallalsoignorethe interpretative motivesin presentinghis 'OntologicalArgument'. is clearlyintendedto establish(atleast)thatsomethingThisparagraph exists in reality.4 it is possiblehereto ignoreexegeticalquestionsaboutthe Fortunately preciserelationshipbetweenAnselm'schapters.ForsimidebateaboutAnselm's larreasons. 5 For a discussion of this issue.andso it ChapterIIIalso. who acknowledges here the prior influence of Stolz (1933) pp. whichcommentators eventhoughtto constitutethe coreof his entirechainof reasoning. which came to prominence with Barth (1931).

(3) It is greaterto existin realitythanto existin the mindalone. sinceit is obviouslyimpossi(5) Butthiswouldbe a contradiction.then it wouldbe possibleto thinkof somethinggreater(thatis.for discussionrelevantto its Konklusionstheologie naturaltheology.thoughultimatelyflawed. ble to thinkof somethinggreaterthanthat-than-which-nothcan-be-thought.see especiallyfns 2 and 26. ing-greater- (6) Thereforesomething-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thoug mustexistbothin theFool'smindandin realityalso.but farmoresubtleandresistantto criticismthanmostof havesupposed.Someof theseobjectionsareclosely theyhaveoftenbeenconflatedwith interrelated. Giventhat it occupiesonly a singleshortparagraph.6 existed (4) So if that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought only in the Fool'smind.10.Readas mysticalillumination it wouldbe trivial.Anselm'sarguvarietyof criticisms.0.andnine standard objections Theessentialstructureof Anselm'sProslogionII argumentseemsto be as follows: (1) The Fool understandsthe phrase:'something-than-which-be-thought' nothing-greater-can (2) Hence something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought existsatleastin theFool'smind. its commentators 3.but as it wouldbe confused.and understandably eachotherin the literature.butthesummary menthasprovokeda remarkable abovecanhelpus to situatethe mostimportantof thesein termsof the stepswith whichtheytakeissue.TheOneFatalFlawin Anselm'sArgument 441 hasperplexedphilosophersformanyyears andin pursuingthisaim.but I havetriedbelowto disentanglethem 6This premissis implicit in Anselm'stext ratherthan turnsout to be not only fascinating.68 on Mon.Moreovertheupshot of all this will be that the traditionalinterpretationof ChapterII of Proslogionis by farthe mostinteresting. Thestructureof Anselm'sargument. my analysiswillbringto lighta crucialambiguitywhichis highlyrelevantwhateverAnselm'smotivesmighthavebeen. somethingexistingin realityalso). 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . This content downloaded from 163. does Parsons(1980)p.0. Cargile(1975)pp.68 on Mon.cannotmake sense. para23) iS perhapsthe most familiarexamplehere (though Berkeley'swordsmaybeara less objectionable interpretation). 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .10. andhencehis entireargument.a unicorn.8 intentional objectfallacy Evenif the notionof mentalentitiesthatgenuinely'existin the mind' canbe madesenseof in someway.who describesit as an illicit switch from a de dictoto a de re readingof the key phrase.anunconceived tree)to 'Thereis anX of whichI'm conceiving'. 215. This is a confusion.7 (b) Thementalentityconfusion In movingfrom step (1) to step (2) Anselmtreatsthe mentalexistence of something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought as involvingmereunderstandingof the phrase)whereasin movingon from step (2) he treatsthis mental'existent'as an entity in its own right. This content downloaded from 163.need not therebyreallyexistas such at all-it is not a genuine entity with propertiesthan can be assessedand comparedwith those of otherthings.442 PeterMillican so thatas faras possibleeachconcernsjustone veryspecificpoint)and giveneacha nicknameto facilitatereferenceto themin whatfollows. 60-62 8 for criticismalong these lines. (a) Theneo-Platonic presupposition Anselm'snotionof (greatness'.9 (c) rhe 7See Charlesworth(1965) still seemsquestionableto infer from(1) 'TheFoolunderstands thephrase"something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought"' the apparentlyfarmoresignificantexistential claim (2) 'Something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-bethoughtexistsin theFool'smind'Thisinferenceseemsanalogousto the well-knownfallacyof moving from 'I am conceivingof an X' (for example.conceivedor thought about. his keyphrase'something-than-which-nothinggreater-can-be-thought'. since something that merely 'exists in the mind) in the sense of being understood. andalsohis specificjudgementsof relative greatness)presupposea neo-Platonicbackgroundof'degreesof existence)andmetaphysical Cperfections' whichwouldnowbe generally rejected. 9 Berkeley's argument that it is a contradiction to conceive of an unconceived tree (1710. 75-6 advancesthis objection to Anselm particularlyclearly.Prior (1976)pp. 60-3 identiSesthis fallacyas Anselm'sprincipalerror.

This dismissive attitudeto the argumentcontinued to be the norm for severaldecades(as typifiedby Flew (1966) This content downloaded from 163.Rather.andstep(4) fallacious.0.His introductionof the phrase'that-than-which-nothingis in movingfromstep(2) to step(4). 251 and Kneale (1936) pp.g.on similargrounds. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . If Goddoesnot exist. it soon became almost routine for analyticphilosophersto recitethe Kantianmantraas though it were an immediate and complete refutation.The OneFatalFlawin Anselm'sArgument 443 difficulty (d) Thecomparison Thereseemsto be somethinglogicallyodd aboutpurportingto comparesomethingthatexistsonly 'in the mind'with somethingexisting in reality. para53) and Russell(e.therefore.its existenceseemsto if it is to haveanypropertiesat all.moreover. 54 appealsto his theory of descriptionsin attacking.a Cartesianversion of the argumentstarting'The most perfectBeinghas all perfections'. 66-7. 224-6.g.Sowhen be somethingpresupposed greatBeing.SoAnselm'sstep(3) is incoherent. relating it to what I call below the 'KantianDogma'.10. i l Barnes(1972) pp. Hume (1739) pp.ThereforeAnselm'spremiss(3).whichcruciallydependson the possibilityof doingso. 154-6. greater-can-be-thought' thatthereis one unlesshe hasalreadyestablished illegitimate presumably andonlyonethingto whichthisphrasecanrefer. 13. p. Ryle (1935) p. nificant). Russell(1905) p. 181and Charlesworth(1965) pp.butour we thinkof God. e.l1 byantecedently is nota predicate') (f) TheKantiandogma('existence As Kantfamouslyargued(anticipatedto a significantextentby Gasexistence sendiandHume). andhence as a propertythatcharacterizes tributeto the assessmentof its greatness. is dubious.we thinkof an existingsupremely abilityto thinkof Him in thiswayis quiteindependentof whetheror not He reallyexists. 19l9. 12 Gassendi(1641) pp.10 (e) Theuniquereferentproblem Anselmseemsto equivocatebetweenthe indefinite'something-thanmorespecific andtheapparently which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought' also (he 'that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought' combines ending'-than-which-aboth'something'and'that'withthe alternative butthisvariationseemsto be logicallyinsiggreater-cannot-be-thought'.l2it seemsdubiousto considersomething's can conthat factor as a it.thisin no wayimpliesthatthe concept great of Godfailson thataccountto be theconceptof an unsurpassably Being. 203).or evenof whetheror not we believeHimto exist. 500-7.13 '° Both Broad (1953) p. 80 sees this assumptionof singularityas the main flawin Anselm'sargument. 63-65 press this point. 13 No doubt influencedby Frege(1884. Kant (1781) pp.68 on Mon.andhecando thisonly provingtheexistenceof God.

it is alwaysa furtherquestionwhetheror not theyarerealised or instantiatedin reality. This content downloaded from 163. therecannotbe a contradiction in ourthinkingof'somethinggreater. applying it first against Descartes (pp.on the otherhand. 114-8proposes the SeparateRealmsPrinciple(throughthe kind of dilemma describedhere) as 'The GeneralObjection'to all ontological arguments.we mustgo his SummaContraGentiles. on the one hand.and the main part of his substantial book consists in applying this type of objection to a wide range of such arguments from the vast OntologicalArgumentliterature(cf.10.the SeparateRealmsPrinciple takesissuewiththe stepsfrom(1)to (4) by facinghim witha dilemma overthe realmwithinwhichtheyareto be interpreted. 14 Mackie (1982) focuses on this objection. concerningonlythe contentof the Fool'sconception).thatthereis no contradictionas claimedin step (5).68 on Mon..l5 (h) TheAquinasrebuttal Aquinasseemsto suggest. 36 below). becauseunlessthe realexistence of that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought is already presupposed.0. If.then(2) canindeedbe inferredfrom(1)butstep(4) failsbecause externalexistenceis irrelevantto thatrealm(Mackie1982 p.under the guiseof 'greatness'.thisin no wayguaranteesthattheremustbe somethingrealcorrespondingto that concept.16 The precisereasoningbehindAquinas'srebuttalis unclear(andwasabbre- p. 15 Oppy (1995)pp. withinourconceptof God.If.. 48-9) and then againstAnselm (pp.l4 So evenif we includeexistence.As appliedto Anselm'sargument. but has noticeablydeclinedmore recently.our conceptof an objectmaycontain. 80). 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .in line with the relativetoleranceof 'Meinongianism'alludedto in the final paragraphof this paper.(Kant1781p.andhowevermuch. 52 putsthe point nicely:the non-existenceof a supremebeingoutsidethe mind doesnot implythatthe Foolhaswithinhis mindtheself-contradictory conceptionof a-not-really-existing-being-than-which-nothing-greatercan-be-conceived).(2) iS to be interpreted in such a waythatone can only 'think'aboutsomethingthatexistsin reality. 51-5). 506). if we areto ascribeexistenceto the object'.Thisimpliesa gulfbetweenthe realmof conceptsandtherealmof realthings:no matterwhatconcepts we devise. fn. therefore.444 PeterMillican (g) Theseparaterealmsprinciple Kantroundsoff his discussionof the OntologicalArgumentby stating the principle'Whatever.(2) and(4) areto be interpreted aspropositionswithintherealm of concepts(thatis. thananythinggivenin realityor in the intellect'. thentheatheistcansimplyrefuseto acceptit asa legitimateimplication from(1).

1. Theneedfor a theoryof 'natures' ThesenineobjectionsattackAnselm'sargumentin a varietyof ways.from the fact that that which is indicatedby the name Godis conceivedby the mind.a perfectPegasus.then its greatnessis actuallymuchless than Anselmsupposes hencethereis a sense in whichthat-thanwillthenfailto be something which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived thanwhichnothinggreatercanbe conceived. 196.pp. consequently. therefore. does not that if that-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought reallyexistoutsidethe mind. (i) Gauniloreductios If Anselm'sargumentwereindeedsound. to be arguablythe most on target pp.the Neo-PlatonicPresupposition '6'Now.17 wassubsequently whentheProslogion 4.It is ironic. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Davies (1992)p. the AquinasRebuttalturns out.'Charlesworth(1965. 58-9) is also ratherdismissiveof Aquinas'scriticismsthough for differentreasons. and perhaps in part for this reason some commentators takehim to have missed the point of Anselm' Antigod whose evil is unsurpassablyeffective.p.but it seemsappropriateto call them 'Gauniloreductios' afterthemonkwhofamouslyrespondedin thiswayto Anselm'sProslogionwhenit firstappeared. and so on.Hence.that of all the specificlogical objectionsto Anselm itemised here.At focuseson its allegedly one extreme. 82..then it wouldbe hardto see whyequivalentargumentscouldnot be constructedto provethe existence of a supremelyexcellentisland. This content downloaded from 163. but it is grossly to suggestthatthesethingsdo exist. that than which a greatercannot be thought will likewisenot haveto exist saveonly in the intellect.that implausible theirexistencecouldbe provedin thisa priorimanner. 28-30).or evenif theydid.0.. No difficulty. and the Antigodthan which nothing more effectivelyevil can be conceivedis from Millican(1989)p. Aquinas'srelativelycursorycomments in the SummaTheologiaeare more frequentlyquoted (for example. 225-6.pp.comments that '[in so far as] Aquinas'streatmentof the OntologicalArgumentdoes not seem to engage fully with the argument as found in Anselm .Therearemany varietiesof this sort of attemptedreductioad absurdumof Anselm's argument. 17 lSheexampleof the supremelyexcellentisland is in paragraph6 of Gaunilo (1078) the perfectPegasusvariantis from Gassendi(1641)pp..68 on Mon. it does not follow that God exists saveonly in the intellect. For that something greater can be thought than anythinggiven in realityor in the intellectis a difficultyonly to him who admitsthat there is something than which a greatercannot be thought in reality. the reason might lie in the fact that the version of the argumentdiscussedby Aquinaswas not so much Anselm'sas a version of Anselm's argument current in the 13thcentury and offered by writers such as Alexanderof Hales (C.'Aquinas (1259)1.11. in Plantinga1965. for example. as we shall see. befalls anyone who posits that God does not exist.andwhoseReplyon Behalfof theFoolwas thenincludedat Anselm'srequest(alongwithAnselm'sresponseto it) published. 163-5.11861245).The OneFatalFlaw in Anselm'sArgument 445 but his ideamaybe viatedstillfurtherin his laterSummaTheologiae).Fromthis it does not follow that there exists in reality something than which a greatercannot be thought. 24 n.

Farmore andpart-logicalMentalEntityConfuseriousis the part-conceptual sion (b).but Gauniloreductios anyspecificerrorandsimplychallengethe argumentas a whole:somethingmustbe wrongwithits premissesor withits logic. 157. whichtogetherwiththe associatedIntentionalObjectFallacy (c) highlightsthe needfora muchdeeperrethinkingof the conceptual frameworkif Anselm'sargumentis to appearplausible on pain of andothersimilarproblems. 263- This content downloaded from 163.theirrealexistence).andit is simplynot enceof someentitywithcorresponding in generalvalidto inferfrom'I amthinkingof anX to 'Thereis someX Tocircumventthesedifficultiesit willbe necesof whichI'mthinking'. Most of the remainingobjections(the MentalEntityConfusion. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .the ComparisonDifficulty. Descartes (1641) pp.l8 Theaimof thefollowingsection.willbe to developa rudimentarytheoryof naturesthatcanas faras possiblesanctionthe relevantstepsof Anselm'sargumentwhileavoidingboththe MentalEntity Confusionandthe IntentionalObjectFallacy.the IntentionalObjectFallacy.the Fool'sunderstanding Gauniloreductios be takento implythe existof anyphrasejustcannotstraightforwardly properties.68 on Mon.If we areableto develop 18 For example Anselm (1077-8) p. 117.andmustalsolicense the drawingof inferencesabout other propertiesof those entities (including.forevenif it is truethatAnselmis presupposing for ous neo-Platonicconcepts. 44-5.10.anyobjectionabledependenceis likelyto be remediableby the simpleexpedientof substitutingappropriatelydefinedalternativeconcepts(as we shallsee later).therefore.thenunlessthishasadverseimplications the detailedlogic of his reasoning. 83-5.and this.the UniqueReferentProblem. 163. 117.As terminologyfor these entities. and alsoby Descarteswhenpresentingand discussinghis own OntologicalArgument.the Kantian Dogma.Toprovidea versionof Anselm'sargufoundationfor anynon-question-begging ment it must obviouslycountenancethe ascriptionof propertiesto 'entities'thatarenot alreadyknownto be actual.the most appropriatechoiceseemsto existence-independent be thelanguageof'natures'whichis usedbybothAnselmandGaunilo. It is no coincidencethatthe one purelyconceptualobjection(a) is dubialsotheweakest.andthe AquinasRebuttalall concern specificlogical moves.0. sary to sketch (at least) a suitabletheory of mental or intentional objects.if parallelreasoningcanleadto suchmanifestlyabsurdconclusions.andthe SeparateRealmsPrinciple)combineboth conceptual makeno attemptto identify andlogicalaspects. is by no meanstrivial.whileat the other.446 PeterMillican suspectconceptualbasis.Gaunilo (1078) pp. 48.potentially. as we shallsee.

20Andif naturesaretrulyexistence-independent formulato be and'that'in Anselm's 19 Barnes (1972)p.if it is possibleto makesense of something-thanas denotinga also tifiedsomething.Butbetweenthe premissandthe conclusion.32-4sees arbitrary andlogicallyunmotivated.involvingno logicalsleight-of-hand but merelyhavingthe pointof emphasisinghowhis keyphraseis consistentlybeing used to makereferenceto a specificnature.with an unambiguouslydenotinguse which might howeverrun the risk of if the phrasewerealwaysto be presentedas startbeingmisunderstood Thereneedbe no illicitassumping with the indefinite'something'.or why the 'something'within this last phraseshouldnot then be omittedwithoutanyloss of coherence.for if talkof existence-independent naturesmakesany sense at all. for if talkof naturesis to serveanyusefulpurpose. 5 takestheswitchesbetween'something' whileat theoppositeextremeCampbell(1976)pp. moreover.TheOne FatalFlawin AnselmsArgument 447 such a theory. then it should be unproblematicto speakof a particularnaturewithoutpresupposingthatit is uniquely exemplified in reality.10. may seem questionathat allof thesederiveforcefrompresuppositions ble givena theoryof naturesso understood. be developedhere(cf.68 on Mon.sinceit is neededto indicatethathe is herespeakinganaphorically accountis logicallyelegantandfitsthevariationsin the text.35belowandits context). 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the KantianDogma(f ) andthe Separate for RealmsPrinciple(g) mightwellproverelativelyeasyto circumvent.fn.In otherwords. whereasothersdo not.Totakethe UniqueReferent Problemfirst. erthelesswellmotivated.his use of the formula is morethanmerelya variationof styleor empha'that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought' aboutthispreviously idensis.19 tion of a uniquerealreferenthere.Onthelatterinterpretation existential elimination(usingan 'arbitrary atelyusingan indefinitereferencein his initialpremissthatsomething-than-which-nothingexistsin the Fool'smind. Campbell's thatAnselm'suseof his formulamustbe intendedas a descriptive hasthe importantimplication to whichfitswellwiththeinterpretation identification of a natureratherthana 'characterization'.Anselm'sreplacementof'something'by 'that'withinthe stylisticbutnevmainbodyof his argumentmayproveto be essentially whatever. In a verysimilarmannerthe ComparisonDifficultywouldceaseto be a majorproblemin the contextof an acceptabletheoryof natures. 20 wascoinedbyAlston(1960)p. themasbeingnot merelywell-motivated ruleof bymeansof thestandard calculuswhenreasoning stitutionsthattakeplacein thepredicate Anselmis delibername').andalsowhenstatinghis conclusionthatsome greater-can-be-thought suchthingexistsin reality.then this mustbe becausesomenaturescorrespondto reallyexistingthingsin theworld (let us say that they are 'instantiated'or have a 'real archetype'). witha roleanalogousto thesubbutlogicallyrequired. 103.then the ComparisonDifficulty(d). the UniqueReferentProblem(e).0. Theterm'realarchetype' This content downloaded from 163. which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought then it is hardto see why referringbackto this samenatureas 'thatshouldraise something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought' any additionaldifficulties.

448 PeterMillican in this way.his argumentprovesvalidwhenso expressed. 2' I owe this referenceto PeterGeach.andone of the logicalexamplescollected inconceivable' by Paulof Venicein the fifteenthcenturyemphasisesthatif I graspa propositionthat refersto 'somethingI am not thinkingabout'(for example. 'predicate' ationwillprovidean appropriate perfectlywell without expressed to be argument Anselm's to enable havingto invokethe troublesomegeneralconcept of existence.then in comparinginstantiatedwith non-instantiated natureswe aregenuinelycomparinglikewith like (albeitwe arein an indirectsensecomparingexistentwith non-existent'typesof thing').0. and if the form of Anselm'sreasoningis in fact legitimate. 189).is likelyto renderanygenuinecontradictionthatmaybe presentin theFool'sthoughtbothmoreexplicitandeasierto pin down. Forthis veryreasonthereis evensome groundfor optimismthatthe maybe reduced.becauseif genuine scopeof possibleGauniloreductios fromthe merelyapparbecomeclearlydistinguishable contradictions ent.then appropriateboundariesshouldemergeregardingwhatcan. conceptualrealmwiththe realarchetypes It is harderto anticipatein advancewhatimplicationsa theoryof naturesmighthavefor the forceof the AquinasRebuttal(h) and the (i).'Heis thinkingaboutsomethingI am not thinkingabout').If.and a theoryof naturesthat forcesclearerdistinctionsto be drawnbetweendifferenttypes of object of thought. This content downloaded from 163.I am evenableto thinkaboutwhatI am not thinkingabout(1499.becauseif naturesindeedforma coherentandwell-defineddomain.ff. both real and intentional. be provedto existbysuchmethods.68 on Mon.Anselm'sstep (5) is in thought'.but as the basedon convictingthe Foolof a 'contradiction AquinasRebuttalillustrates.andwe can drawa legitimatedistinctionwithinthatdomainbetweenthosenatures andthosethatarenot. thoughif anythingsucha theorycanonly variousGauniloreductios strengthenAnselm'sargumentin theserespects.10. TheKantianDogmawouldalsobe defusedin this context.2lSo ordinarylanguagecanbe extremelymisleadingin this sortof context. and cannot.p.Anselmhimselfis awarethat it is possibleto 'thinkof the (1078.such apparentcontradictionsprovidea veryslipperybasison which to relywhen prescribinglimits on our thinking. moreover. 178). thenthe notionof instantithatareinstantiated rangingoverthisdomain.thenthe SeparateRealmsPrinciplewill havebeenovercomethroughthe use of this notion whichhasone foot in eachrealm connectingnaturesin the thatinstantiatethem. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .

p.Giventhisdissociationof'natures'from essentialism. But such a claim is clearlyquestionbegging the alleged coincidence of God's essence and existence is more appropriateas the intended conclnsion of an OntologicalArgumentratherthan as a premiss. cientto do justiceto thelogicof Anselm's in thedevelopment thatmustbe addressed difficulties of thefundamental of anysuchtheory. on thetheory.notablyAristotelian bypassedentirely.however. Leibnizin section 44 of his Monadology)have followedDescartesin claimingthat the natureof God is somehow special. 83) seems to be an entirelyad hocmethod of avoiding Gaunilo reductios.Here.since he provides no clear account of the basis of the distinction.and if it is indeed a premiss. so that His existencecan be provedwhile Gaunilo reductiosare blocked.butwe can ignorethis herebecausethedistinctionbetweengenuineessencesand complication of his playsno rolein thelogicalprogression 'natures' arbitrary relatively benefitsto be gainedfrom Indeedtherearesomesignificant proof that the nature'God' is true and immutableratherthan invented. This content downloaded from 163.we shallreferto suchan existenceif it entityasa 'nature.andspeakof a natureas'instantiated' independent hasat leastone realarchetype(thatis.forrefconstraint impliesa significant thisalready However in someway.with essence including existence in His case alone.TheOneFatalFlaw in Anselm'sArgument 449 theoryof natures 5.68 on Mon. in thecaseof non-instantiated examples(especially thecenreasoning. withoutpresupposing andif it is to beidentified ('That identification causal or direct appearsto ruleout demonstrative 2' Descartes'sappealto the distinctionbetween 'true and immutablenatures'and those 'which areinventedand put togetherby the intellect'(1641. why 'truth and immutability' should be supposed to have any relevantinferentialrole).andsomerelatedtopics. no explanation of why one kind of nature should be capable of grounding an OntologicalArgumentwhile the other is not (that is.22 not background. no criterionof discrimination.10. essences. if suchan entity'reallyexists'). and most crucially. then if the argument is to serve any useful purpose this premiss requiresnot mere dogmatic assertionbut independentjustification.thetheorythatemergescannotpretendto beonethat traditional Anselmhimselfwouldhaveendorsedin detail. thatitbe identified requires erenceto anynaturepresumably thenthis itsinstantiation. of anyAristotelian thetheoryindependently presenting illustrative leastthatthis greatlysimplifiesthe devisingof appropriate natures). forAnselm's framework Toprovidean appropriate to be madeto of ourtheorymustbe to enablereference tralrequirement eitherits existenceor its an 'entity)(suchas God)withoutpresupposing non-existence as explainedabove.0. Outlineof an 'Anselmian' suffito sketcha theoryof 'natures' Theaimof thissectionis accordingly andto identiffsome willbe developedonlyso faras is argument withinwhichAnselm's to providealogicalframework necessary is intended asclearlyaspossible.andno commitment canbe represented eitherto thetheory'sultimatecogencyor its completeness-thuspotennatureswill issuessuchasindividualandhigher-order tiallytroublesome quicklybe putto one side.g.with a clearexplanationof its logical role in the argument which makesclearhow Gaunilo reductiosare to be avoided. Other defendersof the OntologicalArgument (e. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .

arepossiblespecifications significant more the of some to respectively fournaturesthatcorrespond thetelevi'Lyka']. 25 Other more detailednaturescould of course be defined. ing this with the sense in which God canbe thought not to exist (as by the Fool of Proslogion He arguesin detail for the uniquenessof the supremebeing in ChaptersI to IV of his Monologion (1076).etc. thenaturein questionis of suchevidentmagnitudeasto permitat most oneinstantiation. Formally. catchesviSlains. III to drawthe conclusion thatGodexistsnecessarily.starof filmand dog.I am treatingAnselm'sargument as naturaltheology. be well might This alternative. anywaymorefaithfulto Anselm.becausealthoughhe sometimesseemsto astheindividspeakof ithat-that-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought' ualnatureor essenceof God.but any technicalimplicationsof this can be ignored here. might indeed take himself to have had direct demonstrativeor causal experience of God.24 natures.).0.leavingreference 'Whatever entitythere'. 28 below). intended to provide a reason for any readerto accept the existence of God. This content downloaded from 163.each natureis to be understoodas an unorderedset of properties. of theRussianspacedogLaika[pronounced properties sion dog Lassie. treatsnaturesascharacterizatheorywhichaccordingly purelydescriptive is probably Sucha restriction tionsonlyof kindsratherthanof individuals. fn. be persuadedby the argumentof Proslogion II argument seems peculiarly futile if interpretedin this sort of wayHowever the Proslogion Hisnaturemanifestlylearns nothing someone who starts from the premiss thatGodhasrevealed whateverfrom the conclusion merelythatGodexists.23 obvious only the as meansof a description a seriousdifficultyforanytheoryof naturesthataspiredto givean adequategeneraltreatmentof the existenceandnon-existenceof concrete wecanrestcontentwitha forpresentpurposes butfortunately individuals. and if then he might this seemed to revealGod as something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought.10. but for presentpurposes the ones given here will do. ratherthan merely an elucidation of the natureof God's existenceaimed only at the religiousbeliever. of withinanglebrackets here.forexample. and contrastsense in which God cannot be thought not to exist (as maintainedin Proslogion II).adding descriptionsof furtherproperties of each of these four individuals (cf.unlike the atheist.thisin itselfgiveslittlegroundforsupposing foressencesof species preference thathe is heredeviatingfromAristotle's when is onlyto beexpected sincesuchlanguage ratherthanof individuals. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .450 PeterMillican by causedthisto happen.thenit descriptive Ifwe do restrictourselvesto non-indexical to giveanoutlineof howtheymightbe straightforward becomesrelatively Onesimpleoptionis to enclosethe relevantdescription(s) represented.The believer. IV.andthe ancientBritishheroesKingAlfredand King Arthur:25 <Lai1ca>: <firstdogto besentintospace> Lassie>: rescuesvictims. televisionz 23 As explained earlier.68 on Mon.when explicatingthe 24 Anselm appeals to his formula as the essence of God in Proslogion III).

ward. characterizaand'Boethius'withintheirdescriptive namesas 'England' only the tions). atedin realityascompared streamline ourdiscussionif it willconsiderably Atthispoint.sought theHolyGrail) we herereferto thesefournaturesbythelabels Althoughforconvenience (andincludesuchproper '<Alfred>' and'<Arthur>' '<Laika>.butothers aremoretricky.0. of naturesrather greatness asa qualityprimarily sincewe areconsidering of greatness seemfairlystraightforSomejudgements thanof individuals).thoughnot unquestionably Anselmian.translated defeated <Alfred>: King of England.the remarkable caninequalities to be therealarchetype dogLaikahadonlyto allowherselfto be placedwithinSputnik2 before byunublastoff. characterize them(letus callthesetheir'characteristic notionof Wearenowin a positionto introducethecrucialAnselmian 'greatness'. measure if onlyitwerefortunate doubtoutscore<Laika)on everyrelevant Butsinceit doesn't.TheOneFatalFlaw in Anselm'sArgument 451 Boethius> theDanes.determines This content downloaded from 163.). presumably involvestheparadigmatic andgoodness. we makea simplifyingassumptionwhich.therefore. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .if any.then. whichthoughrathervaguelyexplicatedin Anselm'swritings.therelativegreatness enoughto havea realarchetype. greaterthananynature.thatamong forgreatness (power. '<Lassie>'.forexample. shouldbe bornein mindthatthissyntaxis shorthand realor imagined natureshaveno essentialconnectionto anyparticular propertiesthat individual.kepta courtof knights.bycontrast. sualintelligence. godlyqualitiesof leasthasthe authorityof havingbeenstatedby his correspondentGaunilowithoutbeingcontestedbyhim.10.realexistthevariouscriteria howence'trumps' a naturewhichinvolvesno of thisnature.andareconstitutedpurelyby the descriptive properties'). of thetwonaturesis indeterminatenothingthatAnselmsaysmakesclear in otherrespects.68 on Mon.that<Alfred>is greaterthan<Laika>andaArthur) as greater than<Lassie)(giventhatthehumanis in eachcasecharacterized beingvastlygreaterin bothpowerandwisdomthananydog).26 a naturewhichis characterized andwouldno bravery.goodnessetc.<Laika>.Namely.aresufficientto outweighthe whatadvantages on a naturewhichis instantithatis conferred additional shareof greatness withonewhichis not.wisdom.howeverimpressively theleastgreatof the that<Lassie>is certainly not.realexistence(or strictlyinstantiation.notably. thatanynaturewhichhasa realarchetype.for example. <Arthur>: <Saintlyandheroicking.but also.willon thataccountalonebe properties everlowlyitscharacteristic whichdoes characterized.<Lassie>.

Anselmhimself is neverquite so explicit.10. S 2w_ cArthur> Scaleofincreasinggreatness .and thereforetreatthe instantiationof naturesas timeless. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .wisdom and goodness can outweigh an inferiorityin existentialstatuswhen assessinga nature'sgreatness.Nothing of significancefor Anselm'sargumenthangs on this assumption This content downloaded from 163. instantiation. seemsomewhatlessdemanding. thennot onlyAlfred) butalso<Laika> willbe greater thanit. As we shall see later (fn. 42). the logic of Anselm'sargument could not possibly be strengthened (and might well be weakened) if instead we were to assume that some significantsuperiorityin power. 27 'Is' rather than 'was' because (again for the sake of simplicity) I assume here that all judgementsof greatnessare time-independent.on the otherhand.thenit is reasonable to expectthat Arthur> willbe greaterthan<Alfred>.XXty' +'X"'-'"W Lssie Xt_ Arthur laik> AIfred 26 In the first paragraphof his Replyos l Behalfof the Fool.s Laika) <Lassie> AIfred s Poh wo * 0 BS.0.452 PeterMillican fournaturesspecifiedabove.27 Iftherereallywasa saintlyandheroickingwhokepta court of knightsandsoughtthe HolyGrail. 157). but gives no indication of disagreementwith Gaunilo on the point.and this would also make the illustrationof the theory'simplicationsfar more cumbersome..If. andtheothermaingreatness-conferring properties asfollows: Scaleof increasingpower/wisdom/goodness = t: .thoughtherelative ordering of theotherswill dependuponthehistorical questionasto whether<Arthur>is. Assuming for present purposes that Arthurz is not in fact instantiated thattherewasno suchking we canillustrate therelation betweengreatness. thoughno doubtimpressive.p.or is not.68 on Mon. instantiated.thenatureArthur> in facthasno realarchetype.whosecharacteristic properties. anythingthat existed also in realitywould be greaterthan this being' (Gaunilo1078.Gaulinoparaphrases what he takesto to be Anselm'sview that 'if this same being exists in the mind alone.

less nature.reallyexisting) 28 I say 'almostunsurpassable'since as we shall see below <God> as defined here lacks at least one characteristic property that contributes to Anselmian greatness.nevertheless whereasthey are. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .omniscient. This content downloaded from 163. creatorof the universe. King Alfred) cannot be capturedby any descriptive nature that has only a finite number of characteristicproperties.creatorof the universe> Presumably <God>is a natureof somesignificantgreatnessevenif it is not instantiated its characteristicpropertieswould make it far greater. theist.Considerationsof this kind might motivate postulation of the limiting case of a nature that is characterizedby all the descriptive properties of some particular individual this. This last point illustratesa general implication of our theory of natures:any really existing being will instantiate a potentially infinite number of increasingly specific natures. would provide a sort of Leibnizianindividual nature.TheOneFatalFlaw in Anselm'sArgument 453 by significantly Hencealthoughthe nature<Arthur>is characterized more impressive qualities of power.we allowrealexistpropertiesof a nature.<Laika>or anyotherinstantiated Supposenow that.28 will see <God> as a natureof supremegreatness.accordingly.Butif <God>is in fact instantiated(thatis. if thereis indeedan omniperfectcreator)then it The seemsto reacha levelof greatnesswhichis almostunsurpassable.10. wisdom and goodness than since<Arthur)is not instantiated <Alfred)and<Laika>.than <Lassie>. if accepted. whereasthe atheistwill see it as a natureof onlylimitedgreatness.heedlessof Kantianscruples. eternal.for example. namely necessary existence.68 on Mon.andperfectlygood'): <God>: ornniperfect. and it may be that the full greatness of any real individual (for example.both Alfred) and Laika> areto be accordeda higherplacein the scaleof greatness. presumablywith additional particularqualities some of which may be greatness-conferring.let us considerthe folTurningnowto recognizably for is usedas an abbreviation lowing(in whichthe word'omniperfect' 'omnipotent. inspirer of prophets>). greatthan<Alfred>.0.and enceto featureas one of the characteristic accordingly specifythe following: EGod>: omniperfect. then it may be possible to specify other greater natures whose characteristic properties include those of <God> plus these additional qualities (for example. Moreoverif there is indeed a God. creatorof the universe.<Arthur>or any other noninstantiated natureof a mereanimalor human. <omniperfect. Godlikenatures.

being is sufficientto agreeherewithHume.The KantianDogma is perhapsbest seen as a somewhat obscure statementof the correctpoint that instantiationis not a purelyinternalcharacteristic property.thatas a characteristic propertyexistenceis just peculiarlyempty.then EGod> will againlikeGod> enjoya relatively modestdegreeof greatness.Anselmianprincipleswouldseemto requirethat <NGod) is greaterthan<God) in virtueof its moreimpressivecharacteristicproperties:both Anselm'smainargumentin ProslogionIII.In anyothercircumstance. 66-7).arenothing differentfrom each Simons shows.It is temptingto suggest. anda numberof otherpointsthathe makesin his responseto Gaunilo.0. Puttingall this togetherwe can now spellout. makes no addition to it. 178.68 on Mon. That idea [of existence].whereasif thereis in factno suchbeing. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .' (Hume 1739. Simons (1988).181. which is similar in spirit to Meinong'sdistinction between 'being existent' and 'existing' (cf.necessarily existing) cancertainlydifferin greatnessfrom<God>. This content downloaded from 163.then <EGod>will presumably like God> possessalmost unsurpassable greatness. Meinong'sown theory is far more subtle and tenable than its better-knownRusselliancaricature). is lessgreateventhan<Laika>).thatreal existenceis illegitimateas a characteristic verydifferent.pp.the hierarchy of greatnessamongthe sevennaturesthat 29'Toreflecton any thing simply.because the nature: NGod>: <omniperfect. creatorof the universe. fromthreediSerent pointsof view.29 Thecasewith necessaryexistence.somewherebetweenthat of aArthur>and aLaika> contrast.moststrikinglyif thereis indeedan omniperfectcreatorbut one who is merelycontingent(in whichcase<God) is almostsupremelygreatwhereas<NGod>.10.pp. when conjoin'dwith the idea of any object.that as far as greatnessis concerned EGod> and God> are in exactlythe same boat: the addition of 'reallyexisting'to a nature'scharacteristic propertiesmakesno differencewhatever.however. Butthisneednot requireus to insist. Our discussionhighlightsa distinctionbetween real existence as an 'internal'characteristicpropertyof a natureand instantiation as an 'external'propertyof that nature.and to reflecton it as existent.withKant. explicitlyhingeon theprinciplethatnecessaryexistenceis greaterthan merecontingentexistence.but concernsa nature'srelationto the world.454 PeterMillican Howgreatis thisnature?Againthe answermustdependon whetheror not it is instantiated: if thereis in facta reallyexistingomniperfectcreator.

.. rs 0. p:W 3 >.A:i j\j>> grerness .namelypower.with the last of thesebeingdominantoverall the others. This content downloaded from 163. .greatnessas understoodhereinvolvesfourpositivecriteria.N. e r Ksg@@s a 0 <w-<4s>x . _+forr* av t.. .in general...alwaysoutweighinganydifferencein wisdom)..crucially.s ' 'h't ' :p.. reatness *:> if t . .t.10.-.but theymayalready providea sufficientbasisfor the analysisand evaluationof Anselm's argument.wisdom.j} \ tr )/i: 8 f :s. v if ofa. 0 V. This avoids the inappropriatenessof having numbers or other purely abstractentities deemed greaterthan a contingent God. .dependingon whatwe taketo be the existentialand modalstatusof an omniperfectcreator: Scaleof increasinggreatness thereis no omniperfect creator God> ALassie) <Arthur) NGod) ALaika) <Alfred) EGod * thereIsa contingent omniperfectcreator Ts $ " R: ^ S | 4 ' . Ab.say. subordinate criterion (a 'tiebreaker'.so to speak).. IA.> sig of e.v. d C *#s-Dwra ggg} .Leavingasideall modalcomplications.v.Hierarchy te y g * :+: + - " X> r f :'rrwi [ !£.O.. on whetheror not it happensto be instantiated.goodness and instantiation.. And it is preciselybecauseinstantiationcontributesso significantlyto the greatnessof a naturethatAnselmfeelsableto concludethatthegreatest of allnaturesmustindeedbe instantiated. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ..68 on Mon. ig=mrarch l: t 1-%!M. jo .. . God Lassie> <Arthgr><NGod><Latka) AAIfred> * fIleraKhy ofgreatnesw lf thereisa necrsry omrziperfect creator R tr g .or whether 30 The simplest way of taking account of whetherthe instantiationis necessaryor contingent is probably to count a nature's modality of instantiation as a fifth... and fits neatlywith modality'sbeing an allor-nothing affair.0. w*: TheOne FatalFlaw in Anselm'sArgument 455 we havediscussed. .not only on its characteristic properties butalso. 3- Vw 0 0 j5 i <God aLicz Arthurz <Lalkaz AIfred EG d <NGod Thereis animportantthoughunsurprising lessonhere:thegreatnessof a naturedepends.30 Beyondthatit has beenleft indeterminate whatthe relation mightbe betweenthe threelessercriteria whetherfor example they also fall into some dominancehierarchy(with anydifferencein power.t . Thepointsmadeso faronlypartiallydeterminethe interpretation of our reformulated Anselmiannotionof greatness.4s.a. '8.3.

I ignoremodalityandthe othercomplicationsin notez8 39 Againfor the sakeof simplicity than'neednot be a totallyorderedrelationto be aboveThepointmadehereshowsthat'greater argument(asseemsto be claimedbyBroad(1953)pp.if instantiated.however.Namely.77-8). raritywithwhich undertheguidanceof virtueandwisdom.indulgentto the imperfecto will alwaysbe in wisdomthatwould inferiority possibleto findsomecorresponding superficial exactlycompensate).177-g).withinthe descriptions naturessuchas Arewe.MarcusAurelius virtueaccompanies significant torson thehumanscaleof greatness.will at leastbe clearlybe unsurpassably So althoughour nature.butjudgingon the authorityof Edward Gibbon.Giventheregrettable hasfewcompetiprobably suchdegreesof that for anygivensuperiorityin power. at anyratequitesuflScient Beforereturningto the detailsof thatargument.withouthesitation.thereis one moreratherthornyquestionin the theoryof naturesthatdeserves to at leasta mention. This content downloaded from 163.if instantiated.permittedto specify'higher-order' the following? Greatest>: greatest of allnatures> Mystronginclinationis to say'no'. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .for at leastfourreasons.justandbeneficent historyof theworld. Stoicism].First.will greatand.Forthisreason(aswellastherelatively any objective on criterion each individual of assessing butrealdifficulty and unifiedscale)it remainsin generalindeterminatewhichworldly naturesaregreaterthanothers.he would.Hewassevereto himself. forthepurposesof Anselmsargument.infinitelywise. .the theoryof natureshasbeenintroducedherefor one specificpurposereferenceto kindsof thing-and a to facilitateexistence-independent naturesuchas <Greatest>givesno clearcharacterization higher-order andhistimethat'hislifewasthenoblestcommentary 3'Gibboncommentsof MarcusAurelius on thepreceptsof Zerlo[thatis.0.68 on Mon.3lFortunately in the divinesphereas traditionallyunderstood. a that characterize naturesthemselves.Forthisrole usablewithinAnselm's it doesnot matterif somenaturesareneithergreaternorlesserthansomeothers. If a manwerecalledto fixtheperiodin the tionsof others.'(1776.duringwhichtheconditionof thehumanracewasmosthappyandprospernamethatwhichelapsedfromthedeathof Domitianto theacous.then this omniperfectnature.pp.andperfectlygood being. cessionof Commodus.becauseif indeedit makessenseto speakof an infinitelypowerful.Thevastextentof the Romanempirewasgovernedby absolutepower.if not instantiated.aslongas there willheat leastasgreatasanyother. .10.perhapsthe RomanemperorMarcusAureliusAntoninusis as good a candidateas anyfor the accoladeof supremegreatnesswithin takehim as an examplein what the naturalorder I shallaccordingly ceasesto be a problem thissortof indeterminacy follows.456 PeterMillican footing(for theycontributeon a moreor lesscomparable alternatively example.forexample.32 by anyothernon-instantiated unsurpassable it is treatmentof greatnesshasnot beenby anymeanscomprehensive. is one (ormore)supremenaturewhich.whetherit is legitimateto makereference nature.

And as we shallsee. or truth-teller-paradoxical reminiscentof liar-paradoxical characandeventhosethatdo succeedin providingsomedeterminate terizationdo so only at second-hand in suchcasesit seemsbest to replacethese higher-ordernaturesthrough'translation'into a firsthigher-order follows: (1') The phrase 'a-nature-than-which-no-greater-nature-can-bethought' is clearlyunderstoodby the Fool. the fundamental objectionto Anselm'sreasoningis in anycasequiteindependentof this issue.theirintroduction wouldstill do nothingto help remedythe fatalambiguitythatI shall shortlyidentify. so that even if the admissionof higher-ordernatureswereto proveafterall to be well-motivatedandconsistent.andrelatedto this.33Finally. and apparently makessense.considerthe paradoxicalpotentialof allowingsuch ineliminablyhigher-ordernaturesas: (a) <GreaterStill>. 6.characterizedas <the nature<Self-Refer>>.is tedlyrudimentary to enableus to assesshowAnselm'sargumentwillfare at leastsuhScient theoreticalcontextthanit is usuallyperwithina farmoresympathetic mitted. Anselm'sargumentreconsidered The theoryof naturesthathaslbeendevelopedabove.butwouldonlymakeits analysisfar more complicatedand murky.characterizedas <that naturewhich is even greaterthan <Greatest>>. 33 To takejust two very simple examples.thoughadmit(andquitepossiblysubjectto variousobjections). The steps of that argumentcan be fairlystraightforwardly translatedfromthe mentalisticidiomin whichhe presentsit into the languageof natures.0. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . higher-ordernatures can seempeculiarlyindeterminateor vacuous(in a waythatis highly sentences).inevitablycastingdoubt on argumentsthat areframedwithin it.Many familiarparadoxesare likelyto have analogueswithin a theory that is permissiveenough to countenancethese sorts of constructions.Secondly.then thiswill almost certainlyopen the door to paradox.or (b) <Self-Refer>. This content downloaded from 163.68 on Mon.the admissionof higher-order factassistAnselm'sargumentat all.and clinchinglyfor natureswouldnot in presentpurposes.Thirdly.TheOneFatalFlaw in Anselm'sArgument 457 of a kindof thing.if we permitany'ineliminably' natures(wheresuchtranslationis not possible).10.

19 above.this translatedversionof the argumentis resistantto at leasteightof the ninestandardobjectionsthatwereitemizedearlier. . Hence I have renderedhis formula using the indefinite article ('a-nature . I believe. mustindeedbe instantiated It is. andthelogicbywhichtheconclusionis reachedis structurally Andyet.veryclearthatthis argumentis essentiallythe sameas Anselm's thereis a step-by-stepcorrespondencebetweenthe two. ). ratherthan that . which conformsto his own use of something. he seems to have taken careto presenthis argumentin such a way that its logic could still succeedif therewere more than one.. This content downloaded from 163. . (4') So if a-nature-than-which-no-greater-nature-can-be-thought werenot instantiatedin reality.and in doingso hasensuredthatsuchcomparisons areas well-definedanddeterminateas is necessaryforthe purposesat covernot only the use of a definite description.10. Tostartwithconceptualmatters. each as greatas the other (for example. (6') Thereforea-nature-ian-which-no-greater-nature-can-be-though in reality. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ..Thatthesecomparisonsnow all unambiguouslyrelatepairsof natures (rather than a mixture of existing individuals and nonexistents)completelyavoidsthe ComparisonDifficulty(d). ble to think of a naturethat is greaterthan a-nature-thanwhich-no-greater-nature-can-be-thought.' in step (4').anysupposedrelianceon somedubious Neo-PlatonicPresupposition(a) hasbeen removedby our reformulation of the Anselmiannotion of greatness.458 PeterMillican (2') Hencewe can takethe phrase'a-nature-than-which-no-greatdenotingsomespecias successfully er-nature-can-be-thought' ficnature.68 on Mon. I claim. as explainedin fn. whilethe substitutionof existenceby instantiationas the dominantcriterionfor greatnesshasleftthe KantianDogma(f) withouta target by confin34 Though Anselm believed that there was only one supreme nature.which has made comparisonsof greatnessdependentonly on fourveryexplicitnonPlatoniccriteria.then it would be possibleto thinkof a naturethatis greater(forexample.. I employ the word 'denoting' in the manner of the first paragraphof Russell's 'On Denoting' (1905)..) Accordingly....though Anselm'susagewould suggest a switch from 'a-nature . when introducingthe formula.34 (3') A naturewhich is instantiatedin realityis greaterthan one whichis not. in factinstantiated sinceit is obviouslyimpossi(5') Butthiswouldbe a contradiction.but also indeterminate'reference' by means of an indefinitedescription.(God> and <EGod>).' to 'that-nature. .anynaturethatis in reality). parallel. .') ratherthan the definite article ('the-nature.0. (Howeverfor simplicityI retainthe same formulathroughout..

the stepfrom(1') to (2' ) iS entirelyfreeof mentalisticobjectification. given that higher-ordercharacterizationsare not permitted. This content downloaded from 163.35 Finally. 108-11)on three very simplified'interpretations' of that argument.ratherthanbeingitselfa characterized involvingpredicatively predicateof concreteindividuals).0.10. 36 The most comprehensivediscussionof the SeparateRealmsPrinciple.sincethereis nowno equivocation of 'something'and'that'withinthe keyphrase. Instead of addressing the ProslogionII argumentitself.Howeverourreformulated thanis Anselm's appearingsomewhatmoreresistantto suchreductios 35 Within our theory the key formulamust be interpretedas a descriptionratherthan a characterization.andthussidestepping the problems associatedwith individual 'essences'. Oppy focuses (pp.two of which are so distant from Anselm'swords as to be virtuallyunrecognizable. andherethe situationis indeedlesspromisargumentdoesat leasthavethemeritof ing.the contradiction confinedwithinthe realmof thoughts. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . while the other dubbed the conceptualinterpretation-plays into the hands of his 'General Objection'both by the simple way in which it is representedand also by being phrasedentirelyin terms of conceivingand conceivability.the argumentas a wholeseemsto violatethe SeparateRealmsPrinciple(g) as anysuccessfulOntologicalArgument must butforreasonsrelatedto thosejustgivenin responseto (e) and (h). be at (4') cannotapparently whileon the otherhand.we have ensuredthatinstantiationemergesas an apparentlycoherentandcertainlynon-vacuousproperty(andone.and so retainsno traceof eitherthe MentalEntityConfusion(b) or the IntentionalObjectFallacy (c).andhencethe contraas a characterization) imposdictionallegedin step(5') seemsto be genuine:it is presumably sible to think of a greater nature than one that is correctly so described. Turningnowto thelogicof the argument. this 'Principle'suggestsno clearpoint of objection:on the one hand the referenceto a natureat step (2') does not presupposethe existenceof a realarchetypeandso is not obviouslyquestion-begging. 19 above for evidence that this is also faithfulto Anselm'sown intentions. moreover.68 on Mon. the UniqueReferent between Problem(e) is alsoavoided.Moreoverthe AquinasRebuttal(h) seems in thoughtthatemergesat step(4') inapplicable to thecontradiction in this translatedargument'a-nature-than-which-no-greater-natureas a description(ratherthan functionsunequivocally can-be-thought' of the naturein question.andno presupposition a uniquerealinstantiator.36 Theonlytypeof standardobjectionthathasnot yet beendealtwith is the Gauniloreductio(i).seems to overlook this subtle logic which has always made Anselm's Ontological Argument so much more intriguing and puzzling than the Cartesian-style versions.TheOne FatalFlawin Anselm'sArgument 459 ing ourtheoryto the domainof descriptivenatures. In proceedingforwardfrom step (2').by Oppy (1995). See fn.whichconformsto Fregeanorthodoxyto the extentof being an implicitquantification natures.

68 on Mon. 79. ble here. therecouldalwaysremainroomforpossibleimprovement.andtherebeing in fact some specificnaturewhichthat phrasesuccessfullydenotes.0. (1') to (2t) on similargrounds:perhapsthereis no suchnatureas 'aAnd this sort nature-than-which-no-greater-nature-can-be-thought'.460 PeterMillican original. of course.andaplent-can-be-thought' parentlymakessense.likethe magnitudeof integers)can neverevenin limit:howeverexcellentan principlereacha particularunsurpassable islandmightbe.) The advantageof the reformulationis to makeexplicit something which in Anselm'soriginal is maskedby his apparentIntentional ObjectFallacy(andalsoobscuredbyhis failureto distinguishexplicitly a natureand referringto one)-namely. that betweencharacterizing logicalgapbetween evenif thefallacyis avoidedthereis an ineradicable the firststepof the argumentandthe second.andaretheymutuallycompatible? the atheistis betteradvisedto steerclearof all this and insteadstay strategy. excellenceof we can see if we attemptto starta parallelargumentusing Gaunilo'sown (mostexcellentisland'example: (lg) Thephrase'a-nature-of-an-island-than-which-no-more-excelis clearlyunderstoodbythe Fool.but then 37Aturn of phraseborrowedfrom Cargile(1975)p. canbe blockedby denyGaunilo'sown attemptedreductio Accordingly ing the transitionfrom(lg) to (2g). 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . of questionmighteasilyleadinto traditionaldebatesaboutthe coherence of the conceptof God do omnipotence)omniscienceandperHowever fectgoodnessmakesense.infinitewisdom.betweenthe mereunderstandingof a phrasethatpurportsto denotea nature.Grantto faithfulto the straightforwardGauniloreductao thatinfinitepower. (2g) Hence we can take the phrase 'a-nature-of-an-island-thanas successfullydewhich-no-more-excellent-can-be-thought' notingsomespecificnature.andperfect Anselmhis premisses) goodnessareindividuallycoherentandmutuallycompatible.(etc.on the basisthattheresimplyis no suchnatureas a-nature-of-an-island-tllan-which-no-more-excellentplausiMoreoversucha blockingmoveis particularly can-be-thought.10.will not be contentto Anyatheistworthhis saltpetre.becausejustas thereis no suchnatureas a-nature-of-an-inteso it maywell be thatthe ger-than-which-no-larger-can-be-thought. This content downloaded from 163.37 Anselm'sown transitionfrom will challenge but leavethe matterhere.

. (2e) Hencewe cantakethe phrase'a-nature-than-which-no-moredenoting as successfully effectively-evil-nature-can-be-thought' somespec1ncnature. . nal.for if a scale of goodness can be set up then a scale of evilness can be defined straightforwardlyas its inverse. for exampleon the 38 An argumentpresentedin Millican(1989)p.exceptthatin evilness notionof effective this casemoralgoodnesscountsnegativelyratherthanpositively(or.notablyGod'sand Theobviouswayof developing Antigod'ssupposedinfinitewisdom. 39 An asymmetrybetween goodness and evilness has been claimed (for example.its structuralsimilarityto theAnselmianoriginalradicallyreducesthe scopefor findinganylogicallyrelevantasymmetry betweenthem. . vant asymmetry hasno recoursebutto appealto a differAnselm'sdefenderapparently encein theirrelationto the othercriteriainvolved.68 on Mon.But even if evilness is understood negativelyas a privation of goodness. . .andapture-can-be-thought' similarworkcanbe doneto definethe in termsof the samecriteria.39 thisideais to maintainthatmoralgoodnesscan(orevenmust)accompany infinitewisdom whereasevilness cannot.0.moralevilnesstakes whichpresumably the placeof moralgoodnessas a fourthpositivecriterion).W1S1ntermsot tourposltlvecr1terza1nstantlatlon. andmoralgoodness). 196.whomwe might existenceof a beingof unsurpassably name'Antigod'.In the absenceof anyplausiblebasisforclaiminga relebetweenmoralgoodnessand evilnessin themselves. .10. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . this provides no basis for a relevant objection to the parody argument.and if good- This content downloaded from 163. 0tgreatness dom. comesto muchthe samething. .Onesuchparodyis a simplemirror-image whichcopiesthe Anselmianpatternalmostexactlyin otherrespects. (1e) The phrase'a-nature-than-which-no-more-effectively-evil-nais clearlyunderstoodby the Fool. spadeworkto definethe notion Justas thatrequiredsomepreliminary power.38 appropriately Not only doesthis antitheisticargumenthavea conclusionwhichis to thetheistthanis Gaunilo'sisland evenmoremanifestlyunacceptable (becausetwo suchdifferentbeingsclearlycannotbothhaveunlimited power). And we are alreadyapparentlywell on the wayto 'proving'the real effectiveevilness.will be an argumentbeginningsomeafterappropriate thinglikethis: P .TheOneFatalFlawin Anselm'sArgument 461 thatis as closeas possiblea parodyof Anselm'sorigiframea reductio in themoraldimension. .by Augustine and Aquinas in the context of the Problem of Evil) on the ground that goodness is positive and evilness merelynegative.Theresult.butalso. > P . substitutions.

68 on Mon.evenif thismeansappealingto principles(suchas the objectiveprescriptivityof moralvalues)that playedno rolewhateverin the originalargument. even if that value is different(and for the purposesof this argumenta zero limit would do just as well as an infinite limit).4°Butevenif sucha manoeuvre(andthequestionablemoralmetaphysicsthatunderliesit) wereto be accepted. 40 Such a claim is made in Ch.10. sivenessandevenirrelevance. and without fallingbackon some placeof goodness aboutthe fundamental Neo-PlatonicPresupposition a tall order. 11of Swinburne(1977).theAnselmianmustestablisha necessaryantipathybetween infinitepowerand maximalevil. This content downloaded from 163. becausea similarimpressionis typicalof discussionsof the Gaunilo strategy(forexample.Devine1975). HencedebatesthatarecentredaroundGauniloreductios withparodyargumentsbeingproposedby one be ratherdirectionless.probablyforthe followingreason.becausetheverygeneralityof the methodmakesit totallynon-specificandhenceill-suitedforidentifyingtheflawin questendto tion.the opponentof Anselmcouldrespondquitesimply. majorobstacleevenforthereformulated impressionof inconcluit neverthelessleavesa ratherunsatisfactory Perhapsthisshouldcomeas no surprise.0.thensomeparodyargumentis likelyto be ableto exploit it. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .by droppingthe wisdom criterionfromhis definitionof'eSectiveevilness'andthusmodifying his parodyargumentinto one with a less ambitiousbut still antitheisticconclusion.namelytheexistenceof a beingwho is infinitely powerfuland maximallyevil (but not necessarilyinfinitelywise). no matterwhatthat flawmaybe. side. looks this universe) in the Althoughthe dialecticof the last few paragraphshas made some as at leasta the Gauniloreductio progress.andhascertainlyestablished versionof Anselm'sargument.Unlessone believes supharmonywherebyGodhasprovidentially in somepre-established ness has a determinatelimiting value then it is hard to see why evilness should not have one too. Butthis strengthentailsa correspondingweakness. To blockthis less ambitious and thereforelogicallymore resilientargument.462 PeterMillican groundthat objectivemoralvaluesare intrinsicallymotivatingfor thosewho fullygraspthemandwouldthereforebe knownas suchby anyinfinitelywisebeing. The greatstrengthof this methodof opposingthe OntologicalArgumentis its generality if thereis anyflawin Anselm'spremissesor in his reasoning.and then opposedby the otheron groundswhichoftenseemto haveverylittleto do withthelogicof the argumentitself anymethod of obstructingthe reductiois embraced.

thatwhentranslatedinto the languageof naturesthe Anselmianargumentavoidseightof the nine standardobjectionsthatwere outlinedearlier.the bestwayto identifyanylogicalflawsis to takeup can the atheistpointof viewandthenseewhethersucha contradiction presupposethe non-existbe forceduponus.andthen goes which-no-greater-nature-can-be-thought' on to inferthatwe can legitimatelytakethis as successfullydenoting somespecificnature. Thefatalflaw So farthe positiveconclusionsof our analysisof Anselm'sargument seemrathermeagre.exactly?If we takeforgranted that MarcusAureliusembodiedthe greatestcombinationof power.68 on Mon.then.beneficent> <God>: omniperfect.theyunfortunately wherethe logicalerroris to be found. Namely.Theobviouswayforward.and conignore. is to examinethe translatedargumentin detailwithinits propercontextof the theoryof natures. pliedan appropriate is likelyto be left feelingthatthe Anselmian'srepliesarefrustratingly besidethe point. To move beyondthis frustratingstandoffwe mustresistthe temptationto add yet moreepicyclesto the reductiodialectic.all complications properties(notably cerningadditionalsupposedgreatness-conferring modalitiesof existencesuchas necessityandeternality).thoughwe haveplentyof negativeresultsto show. creatorof the universez Sincethe argumentpurportsto provea contradictionin the denialof God'sexistence. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .wise.0.Butwhichnature. just. 7.and see whatlogicaltricksit mightconceal.andinsteadget to the bottom of whatis reallywrongwithAnselm'sargument.andalthoughGauniloreductioscontinueto castvery do nothingto showus seriousdoubton its validity.10.TheOne FatalFlawin Anselm'sArgument 463 one refutationforeverypossibleGauniloreductio.bothhereandin subsequentdiscussion. Solet us nowaccordingly This content downloaded from 163. wisdomandmoralgoodnessto be foundin the non-divineworld. andthatthe essentiallysimplelessonof the parody arguments thatthe principlesusedwithinAnselm'sown reasoning wouldsanctionparallelinferencesthat areplainlyinvalid has been lost amid the scholasticdiscussionof the particularcase.thenthe best twocontendersareas follows: Aurelius>: <absoluteEmperorof the RomanEmpire. Theargumentbeginsby pointingout thatthephrase'a-nature-thanmakessense.

however. and so becomes more or less equivalentto 'exists'.42 suggestsitself.and he accordinglyseems to be interpretingAnselm's phrasein this sort of way (albeithe confusedlytakesthe relevantrelationto be 'greaterthan'when it should be 'at least as great as'). 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .the describedas 'a-nature-which-cannature<God>canbe appropriately So here be-thought-so-great-that-no-nature-can-be-thought-greater'.andin thissense.and we havea secondpossibleinterpretation to theAnselmianthanthefirst onewhichis likelyto be moreacceptable becauseit at leastenableshis OntologicalArgumentto get underway Andwith this interpretawith a recognisablytheisticsubject-matter.perhapssurprisingly.becauseif his formula onlyto whichevernatureis infactunsurpassis understoodas referring ablygreat(for example.g.and hence aAurelius)canbe accuratelydescribedas 'a-nature-so-great-that-nowhichseemsa fairlyplausinature-that-is-greater-can-be-thought-of'.<Aurelius>if thereis no divinebeing).andaskfromthatperspectivewhichof as 'a-nature-thanthe two naturesabovemightbe correctlydescribable which-no-greater-nature-can-be-thought'.When we think of <God) as instantiated.we areindeedthinkingof this natureas being so greatthatno naturecouldbe thoughtgreater.then the conclusionof his OntologicalArgument. then it is not possible to think of any naturethat is (in fact) greater.p. 42 In securinga sound argumenthere. the formulae'somethinggreaterthan everythingthat can be thought of' and 'thatwhich is greater than everything'(e.41 will not satisfythe Anselmianhimself.p.0. 41 Here 'can-be-thought'in the originalphrasehas been takento mean simply'can-be-thoughtof'.so under this interpretationa more straightforward Gaunilouses way of expressingthe key phraseis just 'a-nature-so-great-that-no-nature-is-greater'.Howeverthe term 'exists'may conjure up misleadingideas about non-existent natures.thatsucha natureis really will failto provideanysupportwhateverforthe existence instantiated. of theAnselmianformula. The most straightforwardanswer.then clearlyAnselm would have no right to suppose even that the actuallygreatestnaturemust be instantiated. 26 above). 179). yieldsa soundargument(whichit of God. Obviouslythis answer ble interpretationof the Anselmianformula. Gaunilo 1078.10.So evenif thisinterpretation of his interpretation does).becauseit seemsin a way immediately Onealternative to be quiteeasyto thinkof a greaternaturethan<Aurelius>.68 on Mon. But in his responseAnselm takes issue with Gaunilo for using forms of words inadequateto the subtletiesof his argument(1078. <God>) could be greaterthan <Aurelius> without being instantiated.theAnselmianmustinsiston an alternative keyphrase.464 PeterMillican enceof an omniperfectbeing.simplyby thinking of the nature <God> as that simplyin virtueof being(fromthe atheist aAurelius)is so describable. fn. If a nature (e.g. This content downloaded from 163. pointof viewthatwe areherepresupposing) Forif Aurelius) is indeedthe greatestnaturethereis. a significantrole is playedby our simplifyingassumption that instantiation 'trumps' the other criteria for greatness (cf. thegreatestnaturethereis. 161).

but this simply combinesthe weaknessesratherthan the strengthsof thefirsttwointerpretations (moreoverif thereis no divinebeingthedenotationof thephrasewillbe radicallyindeterminate.theAnselmian mightbe temptedto try a hybridof the two. or in other words.existenceindependentnatures. So noneof theseinterpretations of 'a-nature-than-which-no-greaternature-can-be-thought'is able to fulfil all of the roles that Anselm requiresof it withinhis argument.TheOneFatalFlaw in Anselm'sArgument 465 tion.Yetmoreinterpretationsbecomeavailableif the argumentis situatedwithin the sort of possibleworldsframeworkenvisagedby Lewis(1970.that<God>is instantiated.predications of greatnessandso forth. Unfortunately. 2 above). includingtwo (p. the argumentcan proceedquite smoothly as far as step (4').43 If the atheistacceptsthis as denotingsome naturethen he will indeedbe forcedinto a contradiction.andhencethe crucialproblemwith thatargumentturnsout to be nothingwhateverto do withdeepphilosophicalcomplexitiesregardinghis talkof mentalentities. But suchinterpretationsseem ratherartificialas construalsof Anselm'swords. So no atheistworthhis saltpetrewill acceptthatunderthisinterpretation thekeyphrasesucceedsin denoting anynatureat all-as farashe is concerned.which arisesfroman indeterminacyoverwhat extentof the phraseis gov- 43 An alternative hybridis 'a-nature-which-can-be-thought-so-great-that-no-nature-thatis-greater-can-be-thought-of'.cf. as meaning a-nature-which-can-be-thoughtso-great-that-no-nature-can-bethought-greater.68 on Mon. fn. Havingfoundone interpretation whichensuresa soundargument. becauseto acceptthatsomenatureis (in fact)so great thatno naturecanevenbe thoughtto begreateris alreadyto acceptthat some natureis as greatas any naturecould possiblybe. thenthe atheistwill see no contradiction whateverin thinkingof a naturethatis infactgreater.This is somethinglike an ambiguityof scope.10. andanotherwhichgivesit a recognizably theisticsubject.andanywayprovideno assistanceto his argument.if infactit is not instantiated.but this is hardlysurprising.however. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .wisdomandgoodnessareat leastas impressive as those of <Aurelius>). 180)which might be paraphrasedas 'a-nature-which-must-bethought-so-great-that-no-nature-can-be-thought-greater'.it then falls down completelyat step (5').Forwhileit remainstruethat the natureGod) can be thoughtto be so greatthat no naturecould possiblybe greater.thereis nonaturethatgreat. This content downloaded from 163.0.andstipulatethathis key phrasebe understoodas meaning'a-nature-so-great-that-no-naturecan-be-thought-greater'. and 'a-nature-which-cannot-bethought-to-be-less-great-that-any-nature'. because if the key phrase is interpreted in this way. sinceit willbe satisfiedbyanyof thecountlessuninstantiatednatureswhosecharacteristics of power. then<God>is not in factthatgreat.butsimply resultsfroma relativelyshallow(thoughveryseductive)ambiguityin his keyphrase.

outproVeS the instantiof thegreatest instantiation Aureliuss atednaturehence it fiils to prove ofGced.68 on Mon.we havefourpossible interpretationsaltogether.AGod> supposethatthenatureill question greater t71ought in actualgreatllese7.0.thenno natureis ill greater Godexists) naturecwn-be-thought factgreatenoughto satisfythekey so it failsto denoteW phrase7 natureerhichis so greatthat no nature is greater (i. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .10. e.andwe can accordinglyscheernedby the 'can-be-thought' as follows: matizethe differentinterpretations which Anature 50 great thatnonature canbethought \reater canbethought Withtwopossiblereadingsat eachof twopoints. can-be-thoughtso Anaturewhich to becauseit is not contradictc)ry great that no nature can-be. Thenaturewhichcarl-be-thought to so greatthatno natureis greater frclmAurelius to aGod> hecauseit is not contradictory supposethatsucha natureshould be exctededin actualgreat:ness. to notethatof thestandardobjectionsto thelogicof the Itis interesting argumentitemizedearlier.466 PeterMillican operator. no greclter rlaturecat7be thoughtof) A ftrgumerlt therearemanysuchnatures.A rexluctio at Step (5' ) fails.has beenvindicatedas relativelyclearlyon target. theexistence The redllstioatStep(')fails. is exceedecl becauseif A naturewhichis so greatthatno thereis ncgsuchnature(unlessStep(z') is unwarranted. than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought none thereforegets closeto identifyingthe logicalgapthatopensup underthis interpretationbetweensomething-than-which-nothing- This content downloaded from 163.As for the other genuinefaultsin the argumentin its variousinterpretations.onlytheAquinasRebuttal. the possibilityof a none of the standardobjectionsevenacknowledges sound argumentunderthe firstinterpretation(wherebysomethingis indeedprovedto exist).whose significancefor the cogency of Anselm'sargumentcanbe tabulatedas follows: 1S soune. no Godexists.whichblocksthe inferencefrom (4') to (5') underthe secondinterpretationand the fourth.

then it is clearthat Anselm'sargumentcanat bestprovethe existenceof somethingthatis actuallyunsurpassedby anycompetitor for the atheist.0.identifiedby its supremegreatnesswhen comparedwith all others.butthatinvolvesthecrudefailureof referenceto a particularexistentratherthanthe relativelysubtlefailureto denoteanynature.or concept)mustindeedbe instantiated (or actual.10. introducedby the overtonesof modalityin his words'canbe thought' andby thepotentialapplicationof thismodalitynot onlyto theparticularnature(ortype. Thefatalflawrestatedandgeneralized Anselmuseshis keyphrasewith the aim of denotingsomenature(or type of thing.Butsinceinstantiation(or actuality.or real existence)is a crucialcomponentof his notion of greatness. andhencewhetherthe natures(or types. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 8. all is leftindeterminatewhetherthesecomparisons arebeingmadein termsof actual greatness or thoughtgreatness.canbe recognizedandspeltout quiteindependentlyof the detailedtheoryof natureswithinwhichit hasemerged.68 on Mon.howevercharacterized. If all comparisonsconcernactualgreatness. on the other hand.butalsoto theotherswithwhichhe favourably comparesit. or concepts)arebeingcomparedin termsof theiractualor hypotheticalqualities. thatsatisfiesAnselm's description.)In viewof all this.or concept)thathe intendsto pickout.this will be quite insufficientto elevateit to any sort of divine status.or reallyexistent).TheOne FatalFlaw in Anselm'sArgument 467 greater-can-be-thought andGod. or concept).onceidentified.Likewisethedenotationfailurewhich is the onlyreallogicalfaultin the argumentunderthe thirdinterpretation has gonelargelyunnoticed the UniqueReferentProblemis no I shallnowillustrate.Howeverthisambiguity. Unfortunatelythereis a doubleambiguityin Anselm'skeyphrase. In short.(Thevitalpoint herebeingthatevenif in a perhapsextravagantly Meinongianspirit we allowanyarbitraryset of descriptionsto characterize a can still remainthe casethat thereis in factno nature.he then goeson to concludethatthis supremelygreatnature(or type.then This content downloaded from is perhapsnot surprisinghow many commentatorshavetendedto assumethatAnselm'sargumentcanbe keptat bayonlyby rejectingthe implicittheoryof natureson whichit builds:they simplyhavenot seen the fundamentalambiguitywhich standsout fromthe backgroundconfusiononlywhenthe argumentis consideredwithina favourable theoreticalcontext.

concept.The means of referenceor specificationwill involvesome suitablygodlikedescriptionwhosecontentis then supposedto providea meansof demonstrating the realityof the entityin question.Forsimplicity. or concept) and the hypothetical greatnessof its competitors: in effect. denotesanything evena natureor conceptis alreadyto concedethe realexistenceof a beingthanwhichno greater canevenbe imagined.or is it sufficientthatit bethoughtofaspossessingthe relevantproperties?' Ifit is necessarythattheG reallyhavethoseproperties.type or concept of an omniperfectcreator).so interpreted.when thus whichcasethe argumentwillproceedby usingthisdescriptionto identify the entityin questionandthen unpackingthe descriptivecontent withtheaimof showingthattheGmustreallyexist.Suchargumentstypicallyproceed by referringto or specifyingsome 'entity'( orderto satisfythe description"theG"thatan entityreallypossessthe propertiesthatqualifyit as the denotationof thatdescription.0.68 on Mon.hybrid.or whatever) is to be proved.existence. But once madeexplicitit becomesclearthat this simplybegsthe questionagainstthe atheist:to acceptthatthe key phrase.Anselm'sargumentprobably derivesmuchof its slipperyseductivenessfroma third.interpretationwherebythe comparisons aremadebetweenthe actualgreatness of his key nature (or type.Nothingin Anselm'sargumentgivesthe slightest groundforsupposingthatsucha beingexists.if it is not necessarythattheG reallyhavethose This content downloaded from 163.thenthe atheistcan reasonablyquestionwhether'the G'succeedsin denotinganygodlike entityin the firstplace.or henceforthe atheist's concedingthat this phrase.once stated.10. Thereis herethe basisof a generalmethodof criticismwhichcanbe appliedto otherversionsof the OntologicalArgumentandwhich.Tocountersuchan argumentI recommendthatthe atheistshouldfaceits proponentwith a simpledilemmathroughthe followingquestion:'Is it necessary.468 PeterMillican althoughthe atheistmayconcedethatthereis somepotentiallydivine contenderin the frame (namelythe nature.we areinvitedto contemplate the existentialstatusof something-which-is-actually-so-great-that-nothingcan-be-thought-greater. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .seemsrationallycompelling.can successfully denote.or whatever)whose'reality'(instantiation.the argumentwill do nothingto showthatthis contenderis anythingmorethanhypothetically supreme:if somethingthan-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought can satisfythis description purelyin virtueof beingthoughtsupremelygreat.supposethatthe descriptionusedis 'theG'.thenclearlyits satisfactionof the descriptionprovidesno groundforgoingon to concludethat it is actuallysupremelygreat.actuality.

asit is to thinkof a mountainwithouta valley. forit is an obvioustautology thatthe realityof a divinebeingcanbe inferredfromhis keyphrase's successfuldenotationonlyif thatphraseis usedin a sensethatprevents it fromdenotingsuccessfullyunlessa divinebeingreallyexists. .Translated intothe termi44 The dilemma is posed in terms of something's'really'possessingpropertiesratherthan 'actually' possessing them.So in usingthe phrasewiththe presumptionthatit doessuccessfully denote something. Hetheninfersfrom the natureof this beingthatexistenceis one of the perfectionsthatit possesses. the essentialpointsof whicharecontainedin the followingshortquotation(Descartes1641pp.68 on Mon. 213-6).the exemplificationof this kind of world-indexedproperty ean only be either necessaryor impossible hence acceptingthe realpossibilityof such an entity cannot reasonablybe expectedeven of an agnostic. Thus translated. ButAnselm'sfailureto evadeimpalementshouldnot surpriseus. a supremely perfectbeing)lackingexistence(thatis)lacking a perfection). for as Plantingahimself points out (p. it isjustasmuchof a contradiction to think of God(thatis.' This content downloaded from 163.then the theistcannothope to provethat anyentitythus denotedmustthereforereallyexistwiththoseproperties. 45-6.TheOne FatalFlawin Anselm'sArgument 469 one whichI findwithin mejustas surelyasthe ideaof anyshapeandnumber.Plantinga'sclaim is in effect:'The following property essentialomniperfectionwhich if possiblyexemplifiedis necessarilyexemplified-is possiblyexemplified. HereDescartespurportsto makereferenceto somethought-of'beinge whichis characterized as possessingallperfections. let alone an atheist.The question-beggingnature of Plantinga'sargumentbecauseclearerif it is translatedout of the idiom of possible worlds.andthenarguingbackthatit canonlysuccessfully denotea realdivineentity.we can applyit to the versionof the OntologicalArgumentpresentedin DescartessMeditations.andhencethatit mustreallyexist. . As an illustrationof the widerrelevanceof thiskindof dilemma.0. followingthe wordingof the Frenchedition): [The]ideaof God)or a supremelyperfectbeing.Anselmis surreptitiously tryingto havehis cakeand eatit. 218). to accommodatemodal argumentssuch as Plantinga's(1974>pp.Andmyunderstandingthatactualandeternalexistencebelongsto hisnatureis no lessclearand distinctthanis the casewhenI proveof any shapeor numberthatsome propertybelongsto itsnature. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in which it is claimedthat some entity in a possibleworld (ratherthan a mere object of thought) has a 'world-indexed'propertywhich carriesimplications for the actualworld also.10.44 Wehavealreadyseenhowthehornsof thisdilemmaimpaleAnselm's OntologicalArgument: his keyphrasecanbe interpretedin a waythat guaranteessuccessfuldenotationonly by relaxingeitherthe requirementof divinity(thesensein whichit mightdenoteMarcusAurelius) or the requirement of reality(thesensein whichit candenotea divine entityevenif thatentityis merelyhypothetical). which seems to invest possibiliawith so much more 'reality'than mere thoughts or fictions. Here the appropriate target of the dilemma is the supposition that there really is such a possible entity. the sametermsthathe useshimself.Finally.thenyou havegivenno reasonto supposethatthe termsucceedsin referring. directlytargetingthe logicof the presentedargumentandhighlighting plainlywherethe reallogicalgaparises.becauseof this terminologicalmodestythe objectioncanbe urgedin a waythat remainsontologicallyand metaphysicallyneutral.yourargumentdoes nothingto establishthe realexistenceof a perfectbeing.thismethodof refutationhasa numberof major advantages.or indeedto anyotherproponentof a similarform of argument.not thatthereexists somereallyperfectbeingfor 'God'to denote.andmostimportantly.or whether it is sufficientthatthe beingbe merelythoughtof as perfect.the avoidanceof such metaphysicalred herringsleavesthe thrustof the objectionclearand straightforward.Eitherway.Secondly.10.foras we haveseenit canbe posedto Anselm or Descartes.First. becauseyourmerelyhavingthe ideaof a perfectbeingshowsat best thatsomebeingis thoughtof byyou as presupposesno sophisticatedtheoreticalbackgroundor terminology.0.we canseediasimplerversiontradeson thesamekind howDescartes's grammatically of arepurportingto speakaboutsome perfectbeing but it is not clearwhether. As comparedwith the standardobjectionsto the OntologicalArgumentsurveyedearlier.If your term'God'candenoteonlya beingthatis perfectin reality. Whenyou referto 'God'.in orderto qualifyas the referentof thisterm.If on the otherhanda beingcanqualifyas the referentof yourterm'God'justin virtueof beingthoughtof as perfect.68 on Mon.intentionalor otherpotentiallycontroversialtypesof 'entity'evenif theseareexplicitlyemployedin the criticized argument.sidesteppingany debateon the statusof mental.albeitwithonlyone instanceof theambiguityratherthan two: A naturewhich/ \in includinginstantiation possessionof allperfections canbe thought Howeverthe fataldilemmacanbe posedto Descarteswithoutrelying as follows: on anysuchtranslation. This content downloaded from 163. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .470 PeterMillican nologythatwe haveusedto analyseAnselm'sargument.a beingneedsto be perfectin reality. thebeingthus you clearlycannotarguethaton painof contradiction denotedmustbe perfectin reality.thenevenif 'God'succeedsin referring.

see Anscombe (1967)p.whileAnselm'sversioncontains two instancesof the sameambiguity.andalthoughit is unclearhow farexplicitconsiderationof the argumentmotivatedhis subsequent work.and conformsnicelywiththe preferenceexpressedat the beginningof this paperfor 'shallow'as opposedto 'deep'refutations. convictinghim of a shallowscope fallacyleavesno such room for doubt.Berkeley's inferenceto an allperceivingspirit.Aristotle's. but if substantiated.Aristotle.10.Spinoza and Berkeley.WhereasconvictingAnselmof treatingexistenceas a predicatestillleavesit obscurewhetherthis supposederroris in factdisastrousforhisargument(sinceit mightturnout not to be an errorat all). The long-standingassumptionthat the fallacyin the Ontological Argumentis deep ratherthan shallowmay have had a significant impacton the developmentof twentieth-century logicandphilosophy. 9. it brings theconsiderable benefitof deliveringa logicalverdictthatwillstandthe testof time.anda moral Therefutationdevelopedaboveis.andvariousothernotableargumentsgivenbyphilosophersfrom Platoto Spinozato contemporariessuch as Ayer.see Geach (1958)pp. Russell'sflirtationwith Hegelianismwas apparentlybased on his acceptanceof a formof the argument(as evidencedbothby his essays atthetimeandbya letterof 19llto OttolineMorrell).p. This content downloaded from 163. 2-5.For this accusationagainst Plato.see Davies (1982)p. see O'Neill (1998). 122-3.thecloselyrelatedtopicof existence(andthestatusof non-existents)figuredprominently bothin his discussionswithMoore in the 1890S and in the thinkingthat led ultimatelyto his theoryof 45 All of these philosophershave been accused of committing the most familiarform of scope fallacy. 42. againstAyer.with the doublyindeterminate scopeof 'canbe thought'cleverlycamouflaged insidehis keyformula.then Descartes'sversionof the argumenttradeson an ambiguitybetween realperfectionandthoughtperfection. Conclusion.68 on Mon.known as the 'quantifiershift' fallacy.andthatof Descartes.45 Of coursethe scholarlyidentificationof suchshallowfallacieswithinan author'sworkcanbe verycontroversial.TheOne FatalFlawin Anselm'sArgument 471 this simpleand directattacksucceedswhereso manyof the familiar standardobjectionsfailor areat bestinconclusive: Anselm'sOntologicalArgument.If I am right. 194 fn. Hobbes'sandMill'sarguments fora primarygood or standardof value. 138.including(arguably) suchclassicalexamplesasAquinas's 'ThirdWay'. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .0.againstAquinas. Anselm'sargumentcanthusbe addedto whatis alreadya distinguished listof implicitscopefallacies.gratifyingly simple. against Hobbes and Mill. in the end. so and pp.areindeeddecisivelyrefuted.

then admittingsuch discoursewouldriskopeningthedoorto the entitiesintophilosophical a host of others(suchas the Gaunilodoubt and no Anselmianfallacy theoriesbecamewidelyneglectedand styleparodies). blocksthe inferenceevenif Anselm'ssupposedMeinongianextravatheory withinan appropriate gancesarepermitted.47 or of entitiesthatmightor mightnot exist.and deepsuspiParsons(1980).Whenreformulated 46 See Griffin(1991)pp.So 'Meinongian' evenridiculed'asthe supremeexampleof a philosophicalreductioad (Passmore1985.not onlybecausethe argumentwasstandardly'refuted'byappealto theKantianDogmaandthequantificational of existence(as for exampleby Frege. ble. 8 Jul 2013 10:22:48 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Overthenextfewdecades the OntologicalArgumentand the conceptof existencewerewidely seenas intimatelyentwined.butalsobecause-just asit haddoneforKant theargument continuedto playa majorrolein discussionsof the natureof existence talkof 'natures' wouldinevitablydiscourage Sucha background itself. 296-304 on his discussions with Moore.henceit seemsverylikelythatthe prospectof emphatically underminingit wouldhaveprovidedat leastsome of the motivation forhis intenseinterestin theselogicalissues. the form of an explicit 'confession'to what is generallyreckonedto be a philosophicalsin.but amongthe generalrunof philosophers Perhapsthis suspicioncanbe significantlyallayed cion still remains.48 by showingthatthe fundamentalflawwiththe OntologicalArgument is not itstreatmentof existencewhichso provokedKantandhis successors.p.10.472 PeterMillican In 1911he wasstillviewingthe OntologicalArguin 1905.46 descriptions ment as the rationalbasis for the Hegelianismthat he had since so disowned. See Simons (1988)for Russell's later correspondencewith Meinong (and with Frege)which played such a large part in the developmentof his theory of descriptionsas firstpresentedin Russell(1905). 127). In Kripke's for exampleby Castaneda(1974). and the argumentalso featuresprominentlyin numerousarticleson 'Existence'or 'Being' in philosophicaldictionariesand encyclopaediasthroughoutthe twentiethcentury.Russell. but insteada relativelyshallowambiguitywhich.for if all thatwaswrong with the OntologicalArgumentwas its treatmentof existenceas a propertywhichsuchentitiesmighthaveor lack.if expunged. 47 For example.Routley(1979). the 1936symposium between Kneale and Moore on the topic 'Is Existence a Predicate?' perhapsthe best-known such discussion startsfrom Descartes'sversion of the argument. This content downloaded from 163. 70-8 for the influenceof the OntologicalArgumentin Russell'sconversion to Hegelianismand pp.Ryle.and interpretation Kneale).0.eventuallymakinga modestcomeabsurdum' backonly in the 1970SafterKripke'sseminalNamingand Necessity (1972)had madetalkof possibleworldsandtheiroccupantsrespectawakea numberof suchtheoriesweresoon developed.Rapaport(1978).68 on Mon. which takes 48 An engagingattempt to answersuch scepticismis providedby Jacquette(2000). He develops his own position most thoroughlyin Jacquette(1996).

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