« PreviousContinue »
rience and emotion, of prayer, hope, and joy ; the Catholic Church was then the embodiment of religion, the sole source of inspiration ; she received the allegiance of the soul as well as the pen. We cannot wonder, then, if we find a great theologian, in an age of dialectic subtilties, regarding preconceived and consecrated doctrines as conclusively established by arguments, which to us, whose minds are emancipated from their sway, appear unsubstantial, or even absurd.
Before speaking of Anselm's works, we shall glance at his relation to the great scholastic problem.
The rich philosophy of Greece had been lost to Europe ; but by a marvellous good fortune a single remnant had been preserved as leaven, which for six centuries determined the course of human thought. In the translation of Porphyry by Boetius, a treatise taken up with verbal abstractions, one difficult and fundamental problem had been proposed and not answered: “ Therefore I should refuse to say whether genera and species really subsist or consist in mere thoughts ; whether, as subsisting, they are corporeal or incorporeal ; whether, finally, they exist separated from sensible objects, or in those objects, and forming something coexistent with them. This is too difficult, and demands too extended research."
When I speak of the human species, when I name this general word, which answers neither to any one of the individuals included in it nor to any number of them, is it a mere word or conception, or has it a subsistent reality? If it is a real existence, is it a body or not? If it exists, does it exist apart from the visible individuals, or is it only real in those individuals ? Realism declares that universals exist, either in an intermediary world, or as eternal ideas in the plan of God, - as his word; a rational nominalism maintains that these universal conceptions are derived from individual objects by abstraction, and are only real as they answer to the real resemblance of the individuals. Conceptualism does not differ from nominalism well understood. This great question, lying in a manner at the bottom of all philosophy, has been agitated in very modern times no less than in ancient Greece. But there was in the Middle Ages a special interest in the debate. The Christianity of the Church had been formed VOL. LXXIII. - 5TH S. VOL. XI. NO. II.
under the influences of the Academy; the Church fathers were Platonists; the doctrine of the Eternal Word - the likeness of the Father -- stands or falls with the Platonic theory of eternal types; the Trinity and the Eucharist were no less affected by the issue of this controversy. The Church therefore favored realism, and scholasticism, because of its Aristotelian text-books, nominalist in appearance, was realist at bottom.
There had been nominalists before Roscelin; but he has rightly been named the founder of the sect, for which his genius found the fitting name and decisive test. There is but one substance, that is, one thing; therefore the parts of that substance, or its qualities, or the genus to which it belongs, are no things; what are they, then, but names. M. Haureau well says that Abelard had no right to attack Roscelin; the method of the former was critical, of the latter, dogmatic; but Roscelin doubtless never thought of denying that the name answered to an idea, and to a real resemblance or quality in the things. It obviously followed from nominalist principles, that either the three persons of the Trinity were as separate as three souls, or, since individuals alone exist, the Father and Holy Spirit had been incarnated with the Son. And Roscelin, after this bold proposition, endeavored to defend himself by alleging that the pious Anselm, Abbot of Bec, was himself not averse to his opinion. He was condemned by a Council, and took refuge in England, where he secretly propagated his opinions; and in 1093, Anselm thought it necessary to write a very severe treatise against him. “Those dialectics of our time, who think universal substances nothing save a breath of the voice, and the wisdom of a man nothing but the soul, should be excluded from the discussion of spiritual questions.” “For he who does not yet understand how many men are in the species unus homo, how can he understand how several persons, each of whom is perfect God, are one God?” “And he whose dull mind cannot distinguish between a horse and his color, how shall he discern between one God and several relations?”
From this passage it may be concluded,-1. That Roscelin allows the existence of individuals only; Anselm affirms that
universal substances exist, — human nature without any of the determinations proper to individuals, man in general distinct and separable from this or that man in particular. 2. Roscelin considers wisdom and color as abstractions from the wise or colored object; to Anselm, wisdom and color, the categorical modes, are real and separate existences. But Anselm speaks of individual substances, in which he is evidently inaccurate; for if the universal, which is wholly in the individual, is a distinct substance, then (since the individual cannot be divided) it must exhaust that substance. The realistic definition is that what is most general only exists; whence, in the last analysis, it must follow that all things are but forms of one substance. To speak more intelligibly, if we conceive that all men manifest the idea or type of humanity, which type is the only reality, appearing in different men differently modified, then it is also true that everything, however unlike in appearance, is only a manifestation of the central Unity, of the One which is also the All, which meets us everywhere under a thousand shapes and variations. Such is extreme realism, the doctrine of Scotus Erigena and of Spinoza. Anselm has been sometimes included among the advocates of this pantheistic unity; but it might be proved by numerous citations, that the accusation is unjust. According to him this Unity is not in things, but out of them; the Divine Being is beyond all substance.
Anselm's realism has a remarkable resemblance to that of Plato, of which he could have had no knowledge. It may be summed up as follows: the universals before the thing (ante rem) exist as exemplars in the Divine mind; in the thing (in re), they are those same divine models, of which the things are feeble imitations; after the thing (post rem), they are general ideas collected from sense, from which man must ascend to the true universal, the idea as it exists in the human and divine reason. Add to this that he realized the qualities of things; and we see that to Anselm every conception of the mind corresponds to a reality. Such is his bold realism : the process of the human mind in understanding is that of the Divine mind in creating.
The “ Monologium,” or Meditations, as it might be called,
is the soliloquy of a person endeavoring to explain and prove to himself what he believes. It is an attempt to exhibit the principal doctrines of Christianity in a necessary form, resting upon axiomatic principles, and compelling the assent
The “Prologium” is an additional treatise in the form of an aspiration, with the same end. In these works, Anselm has completely anticipated the famous ontological argument of Descartes for the existence of God, by the sole conception of an ideal of grandeur and absolute perfection. The argument in the former work takes the following form.
Why are those things which every one desires good ? Since there is such a variety of goods perceived by the senses or the reason, is there one thing by virtue of which they are good, or are they so by different principles ? Evidently, things which are compared as greater, less, or equal, are so called in virtue of some one principle which is common to the different objects. Thus, things more or less just are so by justice, the same in all. So all goods are more or less good by one principle. That by which all things are good must be a great good, and good by itself, while all other things are good by it. Hence there is something highest and best of all things which are. The same reasoning applies to prove a greatest nature. All things which exist, exist by something. If by one other thing, the problem is solved. If they exist by themselves, then each has a power of self-existence, a “res vel natura existendi per se," which makes them to exist. They will then be said to be by this something which makes them to exist by themselves. This by which all things are just and good, and exist, is therefore the highest wisdom, life, reason, beatitude, goodness, eternity, and the rest; and, since this supreme nature is simple, all these goods are one.
Some excellent remarks may be found in M. de Ramusat's work on this reasoning, in which Anselm's realism is everywhere prominent, but which yet conceals a profound philosophy. Anselm was not altogether satisfied with this chain, as
of many arguments : he wished to discover one axiomatic proof of the supreme, self-sufficing, and creative Good. He had, at times, glimpses of that for which he sought, but was unable to seize it, till, in despair, he strove to turn from
the unprofitable employment. But all the more the thought forced itself upon him, and at last flashed across his mind. He wrote it, says Eadmer, on a wax tablet, “which, concealed in a secret place, an invisible hand twice shattered, till he transcribed it on paper, in the name of the Lord.” By this famous argument, Anselm is now most known. Descartes, it seems to be proved, was acquainted with this fragment of the
“ When even the fool hears that there is something, than which nothing greater can be conceived, he understands it; then this idea is in his intellect. And that than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot be in the intellect alone. For in that case it might also be conceived in re,' which would be greater.” This has given rise to much discussion. But the Monk Gaunilo seems to have hit the mark : “ First prove to me that this greatest thing is somewhere, and then, since it is greatest, there will be no doubt that it subsists in itself.” It is said, “I have an idea of a perfect being ; perfection implies existence: then this being exists." By no means; it only follows that I have an idea of a perfect and existing being, which I knew before. If the idea is necessary, that is, if by the laws of thought I must believe that my thought answers to the reality, then the argument is a mere tautology ; if not, it is a mere sophism. The problem is to pass from the idea to the belief that the idea represents a reality ; which cannot possibly be made out of the contents of the idea itself. But Anselm attempts to build a system on this rather slippery foundation.
The rest of the Monologium is chiefly occupied with an effort rationally to demonstrate the Trinity by a comparison borrowed from Augustine. The Father is Memory, which begets the Son as Intelligence. Both experience for each other Love, which is the Holy Spirit; but the Father possesses also intelligence and love, and so the Son and Spirit: they differ only in relations, as Father, Son, and Spirit. All such audacious experiments have a common history. Mind may be conceived as self-knowing and self-known, as object and subject; the Divine intelligence may be conceived like the human ; and though the distinction be merely an abstraction,