Religion Anselm Aquinas and Hume Term Paper

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Thus, Sam argues that although the world often seems unjust (and is filled with innumerable instances of evil), yet P. is solved through the belief that every condition (good, in this case) necessitates an equal and opposite condition (evil, as it were.) However, Gretchen counters by asking whether those who behave in an evil way are ever punished for their transgressions, and whether there is any motivation for people to not simply act in their own best interests, whether or not this involves behaving in an immoral manner. Sam's rejoinder appeals to the afterlife as the site in which the importance of morality becomes manifest: "But the doctrine of an afterlife, in whatever form, says that this isn't the whole story" (47). However, Sam disregards the fact that God is purported to pardon many sinners, which would ostensibly mean that he regularly pardons instances of injustice.

The dialogue between Sam and Gretchen involves the attempt to locate God's existence empirically, with some indexical proof that he has removed injustice from the world. However, this is ultimately impossible, which is why the book does not constitute a successful attempt proving His existence. However, if Sam had read Anselm, he might have been able to use the material gleaned from the Proslogion to respond to problem P. Specifically, Anselm does not attempt to prove God's existence through attempting to locate indexical ways in which he has affected the world. Rather, Anselm argues that because God represents a greater figure than anything that can be conceived, He must exist. Anselm states that when discussing God, everyone knows who He is, even without any empirical proof scientifically testifying to his presence. Thus, the very fact that God is so enigmatic only strengthens the argument that he exists.

Anselm 9 and 10 would be particularly helpful to Sam in his attempt to convince Gretchen. In 9, Anselm states that:

Truly, then, you are compassionate even because you are just. Is, then, your compassion born of your justice? And do you spare the wicked, therefore, out of justice? If this is true, my Lord, if this is true, teach me how it is. Is it because it is just, that you should be so good that you can not be conceived better; and that you should work so powerfully that you can not be conceived more powerful? For what can be more just than this? Assuredly it could not be that you should be good only by requiting (retribuendo) and not by sparing, and that you should make good only those who are not good, and not the wicked also. In this way, therefore, it is just that you should spare the wicked, and make good souls of evil.

Per Anselm, it is precisely due to the fact that God is so forgiving that he is just. If he punished all sinners without providing them with the opportunity to atone for their sins, he would not have the redemptive power for which he is worshipped. Not only does God keep his followers from conducting themselves in an immoral manner, but he also rescues sinners from continuing to behave in an evil way.

Thus, by reading Anselm (9 and 10), Sam would be able to tell Gretchen that just because God pardons sinners, this does not mean that he condones their actions. Rather, it is precisely due to the fact that he spares them that sinners are grateful and motivated to change their course of action. One need only observe all the cases in which people reform their improper behavior to witness the ways in which God's influence is manifest throughout the world. Thus, it is inaccurate to contend that God 'lets sinners of the hook': rather, he spares them so that they may conduct themselves in a productive way that improves the world.

In Chapter 10, Anselm argues that it is impossible for humans to judge the efficacy of God's actions since they are conducted out of a greater sensibility than that of humans:

"For, in sparing the wicked, you are as just, according to your nature, but not according to ours, as you are compassionate, according to our nature, and not according to yours; seeing that, as in saving us, whom it would be just for you to destroy, you are compassionate, not because you feel an affection (affectum), but because we feel the effect (effectum); so you are just, not because you requite us as we deserve, but because you do that which becomes you as the supremely good Being. In this way, therefore, without contradiction you do justly punish and justly spare."

Ultimately, while Sam's argument would be strengthened by Anselm's theories, he would still be unable to definitively prove that God exists in a world that often appears unjust, and so his response to P. is unsuccessful. Someone who believes that instances of injustice permeate the world (Gretchen, for instance) is unlikely to be dissuaded by Anselm's methodology, which is not empirically based. Gretchen would likely identify instances in which wrongdoers repeatedly commit offences, even after having been pardoned. Thus, there is no measure that Sam could take to strengthen his argument. The notion that God acts out of a heightened consciousness, while an appealing concept, is impossible to prove, so while Sam effectively bolsters his argument, he does not overcome his predicament.


Anselm. Proslogium. Trans. S.N. Deane. Internet History Sourcebook. Fordham University, Aug. 1998. 10 Sep. 2012. Retrieved from

Aquinas, T. Summa of Theology. Trans. B.P. Copenhaver. Publisher Unknown, 2005.

Hopkins, J. A New Interpretation of Anselm's Monologion and Proslogion. Minneapolis: Arthur J. Banning Press, 1986.

Hume, D. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Unknown Publisher, 1779.

Mascall, E.L. "Faith and Reason: Anselm and Aquinas." The Journal of Theological Studies 14.1 (1963): 67-90.

Owens, J. "Aquinas and the Five Ways." The Monist 58.1 (Jan 1974): 16-35.

Perry, J. Dialogue on Good, Evil and the Existence of God. Indianapolis: Hackett Press, 1999.…

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