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On Anselm’s Argument and That Which Cannot Be Conceived

José Carlos Estêvão


I intend to show in this paper that Anselm of Canterbury’s argument “that than which nothing greater can be thought”, rather than a definition, is the meaning of the name of God. According to the argument, by not carrying out the ascesis required to enter one’s own mind and to withdraw it from anything other than God – a practice imposed by the very apophatic nature of the divine name –, the insipiens renounces the rationality of thinking. Thus, by not paying attention to the fact that the Anselmian discussion is presented in the form of a medieval quaestio, further commentaries to this text, and especially the contemporary ones, fail to show that, inspired by Augustine of Hippo, Anselm developed what himself purposely took as a philosophical program: to withdraw from the senses in order to turn to the intelligible, the “natural place for the contemplation of truth”.


Anselm, Proslogion, Apophatic Argument of God’s Existence, The Intelligible.

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