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Abstracts (fall 2004)

Human Free Will in Anselm and Descartes
Sophie Berman
St. Francis College
ABSTRACT

Freedom is a central theme in Descartes's philosophy, where it is linked to the theme of the infinite: it is through the freedom of the will, experienced as unlimited, that the human understands itself to bear the "image and likeness" of the infinite God. In God the will is logically prior to the intellect, although both are inseparable in the unity of the divine nature; the infinite, properly understood, is will, since its essence is pure power. The human will mirrors this power, transcendent to the world. The Cartesian "thing that thinks," the rational being, is fundamentally the thing that is free.

These views align Descartes with a voluntarist philosophical tradition emphasizing the will in both the human and the divine. Anselm is a major figure in this tradition. Undoubtedly the similarity between Anselm and Descartes is easily masked by the difference of context: Anselm's De libertate arbitrii deals with the freedom of the will in connection with the question of sin, while Descartes's Fourth Meditation brings up the notion of free will within the setting of an analysis of error. Descartes's philosophical project, tied to epistemological exigencies, is not the Anselmian project of "faith seeking understanding." Yet Anselm and Descartes reveal a common metaphysical intuition in discerning an indivisible and inalienable freedom - imaging the divine creativeness - at the heart of created rational nature. The aim of the present paper is to explain this commonality.

 

Faith and Reason in Anselm: Two Models
Montague Brown
Saint Anselm College
ABSTRACT

In the preface to his Proslogion, Anselm gives titles to the two works known best as the Monologion and the Proslogion. These latter titles are for convenience; the full title of the Monologion is An Example of Meditation on the Meaning of Faith, and of the Proslogion, Faith in Quest of Understanding.

These titles reveal two very different models for the relation between faith and reason. The first is an analytic treatment of the content of the faith and is, according to Anselm, to be carried on without reference to Scripture. It searches for proofs of propositions, such as "God exists," and "God is a Trinity." Thus, the arguments are mostly those of natural theology, or at least they are meant to use only reason as an authority. The second is an existential plea for wisdom and holiness. It responds to the command of our Lord that we should have faith, and that only if we have faith will we have understanding. But what does it mean to have faith? It is more than just assenting to propositions (although it is this). It is to believe, not just what God said, but believe in God. This requires the overcoming, not just of ignorance, but of sin. Without prayer, it is impossible.

This paper intends to examine closely these two models of the relation between faith and reason with an eye to their source in Augustine's work (most obviously in On the Trinity, and the Confessions, respectively). Two major questions arise. In the first place, does the existential approach do away with the analytic, systematic approach? After all, what is the point of thinking from the outside about the content of faith when what we need is to live in the wisdom and power of God's presence? In the second place, if the existential approach does not do away with the systematic approach (which I think is true), how are the two related? 

 

A Defense of the Rationale for Anselm's Cur Deus Homo
Nicholas Cohen
Boston College
ABSTRACT

Anselm of Canterbury's Cur Deus Homo (CDH) is one of the most important theological approaches to the issues of Incarnation and Atonement which may be found in the history of Christianity. Anselm's ingenuity and rigor in his examination of the rationale for the central doctrine of the Christian faith established the Cur Deus Homo as mandatory reading for a medieval understanding of Christology. However, the Cur Deus Homo has been received with varying degrees of suspicion due to that very medieval context in which Anselm wrote. In his defense of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation of the Word of God, Anselm framed his reasoning within the feudal context in which he lived and he tended to derive analogies and imagery from the legal peculiarities of that society. Unfortunately, the influence of feudalism has caused some scholars to harshly criticize or dismiss outright the entire Cur Deus Homo. In this paper, I would like to address those criticisms and counter those who maintain that Anselm's argument lacks viability because of its feudal context. It is my hope that, by showing possible patristic sources for some of Anselm's key imagery, the weight of some criticisms leveled against the argument may be mitigated. 

 

Saint Anselm of Canterbury and Romano Guardini
Father Emery de Gaál, Ph.D.
University of St. Mary of the Lake
ABSTRACT

Well before World War I, Romano Guardini had felt the deleterious impact of the Kantian critique of religion. As a reaction to Kant and the then prevailing Neo-Scholasticism, Guardini turned to the Augustinian tradition. While theologians at the time were attempting to demonstrate the scientific nature and relevance of theology, Guardini here sought to demonstrate the indispensable relevance of revelation and faith for knowledge. His position was cause for much irritation at the university and he was criticized for "unscientific dogmatism." But for Guardini true knowledge comes about only if the object of investigation is integrated into one's interiority. The goal of knowledge is not a mere collection or assemblage of information, "but rather the formation of one's own being. (for) only the person who is holy recognizes the holy God."

Guardini's interest in the person and thought of St. Anselm of Canterbury is formative for his thought on these issues for he detects similarities between the eleventh century and his own age, the early part of the 20th century. In both ages he sees the promise for a rebirth amid chaos. Guardini wrote two seminal pieces dealing with the theology of St. Anselm. His article, "Das argumentum ex pietate beim hl. Bonaventura und Anselms Dezenzbeweis"(St. Bonaventure's Argument from Piety and Anselm's Proof), was published in 1922 and, one year later in 1923, he published in a collection of essays an article entitled "Anselm von Canterbury und das Wesen der Theologie" (Anselm of Canterbury and the Nature of Theology). In these one discovers the key to unlock Guardini's understanding of the nature and purpose of theology. 

 

A Christological Renaissance: The Chalcedonian Turn of St. Anselm of Canterbury
Michael J. Deem
Saint Louis University
ABSTRACT

This paper claims Anselm of Canterbury to be the first significant writer of the Latin Church after Pope Leo I to successfully apply the Chalcedonian doctrine in a fashion that is attentive to the person of Christ while accounting for the metaphysical accord of his two natures within the salvific economy. Rather than referring to Christ's humanity only in reference to his divinity or attempting to safeguard his humanity through the employment of an adoptionist or Nestorian framework, Anselm provides a tangible soteriological model that does not compromise the unity of Christ's person. After tracing the Christology of the Latin Church from Leo to Anselm, this paper presents Anselm as the theological successor of Leo in the Latin Church as he served to orient subsequent Latin theology towards a fuller understanding of the historical and soteriological implications of the Incarnation. 

 

Brentano's Account of Anselm's Proof of Immortality in Monologion 68-69
Susan Krantz Gabriel
Saint Anselm College
ABSTRACT

In his lectures on medieval philosophy, the German philosopher Franz Brentano (1838-1917) noted that Anselm had proposed a "peculiar" proof of immortality. This proof caught Brentano's attention because it is what he would call a "psychological" proof, that is to say, it rests on facts about our mental or psychic activities. Anselm tells us, roughly, that the purpose of our existence is to love God (a psychological activity, in Brentano's terms), and that God would not will that our activity of loving him should cease, therefore our souls are immortal. There is an interesting play between Anselm's claim that the soul amet summam essentiam (loves the supreme being) and Brentano's report that Anselm says the love of God is the soul's hoechste Bestimmung (highest determination). Perhaps it is Brentano's peculiar interpretation of Anselm's argument for immortality that turns an activity of the soul into a defining property of the soul. In any event, Brentano is right that Anselm's proof of immortality in the Monologion is remarkable, and apparently it has gone largely unnoticed and unstudied so far.

 

Understanding Christ's Satisfaction Today
Paul J. LaChance
Saint Anselm College
ABSTRACT

Anselm's theory of satisfaction atonement has come under fire from many quarters. Satisfaction is understood to be tied up with violence and to promote oppression, child abuse, and a self-destructive spirituality. The problem, howeve, is not simply that St. Anselm employed forensic language and highlighted justice over mercy. The difficulty lies in a proper understanding of the nature and non-existence of evil, the sovereignty of providence over suffering, and God's transcendent solution to the problem of evil. Such insights were commonplace for the early Christians and well articulated in St. Augustine and Boethius. It is in this context that I will propose to read St. Anselm and to understand the meaning of satisfaction atonement with the help of Fr. Bernard Lonergan's appropriation of St. Anselm's disjunction aut poena, aut satisfactio.

 

Ms. Bodley 271: Establishing the Anselmian Canon?
Ian Logan
Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University
ABSTRACT

This paper addresses the role and importance of Ms. Bodley 271. It reviews the case presented by Dom F.S. Schmitt for the authorship and dating of this manuscript and the objections presented by R.W. Southern. Following detailed palaeographical analysis of the hands of the scribes involved in the manuscript's production, I identify the main scribe, and through a comparison with his other known works suggest a date for his involvement. In conclusion, I argue that this manuscript marked an attempt to produce a definitive canon of Anselm's works, in which Anselm himself may have been involved.

 

Anselm and the Guilt of Adam
Kevin M. McMahon
Saint Anselm College
ABSTRACT

Perhaps the most difficult element in the traditional teaching on original sin is the claim that the very guilt of Adam's sin has been passed on to the entire race. It was Augustine who, in the course of the Pelagian controversy, first drew this conclusion from St. Paul's discussion of sin, particularly in the letter to the Romans. Augustine ultimately attributed the transmission to the agency of concupiscence, a less than happy solution. When he came to treat the issue in his Summa theologiae, Aquinas shifted the agency from the impetus of concupiscence to the will of the first man, a move of marked importance in the Augustinian tradition. But, as this paper will show, Aquinas was already anticipated in this by the approach taken by Anselm in his On the Virgin Conception and Original Sin.

 

Music in the Time of Saint Anselm
Donald R. Cox
Saint Anselm College
ABSTRACT

The 11th century gave birth to a new artistic impulse as it also gave rise to original and systematic treatises about faith. St. Anselm, innovative theologian and Archbishop of Canterbury, contemplated the qualities of faith and argued the existence of God. Likewise, Guido d'Arrezo, Benedictine monk and medieval music theorist, contemplated the properties of sound and formalized early musical notation (the visual charting and indication of pitch). The monophonic music of the plainchant that embellished the Church's liturgy gave way to polyphony. The vagaries of memory, as singers tried to memorize more and more music, gave way to the development of notation. This paper will present the development of music at the time of Anselm, the music that Anselm would have heard in his abbey church, the music that perhaps helped to inspire him in his meditation on the wonders of God.