LONDON. Aristotelian Society, June 7.—Prof. Wildon Carr, vice-president, in the chair.—Rev. A. E. Davies: Anselm's problem of truth and existence. The famous proof of the existence of God is not purely ontological, but rather the verification of a specific mode of experience termed “faith.” In Anselm's words, it is “faith seeking understanding,” and by “faith” is meant a mode of immediate apprehension, awareness of God. Two stages are distinguishable in the reasoning. The first seeks to prove that we must think of ultimate reality in terms of existence. Here the appeal is to logical thought. In the second stage Anselm proves that this ultimate reality is his personal God. Here the appeal is to experience. The argument implies that truth and existence are two ultimate forms of reality: existence is the reality of things, truth the validity of thought-contents. Hence truth must be soug-ht in terms of validity. This is the logical character of the “proof.” We can “only know as perfectly as possible.” We know existent reality only as our thinking is valid, and we cannot think validly that God is non-existent. Between these two ultimate forms of reality is presupposed a fundamental agreement, such that the relations of thought validly represent the real relations of things. For Anselm such agreement has its ground in God. A second implication is that when thinking is valid it starts from existence, in the same sense that its contents are occasioned by existent reality. So that without experience we cannot know. The ethical character of the basic conception of God proves it to be no mere thought-product—that is, knowledge presupposes a mode of reality dissimilar from itself.
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Societies and Academies. Nature 105, 569–571 (1920). https://doi.org/10.1038/105569b0