Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sokolowski on the implications of the ontological argument

"God is to be so understood, and the world or creatures are to be so understood, that nothing greater, maius, is achieved if the world or creatures are added to God.  To bring out this implication, and to state the [unstated] premise in terms more akin to Anselm's own expression, we must say:
(God plus the world) cannot be conceived as greater than God alone; or:
(God plus any creature) cannot be conceived as greater than God alone.
. . . if the world or any creature were to contribute greatness to God, then God would not be that than which nothing greater can be thought.  God plus the creature or God plus the world would be thinkable as greater than God alone.  Anselm's definition of how God is to be understood is usually taken to mean that no other being, or no other combination of beings, could be conceived as greater than God; but it must also be true that any being or any beings taken together with God cannot be conceived as amounting to something greater than God alone. . . .
Furthermore, in chapters three and five [of the Proslogion] Anselm introduces the theme of being better, melius, as parallel to the theme of being greater, so another formulation of his unstated premise would be:
(God plus the world) cannot be conceived as better than God alone; or:
(God plus any creature) cannot be conceived as better than God alone.
That is, no perfection would be lost if God had not created the world.  The world and God must be so understood that nothing but God could be all that there is, and there would be no diminution of greatness or goodness or perfection.  God is not better or greater because of creation, nor is 'there' more goodness or greatness because God did create.  This does not imply that God does not care about his creation, or that what is created is not worth anything.  On the contrary, God's benevolence is so great that even though he does not need creation in any sense at all--he does not need it to be himself, nor does he need it for 'there' to be greater excellence; nullo alio indigens--still he has created and, beyond that, has entered into his creation in the person of Jesus."

Robert Sokolowski, The God of faith and reason: foundations of Christian theology (Washington, DC:  The Catholic University of America Press, 1995 (1982)), 8-9.

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