An Erotic Pattern of Thinking in Anselm’s Proslogion

Quaestiones Disputatae 2 (1-2):126-145 (2011)
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Anselm’s 'Proslogion' is, as he says in its Preface, 'unum argumentum', a single line of reasoning, that builds toward the following: “that God is truly,” “that he is the highest good who needs no other,” and that he is the one “whom all things need so that they may be and may be well.” This paper attempts to shed light on how Anselm carries out the threefold task that he sets for himself and way in which his procedure brings unity to the work. Although I do not provide a full account of the unity of the 'Proslogion', I lay the groundwork for such an account by reflecting on the 'Proslogion' in light of the 'Symposium', with a view to bringing a pattern of thinking present in Plato’s work to bear on the 'Proslogion'—an intertextual approach that illuminates aspects of Anselm’s thinking and reveal the rich Platonic and Neoplatonic tradition within which he was working. In the 'Symposium', one discerns a pattern of thinking that consists of three “moments”: a comic moment, a tragic moment, and a philosophic moment. To follow this pattern in one’s inquiry is, as Socrates suggests, to practice 'ta erôtica', “erotics,” the art of erotic thinking. Familiarity with this pattern of erotic thinking helps make sense of Anselm’s thinking in the 'Proslogion', and in this paper I reveal how this is so.
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