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Anselm on immortality and love: reading Monologion 68-70.

Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.

RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT

I

Benedictine monk and Abbot of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury and Doctor of the Church, maker of luminous proofs and heartfelt prayers, intrepid dialectician and poet of holy desire: the life and many-sided achievements of St. Anselm (1033-1109) have been written about so often, and written about so well, that one despairs of saying anything new about them. In this article, however, I shall examine an important aspect of Anselm's thought that has been unduly neglected by historians of medieval philosophy as well as by philosophers of religion. Yet my topic is nothing outrageously esoteric or quaintly arcane--quite the contrary, in fact. Far from being the exclusive property of academic specialists, the aspect of Anselm's thought we shall explore in the following pages should be of interest to anyone who has ever pondered the meaning of eternal life or recited the Apostles' Creed.

Toward the end of the Monologion, in seven remarkably rich sections that commentators have passed over in silence, Anselm explores the subject of immortality from a purely philosophical perspective, without appealing to the truths of Revelation or invoking the authority of Scripture. (1) That Anselm takes a purely philosophical approach to the subject of immortality in this, his first book, should not surprise us; after all, the Monologion was written at the request of his Benedictine brethren at Bec, who specifically asked him to compose a meditation in which truths about God and related matters were established by means of reason alone:
   Some of my brethren have often and earnestly asked me to write
   down, as a kind of model meditation, some of the things I have
   said, in everyday language, on the subject of meditating upon the
   essence of the divine; and on some other subjects bound up with
   such meditation. They specified (on the basis more of their wishes
   than of the task's feasibility or my capacity) the following form
   for this written meditation: nothing whatsoever to be argued on the
   basis of the authority of Scripture, but the constraints of reason
   concisely to prove, and the clarity of truth clearly to show, in
   the plain style, with everyday arguments, and down-to-earth
   dialectic, the conclusions of distinct investigations. They even
   wanted me not to disdain to meet the down-to-earth or even
   downright silly, objections that I would come up against. (2)


In Sections 68-70 Anselm uses "everyday arguments, and down-to-earth dialectic" to defend the thesis that the human soul that strives to love God will (a) live forever and (b) enjoy supreme happiness without end after death. For simplicity's sake, I shall refer to this double-barreled proposition as the Immortality Thesis; and I shall try to explain as clearly and as carefully as I can why Anselm thinks that this thesis is credible independent of revelation. This is no easy task, as we shall see, since Monologion 68-70 contains many intricate arguments, some of which were constructed to fit inside others in the manner of Russian nesting dolls. My goal in what follows, therefore, is threefold: to identify and analyze Anselm's arguments and subarguments, to explore the logical relations among them, and to elucidate their thematic content and significance. And if my interpretation of Sections 68-70 is fundamentally correct, Anselm has much to teach us about what matters most: the purpose of human existence, how we are to live, what we are to love, where happiness is to be found, and--last but not least--what awaits us when we have shuffled off this mortal coil.

III

Before we can examine the philosophical arguments Anselm offers in support of the Immortality Thesis, however, a question about our formulation of that thesis needs to be addressed.

The Immortality Thesis, we have noted, can be represented as the conjunction of two subtheses, (a) and (b). According to (a), the soul that loves the supreme essence will live forever; according to (b), the soul that loves the supreme essence will enjoy supreme happiness without end after death. No doubt the reader will already have perceived, however, that (b) actually entails (a), since it is clear that the soul cannot enjoy supreme happiness forever unless the soul lives forever. If we can demonstrate (b), therefore, we have ipso facto demonstrated (a). So why bother to mention subthesis (a) in our formulation of Anselm's Immortality Thesis? Because this formulation reflects the way Anselm's argument for the Immortality Thesis unfolds in Monologion 68-70. That is to say, Anselm does not begin by establishing (b), from which (a) follows as an uncontroversial corollary; rather, he establishes (a) in Section 69 (having laid the groundwork for (a) in Section 68), then defends (b) in Section 70 as a way of completing the account of immortality developed in Section 69. For once Anselm has shown in Section 69 that the soul that loves the supreme essence will live forever, he finds himself faced with a crucial question: What will the endless life of such a soul be like? It is only at this point that Anselm, seeking an answer to this question, introduces subthesis (b).

Our discussion of the Immortality Thesis, like our formulation of it, will reflect the order of Anselm's argument in Monologion 68-70. Accordingly, we shall examine his argument for (a) before turning our attention to (b).

IV

In Monologion 69, Anselm advances the following argument for sub-thesis (a), the first half of the Immortality Thesis. (3) We may call it the Argument from Love:

A1. The human soul was created to love the supreme essence (summum essentiam) forever.

A2. However, the human soul cannot love the supreme essence forever unless the soul lives forever.

.: A3. The human soul will live forever if it does what it was meant to do, namely, love the supreme essence. [From A1, A2]

.: A4. The soul that loves the supreme essence will live forever. [From A3]

Two preliminary observations about the Argument from Love are in order. In the first place, its conclusion, (A4), does not state that all souls are immortal. All we are told in (A3), from which (A4) is derived, is that a soul will live forever if it loves the supreme essence as it was meant to do. Should we conclude from this that Anselm thinks that souls who do not love the supreme essence are not immortal? No, and this for three reasons. (1) That way of interpreting Anselm's conclusion plainly rests on confusion between sufficient conditions, on the one hand, and necessary conditions, on the other. That is to say, it does not follow from the fact that a soul is immortal if it loves the supreme essence that if a soul is immortal it must love the supreme essence. (2) Anselm goes on to argue in Section 71 that the souls of those who loathe or despise the supreme essence cannot be annihilated, since that would be incompatible with the demands of reason and justice. Souls who loathe the supreme essence must be suitably punished, says Anselm, but annihilation is not a suitable punishment; for if the guilty soul were simply deprived of life and existence, its condition would be identical to its condition before it was guilty of anything. (4) (3) Finally, Anselm argues in Section 72 that even those souls who neither love nor despise the supreme essence must be immortal. Since human souls share the same nature, he reasons, all human souls are immortal if any of them are immortal; and we know from Sections 69 and 71 that some human souls are indeed immortal (i.e., the souls of those who love the supreme essence, and the souls of those who despise the supreme essence). (5)

In the second place, the Argument from Love is logically valid: (A4) follows from (A3), which in turn follows from the conjunction of (A1) and (A2). Premise (A2), moreover, is uncontroversial, even self-evident. Premise (A1), however, is quite another story; and because the Argument from Love ultimately rests on it, our appreciation of that argument will be severely compromised unless we understand Anselm's subargument for (A1). We cannot understand this subargument, however, unless we examine his answers to four fundamental questions. First, what is meant by the supreme essence, and why does Anselm suppose that such a thing exists? Second, assuming that the supreme essence exists, why and how are we to love it? Third, why should we think that our souls were created to love the supreme essence? Finally, why should we think that our souls were created to love the supreme essence forever or without ceasing? Unpacking Anselm's intriguing answers to these questions is the task of the next section.

Question 1: What is meant by the supreme essence, and why does Anselm suppose that such a thing exists? Reply: Anselm addresses these questions at the very beginning of the Monologion (Sections 1-4) as well as at its very end (Section 80), where he explicitly identifies the supreme essence with God. Here we would do well to begin with Section 1, where Anselm tells us what he means by supreme essence: "Of all the things that exist, there is one nature that is supreme. It alone is self-sufficient in its eternal happiness, yet through its all-powerful goodness it creates and gives to other things their existence and their goodness." (6)

Why believe that the supreme essence, so defined, actually exists? It is at this point that Anselm introduces a line of thought later adapted by Aquinas in his celebrated Fourth Way, which takes as its starting point "the gradation to be found in things." (7) When we have a number of things that are F, says Anselm, some of which are more or less F than others, there must be something through which all of them are F. (8) It follows from this that if there are good things, some of which are more or less good than others, there must be something through which all these things are good. And since that through which all other good things are good must itself be good, and since it cannot be good through anything else, we are forced to conclude that it must be good through itself. (9) But if that through which all other good things are good is good through itself, Anselm reasons, it must be supremely good; for what is good through something else cannot equal or be superior in goodness to what is good through itself, and the supreme is that which has no superior and no equal. (10) It follows that if there are things that exhibit varying degrees of goodness--and who, Anselm asks, can doubt that this is so? 11--then a supremely good being must exist. And since what is supremely good must be supremely great, he adds, we are entitled to conclude that there exists a being that is supremely great as well as supremely good, that is, a being that is the best and the greatest of things. (12)

In Sections 3 and 4 Anselm extends the argument of Sections 1 and 2. Just as all things that are good are only good through a thing that is good through itself, and just as all things that are great are great only through a thing that is great through itself, all things that exist only exist through something that exists through itself. (13) But what exists through something else exists less truly or less fully than that which exists through itself. Therefore, that which exists through itself exists most of all or supremely. (14) And since what exists most of all is identical with what is the best and the greatest, we may conclude that there exists one thing that is supreme in existence, goodness, and greatness. And this being, we are told at the conclusion of Section 3, is the supreme essence: "But that which exists most of all, that through which whatever is good is good, whatever is great is great, and indeed through which whatever exists exists--this is necessarily supremely good, supremely great, and is of all things that exist, the supreme. Therefore there is some thing which, whether it is called an essence, a substance, or a nature, is the best and the greatest, and of all the things that are, the supreme." (15)

Are Anselm's arguments in Monologion 1-4 sound? I shall not attempt to add anything to the ongoing debate over their merits, (16) primarily because my subject is Anselm's arguments for immortality, not Anselm's arguments for the existence of God. The only judgment I am prepared to pass on the latter must be poured into the logical mold of a conditional: if Anselm is right about the nature and existence of the supreme essence, then his case for the Immortality Thesis must be taken very seriously indeed. For as we are about to see, much of what Anselm says in defense of subtheses (a) and (b) is derived logically--and, it would appear, impeccably--from certain claims he makes about the supreme essence's nature. But if the Immortality Thesis can indeed be validly inferred from certain propositions about the supreme essence's nature, it follows that we can know that the Immortality Thesis is true, provided we can know that the aforementioned propositions are true. And we can know that these propositions are true if the arguments advanced in Monologion 1-4 are sound. (17)

Question 2 : Assuming that the supreme essence exists, why and how are we to love it? Reply: If we read Sections 68 and 69 with the patience and care their density demands, we may extract four Anselmian thoughts that bear directly on both of these issues. (18) In the first place, the object of love is goodness, and the supreme essence is supremely good. Hence the supreme essence is supremely lovable, and we are to love it above all things. In the second place, degrees of love ought to conform or correspond to degrees of goodness; and the better a thing is, the more we ought to love it. Since the supreme essence is supremely good, it should be loved with all our hearts; loved, that is to say, with all the love of which our nature is capable. In the third place, the supreme essence is the only thing we should love for its own sake; for nothing except the supreme essence is good through itself. In the fourth place, whatever we love besides the supreme essence should be loved not for its own sake, but only for the sake of the supreme essence; and this is because such things are good, not through themselves, but only through the supreme essence.

Implicit in Section 68 is the thought that love may go wrong in more than one way because it is subject to multiple norms. We may love a good thing more or less than its goodness strictly warrants, for instance; and we may love a lesser good more than we love a greater. Again, we may love a good thing for its own sake when it is only to be loved for the sake of another good thing; and we may love a good thing for the sake of another good thing when it is only to be loved for its own sake. The religious and devotional implications of this line of thought would not have escaped the Monologion's intended audience, the Benedictine monks at Bec who persuaded Anselm to write his model meditation on the divine essence. For they would have immediately seen that Section 68 raises a question that any devout monk desirous of making progress will ask himself regularly. That question is not "Do I love God?"; rather, it is "Do I love God as he alone ought to be loved--love him, that is to say, above all things, with all my heart, and for his own sake?" And if the monk is Anselm's ideal reader (humble as well as perceptive, inquisitive yet pious) he must always be prepared to ask himself a further question: "Why do I not yet love God as he ought to be loved? Is it because I do not love God with all my heart, or because I do not love God for his own sake, or because I love myself or some other creature more than I love God?" When looked at from this angle, the point of Anselm's remarks about love in Section 68 seems clear: his words are intended to help his readers examine themselves so that they may become better lovers of the supreme essence. And if this is truly one of Anselm's aims, then we can only conclude that he speaks of love out of love, and that his words are fruits of the reality they name.

Question 3: Why should we think that human souls were created to love the supreme essence? Reply: The drift of Anselm's argument for this proposition in Section 68 can be summed up as follows. Major premise: Rational creatures were created to love the supreme essence. Minor premise: Human souls are rational creatures. Conclusion: Human souls were created to love the supreme essence. Anselm thinks the minor premise of this argument is a truism, and he says next to nothing about it. The more contentious major premise, however, is defended with two ambitious arguments.

Here is the first argument, which we may call the Imago Dei Argument. The mind of a rational creature, Anselm says in Section 67, is an image and mirror of the supreme essence. (19) For the mind, like the supreme essence that created it, can love, understand, and be conscious of itself; and it has the capacity to love, understand, and be conscious of the supreme essence. Since this capacity is the greatest gift that the supreme essence has bestowed upon rational creatures, (20) rational creatures owe it to their Creator to develop that capacity, that is to say, to make the most of it. It follows that rational creatures should do all they can to become conscious of, understand, and--yes--love the supreme essence.

The second argument, which we might call the Discrimination Argument, runs as follows. (21) To be rational is to be able to judge, that is, to discriminate between what is good and what is not good, between what is true and what is untrue, what is just and what is unjust, what is better and what is worse. (22) But this God-given ability to judge or discriminate would be pointless (i.e., would be good for nothing, or serve no purpose) if our judgments of things did not lead us to love and pursue what is good, and to hate and shun what is bad. (23) Since rational creatures would not have been given such an ability by the supreme essence unless that ability was good for something, it follows that rational natures were made to love what is good with appropriate intensity. (24) But we know that what is supremely good should be loved above all else, with all our hearts, and for its own sake. Therefore, rational natures were made to love the supreme essence above all other things, with all their hearts, and for its own sake.

What do the Imago Dei and Discrimination Arguments tell us about Anselm's understanding of the human soul--its nature, its powers, its purpose--insofar as reason alone is able to know it? (1) According to Anselm, the soul as such has a purpose, and this purpose is not of our making. Pace Sartrean existentialists, our existence does not precede our essence; for there is a definite end for which human souls were created by God. Until we know what this end is (until, in other words, we understand what we were made for) we shall remain unknown to ourselves, living rudderless and unexamined lives. (2) The purpose of our existence can only be understood by reference to what sets us apart from the rest of creation; namely, our rationality. For we were made to love the supreme essence, says Anselm; but since there cannot be love without reason, the end for which we were made can only be achieved through the exercise of our capacity to judge and discriminate. (3) The human soul cannot achieve the end for which it was made unless it gives itself to the being in whose image it was made and whose nature it mirrors. Each of us, in virtue of our very nature, is directed toward a reality that both grounds us and transcends us; and this supreme reality, as Aquinas would say, is what we call God: et hoc dicimus Deum. (25)

Question 4: Finally, why should we think that the human soul was created to love the supreme essence forever or without ceasing? Reply: The argument Anselm gives for this proposition in Section 69 can be framed as a dilemma. If the human soul was created to love the supreme essence, then either the soul was created to love the supreme essence forever or it was created to love the supreme essence only for a time. If the soul was created to love the supreme essence only for a time, however, then the soul was created to lose this love at some point. But the possibility that the soul was created to lose its love can be ruled out, Anselm says, since it is manifestly incompatible with the nature of the supreme essence. (26)

Why? Here Anselm assumes, reasonably enough, that a soul could only lose its love of the supreme essence in one of two ways: either because the soul freely chooses to lose this love, or because the soul loses it against its will. Hence if the soul was created by the supreme essence to lose its love of the supreme essence, one of the following two propositions must be true: either (i) the soul was created so that it would will to lose this love, or (ii) the soul was created so that it would lose this love against its will. (27) We can, however, rule out (i): creating a soul so that it would choose to turn away from the supreme essence after loving it, when such love is its very raison d'etre, is inconsistent with the goodness and wisdom of the supreme essence. And we can rule out (ii) on similar grounds, because it is inconceivable that the supreme essence (a being supreme in goodness, wisdom, and power) would create a soul so that it would love the supreme essence, only to lose that love against its will. Any being that would do such a thing, we are given to understand, would surely be less than supreme in some respect. And once (i) and (ii) are ruled out, (28) we can rule out the second of the two possibilities with which we started, namely, the possibility that a soul was created to lose its love for the supreme essence at some point. So there is only one conclusion we can draw: not only was the human soul created to love the supreme essence, it was created to love the supreme essence forever. And this, of course, is precisely what premise (AI) asserts.

Two distinctive features of Anselm's reasoning cry out for comment. (1) Immortality, it will be observed, is not presented as a logical consequence of the soul's metaphysical simplicity or indiscerptibility, its immateriality or independence from the body, its substantiality, or its power to grasp necessary and immutable truth. (29) Instead, the soul's immortality is deduced from its God-given purpose or raison d'etre--that is to say, from an account of what the soul was ultimately created for. What Anselm offers his readers in Sections 68 and 69, therefore, is essentially a teleological argument for immortality. The supreme essence has created us for a definite end, he contends, and the nature of that end is such that we shall exist forever provided we pursue it in the right way. (2) And how do we know that loving the supreme essence is the end for which we were created? Here, too, Anselm shows himself to be a man of independent mind. For unlike some proponents of teleological proofs of immortality, Anselm does not argue as follows: "We know that a love for a perfect, uncreated and eternal good--for God, in other words--has been implanted in our nature, since experience teaches us that no created and ephemeral goods can satisfy us or cure us of our restlessness." (30) This once-popular Augustinian style of argument embodies what we might call a bottom-up approach, inasmuch as it moves from facts about what we actually long for or desire to facts about our relation to God. (31) Anselm's argument, in contrast, is decidedly top-down in its basic orientation: he moves from the nature of God to our relation to God, and from our relation to God to what we should long for and love. And this style of argument is perfectly in tune with the top-down approach of the Monologion as a whole, Anselm's model meditation on the divine essence.

VI

If the arguments that Anselm offers in Sections 68 and 69 are sound, they prove that lovers of the supreme essence will live forever. But what will the unending life of such lovers be like? Will they be happy or unhappy? If they are happy, what is the cause of their happiness? Will their happiness last forever, or will it pass away and be lost?

At this stage of Anselm's argument, we simply cannot answer these questions; for although we know that such lovers will never cease to exist, we are not entitled to infer from this that they will be happy. As Anselm observes at the conclusion of Section 69, long life in and of itself is not necessarily a blessing, for such a life could be full of unhappiness and rich in unrelieved suffering: "Long life on its own, after all, is no great thing, not without real immunity from adversity. What is life lived in fear, suffering, or in the illusion of security, but life lived in unhappiness? The happy life is the life that is free of all this. And will the nature that always loves the supremely good and omnipotent, always live an unhappy life? Quite absurd! Clearly, therefore, this is the sort of life that belongs to the human soul: provided that it keeps to the purpose for which it exists. It will, at some time, live the happy life, the life truly immune from death and all distress." (32)

The question we now need to wrestle with is this: How can we as philosophers know that souls who love God steadfastly will live the happy life forever? It is at this point that Anselm shifts his attention from the first half of his Immortality Thesis to its second half; that is to say, from subthesis (a), according to which souls who love the supreme essence will live forever, to subthesis (b), according to which souls who love the supreme essence will enjoy supreme happiness forever. Here is a reconstruction of Anselm's argument for (b), presented in Section 70. (33) We may call it the Argument from Divine Rewards:

B1. The supreme essence rewards souls who love it with a vision of itself.

B2. Souls who love the supreme essence will enjoy supreme happiness without end when they behold it.

.: B3. Souls who love the supreme essence will enjoy supreme happiness without end. [From B1, B2]

It should be clear that Anselm's Argument from Divine Rewards is meant to complement and complete his earlier Argument from Love. According to the Argument from Love, God has created rational beings for an end whose nature is such that they will live forever if they pursue it steadfastly. According to the Argument from Divine Reward, God will reward those who pursue this end steadfastly with a vision of himself, and it is this vision that makes eternal life a source of supreme happiness for souls who inherit it through love. It follows that if both of Anselm's arguments are sound, not only do we know that lovers of the supreme essence shall inherit eternal life, we also know that their inheritance will make them supremely happy forever.

It should also be clear that the Argument from Divine Rewards is logically valid: if (B1) and (B2) are true, (B3) must be true as well. But do we have any reason to think (B1) and (B2), neither of which is self-evident, are actually true? Anselm cannot help himself to these premises, it seems fair to say, until he answers three questions about them. First, why suppose that the supreme essence will reward its lovers in any way? Second, why suppose that the supreme essence will reward its lovers with itself? Finally, why suppose that the happiness that the soul enjoys in beholding the supreme essence can never be lost? Let us take these issues in order.

VII

Question 5: Why suppose that the supreme essence will reward souls who love it steadfastly? Reply: In the opening lines of Section 70 we find Anselm defending this proposition with an indirect proof or reductio. If the supreme essence did not reward its lovers, he says, we would have to conclude that the supreme essence is unjust (since treating lover and loather alike is patently unjust), and yet we know from our earlier discussion that the supreme essence is supremely just. (34) Furthermore, the supposition that the supreme essence does not reward its lovers implies that the supreme essence does not love the lover or that the supreme essence's love does the lover little or no good. Yet both of these things are incompatible with the nature of a being that is supremely good and supremely powerful. (35) Since the supposition with which we started thus has consequences that we know are false, it must be rejected.

Anselm's dialectical strategy here is as clear as it is cogent. Once you have granted that the supreme essence exists, he thinks, there is no room left in logical space for you to doubt that the supreme essence will reward those souls who truly love it. Hence anyone who wonders whether the supreme essence could be indifferent or unresponsive to our love has simply failed to grasp what the supreme essence is, that is a being that is supremely just, supremely good, supremely great, supremely wise, supremely powerful, and so on. And this failure must be regarded as a purely philosophical one, Anselm would insist, since he is confident that these truths about the supreme essence's nature can be known by reason alone, without appealing to the data of revelation as apprehended by faith. As Anselm sees it, then, any able philosopher who has fully understood the arguments of Monologion 1-4 should grant that the supreme essence will reward its lovers in some way.

Question 6 : But why suppose that the supreme essence will reward its lovers with itself? Reply: A close look at the middle third of Section 70 turns up two arguments for this all-important proposition.

The first of these we may call the Proportionality Argument. (36) The supreme essence gave a rational nature to what was nothing, says Anselm, so that rational creatures might love the supreme essence. But rational nature excels all other created natures. Now, since the supreme essence gave a nature that towers over the rest of creation to what was nothing so that creatures with this nature could love the supreme essence, it stands to reason that when creatures with this nature love the supreme essence as they were meant to do, the supreme essence can only reward them (for we have already established that it will reward them) by giving them something that excels all created natures. (37) And what could that something be, except the supreme essence itself? It follows that the supreme essence will reward its lovers with a vision of itself.

Anselm's second argument is the Desire Argument. (38) No one can love the supreme essence, which is supremely good, without desiring it; that is to say, without wanting to enjoy it. Hence if the supreme essence did not reward its lovers with itself, their desire for it would necessarily remain unsatisfied. But would the supreme essence allow its lovers to desire it if their desire for it--a desire they have only because they love it, which is what they were created to do--could never be satisfied? Surely not, says Anselm; that would be inconsistent with what we know about the supreme essence. For if the supreme essence wanted to be loved and desired so that it could give its lovers something other than itself in return for their love, this would mean it does not want to be loved for its own sake, but only for the sake of something else; but that, we are told, would be tantamount to saying, absurdly, that the supreme essence does not want to be loved by us. (39) So the supreme essence will satisfy the desire of its true lovers, rewarding them with a vision of itself.

Note that the Proportionality and Desire Arguments both treat the soul's vision of the supreme essence as a reward. What is the significance of this classification in the present context? A moment's reflection is enough to point us in the right direction. To say that this vision is a reward is to say, inter alia, that this vision is a good that the supreme essence grants us, as opposed to being a good that comes to us as a direct causal consequence of our own efforts. In other words, the exercise of our natural powers is not a sufficient condition of seeing the supreme essence; we can see it only if it allows itself to be seen by us; that is to say, only if it chooses to reveal itself or give itself to us. (40) And to whom will it reveal or give itself? To souls who have loved and desired it wholeheartedly, for its own sake, and above all else. We may conclude, therefore, that a vision of the supreme essence will be granted to rational creatures who have done what they were created to do, and that this vision will be granted to them in recognition of the fact that they have done what they were created to do.

What will this reward be like? Our understanding of its nature rests on the conclusions reached in Monologion 1-4 and 16-17. Since the supreme essence is whatever it is through itself and nothing else, Anselm reasons, it must be good through itself, just through itself, great through itself, wise through itself, happy through itself, powerful through itself, and so on. To say that the supreme essence is good through itself, however, is to say that the supreme essence does not instantiate or participate in goodness; it is goodness, just as it is greatness, justice, wisdom, happiness, and power. (41) Accordingly, anyone whom the supreme essence rewards with a vision of itself shall behold true goodness, greatness, justice, wisdom, happiness, and power. The vision of all this will make those rational creatures who have devoted themselves to the supreme essence supremely happy. How could it do any less? After all, this vision unites them with the object of their deepest longing. In the end, the soul of the lover sees what it has loved unseen in this life, and encounters what it has hitherto known only through intermediaries. (42)

Question 7: Why suppose that souls who are vouchsafed a vision of the supreme essence will enjoy supreme happiness without end? Reply: According to Anselm, it is evident that the soul who beholds the supreme essence--the very thing rational creatures were created to love--will enjoy supreme happiness. How could the soul not enjoy it, since (as we have just seen) the supreme essence is goodness, greatness, justice, wisdom, happiness, power, and much else besides?

But could a soul ever lose this happiness? That is the question with which Anselm wrestles toward the end of Section 70, and his answer is a firm and unequivocal no. For a human soul, he reasons, could only lose this happiness for one of the following reasons: either (i) because the soul turns away from the supreme essence by ceasing to love it, or (ii) because the supreme essence abandons the soul, or (iii) because the soul is separated from the supreme essence by a being more powerful than the supreme essence. (43) Yet none of these three scenarios, Anselm assures us, could ever come to pass. Scenario (i) can be ruled out because the soul who enjoys supreme happiness has already experienced its lack in this life and thus cannot help but love such happiness forever. Scenario (ii) can be ruled out as well, because the supreme essence will never desert or abandon a soul who truly loves it. Finally, scenario (iii) can also be dismissed; since the supreme essence is supremely powerful, nothing could separate the soul from the supreme essence against the supreme essence's will. Hence the soul that has begun to enjoy supreme happiness will always enjoy it, living the truly happy life forever.

It is essential to supreme happiness that the soul who enjoys it must know that such happiness can never be lost. For if you believed that your happiness could be lost at some point in the future, you would naturally be afraid that you might lose it; and such fear and anxiety would taint or vitiate your happiness. Of course, this does not mean that the belief that one's happiness cannot be lost is sufficient for supreme happiness. Unless that belief is known to be true, Anselm observes, the sense of security that crowns the happiness of a rational creature is illusory; and supreme happiness, by virtue of its very nature, can owe nothing to illusions. (44)

VIII

The last thing we must say about Anselm's defense of the Immortality Thesis is also perhaps the most important from his point of view, and this is why I have left it until the very end.

Suppose we conclude that Anselm's Arguments from Love and from Divine Rewards are sound, and suppose we accept their respective conclusions, subtheses (a) and (b), on this basis. What, if anything, should we do next? It is quite clear, I think, how Anselm would respond to this query. "If you accept the Immortality Thesis," he would tell us, "then you must change your life. How? By striving to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. (45) Why? Because it is only in this way--only, that is, by preferring nothing to the love of God--that you can find the happiness for which you were made by God."

In the end, therefore, Anselm's arguments are meant to lead us beyond the sphere of argument. For if we judge that what he has written is sound, it is not enough for us to praise his words; we must also endeavor to bring them to life, to embody and express the truth they contain, to translate them into the medium of our deeds and dispositions. Any reader who is truly persuaded by the arguments of Monologion 68-70 should therefore practice what Anselm preaches, and (in the words of St. Benedict) "yearn for everlasting life with holy desire." (46)

Notes

(1.) Monologion, Sections 68-74. All passages quoted from the Monologion are taken from Simon Harrison's translation of that work, which appears in Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works, ed. Brian Davies and G. R. Evans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 3-81. The original Latin text of the Monologion, to which I shall occasionally refer, can be found in Anselmi Opera Omnia, ed. F. S. Schmitt (Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1940-1961),Vol. I, 5-87; Sections 68-74 can be found on 78-83.

(2.) Harrison, Major Works, 5.

(3.) Ibid., 74-75.

(4.) Ibid., 76.

(5.) Ibid., 77.

(6.) Ibid., 11.

(7.) Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1, q2, a.3: "Quarta via sumitur ex gradibus qui in rebus inveniuntur."

(8.) Harrison, Major Works, II: "Certissimum quidem et omnibus est volentibus advertere perspicuum quia, quaecumque dicuntur aliquid ita, ut ad invicem magis vel minus aut aequaliter dicantur: per aliquid dicuntur, quod non aliud et aliud sed idem intelligitur in diversis, sive in illis aequaliter sive inaequaliter consideretur."

(9.) Ibid., 12.

(10.) Ibid., 12.

(11.) Ibid., 11.

(12.) Ibid., 12: "Est igitur unum aliquid summe bonum et summe magnum, id est sum mum omnium quae sunt."

(13.) Ibid., 13-14.

(14.) Ibid., 14.

(15.) Ibid., 14: "Quare est aliquid, quod, sive essentia sive substantia sive natura dicatur, optimum et maximum est et summum omnium qua sunt."

(16.) For a recent analysis and assessment of the arguments of Monologion 1-4, see San dra Visser and Thomas Williams, Anselm (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), Chapter 4.

(17.) It does not follow from this, of course, that we can know the Immortality Thesis

is true only if the propositions about the supreme essence that entail it have been proven by Anselm.

(18.) Harrison, Major Works, 73-74.

(19.) Ibid., 73.

(20.) Ibid., 73.

(21.) Another version of the Discrimination Argument can be found in Book II, Chapter I of Cur Deus Homo. Cf. Major Works, 315-316.

(22.) Ibid., 73.

(23.) Ibid., 73-74.

(24.) Ibid., 74.

(25.) Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3.

(26.) Harrison, Major Works, 74.

(27.) Ibid., 74.

(28.) Ibid., 74-75.

(29.) It seems to follow from this that what is immortal is whatever loves--namely, a person--and not a mere intellect. See Susan Gabriel Krantz, "Brentano's Account of Anselm's Proof of Immortality in Monologion 68-69" The Saint Anselm Journal 2.i (Fall 2004): 52-59, 57.

(30.) See Augustine's Confessions, Book I, Chapter 1: "Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise you.... You have made us for yourself, and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you" (trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin. London: Penguin, 1961, 21).

(31.) This Augustinian brief for immortality is examined sympathetically by John Haldane in Section V of "Sentiments of Reason and Aspirations of the Soul," Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 7:3 (Summer 2004): 31-46. Haldane describes the Augustinian argument as "a style of argument once popular but now rarely, if ever, encountered" (45).

(32.) Harrison, Major Works, 75.

(33.) Ibid., 75-76.

(34.) Ibid., 75.

(35.) Ibid., 75.

(36.) Ibid., 75.

(37.) Ibid., 75.

(38.) Ibid., 75-76.

(39.) Ibid., 76.

(40.) Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q.5, a. 5.

(41.) Harrison, Major Works, 28-30.

(42.) Ibid., 76.

(43.) Ibid., 76.

(44.) Ibid., 75-76. Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q.5, a.4, and Summa Contra Gentiles, III.62.

(45.) In Section 74 Anselm writes: "This we must hold on to as absolutely certain: the Creator, supremely just and supremely good, unjustly deprives nothing of that good for which it was made and every one must exert themself to attain this good by love and desire, with all their heart, all their soul, and all their mind" Major Works, 77.

(46.) "Live in fear of judgment day and have a great horror of hell. Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire. Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die" (Rule of Saint Benedict. Ed.Timothy Fry, O. S. B., NewYork: Vintage, 1998, 13). The original (available at http://www.osb.org/rb/index.html) runs as follows: "Diem iudicii timere, gehennam expavescere, vitam aeternam omni concupiscentia spiritali desiderare, mortem cotidie ante oculos suspectam habere."
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