A summary of Gaunilo’s perfect island objection to Anselm’s ontological argument . argument for the existence of the perfect island in his On Behalf of the Fool. Gaunilo of Marmoutiers’ criticism of Anselm’s ontological argument present in his On Behalf of the Fool. From On Behalf of the Fool, Gaunilo, a Monk of Marmoutier 1. IF one doubts or denies the existence of a being of such a nature that nothing greater.

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Contrariwise, whatsoever perfection is possessed by substance is due to no external cause; wherefore the existence of substance must arise solely from its own nature, which is nothing else but its essence. Inconceivable is conceivable, although that to which the word inconceivable can be applied is not conceivable.

It is evident, then, that neither is it fool, nor is it possible that it does not exist, nor can it be conceived not thhe exist.

Gaunilo of Marmoutiers – Wikipedia

For it is altogether inconceivable that anything should not exist by virtue of something. Why, then, are these things life in the living soul of the artificer, unless because they are nothing else than the knowledge or understanding of the soul itself? How far have I come? Of such things, they see that those which quickly come to pass—that is, quickly come into existence—quickly also disappear; whereas they regard as more difficult of accomplishment—that is, not so easily brought into existence—those things which they conceive as more complicated.

It strains to see thee more; and sees nothing beyond this which it hath seen, except darkness. Truly there is a God, although the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

The criticism is just. How boundless is the truth which sees at one glance whatsoever has been made and by whom, and through whom, and how it has been made from nothing?

Pity our toilings and strivings toward thee, since we can do nothing without thee. Finally, Anselm thinks, thus overrating the Ontological moment, that he has already attained therein the full concept of God. Anselm then proceeds with his proof as follows: Nay, even if I were to think in a thing all reality, except one, that one missing reality would not be supplied by my saying that so defective a thing exists, but it would exist with the same defect with which I thought it; or what exists would be different from what I thought.


The fool might make this reply: But, if thou hast found him, why is it that thou dost not feel thou hast found him? But, notwithstanding the attacks of a superficial rationalism, there is an abiding element of truth in it: And yet, whatsoever I see, I see through it, as the weak eye sees what it sees through the light of the sun, which in the sun itself it cannot look upon.

For it should be proved first that this being itself really exists somewhere; and then, from the fact that it is greater than all, we shall not hesitate to infer that it also subsists in itself. He pants to see thee, and thy face is too far from him.

For, suppose it exists in the understanding alone: Since we can conceive of this greatest or most perfect island, it must, by Anselm’s way of thinking, exist.

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Or, is it also because they can be conceived to have an end; but thou by no means? But that, beyond which nothing greater can be thought, cannot exist in mere intellect. If honor and riches, God shall make his good and faithful servants rulers over many things Luke xii. Not irrationally, then, has the hypothesis of a being a greater than which cannot be conceived been employed in controverting the fool, for the proof of the existence of God: For that than which a greater is inconceivable cannot be conceived except as without beginning.

My iniquities have gone over my head; they overwhelm me; and, like a heavy load, they weigh me down. But this by Prop. Let my heart love it; let my mouth talk of it.

For, oh is not said to be able because he is able of himself, but because his impotence gives something else power over him. Alas, what has he lost, and what has he found?

If power, they shall have all power to fulfil their will, as God to fulfil gzunilo. I am surprised that you should have conceived this objection, for I was attempting to prove what was still uncertain, and contented myself at first with showing that this being is understood in any way, and is in the understanding.

Gaunilo of Marmoutiers

But gaunilp these beings exist mutually through one another, no reason can admit; since it is an irrational conception that anything should exist through a being on which it confers existence. Yet, somehow it fell out, bhealf to my hope, gxunilo not only the brethren mentioned above, but several others, by making copies for their own use, condemned this writing to long remembrance.


But as there seemed to Anselm something inadequate in making the Being of the Absolute dependent upon the existence Edition: Therefore, God justly pities. If he does not conceive, he does not conceive of the non-existence of that of which he does not conceive. And that far better than this is a being — whether any being of such a nature exists or not — which in no wise requires change or motion, nor is compelled to undergo change or motion?

So, when one says, that than which om greater is conceivableundoubtedly what is heard is conceivable and intelligible, although that being itself, than which a greater is inconceivable, cannot be conceived or understood.

And what begins from non-existence, and can be conceived not to exist, and unless it subsists through something else, returns to non-existence; and what has a past existence, which is no longer, or a future existence, which is not yet,—this does not properly and absolutely exist.

God is not compassionate, in terms of his own being, because he does not experience the feeling affectus of compassion. The example of the picture, treated in Gaunilo’s third chapter, is examined. Many are these attributes: This, of course, is merely a direct application of Anselm’s own premise that existence is a perfection.

You see, then, with how much justice you have compared me with your fool, who, on the sole ground that he understands what is described to him, would affirm that a lost island exists. This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. How is it, then, that other spirits also are said to be uncircumscribed and eternal? Now we exist either in ourselves, or in something else which necessarily exists see Axiom i.

The certainty of the foregoing argument. I have never seen thee, O Lord, my God; I do not know thy form. How, then, is the veritable existence of that being proved to me from the assumption, by hypothesis, that it is greater than all other beings?

But whatever can be conceived to exist, and does not exist, can be conceived to exist through a beginning.