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By Zaine Ridling

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By this bold stroke, Gaunilo’s objection is turned against itself and Anselm’s program seems to emerge more explicitly. He is not about to convince the fool of God’s existence,28 he cannot, because the fool can always misunderstand what Anselm says. But the fool’s lack of understanding is irrelevant for those who do not have “nullum aut nimis obrutum . . intellectum”; for them, language works as it is supposed to, and understanding comes as a matter of course. So far so good, then, but the problem is that we did not go very far: clear and bold as it may be, this tactic is disappointingly lacking in articulation and detail, lacking precisely in those aspects, that is, that we would normally associate with reaching an understanding of something.

Indeed You are [merciful] according to our sense, and are not according to Yours. (I 106 P98) [T]he supreme essence is so much above and beyond every other nature that, if something is said of It by words that are common to other natures, the sense is by no means common. (I 76 M74; see also I 44 M41) Third, language is also misleading, in that perfectly grammatical expressions appear on closer inspection to give us the wrong picture of the situation; one that is so wrong, in fact, as to run exactly counter to what the truth of the matter is.

Similarly, Anselm came dangerously close to emotional, and possibly moral, bankruptcy here, and good for him (and possibly us) that miraculous intervention got him out of trouble. It’s not so different from Christ’s freeing Mary Magdalene from her seven demons, or from the ghosts’ scaring Scrooge into doing charity work.

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