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Is the Ontological Argument Ontological? The Argument According to Anselm and Its Metaphysical Interpretation According to Kant JEAN-LUC MARION|. FOR A LONG TIME, the so-called "ontological argument" was not called ontological at all. Saint Anseim and even Descartes both introduce it as "meum argumentum"--my argument.' Leibniz speaks only of an "argumentum An earlier discussion of this subject CL'argument rel6ve-t-il de I'ontologie?") was published in the Archivio di Filosofia (Rome, t 99o) as the record of a paper delivered at the "Colloque international : L'argument ontologique" (Istituto di Studi Filosofici 'Enrico Castelli' / Catedra di Filosofia della Religione, Universit~ degli Studi di Roma 'La Sapienza'), Rome, January 3-6, t99o. This English version differs from the French one on some important points, mainly in the evaluation of the results of my demonstration. I would like to thank Professor Marco M. Olivetti for inviting me to debate this fascinating but very difficutt topic, and Professors Gary Hatfield and Richard A. Watson for giving me the opportunity to debate my thesis with the Departments of Philosophy respectively of the University of Pennsylvania, and of Washington University. I am grateful to Ian Bourgeot and to Professor Richard A. Watson for revising and improving as far as possible my frst English draft. Anse|m, Pros/og/on I, ed. F. S. Schmitt, Edinburgh/Rome, x938-~961, voL t, p. 95, lg. 6. When I quote Anselm in translation, I often use Anselm of Canterbury, Works, Volume l, edited and translated by John Hopkins and tlerbert Richardson (Toronto/New York, 1974); I give first the page and lines of the Latin text, and then the standard English translation. See also "... vulgaribus argumentis... " M0no/og/on, Prologue, ibid. 7, 9; and " .. connexionem hujus meae argumentis .... " Quid ad haec respondent editor ipsius libelli [=Respons/o], III, 133, 9. Descartes, Oeuvres, ed. Adam-Tannery, new edition by P. Costabel and B. Rochot (Paris, 1966- ) vol. VII, p. 115, ~2, see p. 65, 2o. On this point, I agree with the statement of A. Koyrt, to whom the argument of Anselm no longer seems "'une preuve ontologique au sens exact du terme" (L'id~e de Dieu darts la philosophic de saint Anselme [Paris, 1923~, 1984"], 193)- [~o,] 202 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 30:2 APRIL 1992 dudum inter Scolasticos celebre eta Cartesio renovatum"--a most celebrated argument among scholastics, now renewed by Descartes.' Kant, who, we should add, sometimes calls it "Cartesian,"s was probably the first one to describe it as an "ontological proof."4 Therefore we cannot avoid asking a very obvious question: Why did the "ontological argument" attain so late the explicit qualification of "ontological"? At the very least, this latency period reveals , although it does not explain why, that the "ontological argument" could perfectly well have continued without becoming ontological, as it managed to be born and reborn without this qualification. But could Anselm (and even Descartes) have developed the "ontological argument" without using the very concept of ontology? From a historical point of view, this question is all the weightier since the term "ontology" first appears six hundred years after Anselm--when in the days of Descartes, Goclenius, Clauberg and others progressively imposed it.5 Thus, the original argument raised by Anselm was perfectly acceptable, for a long time, as a demonstration without any help from ontology: that is a plain fact in the history of concepts. Thus the question arises: Does Anselm's argument appear, without any reservation or exception, in the realm of the question of Being, i.e., is it within the limits of the history of metaphysics (understood according to the precise acceptation suggested by Heidegger)? Or, on the contrary, was the original argument capable of succeeding without any appeal to "ontology" as it is defined by metaphysics--that is, outside the horizon of Being? In philosophy, 9 Meditationes de cognitione, Veritate et Ideis, in Die philosophischen Schriften, ed. C. J. C,ebhardt, vol. 4, P. 425 9 "... argumento Cartesiano .... " Principiorum trn~m cognitionis metaphysitae nova dilucidat /0, II, 7, Ak. A. I, p. 395; or "... cartesianischer (Beweisgrund) .... " Der einzig m6gliche Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des Daseins Gottes, III, 5, Ak. A...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 201-218
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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