Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

Anselm of Canterbury

  • Toivo J. HolopainenEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1151-5_31-2


Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109), also known as Anselm of Aosta, Anselm of Bec, and Saint Anselm, was one of the most important thinkers of the early Middle Ages. He was thoroughly familiar with the Boethian logic of his time, and he contributed to some themes within the art of logic. His main contribution, however, was in the area of philosophical theology. Following the examples set by Augustine and Boethius, Anselm developed the idea of “faith seeking understanding” (fides quaerens intellectum), which aims at elucidating the content of the Christian faith through rational analysis and by providing rational arguments for the central Christian claims. Anselm’s method has been seen as paradigmatic for medieval theology, and he has been called the “Father of Scholasticism.” In addition to his methodological ideas, Anselm’s best-known contributions are the argument for God’s existence based on the notion “that than which a greater cannot be thought” in the treatise Proslogion, taken to be the earliest formulation of the ontological argument, and the satisfaction theory of atonement in the treatise Cur Deus homo. Other important themes in his philosophical theology include the concepts of will and free choice and the questions about the relation of free choice to sin, grace, predestination, and foreknowledge.

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  1. Jasper Hopkins’ homepage. (n.d.). http://jasper-hopkins.info/. Includes links to the translations of Anselm’s works by Hopkins and Richardson (2000), essays on Anselm by Hopkins as well as a bibliography of recent work.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of TheologyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland