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From illumination to science (and back again):
The ontological arguments of St. Anselm and Hegel

This project adresses two very determinate moments of incalculable impact within the history of the ontological argument: those of St. Anselm of Canterbury and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. In its movement from Anselm to Hegel, the ontological argument conceptualizes the infinite with ever increasing determinacy, which Hegel claims to have absolutized into self-determinacy. The wending and sometimes subterranean influence of the ontological argument through modernity is easy to trace; likewise Hegel's philosophy, as Schopenhauer astutely noted, is the true sublation of this history, a movement I view as a transformation from the giving to the given, from divine transcendence to radical immanence, from illumination to science.

But Anselm's argument is outside of its modern appropriation. I want to suggest that Anselm's use of the ontological argument keeps open a dialogue that Hegel's closes off, that a model of consciousness as projective need not be the all-consuming and reductive dialectic of Hegel, but rather could manifest itself in a freely received donative illumination.

Thus, my procedure is straightforward; after introducing the theme of light in the work of Anselm and Hegel, I investigate Anselm's argument in the light of illumination theory, and Hegel's argument in the light of self-developing science. I then suggest that Anselm's argument allows for dialogue, and in so doing, hints at an answer to the foundational problem that bedevils Hegel's project.

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Last update: May 15, 2007