Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trudging through Anselm

"Trudging" not because I find it particularly difficult (although it wouldn't surprise me to learn that I overestimate my comprehension), but because of the translation, or the arguments, or both.

For example, in II:11 of Cur Deus Homo, St. Anselm says this ("A" is Anselm himself; "B" is Boso, his interlocutor):

A: Is it not fitting that man, who, by sinning, removed himself as far as he possibly could away from God, should, as recompense to God, make a gift of himself in an act of the greatest possible self-giving?

B: This is unsurpassable logic.

Uhh…well, if anything, the statement has to do with justice, not logic. So why on earth say that it's logic?

I wonder, in Anselm's defense, whether the translator has taken unjust or illogical liberties with the text. But this is a single example of a fairly common habit.

This isn't logic. There is no conclusion here; there is an observation about fitness. I'm not going to argue the fitness of what Anselm says, but I certainly dispute the idea that I've been compelled by the force of argument to concede that.

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