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Philosophy and Theology

Volume 8, Issue 3, Spring 1994

Keith Burgess-Jackson
Pages 243-249

Anselm, Gaunilo, and Lost Island

The received view is that Gaunilo’s attempted refutation of Anselm’s ontological argument fails. But those who believe this do not agree as to why it fails. The aim of this essay is to show that whether the attempted refutation succeeds depends crucially on how one formulates the so-called greatmaking principle on which Anselm’s argument rests . This principle has largely been ignored by contemporary philosophers, who have chosen to focus on other aspects of the argument. I sketch two analyses of metaphysical greatness and suggest that on one of them, which Anselm may have held, his argument avoids Gaunilo’s criticism.

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