Anselm and Actuality

David Lewis

in Philosophical Papers Volume I

Published in print August 1983 | ISBN: 9780195032048
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833382 | DOI:
Anselm and Actuality

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Lewis demonstrates the infeasibility of attempting a nonmodal reformulation of Anslem's ontological argument. The key premise in Anselm's famous argument is the claim that “Something exists in the understanding, than which nothing greater can be conceived.” Lewis argues that the apparent credibility of the most promising, nonmodal rendering of this premise – viz. “There is an understandable being x, such that for no world w and being y does the greatness of y in w exceed the greatness of x in the actual world” – depends entirely on the illusion that the actuality of our world renders it “radically different from all other worlds – special in a way that makes it a fitting place of greatest greatness.” This illusion becomes obvious once we accept perhaps the most notable claim in this paper, viz. Lewis's indexical account of actuality. The substantive postscript includes an important retraction (viz. that impossible worlds do not exist) and several interesting discussions (e.g., concerning the anthropic principle and the specter of skepticism).

Keywords: actuality; Anselm; anthropic principle; impossible worlds; induction; modal; modal realism; modality; nonmodal; ontological argument; possible worlds; skepticism

Chapter.  7619 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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