Cur Deus Homo I.3-5

(Continuing from our opening salvo on CDH I.1-2)

“By what reason or necessity did God become man and by His death, just as we believe and profess, return life to the world when He was able to do this through another person, either angelic or human, or by His will alone?”

Three initial attempts to answer this question bring us successively closer to understanding it.  At each stage Boso challenges Anselm’s answer and forces him to find a more fundamental level.  The three phases of their argument correspond with chapters three through five:

  1. conveniens (ch. 3)
  2. omnipotent planners can’t fail (ch. 4)
  3. whom shall we serve? (ch. 5)

Beauty, then and now

In chapter three Boso re-introduces the question of the book as a non-believer challenge that the Incarnation is unbecoming the divine nature and to attribute such a thing to God is an injustice.  Right off the bat, to understand all that comes next, we have to look more closely at this “unbecoming” idea.  The Latin is videntur non convenire; these things “seem not to convene.”  What’s that mean? Continue reading Cur Deus Homo I.3-5

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Cur Deus Homo I.1-2

Cur Deus Homo, or Why the God-Man, is not concerned with the question of how God saves the human race.  Now let’s spend a few posts defending that claim and maybe walking it back a little.

St. Anselm is often called the Father of Scholasticism; the introduction to his masterpiece, Cur Deus Homo, marks him as the Father of Modern Academic Writing.  Academia is full of writing like this, with extraordinary attention to framing the question, managing expectations, anticipating and defusing objections, and generally trying to talk ourselves and our audience out of the project altogether.  Appearing in a work this old seems wildly out of place; there’s something almost neurotic about St. Anselm’s preemptive apologia in this landmark work of Christology.

St. Anselm was a philosopher-monk at heart, a man who wanted nothing better than to meditate in his cell and uncover the mysteries of the Mystery for an audience of one.  Much to his later sorrow, his intellectual greatness and association with that worldly genius, Lanfranc, conspired to draw him into the world of public disputation and argumentative theology.  In an earlier foray into that public arena St. Anselm got burned, fighting over the Trinity and defending himself against accusations of heresy.  It was simply not a mode of discourse that suited his temper.

So when, just a few years later, he sallied forth to answer the masters of Laon in Cur Deus Homo, he began his work with much greater care.  That care must be closely attended so as not to go astray in understanding his subsequent argument. Continue reading Cur Deus Homo I.1-2

Cool Math: The Basel Problem

William Whewell has been on my mind.  Not Brandon level, since he lives and breathes the guy, but as part of my perennial dissatisfaction with modern educational theory and practice.  Anyway, as part of Whewell’s insistence on the pedagogical priority of geometry over algebra, I present this: a beautiful summary of a famous mathematical problem solved by Euler in the 18th century.

Why Whewell?  Well, Euler and Gauss and company all followed the Primacy of Geometry education and it served them reasonably well.  But enough of edu-theory.  Enjoy the cool video!

Why a sum involving nothing but natural numbers involves pi: Continue reading Cool Math: The Basel Problem