Posted by: HAT | March 19, 2010

Utopia and the Ontological Proof

Delectable island

Imaginably a most excellent island

Here is Thomas More (or rather, one of the Utopian poets):

    Utopia priscis dicta ob infrequentiam
    Nunc Civitatis aemula Platonicae
    Fortasse victrix (nam quod illa literis
    Deliniavit, hoc ego una praestiti,
    Viris et opibus, optimisque legibus)
    Eutopia merito sum vocanda nomine.

That is,

    Me Utopie cleped Antiquitie
    Voyde of haunte and herboroughe,
    Nowe am I like to Platoes citie,
    Whose fame flieth the worlde throughe.
    Yea like, or rather more likely
    Platoes platte to excell and passe.
    For what Platoes penne hath platted briefely
    In naked wordes, as in a glasse,
    The same have I perfourmed fully
    With lawes, with men, and treasure fyttely.
    Wherfore not Utopie, but rather rightely
    My name is Eutopie : A place of felicitie.1

Note the similarity of the verse to the logic of Anselm’s ontological proof of the existence of God: however excellent something might be, it would be more excellent if it existed, so if it’s [really] the most excellent thing, it must exist.

Note also the similarity of the most excellent island of Utopia to Gaunilo’s Island.

1 The Utopia of Sir Thomas More, BiblioLife edition, accessible at Google Books

[The full text of Gaunilo of Marmoutiers’ Pro Insipiente is online as well, in First Philosophy: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, Vol. 3 God, Mind, and Freedom, ed. Andrew Bailey, and perhaps elsewhere.]

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