Unpublished 242. Review of The Many Faced Argument (typed)

[1968. Review of The Many-Faced Argument, John Hick and Arthur C. Magill, eds. Christianity Today 5 Jan.]


The Many-Faced Argument, edited by John Hick and Arthur C. McGill (MacMillan, 1967, 373 pp., cloth, $8.95, paper, $2.95), is reviewed by Gordon H. Clark, professor of philosophy, Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana.

This high-priced book is better studied than reviewed, for it is a survey of recent historical studies in Anselm and of recent original forms of the ontological argument.

Part One, after reproducing the Proslogian, Gaunilo’s On Behalf of the Fool, and Anselm’s Reply (the latter two so arranged that each unit of the Reply immediately follows the pertinent passage of Gaunilo), consists mainly of reprints of articles by Beckaert, Barth, Hayen, and Stolz. Preceding these reprints editor McGill has a long survey of the opposing views.

In general, these views reject the traditional interpretation of Anselm, which Kant popularized by his refutation. McGill asserts that neither Kant nor Thomas Aquinas had ever read Anselm. Kant’s refutation is so obvious and devastating that a man of Anselm’s ability would never have made the blunder Kant exposes. Therefore new interpretations of Anselm are necessary.

The new interpretation’s vary: one makes Anselm a rationalist, another a fideist, and a third a mystic. Anselm is also pictured as a realist, as a Cartesian, as an analyst of the concept of possibility, as the use of a “reflexive” rather than a “representative” idea of God, as one utterly dependent on revelation, or as some combination of these. Editor McGill points out the textual difficulties these views must face, but he does not pursue any constructive solution very far.

Part Two takes up the use made of the ontological motif by a few modern philosophers. Here the chief figures are Ryle, Forest, Malcolm, and Hartshorne. In addition to reprints of articles by these (and also by Russell and Shaffer), editor Hick provides an elementary preface for readers “who are not already familiar with the philosophical issues,” and a concluding critique. The critique contains a very keen discussion of the difference between logical necessity and factual necessity, a distinction allegedly overlooked by Hartshorne and Malcolm. Its excellence causes us to regret that Hick wrote only sixteen pages.

A selected bibliography covers fourteen pages, and a good fifty philosophers are referred to in the book. A solid volume for study.