One Truth or Many Truths? Two Medieval Accounts of Truth: Anselm of Canterbury and Robert Grosseteste

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One Truth or Many Truths? Two Medieval Accounts of Truth: Anselm of Canterbury and Robert Grosseteste

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Title: One Truth or Many Truths? Two Medieval Accounts of Truth: Anselm of Canterbury and Robert Grosseteste
Author: Cooper, Travis
Abstract: This dissertation analyzes two medieval Augustinian accounts of truth, viz., those of Anselm of Canterbury and Robert Grosseteste. Despite their common acknowledgement of the authority of Augustine and fundamental reliance upon Augustinian principles, Anselm and Grosseteste disagree about whether there is only one Truth or there are many truths. The purpose of this dissertation is to determine the reasons for this disagreement. Chapter One examines the primary texts of Augustine on truth. Despite the unsystematic and oftentimes ambiguous character of these texts, Augustine's thought converges on the conclusion that, ultimately, there is but one Truth, through Which all true things are true.Chapter Two analyzes Anselm's account of truth. Like Augustine before him, Anselm leans heavily on the eternal and immutable character of truth in his argument that there is only one Truth. But it is Anselm's "metaphysics of creation," especially his dyadic understanding of participation, that ultimately explains his concluding to the unicity of Truth despite the theretofore general progression of his argument toward the multiplicity of truth. Lastly, Chapter Three, in investigating Grosseteste's writings on truth, shows that his conclusion that there are many truths is the result of not only metaphysical but also epistemological and logical arguments and principles. Grosseteste's understanding of the relationship between the Supreme Truth and the true thing, his account of our knowledge of true things (with its concern to avoid ontologism), and his commitment to the legitimacy of our speaking of "truths" impel him to the conclusion that there are many truths, while also preserving the central Augustinian commitment to the transcendence of the Supreme Truth as That in virtue of which all true things are true. Furthermore, having a different understanding of participation from Anselm (i.e., a triadic understanding), and being able to explain the eternal and immutable character of truth without identifying truth with Truth, Grosseteste eradicates the Anselmian motives for concluding to the unicity of truth. Ultimately, Grosseteste's great contribution is to overcome the tension in Anselm's account by showing that the transcendence of the Supreme Truth, far from negating created truths, rather makes them possible at all.
Description: Degree awarded: Ph.D. Philosophy. The Catholic University of America
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1961/10246
Date: 2012-06-01


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