This page contains a list of the best books on or by St. Anselm. Just to be clear, there is no single best book on Anselm. The best book for you will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time that you want to spend reading about Anselm. An 800-page scholarly overview is unlikely to be best for someone looking for a short beginner-friendly introduction, for example. This list aims to take this ambiguity into account by featuring books that will appeal to a variety of learning styles.
Secondly, this is not a list of personal recommendations. It was created by compiling recommendations from a variety of online sources including bibliographies, course syllabi, and community recommendations. You can find out more about this process here. Links to the sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a wider range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by St. Anselm in no particular order.
Anselm – G. R. Evans
Publisher description: St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) was one of the greatest Christian writers of medieval Europe. Although best known as the inventor of the famous ‘ontological argument’ for God’s existence, his writings cover all the chief aspects of Christian doctrine and have been a major influence on western theology.
Equal to Anselm’s theology are his spiritual writings, which are alive with an understanding of the gentleness and mercy of a God who comes to meet humanity in its suffering and striving.
In this exceptional and authoritative study, Dr. Evans explores the full range of Anselm’s work, expertly placing both the theology and the devotional writings in context for the modern reader.
Anselm – Sandra Visser & Thomas Williams
Publisher description: Sandra Visser and Thomas Williams offer a brief, accessible introduction to the life and thought of Saint Anselm (c. 1033-1109). Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury for the last sixteen years of his life, is one of the foremost philosopher-theologians of the Middle Ages. His keen and rigorous thinking earned him the title “The Father of Scholasticism,” and his influence is discernible in figures as various as Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, the voluntarists of the late-thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the Protestant reformers.
In part I of this book, Visser and Williams lay out the framework of Anselm’s thought: his approach to what he calls “the reason of faith,” his account of thought and language, and his theory of truth. Part II focuses on Anselm’s account of God and the divine attributes, and it shows how Anselm applies his theory of language and thought to develop a theological semantics that at once respects divine transcendence and allows for the possibility of divine rational knowledge. In Part III, Visser and Williams turn from the heavenly to the animal. They elucidate Anselm’s theory of modality and his understanding of free choice, an idea that was, for Anselm, embedded in his conception of justice. The book concludes with a discussion of Incarnation, Atonement, and original sin, as the authors examine Anselm’s argument that the death of a God-man is the only possible remedy for human injustice.
The Cambridge Companion to Anselm – Brian Davies & Brian Leftow
Publisher description: Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), Benedictine monk and the second Norman archbishop of Canterbury, is regarded as one of the most important philosophers and theologians of the Middle Ages. The essays in this volume explore all his major philosophical and theological ideas, including his teachings on faith and reason, God’s existence and nature, logic, freedom, truth, ethics, and key Christian doctrines. They also cover his life, the sources of his thought, and his influence on other thinkers.
The Major Works – St. Anselm
Publisher description: Although utterly convinced of the truth of Christianity, Anselm of Canterbury struggled to make sense of his religion. He considered the doctrines of faith an invitation to question, to think, and to learn; and he devoted his life to confronting and understanding the most elusive aspects of Christianity. His writings on matters such as free will, the nature of truth, and the existence of God make Anselm one of the greatest theologians and philosophers in history, and this translation provides readers with their first opportunity to read his most important works within a single volume.
Proslogion – St. Anselm
Thomas Williams’ edition offers an Introduction well suited for use in an introductory philosophy course, as well as his own preeminent translation of the text.
Three Philosophical Dialogues – St. Anselm
Publisher description: In these three dialogues, renowned for their dialectical structure and linguistic precision, Anselm sets out his classic account of the relationship between freedom and sin–its linchpin his definition of freedom of choice as the power to preserve rectitude of will for its own sake. In doing so, Anselm explores the fascinating implications for God, human beings, and angels (good and bad) of his conclusion that freedom of choice neither is nor entails the power to sin.
In addition to an Introduction, notes, and a glossary, Thomas Williams brings to the translation of these important dialogues the same precision and clarity that distinguish his previous translation of Anselm’s Proslogion and Monologion, which Professor Paul Spade of Indiana University called “scrupulously faithful and accurate without being slavishly literal, yet lively and graceful to both the eye and ear.
The following sources were used to build this list:
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on St. Anselm
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on St. Anselm
Interested in philosophy but don’t know where to start? Check out these resources:
- An Organized Collection of Online Philosophy Resources and Reading Lists
- A History of Western Philosophy in 66 Quotations (and 300+ online resources)
- A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations
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