God is also that than which nothing LESSER can be thought

In his famous argument for God’s existence, Saint Anselm of Canterbury began by defining and identifying God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought.” Several centuries later, Nicholas of Cusa reasoned from this starting point that, if so, God must also be that than which nothing lesser can be thought. As he argued:

[S]ince the absolutely Maximum is all that which can be, it is altogether actual. And just as there cannot be a greater, so for the same reason there cannot be a lesser, since it is all that which can be. But the Minimum is than than which there cannot be a lesser. And since the Maximum is also such, it is evident that the Minimum coincides with the Maximum. (On Learned Ignorance 1.4, trans. Hopkins)

God is so great, in other words, that he altogether transcends the very opposition between greater and lesser. Or put differently, in God the opposed relations of greater than and lesser than come full circle and converged onto each other. This is Cusa’s famous doctrine of the “coincidence of opposites.”

Advertisements