Making (Up) the Truth With Anselm, part 2
As its title indicates, On Truth is at one level merely a focused study in how we use the single word truth. At another level, however, owing to the universal or transcendental nature of the concept of truth, in the course of his discussion Anselm provides perhaps the best summary of his thought in general, as the work contains many of the essential elements of his theology, metaphysics, epistemology, theory of language, philosophical anthropology, and ethics. In his Proslogion, Anselm’s “single argument” was his premise that God is something than which nothing greater can be thought, and from which everything else was seen to follow. In the present dialogue, Anselm’s “single argument,” as we might call it, is the premise that God is the Supreme Truth from which every other created truth is seen to follow.
The dialogue opens with “the Student” confessing that “we believe that God is truth” (deum veritatem esse credimus—ch. 1), and so asking his “Teacher” how this belief agrees with the fact that “we say that truth is in many other things” (veritatem in multis aliis dicimus esse). Similar to the Proslogion, then, On Truth begins with an express statement of faith seeking understanding of that which is believed. Yet the Student implicitly recognizes that the question of truth is not limited to those individuals who begin with faith, for he points out that the question is also one that arises within the context of the Teacher’s own Monologion (thus clearly identifying Anselm as the Teacher, were there any doubt on the matter) and whose declared method, we may recall, was one of proceeding by “reason alone.” In the Monologion, the Student rehearses, the Teacher had argued that insofar as true statements can never begin nor cease to be true, truth must therefore reside in the Supreme Truth who is eternal (Monol. 18). The question, then, is this: if Truth is uncreated in this way, how is it possible for us to say that so many created things are also true?
 As Travis Cooper observes, “the student clearly indicates that they maintain the first proposition–that God is truth–as a matter of belief.” Cooper, Two Medieval Accounts of Truth, 45.
 Thus, on the specifically eternal nature of truth, Cooper notes that for Anselm, in his Monologion, this is a “conclusion proven by argumentation from premises available to natural reason,” and notes that some commentators have gone so far as to “characterize Anselm’s method in De veritate as sola ratione.” Cooper, Two Medieval Accounts of Truth, 45 and 61, citing Jan A. Aertsen, “Fröhliche Wissenschaft: Wahrheit im Mittelalter,” in Ende und Vollendung: Eschatologische Perspektiven im Mittelalter, eds. J.A. Aertsen and Martin Pickave, Miscellanea Mediaevalia 29 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2002), 54, and Franciscus Salesius Schmitt, “Introduction to Anselm von Canterbury: De veritate,” in Anselm of Canterbury, Über die Wahrheit, trans. Schmitt (Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt: Friedrich Frommann Verlag–Günther Holzboog, 1966), 8.