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Anselm on Eudaemonism and the hierarchical structure of moral choice


Because Anselm of Canterbury argues that the morally responsible created agent must have the option to choose between justice and benefit, many scholars conclude that he is a proto-Kantian, pitting duty against self-interest and natural inclination. This is mistaken. Anselm proposes a hierarchical schema, prefiguring that of Harry Frankfurt, in which the inclination for justice constitutes a second-order desire that one's first-order desires for benefits should be moderated to conform to God's will. I defend this interpretation through careful textual analysis, then show that Anselm's hierarchical analysis is not subject to some of the criticisms one might raise against Frankfurt's.

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Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
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