How does a subject relate to objects in Thomas Aquinas’ cognitive theory?

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Annotated Bibliography

For PHS 611 – Classical Logic and Epistemology

“How does a subject relate to objects according to Aquinas’ cognitive theory?”

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles, Vol 2. Translated by James F. Anderson.

London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1956. Volume 2 contains Thomas’ philosophical exploration and elucidation of his cognitive theory. He identifies human intellectual activity as a interaction between the passive (i.e., possible intellect) and active (i.e., agent intellect) elements of the human intellectual soul. The intellect both receives and acts upon the phantasms which it encounters using its bodily senses.

Gallagher, Kenneth. T. The Philosophy of Knowledge. New York: Fordham University

Press, 1986. This book is an excellent overview of the fundamental issues of cognitive theory from a contemporary Thomistic perspective. Gallagher specifically contextualizes Thomistic epistemology within modern epistemological developments, specifically the subject / object dualism derived in part from Descartes’ revolutionary approach to knowledge, doubt and certitude.

Gilson, Etienne. The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Translated by Edward

Bullough, edited by G. A. Elrington. New York: Dorset Press, 1948. A summary of Thomas’ philosophy which includes how it is that the knower and the thing which is known relate to one another according to Aquinas. As it was published in the mid-20th century, it takes into the Cartesian epistemological revolution.

Gilson, Etienne. The Spirit of Thomism. New York: Kenedy and Sons, 1964. Included

here primarily because of the final chapter of the book which includes an honest and insightful reflection on how it is that Thomism may be revitalized within late-modernity which is defined by a profoundly different anthropological understanding and epistemology.

Kerr, Fergus. After Aquinas. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002.

A modern Thomistic book which places the issue of epistemology at the forefront. Kerr recognizes the epistemological revolution of Descartes, and begins this book with a chapter focusing upon it.

Torrell, Jean-Pierre. St. Thomas Aquinas – Volume 2, Spiritual Master. Translated by

Robert Royal. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2003. Torrell’s work is included here primarily because he clarifies the confusion regarding Thomas’ use of the terms ‘subject’ and ‘object’ and the way these terms are used in a modern and specifically Cartesian sense. It is counter-intuitive for a modern individual to think of Thomas’ definition of ‘subject’ as being ‘that which is outside the mind’ when in our modern Cartesian use of the word ‘subject’ is reduced to our ego.

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A basic comparison between the thought of Plato and Aristotle, in similarity and difference.

“Now for such general conceptions as that of manhood, or triangular shape, or any other abstraction that exists in a number of concrete things but nowhere by itself, Aristotle usually adopts the same word that Plato had used for his self-existing realities, namely “kind” or “kinds.” But just as Plato, in addition to this term which he shares with Aristotle, had a synonym which is peculiar to himself, namely “idea,” so Aristotle too has his own special synonym, namely “form.” And in expounding the doctrines of the two philosophers it has, very naturally, been usual to avoid the term “kind” common to them both, and to adopt for each the synonymous term characteristic of himself. Thus we speak of Platonic “ideas” and Aristotelian “forms.” It is a practice which has an undoubted convenience and is conducive to clearness from one point of view, but it has the great disadvantage of always suggesting the difference between the two thinkers and never their common ground, and also of severing the technical language of both of them, from the common matrix of natural, and naturally significant, phraseology out of which it grows and with which it always remains in connection. It is easy, however, to discern this common ground. “Idea” and “form” are mere variants on “kind.” And Plato and Aristotle both investigate such problems as these: What is meant by saying Socrates and Sophroniscus are both “men”? What does it really tell you of them? What does it enable you to understand? When you ask “what” a thing is and get your answer:–It is a cart, a horse, a tree–what really is that “whatness” or “thatness” that makes it the thing it is and not some other thing? And why can you never give any explanation of a thing except by determining some “kind” or “kinds” which it is or to which it belongs? But Plato is always trying to get at something behind the concrete and Aristotle to get at something in it. The Platonic “kinds” or ideas  exist apart from individual things and are the perfect prototypes of which they are the imperfect imitations or reflections; the Aristotelian  “kinds” or forms are abstractions of the human mind that have no actual existence except in transient and concrete individuals.” (Philip H. Wicksteed, Dante and Aquinas, pps 18-19 [bold emphasis mine]).

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The Trinitarian anthropology of St. Augustine

“Who can understand the omnipotent Trinity? We all speak of it, though we may not speak of it as it truly is, for rarely does a soul know what it is saying when it speaks of the Trinity. People wrangle and dispute about it, but it is a vision that is given to none unless they are at peace. There are three things, all found in a person , which I should like people to consider. They are far different from the Trinity, but I suggest them as a subject for mental exercise by which we can test ourselves and realize how great this different is. The three things are existence, knowledge, and will, for I can say that I am, I know, and I will. I am a being which knows and wills; I know both that I am and that I will; and I will both to be and to know. In these three–being, knowledge, and will–there is one inseparable life, one life, one mind, one essence; and therefore, although they are distinct from one another, the distinction does not separate them” (Augustine, Confessions, XIII, 11).

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Humanity as the unity between the physical and spiritual realms (methorios in Maximus the Confessor and the fall of all creation).

[Question: why the apparently necessary connection between human moral failure (in the Garden of Eden) and so-called ‘natural evil’ (i.e., tsunamis and cholera)?  Here David Bentley Hart touches on an often overlook aspect of patristic theological anthropology which explains this necessary connection].

“Nevertheless, and disturbing as it may be, it is clearly the case that that there is a kind of “provisional’ cosmic dualism within the New Testament: not an ultimate dualism, of course, between two equal principles, but certainly a conflict between a sphere of created autonomy that strives against God on the one hand and the saving love of God in time on the other. It is a patristic notion (developed with extraordinary profundity by Maximus the Confessor) that humanity was created as the methorios (the boundary or frontier) between the physical and the spiritual realms, or as the priesthood of creation that unites earth to heaven, and that thus, in the fall of man, all of material existence was made subject to the dominion of death” (David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea, pgs 62-63).

Posted in David Bentley Hart, Love and Creation, Maximus the Confessor, morality, Ontology, Philosophers and Theologians, philosophy, random thoughts or issues, religious studies, suffering, the Classical world, The Self, theology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The development of Christmas (Feast of the Nativity) being celebrated December 25

“NATIVITY, Feast of the. Similarly to other comparable feasts (6 or 10 Jan, 18 Nov, 28 March), in Rome the tradition developed of keeping the feast of Christmas on 25 Dec; this dates to ca. 336, though it is mentioned for the first time in the Chronography of 354. The Roman calendar indicates for 25 Dec, a day of the rebirth of the sun after the winter solstice, the birth of Mithras and public games in honor of the Sol Invictus, the cult of which the emperor Aurelian had introduced at Rome in 257. This apologetic context –Christ as the true Sol iustitiae (Mal 3:20)–was behind the introduction of the feast of Christmas in the Roman calendar. Further, chronological reasons relating to the other dates of the life of Christ (e.g., the Annunciation, 25 March) may have played a certain role. In 380 the feast was introduced in Constantinople, in 432 in Alexandria, and in 439 to Jerusalem, where it did not become established, however, until the Justinian era. There are numerous Christmas homilies in Latin and Greek, beginning with that of ps.- Optatus of Milevis (CPL 245). The oldest liturgical formulas may be found in the Sacramentarium Veronese. From the time of Gregory the great we find the characteristic triplicate Christmas Masses (Hom. ev. 8), the celebrated in S. Maria Maggiore, St. Anastasia and St. Peter’s” (Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity).

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Summary and Outline of St. Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation”

Summary of St. Athanasius’ ‘On the Incarnation’

“His treatise on the Incarnation of the Word of God, though written quite early in his life, and before the rise of Arianism, is the best example of his theology, and is of special interest in modern times from its breadth of view and thoroughly philosophical standpoint. It is well worthy of his Alexandrian training and traditions. The Incarnation, he teaches, culminating in the death on the Cross, was not primarily a propitiation or the averting of a penalty. What is known as the “forensic” theory Athanasius avoided. It was rather a restoration from death to life. Human nature through sin was in corruption, and must be healed, restored, recreated. A true theory of Creation is given, in opposition to the views of the Epicureans, the Platonists and the Gnostics. Men were created above all the rest, in God’s image, with even a portion of His own Word, so that having a sort of reflexion of the Word, and being in fact made rational (λογιχοι), they might be able to abide ever in blessedness (c. 3). But if they did not obey His laws, they were to fall into and remain in death and corruption—a negative state; for what is good is, what is evil is not; evil is the negation of good, death of life, etc. Man turning to the evil partook of negative things, evil, corruption, death, and remained in them: he lost the image, and lost the life in correspondence with God (c.5). The handiwork of God was in process of dissolution (6). God could not justly prevent this, seeing that He made the law, nor could He leave man to the current of corruption, and watch His work being spoilt. Even repentance by itself was useless (7), for it did not alter the nature, or stay the corruption. Only He could restore or Continue reading

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