The paradoxes that arise in the course of a philosopher’s thought and the contradictions that entangle him, whether they are noticed or not, ought to be the principle of an investigation into the system proposed by any thinker. Because such difficulties arise in the attempt to propose a science or knowledge to other men (while perhaps in the case of recluses, it is merely to propose it to yourself), these knots, it seems, can be understood through a consideration of human knowledge. Now this involves two aspects to begin with, for knowledge is knowledge of something, and that something is, purportedly, what is, and why it is so. That is, being as known provides two points of interest when it comes to difficulties arising from this arena: difficulties can arise from the side of the object known, or from the side of the knower. At bottom, however, this seems to be caught up in being and non-being, or act and potency. For being is potentially knowable, hence the act of knowledge is dependent upon this potency (albeit this arises from the side of the knower and is not a real relation in the thing known, i.e. the potentially intelligible is not some real aspect of the thing, otherwise the actual intellected is not the thing known). Thus, as act and potency govern the first division of the areas from which difficulties arise, so they shall govern the subsequent ones.

On the side of the thing known, according to the degree of actuality the thing possesses, the more it is knowable in itself, for knowledge is of what is in act. Thus, difficulties arise from this side due to an insufficient degree of act, e.g., knowledge of prime matter, or of future contingents as such. Because these things, insofar as they are, are so caught up with potency, they stand on (or beyond) the fringes of knowability.

On the side of the knower, according to the characteristic order of potency to act that the knower possesses, in such order will his difficulties arise. These seem to be of two sorts: first, the fact that there are certain potencies and material principles required to constitute a knower as such a being, and second, the fact that the knowing power has its own characteristic reception as such. Thus, on the first count, certain difficulties arise on the side of human beings, for knowledge must arise from sense experience, and our existence requires our living for a period of time, and retaining a mass of memory and experience, from which to draw scientific knowledge. On the second count, difficulties will arise in our mode of knowing according to the characteristic of our potency as knowers. Thus, we can know prime matter only by analogy, whereas God knows it as caused by himself.

Thus, in considering the various difficulties which may arise in the course of a thinker’s development or body of work, some may be attributed to the object at hand, others to the fact that the philosopher is a human being, with a whole concrete experience from which he lives and thinks, and others to the fact that our various capacities for knowledge are directed to apprehend being according to certain modes, insofar as being informs them as such. Locke’s various historical influences on his thought, and his confusion of Protestant Christianity and philosophy arise perhaps from the second class; his rejection of metaphysics perhaps to the first. His theory of person as opposed to his epistemology finds a divide in historical context, as do the other two noted paradoxes. But his failure to mend these rifts comes from the difficulties which arise in the first class, and third, taken together.

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