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.


  1. Frater Asinus said...
    What a turgid an deep post! Thank you DW!

    My first question is one of clarification. You make the claim: "the potentially intelligible is not some real aspect of the thing, otherwise the actual intellected is not the thing known." I agree with the fact that the potentially intelligible is not some real aspect of the thing. My argument for this, however, would have been different. I would have argued that according to its nature a thing is striving for its perfection, to be known by another (aside from God) is not a further perfection of the thing, because no new actuality is added to the thing. Therefore the act that a thing is striving towards is the act proper to its end. Thus it follows that the potency that belongs to a thing is the potency proper to obtaining this end. Now, perhaps this argument does not work, if not please explain. At the very least, it does not seem to be as subtle as what you are claiming when you say, "otherwise the actual intellected is not the thing known." Please explain if you are able.

    My second question is more of the challenging sort rather than the clarifying sort.
    It seems that when you are discussing the difficulties on the part of the knower, that it would be important to include the will. "All men by nature desire to know," and sometimes the will tries to satisfy this urge by clinging to something as known that is not known. Perhaps this consideration is beyond the scope of your concern, however. It does seem risky to try to manifest someones willfulness that is behind his argument. What do you think?

    Thank you again for the post!
    Dawnwatchman said...
    Thank you for your comments, Frater.

    As to the first, I was concerned with what follows (as I understand it) from the consideration of motion in Physics III.3: that motion is only in the moved properly. This is extended to include the "alteration" that sensation is (which isn't really alteration, but has to go by that name; De Anima II.5). That is, the visible in act is an alteration proper to the sense power in its state of second actuality. The seen object exists in the eye as seen, without the matter of the object seen as it exists itself. By a further extension, it seems that the intelligible in act isn't the act of some potency in the thing, but rather, the act of the intellect as a power or potency ordered to that act. More on this after I address your point.

    Your argument, if I follow, argues from the end of a thing that, since no new act is present in the intellected thing, there cannot be any corresponding potency. I agree with this, and it seems to present the reason of the matter from finality. But it seems to me that if someone asked "how does one know that no new actuality is added to the thing," the reason is that the potency correlative to the cognized in act is present in another. Which argument depends upon granting the fact that (a) there is something that is known in act, and (b) that if this is an analogous sense of "being moved" that this motion can only exist properly in the subject. Hence is it only by denomination that the thing known is called intelligible at all.

    I think the obscurity in my thinking was due to an assumption I made; namely, that if the "potency towards intelligibility" was an accident present in the thing known, then this would be the "apprehended object" of any intellect or cognitive power which attempted to know the thing. In which case, the knowing power would only be knowing the aspect of the object which was contained within the potency towards which the power was directed. This, being some accident of the thing, would prevent the knower from actually knowing the thing (perhaps this is my Kantian re-education straining back through, which I have attempted vigorously to un-re-educate).

    The long and short of the my point was this: actual knowledge is the possession of the thing known, albeit in another mode. Thus a thing is known only because of some potency receptive of it somehow, which potency is hence other than the thing itself. However, I think now that (provoked by your reflection) it would have been better to present the argument from Physics III.3 and DA II.5 at first.

    Now, concerning willfulness. I'm not sure that this is accurate, but I ask for your comments. I'm drawing on St. Thomas' reflections upon De Anima II.6, where he presents various clarifications concerning why an incidental sensible is so called. Basically, an object of a power is called incidental because the object so-called is the per se object of another power "adjacent" (so to speak) within the same cognitive subject. So, substance is an incidental or accidental sensible to sight because it is per se to the intellect.

    What I'm less sure of is if the same distinction would apply to the will. Error is as such proper to the intellect, whether we consider it as speculative or practical. It seems this is because "error" is the result of a judgment of predication that is false. It seems that any sense of "error" concerning operation would be derivative of this (e.g., an action that is an error, or a move in a game that is an error).

    So then, intellectual error properly speaking would be an incidental thing to the will. Perhaps I could try to further the discussion by two examples.

    1) a person whose will is in error, but whose practical reason knows that the action is wrong. Perhaps this is the case of the incontinent or weak man.

    2) a person whose will is in error, and whose intellect is also in error. This would seem to be the case for those raised or educated improperly. So their wills would blind their intellects. This seems to be what you are suggesting. So here, perhaps the "incidental" distinction applies, that the influence of the will (stubborness to relinquish your "family beliefs" or "national heritage" or "results of decades of research") impedes the intellect, but not because this is intellectual error as such. It's just that your will prevents you from considering certain things. Like the facts, or the truth.

    I'm not sure what else to say, other than the fact that I didn't really consider the causes of error arising from the will. But, if my distinction is accepted, perhaps it would be best to consider the fact that intellectual error can be affected because of error or vice arising from other faculties.
    Dawnwatchman said...
    And currently I'm taking the "turgid" as both "Frater"nal correction and a compliment.
    Frater Asinus said...
    I had intended "turgid" to be taken precisely in that way.

    First of all, thank you for the clarification. The argument from Ph. III. 3 and DA II.5, made your point much clearer. I also thank you for the critique of the argument I gave. It seems like the argument from finality is forced to resolve back to the revised argument you gave.

    I still have some hesitations about your reply to the second question.
    Aristotle says somewhere(metaphysics maybe) that all error lies in the will. Also, I think he makes a claim similar to the following: Just as the eye cannot err with respect to its object, so also none of the senses is able to err with respect to its proper object, and neither can the intellect err with respect to its object. To put this in another way: if the intellect knows by abstracting forms of things, then it is impossible that the intellect abstract a form that is an error. That would mean that it is abstracting non-being, which would be absurd.
    So we are left with an unerring intellect, which for most of us is not at all keeping with reality. There must be some account for error. Error however, cannot be in the intellect as such, as was said, because a concept cannot be wrong.
    Someone is said to be in error when he states as true, something that does not correspond to reality. It seems that this can happen in two ways. First there can be mistake in speech as when some says "God is wholly evil", instead of "God wholly good." Such a mistake (which, it is said, the Angelic Doctor himself once made) is by no means willed, but his some slip of the imagination or something of this sort.
    Another way is when he says something intentionally that is not true. If he in fact knows the truth but says what is not true he is not said to be in error but he is said to be lying. If he says what is not true because he thinks that it is the case then he is in error.
    As was shown above, this cannot happen with respect to the proper object of the intellect: intelligible species. It seems, therefore, that such an error can be made in three ways. First, with regards to matters of prudence and particulars. There is so much potency in particulars that it is impossible for men to know them with certainty, and thus error arises often in this way.
    Another way is with regards to matters of opinion. Error in such matters is by no means blamable. For example, the Philosopher held as an opinion that the sun revolved about the earth.
    A third way one can be in error is with regard to universal and demonstrable things, and this happens in two ways. First when one holds as demonstrated what is a matter of opinion, or something for which sufficient proof has not been given. Second such an error can arise when someone denies what is per se notum, or asserts that something is per se notum, which in fact is not. In both these cases the intellect lacks the ability to be moved by the false proposition since the proper object of the intellect is intelligible species, as was said. Therefore, since such false propositions cannot influence the intellect, they must influence some other power. Since they are not objects of the irascible or concupiscible appetites, then they must be the object of the intellectual appetite, or the will. In other words, the will moves towards these propositions because they are seen as good. Obviously erroneous propositions are not real goods, but only apparent goods.
    Therefore, error is not properly said to be in the intellect, but is held by the will, because it is seen as some sort of good.

    I am tired now...
    I will try to respond more directly to your argument tomorrow.
    Dawnwatchman said...
    I would like to find that part of the Metaphysics.

    It does seem odd to me that error would be in some place other than the intellect. Perhaps, if it is held as an apparent good by the will, the resulting privation of truth in the intellect is called error?

    I await your further comments.
    Frater Asinus said...
    Your last post is an adequate summary of my thoughts on the matter.

    I should address your previous post more thoroughly, but at this point I will say it seems as though your conception of what I first mean by error lying in the will is different from what I meant, so we could be speaking to cross purposes. That is to say, I would not speak of the will as being in error, since it likewise cannot err with respect to its proper object, the good. However, perhaps the will can be said to be in error when it wills something contrary to what is moral. This would seem to be an extended sense of error.
    That is my initial reply. Does that make sense to you?
    Dawnwatchman said...
    It does make sense. But right now I'm reading your most recent post. But please continue at your leisure.

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