Kantian intermission

Posted in Epistemology, History of Philosophy with tags , , , , on 2010/05/24 by doctorangelicus

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) distinguishes between judgments of perception and judgments of experience. Judgments of perception are judgments that lack objective validity, i.e. they are only valid as subjective pronouncements, while judgments of experience refer to judgments that possess objective validity. Initially all of our judgments are judgments of perception. If a particular judgment conforms to a certain thing, every judgment about this thing has to be in keeping between themselves. If this de facto is the case, our judgment of perception becomes a judgment of experience.

If I put my hand on a stone on a sunny day and exclaim: “This stone is so warm”, my judgment counts as a judgment of perception. One might thence ask oneself why the stone is warm. By adding a concept of understanding to this sentence it may look like this: “The sun warms the stone.” The verb “warms” is with necessity associated with the noun “sun” or “sunshine”. While applying a concept of understanding, a kind of causal attribute, things are added to one another, and the entire judgment becomes synthetic. The judgment “The sun warms the stone”  thus becomes, with necessity, universally applicable, i.e. objectively valid, and it turns from a judgment of perception into a judgment of experience.


Faith and reason

Posted in Epistemology, History of Philosophy, Problem of Universals with tags , , , , on 2010/03/18 by doctorangelicus

On February 4th, 2010 Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, primate of Austria, gave a lecture on faith and reason. He asserted that it may be very difficult for us to use our reason in certain circumstances. Original sin, this negative tendency, tries to prevent us from facing reality. It may be so that our mind is overshadowed by our passions and the weakness of our intelligence. Faith is there to enlighten our reason and strengthen it, and reason, on the other hand, helps us to deepen our faith.

Cardinal Schönborn also spoke about the implications of nominalism. Nominalism claims that God’s activity and God’s nature are totally separated from each other. Nominalism asserts that what God decides in His will is totally arbitrary. We are not able to conclude who he is from what he does. God decides, and we do not know why. Strict nominalism leads to fatalism, but Catholic philosophy has proven nominalism wrong. According to the Old Testament God created man in His own image, and thus God reveals himself through his activity.

The Cardinal describes modern science as a child of nominalism, as modern science tends to exclude from its perspective everything that is not measurable. Metaphysics is considered to be absolutely arbitrary. The consequences of this reasoning is that modern science more or less becomes scientism. The Cardinal urges us, like Thomas Aquinas, to adopt a sound approach towards faith and reason. As faith and reason interact they cross-fertilize and enrich each other.

Thomas – still going strong!

Posted in Epistemology, History of Philosophy with tags , , , , on 2010/02/22 by doctorangelicus

In 1998 the Venerable Pope John Paul II promulgated his thirteenth and penultimate encyclical, Fides et Ratio. This papal encyclical deals with the relationship between faith and reason. The Pope describes Thomas Aquinas as an authentic model for all who seek the truth.

“In his thinking the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought.”

In the 13th century Thomas made his groundbreaking philosophical achievements, and now, more than seven hundred years later, he is still going strong. His theories are still of great importance, e.g. as a bulwark against nominalism and its ally relativism.

Mission: Impossible?

Posted in Epistemology with tags , , , , on 2010/01/29 by doctorangelicus

According to Immanuel Kant our mind shapes the world the way we see it. The forms of sense-knowledge, the conditions of all sensation, are time and space. These factors of perception provide structure to the world as it is discerned by us. Is it possible for the human mind to reach beyond the spatiotemporal limitations, and thus gaining knowledge of the thing in itself, the noumenal world? Or are we stuck with these categories of restriction? Could the human mind ignore the spatiotemporal factors, or does our understanding of the world presuppose the conditions of time and space? Is it possible for us to obtain knowledge of the material world without considering time and space?

Leibniz – a fan of Thomas Aquinas?

Posted in Epistemology, History of Philosophy with tags , , on 2010/01/07 by doctorangelicus

The German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was different from most of the other great 16th-century thinkers by having a high opinion of Aristotle and the scholastics. His philosophy wasn’t set on rejecting these, but rather on finding a synthesis between them and the new philosophy, which was greatly inspired by the mechanical worldview. Although Leibniz doesn’t exhibit any explicit influence from Thomas Aquinas per se, Leibniz lets himself be inspired by the Aristotelian heritage and the way the scholastics preserved it.

The failure of resemblance nominalism

Posted in Epistemology, Problem of Universals with tags , on 2009/12/01 by doctorangelicus

The adherents of nominalism dismiss the existence of universals. According to resemblance nominalism the only things that exist are particulars and the supposed resemblance between them. What makes red things “red” is their resemblances. In their zeal to avoid universals, the nominalists now – simply put – have created a new universal, i.e. resemblance!

Brief Kantian intermission

Posted in Epistemology, History of Philosophy with tags , , on 2009/11/12 by doctorangelicus

Kant asserts that there is synthetic a priori knowledge. How is it possible to expand one’s a priori knowledge without consulting one’s empirical experience?