The First Object of Human Knowledge

Pace those who think otherwise (like this gentleman, for example), the first object of human knowledge is not God nor any other immaterial thing. St Thomas explains:

It is written (Wisdom 9:16): “The things that are in heaven, who shall search out?” But these substances are said to be in heaven, according to Matthew 18:10, “Their angels in heaven,” etc. Therefore immaterial substances cannot be known by human investigation.

…In the opinion of Plato, immaterial substances are not only understood by us, but are the objects we understand first of all. For Plato taught that immaterial subsisting forms, which he called “Ideas,” are the proper objects of our intellect, and thus first and “per se” understood by us; and, further, that material objects are known by the soul inasmuch as phantasy and sense are mixed up with the mind. Hence the purer the intellect is, so much the more clearly does it perceive the intelligible truth of immaterial things.

But in Aristotle’s opinion, which experience corroborates, our intellect in its present state of life has a natural relationship to the natures of material things; and therefore it can only understand by turning to the phantasms, as we have said above (Question 84, Article 7). Thus it clearly appears that immaterial substances which do not fall under sense and imagination, cannot first and “per se” be known by us, according to the mode of knowledge which experience proves us to have. [ST I q88 a1, emphasis added]

There are a few things worth observing here. First, he’s not saying (of course) that we can know nothing of immaterial substances; he’s only saying that they’re not the first things we know, nor that we just know them in some unmediated way. Second, he says that experience confirms Aristotle’s view. This is important because for a proposition to be true, it must conform to reality: that is, it must consistent with the way that things really are. And I think that he’s exactly right about this, not just in an “if you think about it, you’ll see that he’s right” way, but in a “this is blindingly obvious” way. Because it’s just obvious that we start by getting knowledge by way of our senses.

A little later, Aquinas says that this is not merely true about angels (the immaterial beings in view above), but a fortiori true for God.

Since the human intellect in the present state of life cannot understand even immaterial created substances (1), much less can it understand the essence of the uncreated substance. Hence it must be said simply that God is not the first object of our knowledge. Rather do we know God through creatures, according to the Apostle (Romans 1:20), “the invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made”: while the first object of our knowledge in this life is the “quiddity of a material thing,” which is the proper object of our intellect, as appears above in many passages (84, 7; 85, 8; 87, 2, ad 2) [ST I q88 a3].

The point, again, is not that we cannot know anything about God. We certainly can, and not merely by resort to Scripture. After all, we’re talking about the man who rather famously proposed Five Ways to show that God exists, and whose Summa Contra Gentiles is a five-volume exercise in natural theology. Rather, his point is that God is not what we know first, and that (as Romans says) we acquire knowledge of Him “by the things that are made.”

Garrigou-Lagrange has some useful things to say that relate to this.

Since its proper object, however, is the essence of the sense world, our intellect can know God and all spiritual beings only by analogy with the sense world, the lowest of intelligible realities, to know which it needs the sense faculties as instruments. In this state of union with body, its manner of knowing the spiritual world is not immediate like that of the angel. So its very definition of the spiritual is negative. Spiritual, it says, is what is immaterial, i. e.: non material. And this negative mode of knowing the spiritual shows clearly that its proper sphere is in the world of sense. [Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought, ch. 29 (p. 157f)].

This sort of thing is likewise true of the fact that we say that angels (and God) are invisible: they’re not visible. Once again, we resort to negative language because of the limitations imposed by the fact that our knowledge begins with our senses.

Now the gentleman I linked in the first sentence of this post suggests that St Thomas “conveniently” omitted vital context when he quoted Rom. 1:20 (see above). He proposes that verse 19 should have been included:

Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God has manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.

The rendering of v. 19 presented by the gentleman is significantly different than this:

that which is known about God is evident within them

Either way, though, I don’t think that it’s warranted to suggest (as he does) that v. 19 demands a Platonist (or maybe presuppositionalist?) view of how we know things, staring with some sort of innate knowledge of God. Because v. 20 actually explains v. 19, so that the point is (as Aquinas affirms) that we learn of God from what we see: from the sense world around us. What we can know of God is manifest because of what we see, not the other way around.

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Posted in Aquinas - Philosophy, Aristotle
14 comments on “The First Object of Human Knowledge
  1. olivianus says:

    First,
    I appreciate your blog. It is easy to talk to you because I respect you and our conversations are on an adult level. We disagree immensely but I feel my time is well spent here.

    “But in Aristotle’s opinion, which experience corroborates, our intellect in its present state of life has a natural relationship to the natures of material things; ”

    >>>I am still waiting for an explanation on how you get natures/substantial forms.
    Aristotle took genus out of the category of substance yeah? If so how can abstract class concepts be real?

    >>>Do you adhere then to the tabula rasa doctrine.

    “Because it’s just obvious that we start by getting knowledge by way of our senses.”
    Can you define sensation and show how it produces abstract ideas? Do you have remaining images of just hearing and seeing or can you recall smells and feelings and tastes upon command. I have only the former. If it is the case that conception develops in man through the processing of remaining images then for me the only concepts I could have would be of sounds and images. The idea of hardness or sourness or sweetness or odor would be impossible.

    “Rather do we know God through creatures, according to the Apostle (Romans 1:20)”

    >>>Thomists always take that verse out of context as you mention and no, 19 interprets 20. Rom 1: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident WITHIN THEM; for God made it evident to them.

    The Scripturalist idea is that man has innate structures WITHIN THEM and through these structures man interprets the creation as being created by God.

    “The point, again, is not that we cannot know anything about God. We certainly can, and not merely by resort to Scripture.”
    These passages sufficiently prove that knowledge does not come by observation but by revelation:

    Ecc 8: 17 and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, “I know,” he cannot discover.

    Jhn 6:45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Jhn 6:46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

    Psalm 119: 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Your precepts.

    Mat 11: 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.

    1 Cor 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

    1 Cor 1: 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of
    God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God.
    Not to mention that infant salvation is impossible without immediate saving knowledge

    “Once again, we resort to negative language because of the limitations imposed by the fact that our knowledge begins with our senses.”

    >>>This denies the image of God and man and posits the atheist view of anthropology in general. This is Dionysius’ doctrine and that of hell IMO. God is therefore outside of being and as Lossky admits, operating off of the same Dionysian principles, does not exist, “We have here the entry into darkness, an entry concealed by the abundant light through which God makes Himself known in His beings. Knowledge is limited to what exists; now, as the cause of all being, GOD DOES NOT EXIST, or rather He is superior to all oppositions between being and non-being. As with Plotinus, we must, according to Dionysius, leave the realm of beings in order to be united to God. However, the God of Dionysius is not the en, the prime unity or identity of Plotinus, opposed to the multiplicity of beings. God is not unity, but the cause of unity [Another positive predication], just as he is the cause of multiplicity. This is why Dionysius exalts the name of the Trinity, ‘the most sublime name,’ above the name ‘One.’ Again this is a point where Dionysius radically modifies the concept of Plotinus.” (pg. 123, Vision of God)

    This is an ipso facto vindication of Atheism.

    “Since its proper object, however, is the essence of the sense world, our intellect can know God and all spiritual beings only by analogy with the sense world”

    >>>Then you have no knowledge at all for analogies require information and do not give it. Knowledge is the possession of the truth itself, not an analogy or signpost pointing to truth. Gilbert Weaver (A critic of Clark) says Van Til’s use of analogical knowledge is different than Aquinas’ analogia entis:

    “Aquinas taught that no predicate can univocally be applied to God and created beings… When therefore a man thinks that God is good or eternal or almighty, he not only means something different from what God means by good or eternal or almighty, but, worse (if anything can be worse) he means something different by saying that God is. Since as temporal creatures we cannot know the eternal essence of God, we cannot know what God means when he affirms his own existence. Between God’s meaning of existence and man’s meaning there is not a single point of coincidence.” (Festschrift)
    Weaver says, “The word analogical, so far as I can find, is not used by Van Til to apply to terms, but to the process of reasoning it is based squarely upon the doctrine of the creation of man in God’s image.”[Festschrift, 304-305] For some strange reason Van Til actually thinks this is the only way that man can have knowledge of God. Clark says, “if Van Til means nothing else by the term analogical than the dependence of all knowledge on knowledge of God, what is the point of Weaver’s criticisms?”[Ibid,463 ] Van Til’s appeal to analogy merely disguises the skepticism, it does not remove it. Van Til’s system is supposed to preserve the idea that man cannot have knowledge apart from God. We heartily agree. The word “apart” though is ambiguous. Does “apart” mean apart from effectual calling, apart from common grace, apart from a priori structures? Even Clarkians believe that man must have a priori structures to have knowledge of God, even a lost man must have them and does have them. Clark’s take on Van Til was that he was inconsistent and at times said things that were on the right path but then would go back on them. Who knows? Van Til’s writings are so cryptic, it’s difficult to determine what he believed.
    Analogies are fine as long as the analogy is accompanied by an explanation that reveals the univocal point between the sign and that to be signified. Clark says,

    “A paddle for a canoe may be said to be analogical to the paddles of a paddle wheel steamer; the canoe paddle may be said to be analogous even to the screw propeller of an ocean liner; but it is so because of a univocal element. These three things–the canoe paddle, the paddle wheel, and the screw propeller–are univocally devices for applying force to move boats through water…if the human mind were limited to analogical truths, it could never know the univocal truth that it was limited to analogies.” [The Bible as Truth]

    Suppose I were to say a flajibubblesmiter is like an apple. Does this mean the flajibubblesmiter is red, round and red, neither red nor round but soft? Who is to say? When I speak in an analogy and give you no identical point of coincidence between the two you know nothing of the flajibubblesmiter and it remains what it always has been, a nothing.

    Did you ever get a chance to listen to the Robbins’ lecture?

  2. aquinasetc says:

    Hello Drake,

    Thank you for your kind words. For what it’s worth, my comments on your blog weren’t intended for any other purpose than to clarify areas where I think you may have misunderstood Aquinas. I do not pretend to be an expert on Clark, nor to be particularly familiar with your personal opinions or areas of interest, and unfortunately I lack the time to invest in researching just anything that presents itself, so I have to be selective. More importantly, I try (with varying measures of success) to leave comments that amount to something more than simply saying “You are wrong and I am right.”

    I am still waiting for an explanation on how you get natures/substantial forms. Aristotle took genus out of the category of substance yeah? If so how can abstract class concepts be real?

    Presumably when you say you’re waiting for this, you mean from A-T folks generally and not from me personally, because I don’t remember having promised to provide this to you. You will probably be better served in the long run by reading a book like Feser’s Aquinas or The Last Superstition for an overview of what Thomists are talking about. Feser gets paid to do philosophy; I merely dabble. Nevertheless, I will endeavor to provide something of an answer.

    First off, for the Thomist forms are abstractions. As Feser says in Aquinas:

    On the hylemorphic analysis, considered apart from the substances that have them, form and matter are mere abstractions; there is no form of the ball apart from the matter that has the form, and no matter of the ball apart from the form that makes it a ball specifically. In particular, the form of a ball does not exist in a “Platonic heaven” of abstract objects outside time and space. All the same, Aristotle and Aquinas are, like Plato, realists about universals: when we grasp “humanity,” “triangularity,” and the like, what we grasp are not mere inventions of the human mind, but are grounded in the natures of real human beings, triangles, or what have you. [p. 15]

    So contrary to Plato, forms don’t exist apart from the beings whose forms they are, except as beings of reason. They are real in things.

    Do you adhere then to the tabula rasa doctrine.

    If you are referring to Locke’s tabula rasa, I would have to say “I don’t know,” because I haven’t read Locke. But Aristotle and Aquinas both are in the general camp of affirming that our knowledge derives originally from material things by way of the senses rather than from innate ideas as indicated in my post above.

    Can you define sensation and show how it produces abstract ideas? Do you have remaining images of just hearing and seeing or can you recall smells and feelings and tastes upon command. I have only the former. If it is the case that conception develops in man through the processing of remaining images then for me the only concepts I could have would be of sounds and images. The idea of hardness or sourness or sweetness or odor would be impossible.

    The senses don’t produce abstract ideas. That is not their function. They merely provide the raw material from which the intellect abstracts away the particulars and draws out universals like hardness or sourness. What you are describing sounds like the fruit of imagination, or what Aquinas called phantasms, and this is distinct from the intellect. See, for example, pp. 142-146 in Aquinas (I keep referring to this little book because I think it provides an excellent overview of Aquinas’ thought).

    Thomists always take that verse out of context as you mention and no, 19 interprets 20.

    I fear that your principles are misguiding your translation in this case. Verse 20 opens with τὰ γὰρ, and γὰρ means “for,” in the sense of because or clarifying what has already been said. So the Greek demands that verse 20 is explaining what precedes it and not the other way around.

    [disclaimer: it has been more than 20 years since I studied Greek, and I no longer have my lexicons]

    With respect to the list of Bible passages that you quote: with the exception of the first (from Ecclesiastes), they aren’t talking about human knowledge in general. They are talking about the fact that God reveals certain things to us, not literally everything that we know. And it wouldn’t be difficult to come up with a contrary list: as for example 1 John 1:1-4 or John 19:35, where the truth is declared to be known and knowable precisely because it has been seen and touched and not because it was revealed.

    With regard to Ecclesiastes, I think that it is dangerous to draw universal conclusions from the book without reference to its end. The same author also says that all is vanity (1:2, etc). Is belief in God or obedience to God “vanity?” Of course not. But this isn’t clear from the book until later, when he says:

    Let us all hear together the conclusion of the discourse. Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is all man. [12:13]

    But with regard to 8:17, he isn’t saying that man can know nothing, but that he cannot fully understand creation nor God’s purposes in what He has done.

    Not to mention that infant salvation is impossible without immediate saving knowledge

    With God all things are possible. :-)

    Once again, we resort to negative language because of the limitations imposed by the fact that our knowledge begins with our senses.

    This denies the image of God and man and posits the atheist view of anthropology in general.

    No, it doesn’t.

    This is Dionysius’ doctrine and that of hell IMO.

    As I pointed out in the post, the Summa Contra Gentiles is a five-volume exercise in establishing just exactly what we may know about God by means of reason. I suggest that if you are going to show that Aquinas is wrong about all that, you have your work cut out for you, because he shows that we can know quite a bit.

    Did you ever get a chance to listen to the Robbins’ lecture?

    Sorry, I don’t have time. I barely have time to read the stuff that I want, so that there just isn’t room for others’ recommendations very often at all. I say the same thing to my family and friends about their recommendations, so don’t take this the wrong way.

  3. olivianus says:

    Aquinas etc,

    “The senses don’t produce abstract ideas.”

    I didn’t say they did. I said, “If it is the case that conception develops in man through the processing of remaining images”. This is my understanding of Thomism. I wrote this to my Presbytery when I told them I was separating from their Church due to the Thomistic influence in proff that I understood what i was rejecting:

    Empiricism on my definition is a theory of demonstration where man
    moves through space and locates created natures through sensation that
    he believes can by a method of induction, give knowledge. Perception
    is inferred from sensation. And passing from perception, memory images
    that have remained from a previous sensation are through abstraction
    used to produce an abstract Idea.

    “Christian empiricism is the theory that “The Knowledge of God comes
    Only by the Creature”. In this case knowledge is a created similitude
    to what is real. This created light stands in a middle position
    between God and Man. Aquinas says in his Summa, “The created
    intellect sees the Divine essence (Divine Simplicity; Absolute Monad)
    not according to the mode of that same essence, but according to its
    own mode which is finite.” (Q. 93, article 3) On this view
    comprehension is a relational activity not a propositional activity.
    This relationship is called analogy. Comprehension has two sides an
    objective and a subjective. The degree of comprehending is on the
    subjective side of the relation; it need not be on the objective side
    of the relation. On the subjective side is the analogical predication.
    On the objective side is the One the absolute Monad. Comprehension on
    the human side is analogical to the reality on the divine side. Our
    knowledge in this life is modulated and as seen in a mirror darkly,
    but after death there is something more. Aquinas says, ’For this
    reason the human mind knows in a composite way things that are
    themselves simple…In Heaven…that vision will not take the form of a
    proposition, but of a simple intuition’. Therefore a divine mind with
    ideas is not the ultimate principle. The ordinary conditions of
    consciousness are suspended and, having become oblivious of self and
    the world, the soul ascends beyond a reality of ideas and sees the One
    alone. In the vision we see the Source of the light which made
    knowledge possible, and we see it directly in all its brilliance.
    ..This experience is not abnormal, it is but the exercise of a faculty
    which all have though few use…The experience itself cannot be written
    down, it can only be experienced. This is Plotinus clear as day, and
    is, unless some revolution happens in Reformed Theology the primary
    reason I will never step foot in a Reformed Church again.

    Antonio will you admit that the doctrine of divine simplicity,
    analogical predication, the nature as the principle of unity in
    Triadology, and the Filioque are a logical package; to take one is to
    take all and to reject one is to reject all?”

  4. olivianus says:

    “Thomists always take that verse out of context as you mention and no, 19 interprets 20.

    I fear that your principles are misguiding your translation in this case. Verse 20 opens with τὰ γὰρ, and γὰρ means “for,” in the sense of because or clarifying what has already been said. So the Greek demands that verse 20 is explaining what precedes it and not the other way around.”

    >>>>Until you can demonstrate how abstract concepts are formed through a definition of sensation and a demonstration of how perception and abstract concepts are developed from sensation, you don’t have a leg to stand on. Asserting that there are no Platonic ideas apart from the objects that are formed is not an explanation.

    “1 John 1:1-4 or John 19:35”

    >>>>1 John 1 is dispensed with easily because the Bible is full of sensory language, which many times is metaphorical:

    Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

    Exo 15:14 “The peoples have heard, they tremble; Anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia.

    Deu 1:43 So I spake unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD, and went presumptuously up into the hill. (KJV)

    2Ki 14:11 But Amaziah would not hear. Therefore Jehoash king of Israel went up; and he and Amaziah king of Judah looked one another in the face at Bethshemesh, which belongeth to Judah.(KJV)

    Job 27:9 “Will God hear his cry When distress comes upon him?

    Psa 3:4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

    Psa 4:1 For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

    1Jo 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life–
    compared with

    Gal 3:1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
    Calvin says,
    “Paul declares, that by the true preaching of the gospel Christ is portrayed and in a manner crucified before our eyes (Gal_3:1). Of what use, then, were the erection in Churches of so many crosses of wood and stone, silver and gold, if this doctrine were faithfully and honestly preached, viz., Christ died that he might bear our curse upon the tree, that he might expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, wash them in his blood, and, in short, reconcile us to God the Father?”

    Deu 29:4 Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

    Gen 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

    Gen 16:4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

    Psa 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

    Act 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.(KJV) The NASB translates the word “see” as “undergo”. The reason they do this is, that words are arbitrary. It is the thought and meaning that are the significant points. My opponents need to consider this more.

    Act 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.(KJV)

    Act 28:26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
    Act 28:27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (KJV)

    1Co 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

    Job 19:26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

    Jer 1:11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.(KJV)

    Jer 1:13 And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. (KJV)

    Gen 31:50 If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.

    Joh 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

    2. John 19:35 is more easily dispensed with because you have someone writing under the inspiration of the holy ghost, not someone who is making a truth claim base don his naked sensations.

    “But with regard to 8:17, he isn’t saying that man can know nothing, but that he cannot fully understand creation nor God’s purposes in what He has done.”

    >>>Assertion. Your opinion. That is exactly what he said, Ecc 8 “17 and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun.” He just said that man, in the context of the book, man under the sun can know nothing.

    “With God all things are possible. :-)”
    >>>That is not an answer. This issue must by definition deny that knowledge of God comes only by the creature.

    “As I pointed out in the post, the Summa Contra Gentiles is a five-volume exercise in establishing just exactly what we may know about God by means of reason. I suggest that if you are going to show that Aquinas is wrong about all that, you have your work cut out for you, because he shows that we can know quite a bit.”

    5 Volumes. I have the entire Pre-Socratic period on my side that Aristotle and Thomas never refuted. 5 volumes of assertions that never dealt with the established conclusion of Greek Philosophy that empirical knowledge is impossible. Where is Thomas’ refutation of Zeno of Elea?

  5. aquinasetc says:

    Drake,

    I’ve been busy tonight and will be a bit busy for a few days.

    For the moment, this will have to suffice.

    In #3 you quoted me thus:

    The senses don’t produce abstract ideas.

    To this you replied:

    I didn’t say they did.

    I didn’t say that you said it, either. :-) But you did ask this question in #1:

    Can you define sensation and show how it produces abstract ideas?

    And the answer, as I said in #2, is: The senses don’t produce abstract ideas. They provide the raw material from which the intellect draws out universals.

  6. aquinasetc says:

    Hi Drake,

    What works of St Thomas have you read in their entirety?

    What works of Aristotle have you read in their entirety?

    Thanks.

  7. olivianus says:

    Not sure what the relevance of this question is but in their entirety, None. I have read about 3/4 of Aristotle’s Metaphysics and about 500 pages of philosophy on Aristotle.

    I have read about 1/2 of Aquinas’ Summa. And about a couple thousand pages of literature on Aquinas.

    How much Pre-socratic Philosophy have you read?

    How much of Gordon Clark have you read?

    Do you even have a complete theory with a Theory of Epistemology, Metaphysics, Science, Language, History, Politics, Ethics?

    The more i speak with Roman Catholic the more I am aware that you guys have not even read s single paragraph on the issue of Language.

    I notice you are not even touching the core issues of what I have addressed here. Your silence on the analogy thing is understandable.

    A point: If Adam was a blank slate when he was created by God how did he understand this command: 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

    This command was given to him right after his creation.

    How could Adam understand this command, which 1 Tim 2:14 certainly implies, if he had never seen heard tasted touched or smelled death? He had no experience in the world at all yet he understood an abstract concept like moral law and he understood death.

  8. aquinasetc says:

    Having had my opportunity to vent, I regret the tone and spirit of what I wrote and I am removing it.

  9. […] So when this gentleman says here: […]

  10. aquinasetc says:

    Drake, in #4 you wrote:

    Until you can demonstrate how abstract concepts are formed through a definition of sensation and a demonstration of how perception and abstract concepts are developed from sensation, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

    Please clarify. Your syntax doesn’t make sense. Are you saying that I allegedly have to provide two demonstrations?

    This doesn’t make any sense: how abstract concepts are formed through a definition of sensation

    It doesn’t make any sense because definitions don’t “form” other things, and I never suggested otherwise.

    But if I try to rip some sense out of it: “abstract concepts” aren’t formed “through a definition of sensation.” I said that the intellect abstracts particulars out of the raw material provided by the senses in order to draw out universals.

    As to the second demonstration that I allegedly have to provide: I don’t have to do anything of the sort. I have told you how it works on a Thomistic view of things. If you want more information, you can look it up yourself.

    As to the grandstanding at the end there, about legs and standing: that little rhetorical flourish might be meaningful if I was actually debating or arguing with you. But that is not my interest at all, and you yourself described this as a conversation. I am not trying to win debating points with you. I am attempting to explain as best I can the Thomist view of things. If you are looking for something else, you will have to go someplace else.

  11. aquinasetc says:

    Drake, in #4 you wrote:

    1 John 1 is dispensed with easily because the Bible is full of sensory language, which many times is metaphorical:

    See my previous remarks about debating.

    To say that “sensory language” is metaphorical “many times” does not establish that it is always so, nor that it is so in any specific instance. Furthermore, it is arguably not the case that St John is speaking metaphorically in 1 John 1, since it is undeniably the fact that he really did see and hear and handle the Lord. These facts are offered by him there as substantiation that he can “bear witness” to the truth reliably: he saw and heard and handled the Lord, so he knows what he is talking about. To claim that this is merely metaphorical certainly isn’t required by the text, and certainly doesn’t make it clearer, so to nevertheless insist upon it is completely unconvincing. A Scripture quote dump doesn’t strengthen your claim at all.

  12. aquinasetc says:

    Drake, you wrote in #7 (concerning my question as to how much of Aquinas and Aristotle you have read):

    Not sure what the relevance of this question is but in their entirety, None. I have read about 3/4 of Aristotle’s Metaphysics and about 500 pages of philosophy on Aristotle.

    I have read about 1/2 of Aquinas’ Summa. And about a couple thousand pages of literature on Aquinas.

    In my opinion it is inconsistent of you to insist that people prepare replies to your list of (at this writing) 46 items before you will discuss the given subject(s) with them, and then to come to my blog and critique Aquinas and Aristotle without having read more than portions of them.

  13. olivianus says:

    Aquinas etc.
    “It doesn’t make any sense because definitions don’t “form” other things, and I never suggested otherwise.”

    But if I try to rip some sense out of it: “abstract concepts” aren’t formed “through a definition of sensation.” I said that the intellect abstracts particulars out of the raw material provided by the senses in order to draw out universals.”

    >>>What I am saying is that

    First as I understand your view, Thomism is a theory of demonstration where man
    moves through space and locates created natures through sensation that he believes can by a method of induction, give knowledge. Perception is inferred from sensation. And passing from perception, memory images that have remained from a previous sensation are through abstraction used to produce an abstract Idea.

    Second, this procedure needs a definition of what sensation is. I am not saying that matter is formed through definitions and I never suggested otherwise. I am saying that you need to define sensation in order to get your theory off the ground.

    Third, I said very clearly in my understanding of what you believe “And passing from perception, memory images that have remained from a previous sensation are through abstraction used to produce an abstract Idea.” You said “the intellect abstracts particulars out of the raw material provided by the senses in order to draw out universals”
    By “raw material” I have understood from other Aristotelian Philosophers the words “memory images.” If raw material means memory images, which seems clearly to be what you believe then I understand your view perfectly and have since this conversation began.

    Fourth, I am waiting for your argument on how you know all people have such images. This is why I brought up that I only have seeing and hearing images in my memory. As an ad hominem to you, Francis Galton showed that all people do not even have these images.

    Fifth, how do you get a universal from a particular? Is this not the fallacy of induction?

    >>>>1 John 1 could only prove that Christ’s body was really human and physical. It proves nothing of the materialistic worldview of Aristotle.

    “In my opinion it is inconsistent of you to insist that people prepare replies to your list of (at this writing) 46 items before you will discuss the given subject(s) with them, and then to come to my blog and critique Aquinas and Aristotle without having read more than portions of them.”

    >>>My 46 items was geared toward a Hyper-Calvinist forum that contained members that were asking me rudimentary questions of Systematic Theology over and over again and it got old quick. I think we discussed this before. You have yet shown me that I do not understand what is being said by Aquinas. From what has been written between us, I am understanding what you Thomists are saying precisely and I am making arguments against those points. I am not forcing you to re-educate me in Aquinas due to my lack of study before me get to serious issues. Ergo, your inconsistent accusation is mistaken.

  14. olivianus says:

    Moreover, on your view, what are universals? Earlier feser said,

    “there is no form of the ball apart from the matter that has the form, and no matter of the ball apart from the form that makes it a ball specifically. In particular, the form of a ball does not exist in a “Platonic heaven” of abstract objects outside time and space. All the same, Aristotle and Aquinas are, like Plato, realists about universals: when we grasp “humanity,” “triangularity,” and the like, what we grasp are not mere inventions of the human mind, but are grounded in the natures of real human beings, triangles, or what have you”

    Here he contrasts the Platonic view of universals which, Clarkians agree with Plato on, in that universals are real, with the Thomistic view. What else can you admit to but that this clearly denies the reality of universals and abstract concepts on your view?

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