Sunday, June 12, 2011

Live Blogging: A Modern Manual of Scholastic Philosophy (chapter 1, part 3)

   Once again I return to the work and pleasure of studying philosophy. In this part, our author indicates that the process of abstraction (of breaking up ideas into its most universal and simplest parts) cannot go on infinitely. At some point an idea is no longer explained by anything else but rather explains all things. When an idea reaches this level it is called a principle. A principle is also called a reason.  One must withdraw in awestruck realization at the method of this treatise since it is, practicing what it teaches while it teaches it -namely abstraction and synthesis. And since anything that repeats is called consistent one must admire the author's consistency. But I digress, continuing on, philosophy is the use of simple reasons to explain everything. The first knowledge that is attained by a human being (that is in his childhood) is spontaneous, that is,  the sense organs are stimulated by natural things and this begets knowledge. When the will controls the other faculties of the human, so as to focus its power on abstraction, and the mind abstracts and then unites the abstracted ideas, then we have formed a particular science. But the particular sciences are also analysis of objects under a special form. But how can something be both "analysis" and "synthesis"? Perhaps a sum of ideas is being subtracted from some larger whole. Also, since this process of analysis and synthesis is frequent, it happens that there are frequently many sciences being created.  The mind however, wishes to unify the results of the particular sciences and to explain them by the simplest principles. Wherefore arises the use of philosophy. But again how can philosophy -synthesis -be an explanan of the simplest principles -analysis?
  All things have three qualities in common, quantity, movement, and substance. These triple objects form the basis for what is called the most general philosophy. Philosophy may be defined as the science of things through its simplest and most general causes.  Or what is the same thing, philosophy is the science of all through the simplest reasons. Philosophy as science is opposed to spontaneous knowledge -and what comes to the same, is opposed to the knowledge of the man of the street. But if that is true, and the very beginnings of all science lay in spontaneous knowledge, then philosophy is opposed to itself which is contradictory. It is also against belief as well as uncertainty. Indeed science implies certainty. St. Thomas Aquinas says that if we have a reason why and how something is, then we have certain knowledge of the thing. Every science gives all the reasons for an object considered from a certain P.O.V. So all science is synthetic. Philosophy regards again, the sum total of objects. The formal object of philosophy is simple while the material object of philosophy is indeed all objects. Philosophy is truly science in the highest degree -science that penetrates all the way to the bottom.
   Several things appears evident from what has been written. First, it seems that if  all thoughts are subject to uncertainty, and all analytical or synthetic ideas are thoughts, then all philosophy (which as we saw is either synthetic or analytic) is open to uncertainty.  Second, if all thoughts are gained through sensual experience of the natural world, and since no two person's experiences are alike, then there must be a gargantuan host of philosophies -at least as many as there are people.

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