Scholastic Meditations

Scholastic Meditations

Nicholas Rescher
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  • Book Info
    Scholastic Meditations
    Book Description:

    The studies gathered in this volume seek to do homage to the spirit of Scholasticism. They address key issues in that tradition--some from an historical point of view, others from a more substantive standpoint.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1645-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 CHOICE WITHOUT PREFERENCE: The Problem of “Buridan’s Ass”
    (pp. 1-48)

    The idea that the reasoned life, although rewarding, is not all that simple is already prominent in the earliest speculations on “wisdom” (sophia) out of which philosophy (philo-sophia) was to grow. Nor is this surprising. After all, a choice that is reasoned is more difficult to arrive at than a choice made haphazardly when, in the blithe manner of Mark Twain’s dictum, “you pays your money and you takes your choice.” But such reflections lead to the puzzle posed by the question: How is a reasoned choice among fully equivalent alternatives possible? We here confront the problem of choice without...

  5. Chapter 2 NICHOLAS OF CUSA ON THE KORAN: A Fifteenth-Century Encounter with Islam
    (pp. 49-57)

    The year 1964 saw the five-hundredth anniversary of the death of Nicholas of Cusa—equally well known under the Latinized name of Cusanus—commemorated throughout centers of learning in the West. The attention of many minds focused once more upon the work of this great Catholic thinker who stood on the threshold of that crucial juncture of the Renaissance, separating the medievals from the moderns. Scholar, philosopher, theologian, cardinal, church official, and personal friend to a pope, Nicholas embodied a truly remarkable versatility of capabilities and achievements. On the sky map of philosophy, his star has gleamed brightly century after...

    (pp. 58-72)

    We are well advised to follow the counsel of Nicholas of Cusa and endeavor to be knowledgeable about our own ignorance. For in endeavoring to get a firm grasp on the human situation, one of the most problem-strewn regions of inquiry relates to this issue of the limitations of our knowledge. It is next to impossible to fathom the depth of our ignorance and get a clear fix on it. After all, whatever people can know, they can also be ignorant about—perhaps with a handful of Cartesian exceptions such as the fact that they themselves exist and can think....

    (pp. 73-82)

    The scope and limits of our knowledge is an issue that has been on the agenda of human concern since classical antiquity, and it is clearly an issue in which we have a significant stake. For insofar as there are such limits, our hopes of making the realm of fact intelligible to us can only be realized to an extent that is imperfect and incomplete.

    Personal ignorance is a matter of the shortfall of a particular individual’s knowledge. It has two principal versions, the propositional and the erotetic.

    A person’s propositional ignorance is a matter of failing to realize that...

    (pp. 83-91)

    The limitations of human knowledge can be brought into vivid view by contrasting our situation with that of God. However, the present discussion does not propose to tangle with the atheist: the question of God’s existence is irrelevant for its purposes. Our concern here will be strictly hypothetical, taking the form: If there is a God conceived of along the lines of traditional Christian theology, then how are we to understand what is at issue with God’s knowledge? Accordingly, the focus of present deliberations is a conditionalized and conceptual question: How are we to conceive of God’s knowledge—if he...

    (pp. 92-108)

    Prominent in the argumentation of Aquinas’s “Five Ways” for demonstrating the existence of God is a rejection of the possibility of an infinite regress—be it of movers, of causes, or of necessities engendered through the necessity of another. Moreover, as St. Thomas saw it, the universe has to issue from the creative nature of God without any causal “act of creation” on his part. For the creative act of a perfectly rational agent would require an additional act of deliberation, and this in turn would require a determinative act of its own, and so on ad infinitum. Any such...

  10. Chapter 7 BEING QUA BEING
    (pp. 109-125)

    This discussion will trace out a definite story line. Initially it seeks (in sections 2–3) to clarify the idea of “an actually existing thing” along lines that combine classical philosophical approaches with contemporary analytical perspectives. It then seeks (in sections 4–5) to show how the resulting conception of such actually existing objects involves identifiability and intelligibility in a way that endows this idea with a mind-coordinated and idealistic aspect in a manner reminiscent of medieval conceptualism. Finally, the ensuing discussion (sections 6–7) elucidates the sharp contrast between actual existence and merely mind-projected possibilities. Overall, this discussion stresses...

    (pp. 126-148)

    In matters of irreality, medieval philosophers were not much concerned with fiction as such. The prime focus of their attention was theology, and their dealings with nonexistence related to the role of such items in relation to the thoughts of God rather than those of man. In this light, the medievals approached the issue of nonexistents on essentially the following basis:

    God created the world about us. His choice to create this world was a free choice—had he wanted to do so, he could have created the world differently. The things that would have existed had he done this...

  12. Chapter 9 THOMISM: Past, Present, and Future
    (pp. 149-156)

    The journey of St. Thomas Aquinas through the realm of philosophical history has gone along a rocky road beset with many ups and downs.

    Within three years of his death in 1274, various propositions substantially identical with some of his main philosophical views were formally condemned as errors by Bishop Tempier of Paris. This episcopal condemnation was revoked a generation later in 1325, but Thomistic teachings nevertheless met with severe criticism in various quarters in the later Middle Ages—especially among the Franciscans. However, since Renaissance times, most of the popes have praised Aquinas’s teaching, and St. Pius V provided...

  13. Chapter 10 RESPECT FOR TRADITION (And the Catholic Philosopher Today)
    (pp. 157-166)

    Once upon a time one friend promised another that he would introduce him later that day to Grimsby, the versatile musician. The next day—after the foreshadowed encounter had transpired—that second friend reproached the first, saying: “How could you say that Grimsby is a versatile musician: on his own telling he can only play ‘Chopsticks’ on the xylophone.” “Ah,” replied the friend, “but his musicianship shows itself in the fact that he plays it well, and his versatility is manifest in his ability as a chef, a chessmaster, and a connoisseur of the metaphysical poets.”

    This odd little story...

  14. Index
    (pp. 167-169)