May 13, 2010 17 Comments
Plato, Philo, Plotinus, Dionysius, Augustine, Basil, John of Damascus, Maximus the Confessor, Isaac the Syrian, John Scotus, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure and many others all profess a doctrine of divine exemplarism. This is Plato’s forms or universals or logoi as located in the divine mind or essence (depending on whether it’s Eastern or Western). The problem will be, however, whether this can work as an epistemic foundation in Thomism.
It should go without saying that both Aristotle and Aquinas’ epistemology is basically an empirical method. A certain Thomist fussed to me about this, since “epistemology” and “empiricism” are anachronisms. As if we cannot use modern terms that accurately describe an ancient belief or system. No one says we cannot say “Post-Apostolic theology” because that term wasn’t used in the Post-Apostolic era. But it’s quite simple to show Aristotle and Thomas’ method is empirical.
Aristotle says in De Anima 12:8:
“Since according to common agreement there is nothing outside and separate in existence from sensible spatial magnitudes, the objects of thought are in the sensible forms, viz. both the abstract objects and all the states and affections of sensible things. Hence (1) no one can learn or understand anything in the absence of sense, and (when the mind is actively aware of anything it is necessarily aware of it along with an image; for images are like sensuous contents except in that they contain no matter. “
Aquinas writes in De Veritate, Article III:
“19. Nothing is in the intellect that was not previously in sense. But in God there is no sensitive cognition, because this is material. Therefore, He does not know created things, since they were not previously in His sense. Read more of this post