Friday, September 21, 2012

Why we need Aristotle and Aquinas pt 5

In my last post on this subject I talked about how A-T philosophy is always tethered to the underlying reality of the existing universe.  The philosophical premises that form the foundation of A-T proceed from the notion that nature and reality are communicating real truths.  This leads to some resistance on the part of the modern mind, mostly because the modern mind simply doesn't know that there are other ways of thinking about the universe.

The first objection to such ideas lie in the physical properties of the universe and the perception by our senses.  It is pointed out time and again that the properties that we perceive are not the whole story and at times our senses can be incorrect.  This, we are told, proves that our ability to perceive truth through the senses is unreliable.

This objection fails on two fronts.  The first is that while the physical properties of an object or entity, such as the cup from my previous post, may have different physical properties than I originally perceive does not disprove that the cup is communicating reality and that the senses perceive that reality.  In fact in order to be corrected, my senses first perceive the "erroneous" data, then with scientific instruments, learn more about object.  And even if this new data itself is imprecise, I proceed in both cases that eventually the senses, with proper understanding, will eventually understand said properties.  This is not only in tune with A-T philosophy but the scientific pursuit practically begs for A-T philosophy to be true on this front.

The second is that while the accidents of entities such as my coffee cup are important in terms of what actually defines "cupness", they are not as important as the fact that both the cup and "cupness" exist.  A-T does not get caught up per se in the minutia of accidents.  It is far more concerned with entities themselves, and the truths that are derived from the existence of things, the universe, etc.  Thus the fact that our understanding of the accidentals of entities changes does not in any way impact the value of A-T philosophy and the truths that it pursues.  

The most important contribution to the discussion of A-T for the study of science though is the connection between the reality and the theories meant to explain that reality.  A lot of the silliness of modern skeptics (who happen to be scientists) could easily be avoided if a proper understanding of philosophy and the role it plays in conclusions derived from the physical universe were imparted.  As it is, modern skeptics such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, etc, will continue to make silly arguments that a first year A-T philosophy student can reduce to cinders in an instant.

A revival of A-T philosophy and modern derivations of this as well as Platonic studies are already underway.    We have an uphill battle ahead of us.  But the sheer sense that A-T philosophy as well as other classic schools of thought are a breath of fresh air to the nonsense that pervades most academic halls these days.  I have every confidence that the reformation is underway.

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