Saturday, 4 April 2015

Euphuia, discernment, and Aquinas' Plato-Aristotle option regarding knowing as identity

This has to do with the question, how did Aquinas know he had to choose Aristotle's theorem of knowing as identity over Plato's theorem of knowing as confrontation. (See also my Wisdom Epistemology article somewhere...). Pat Bryne, in his International Lonergan Workshop Jerusalem contribution, has something very useful on the point, in fact, he sheds great light on the matter, when he notes that for Aristotle, dialectic alone was not enough; something called EUPHUIA was needed, which can perhaps be translated as discernment. 

Question to Pat Byrne:
when Thomas makes a choice between Plato and Aristotle, between knowledge as confrontation and knowledge as identity, is he exercising euphuia? if he is, then your paper is casting wonderful light on what has been a little question for me for several years...
Pat Byrne's reply, 4 april 2015:

     As for Thomas’s choice between Plato and Aristotle, between knowledge as confrontation and knowledge as identity, that is a question beyond my expertise, but it sounds right. Strictly speaking, what Aristotle means by euphoria should be preceded by a meticulous dialectical analysis. That would mean that Aquinas himself should have done something like the questions and answers put to both Plato and Aristotle as sources of great acumen, come to the options of what confrontation vs. identity imply, and then chosen knowing by identity on the basis of the inner light (of both the unrestricted desire and faith). I don’t know how much Plato he actually read. In Verbum Lonergan is contrasting Aristotle’s knowing by identity with a Platonic knowing by confrontation, but he does not actually offer texts to show that Aquinas himself actually did that. Aquinas seems to have gotten the great insight from his careful reading of Aristotle’s De Anima. Whether Aquinas also saw that this posed a dialectical choice against Plato, I am not sure.
        Be that as it may, at some point Aquinas himself no doubt realized he had to abandon knowing as confrontation, because of the options it leads to, and that itself certainly would have been an exercise of euphuia.
        This was a great question. I never thought of applying it in this way. When I heard C.D.C. Reeve explain this, the lights went on for me also — a problem in Aristotle’s dialectics that has been also bothering me for years, and something I never found explained satisfactorily by any other Aristotle scholar.

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