Nicholas of cusa on wisdom and knowledge
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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A. Historical Context. The ancient philosophers regarded wisdom (sofiva) as an excellence (ajrethv). Plato devoted much of the Pro- tagoras to a “proof” that holiness (oJsiovth"), courage (ajndreiva), justice (dikaiosuvnh), and self-control (swfrosuvvnh) are but variants of wisdom, which he there also sometimes referred to as knowledge (ejpisthvmh). In not distinguishing explicitly between either various notions of wisdom or various notions of knowledge, Plato—or, at least, the Platonic Socrates—found himself troubled as to whether moral excellence, i.e., moral virtue, could be taught. Is it really teachable, really knowledge, or is it, instead, a special gift of the gods to some men but not to others?, he asked in the Meno. As we witness from the Laws, but also from the Republic, Plato came to favor the view that moral virtue is indeed teachable and is indeed a kind of knowledge. In general, he depicted the philosopher—the lover of wisdom—as desirous, foremostly, of knowing the Good. This pursuit of Goodness was thought to have both a contemplative1 and a noncontemplative dimension to it, so that the philosopher was characterized both as someone given to reflecting upon the eternal Form of the Good and as someone knowing how to behave well. Although in the Phaedrus the gods alone are said to be wise (278D), with the philosopher being described as striving to become ever more godlike as he draws intellectually nearer to wisdom, none of the other Platonic dialogues insist upon this exclusivistic use of the epithet “wise”.
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