By permission of The Gale Group, this article is reprinted (here on-line) from “Nicholas of Cusa,” pp. 122-125, Volume 9 of the Dictionary of the Middle Ages, edited by Joseph R. Strayer (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1987 ). The short bibliography at the end of the original article has been omitted; and the page numbers of the article are here changed.
[FIRST PARAGRAPHS]The role of Professor McLaughlin's sceptic is to introduce certain 'sceptical hypotheses', hypotheses which imply the falsity of most of what we believe about the world. Professor McLaughlin asks whether these hypotheses are coherent and thus whether they can tell us anything about what are entitled to believe, or to claim to know. He concludes that, semantic externalism notwithstanding, these hypotheses are both coherent and threatening. I shall not question this conclusion but I do wonder whether the fate of (...) scepticism hangs entirely on the coherence of the sceptical hypotheses. I shall maintain that the root of scepticism, at least as we find it in Descartes and Hume, is the demand for certainty. Recent writers are likely to dismiss this demand for certainty: in their view, inconclusive evidence is quite sufficient both to justify belief and to give us knowledge (should the proposition in question turn out to be true). Like Professor McLaughlin, recent debate focuses rather on the possibility that we might have no evidence at all for our beliefs, that our belief-forming processes might be completely unreliable, undermining both knowledge and justification. It is the sceptical hypotheses which generate this worry - ordinary error does not - and so it is they alone, not the prosaic fact of our fallibility, which provide grounds for a real sceptical doubt. Descartes and Hume are standard reference points for discussion of the sceptical hypotheses. Yet, I shall argue, in both Descartes and Hume, the sceptical hypotheses are secondary; what is really doing the work is their demand for certainty. Furthermore Descartes, at least, suggests a way in which this demand might be motivated. Both philosophers do indeed raise 'the problem of the external world' but this is only one aspect of their scepticism; we can't dispatch either the Cartesian or the Humean sceptic just by demonstrating that thought or experience presupposes the existence of an external world. Their sceptical problem is more than the problem posed by the sceptical hypotheses. (shrink)
Ever since Ernst Cassirer in his epochal book Individuum und Kosmos in der Philosophie der Renaissance1 labeled Nicholas of Cusa “the first modern thinker,” interest in Cusa’s thought has burgeoned. At various times, both before and after Cassirer, Nicholas has been viewed as a forerunner of Leibniz,2 a harbinger of Kant,3 a prefigurer of Hegel,4 indeed, as an anticipator of the whole of..
There is a growing acceptance of the idea that the explanatory states of folk psychology do not supervene on the physical. Even Fodor (1987) seems to grant as much. He argues, however, that this cannot be true of theoretical psychology. Since theoretical psychology offers causal explanations, its explanatory states must be taxonomized in such a way as to supervene on the physical. I use this concession to invert his argument and cast doubt on the received model of folk psychological explanation (...) as causal explanation by intentionally individuated states. This in turn undermines the central model of cognitive theory--causal explanation by representational states. (shrink)
FIVE 'WAYS' TO PROVE THAT GOD EXISTS ARE OFFERED IN AQUINAS' "SUMMA OF THEOLOGY," ALL TAKEN FROM HISTORICALLY TRACEABLE SOURCES IN WHICH THEY DID NOT REACH THE CONCLUSION ENVISAGED BY HIM. 'WAYS' UP TO ELEVEN IN NUMBER ARE IN FACT USED IN HIS WORKS. ALL FUNCTION IN A STRICTLY METAPHYSICAL--NOT COSMOLOGICAL OR TELEOLOGICAL--FRAMEWORK THAT WAS DEVELOPED EARLY IN HIS CAREER. THE ANSELMIAN AND OTHER ARGUMENTS THAT CANNOT FIT INTO THAT FRAMEWORK ARE REJECTED OR LEFT UNNOTICED, WHILE THOSE THAT DO FIT (...) IN ARE ACCEPTED IN LINE WITH THE CONVENIENCE OF THE MOMENT. ACCORDINGLY THE NUMBER AND ORDER OF THE 'FIVE WAYS' MEAN NO MORE THAN A MOMENTARY CONVENIENCE OF THIS TYPE. (shrink)
If, as Schmitt suggests, Heidegger bases the claim that moods are cognitive on the philosophical distinction between theoretical and non-theoretical knowing, then much of what Heidegger says in this connection turns out to be either unclear, trivially true, or else false. Yet Schmitt himself only occasionally seems to recognize how dubious this account really is. Moreover, in attempting to help Heidegger say what he means, Schmitt's interpretation in Chapter 5 falters. It falters because(1) the emphatic likening of moods to skills,(2) (...) the introduction of the bizzare notion “knowing how occurrently,” and (3) the misconceiving of self-deception, are not to be found in Sein und Zeit. They represent, rather, an imposition upon Sein und Zeit from without. This fact means either that Schmitt's interpretation is faulty or else that it is as much reconstructive as explicative. And if reconstructive, then several conceptual mistakes are attributable to him more than to Heidegger. In spite of these difficulties Martin Heidegger on Being Human is a prize book. It attempts to understand a thinker better than he understood himself. And according to Schleiermacher this is the goal of every hermeneutic.In contrast to the successful parts of the book, the chapter on moods fails to make sense out of Heidegger's view - one reason being, I would guess, that Heidegger is, after all, equivocating on the German word “Stimmung.” Sometimes he uses it to refer specifically to states such as being depressed, being serene, being anxious. At other times he uses it to refer vaguely to Dasein's “attunement” to the world. If the human being is always already (immer schon) attuned to the world, and if such a posture toward the world is also considered a mood, then in some imprecise way one's being in a mood might be a necessary condition for any belief to affect him emotionally. But, of course, “mood” in this broad sense would indicate an ontologically, and not a causally, necessary condition. And so, it would not follow that every belief which affected one emotionally need have some specific mood (e.g., depression, serenity, anxiety) as its necessary causal antecedent. Nor would it follow that, as a matter of fact, a change of belief could not effect a specific change of mood.I fear that with regard to some topics the sense in which one understands Heidegger better than he understood himself may well be the original Socratic sense: one knows what Heidegger himself does not know, viz., that the conceptions of Sein und Zeit are not always intelligible. And one wonders whether any philosophical midwifery can really be of aid - at least with respect to the claim that moods are cognitive. (shrink)
My primary goal in this paper is to focus attention on a certain conception of internal access, on the Cartesian conception that a rational subject's capacity to determine sameness and difference in explicit propositional attitudes is independent of knowledge of the external world. This conception of introspection plays a crucial, if unacknowledged, role in numerous arguments and theoretical positions. In particular, it plays a large role in motivating psychological internalism. I argue in favor of rejecting this epistemology and the internalism (...) it supports. (shrink)
The externalist examples of Burge, Putnam etc. were offered as examples of how it is physically identical twins can differ in mental states such as belief, and little attention was paid to the interpretations the twins impose on their respective acoustic inputs. The received story today is that this form of interpretation—the semantic reading one assigns the sounds one hears—is the product of inference. The problem for this inferential model is simple to state: though the twins are physical doppelgangers and (...) don't differ in their acoustic inputs, they differ in the interpretations they impose on their respective inputs. I argue that the inferential model does not allow for how it is the twins arrive at these different interpretations. And, since the externalist examples are compelling, this tells against the inferential model. (shrink)
With its probative force drawn solely from premises accessible to the human mind's own inherent powers, Christian philosophy probes the divinely re- vealed truths under their naturally knowable aspects. From the apologetic or defensive angle, this type of philosophy is needed to meet rational queries- one's own or those of others-arising from religious doctrines, for instance from the tenets of creation, divine providence, immortality of the spiritual soul, or human destiny. On the positive side, Christian philosophy deepens the attraction of (...) revealed doctrines in a way comparable to the enhancement given them by architecture, music, art and poetry in actual Christian life. (shrink)
C. Stanley Kane’s book, Anselm’s Doctrine of Freedom and The Will, is the only monograph in English on this topic. It will therefore influence a wide array of students and scholars. The book advances five theses: (1) that Anselm operates with a general ontological principle to the effect that the essential nature of anything is determined by its purpose in existing; (2) that Anselm’s theory of the will is not determinist but a variant of indeterminism; (3) that human freedom, for (...) Anselm, consists in the ability either to do or not do what is unjust; (4) that, on Anselm’s view, God alone directly causes all just volitions in human beings; and (5) that Anselm regards the imparting of grace as solely dependent upon God’s offer and man’s response, without regard to the influencing effect of circumstances.I show that Anselm does not adhere to a single one of these allegedly Anselmian theses. (shrink)
At first glance it seems strange to compare the views of two philosophers from such different contexts as are Harry G. Frankfurt1 and Aurelius Augustinus. After all, Frankfurt makes virtually no use of Augustine, virtually no mention of his philosophical doctrines—whether on free will or anything else.2 And yet, the two have more to do with each other than initially meets the eye. For in their own ways both of them sketch a respective theory of freedom that is similarly insightful; (...) moreover, the theories of both lapse into paradox (paradox of which each author is aware but from which neither seeks to escape). Of course, Frankfurt's articulation of his theory is more systematic, more focused than is Augustine's. Indeed, Augustine seems to make most of his points as if en passant; even in De Libero Arbitrio he shows little interest in sustained treatment of the topic heralded in the title. So what links Frankfurt and Augustine is not their philosophical style but rather (1) their putative triumph over the philosophical elusiveness and the conceptual impenetrability of the notion of freedom-of-will and (2) the fact that in coming to cognate conclusions, they share similar strategies. Thus, they admit of plausible comparison. (shrink)
ABBOT:1 You know that we three, who are engaged in study and are permitted to converse with you, are occupied with deep matters. For [I am busy] with the Parmenides and with Proclus’s commentary [thereon]; Peter [is occupied] with this same Proclus’s Theology of Plato, which he is translating from Greek into Latin; Ferdinand is surveying the genius of Aristotle; and you, when you have time, are busy with the theologian Dionysius the Areopagite. We would like to hear whether or (...) not there occurs to you a briefer and clearer route to the points which are dealt with by the aforenamed [individuals]. NICHOLAS: In our respective directions we are busy with deep mysteries. And it seems to me that no one can speak of these matters more briefly and clearly than those whom we are reading. Nonetheless, I have sometimes thought that we have neglected a [point] which would lead us closer to what is sought. PETER: We ask that this [point] be made known [to us]. (shrink)
During this sexcentenary of the birth of Nicholas of Cusa, there is an almost ineluctable temptation to super-accentuate Cusa’s modernity—to recall approvingly, for example, that the Neokantian Ernst Cassirer not only designated Cusa “the first Modern thinker”1 but also went on to interpret his epistemology as anticipating Kant’s.2 In this respect Cassirer was following his German predecessor Richard Falckenberg, who wrote: “It remains a pleasure to see, on the threshold of the Modern Age, the doctrine already advanced by Plotinus and (...) Scotus Eriugena, received [by Cusanus] so forcefully that time, numbers, spatial figures, and all categories ... are brought forth out of the creative power of the mind.”3 Others have proclaimed Nicholas to be a forerunner of Spinoza,4 of Leibniz,5 of Hegel,6 and, indeed, of German Idealism generally. (shrink)
Nicholas of Cusa’s Coniectura de Ultimis Diebus contains Nicholas’s attempt to specify a time-frame within which the world will come to an end. His inferences are speculative and are based largely on passages from the Bible. In assessing Nicholas’s proposal, one needs to keep in mind nine key considerations.
http://www.cla.umn.edu/jhopkins/ Taken together, twenty-four of these works constitute Nicholas of Cusa’s complete philosophical and theological treatises. They must be supplemented by studying his richly conceptual sermons, along with his ecclesiological and exegetical writings such as De Concordantia Catholica and Coniectura de Ultimis Diebus. His mathematical writings are also of interest, even though they are not of lasting importance, as Gottfried Leibniz rightly recognized.
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”. (shrink)
Like any important philosophical work, De Docta Ignorantia cannot be understood by merely being read: it must be studied. For its main themes are so profoundly innovative that their author's exposition of them could not have anticipated, and therefore taken measures to prevent, all the serious misunderstandings which were likely to arise. Moreover, the themes are so extensively interlinked that a misunderstanding of any one of them will serve to obscure all the others as well. In such case, the mental (...) effort required of the reader-who-interprets must approximate the effort expended by the author-who- instructs. No words are more self-condemning than are those of John Wenck, at the conclusion of whose critique of De Docta Ignorantia we read: “Et sic est finis scriptis cursorie Heydelberg”: “And this is the end to what was written cursorily at Heidelberg.”1 Nicholas has not made his reader's task easy. For in spite of his claim to have explained matters “as clearly as I could” and to have avoided “all roughness of style,” many of his points escape even the diligent reader, since the explanation for them is either too condensed, or else too barbarously expressed, to be assuredly followed. And yet, from out of the vagueness, the ambiguity, the amphiboly, the enthymematic movement of thought, there emerges—for a reader patient enough to solliciter doucement les textes—an internally coherent pattern of reasoning. The present translation of this reasoning aims above all at accuracy.2 To this end the rendering is literal, though with no deliberate sacrifice of literate English expression. Only a literal translation (but not word for word) permits the subtle twists and turns of Nicholas's arguments to shine forth.3 The earlier, radically inaccurate rendering by Germain Heron (1954) distorts Nicholas's arguments— and thus belies history by making the author of De Docta Ignorantia appear as someone mindlessly unable to develop even the semblance of a systematic line of thought.. (shrink)