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Paduan Epistemology and the Doctrine of the One Mind HAROLD SKULSKY As HISTORIANSOF RENAISSANCETHEOLOGYhave sometimes observed, the line between fideism and rationalism is not very easy to draw. One man's inescapable axiom is another's gratuitous revelation; one man's intellectual datum is another 's gift of God. Something rather similar, in the view of the present writer, can be said of what has seemed to many the irrepressible confidence in scientific inquiry of the Paduan exponents of method: that their affirmations are simply the wishful obverse of a pessimism that lies far deeper. The inductive process to which a writer like Zabarella pays tribute, as I shall try to show, depends ultimately, not on reason, but on the generosity, or more properly the grace, of an alien will. And what that will reveals to us, true to its origin, is not propositions of universal validity, but the dictates of pure fiat. To see how the Paduans could be driven to such conclusions, it will be necessary to review the prejudices about universals to which their Aristotelian heritage left them prone, and the alternative theories of human awareness imposed on them by these prejudices. We shall begin with the prejudices. I In the maze of awareness resemblance is perhaps the first clue. It is also one of those forlorn simplicities that many sophisticated minds, once they come to think of it, have found difficult to accept at face value. For the awkward fact is that most if not all of what we normally call resemblance, however remote , seems to consist in sharing something; indeed, when objects admittedly have nothing in common we are hard put to it to find a justification for calling them similar. Two green objects may show a different purity or brightness, but the color must be one and the same in both if their mutual "greenness" is to have any meaning at all. It is doubtless an oddity of creation--if the most familiar of familiar things may be so described--that objects can have a common part without being physically joined. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that in every respect but place all likeness harbors sameness, all twinning is Siamese. The feeling of oddity, of course, is a reflex of the ancient prejudice that one and the same thing cannot without contradiction be attributed to more than one place at a time. One might be tempted to dodge the ban by replying that a trait or character is no ordinary thing, or is not a thing at all. But this would be pure timidity. The fact is that there is no plausible case for a contradiction here at [3411 342 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY all. If an individual can quite consistently be said to stand in a simultaneous southerly or filial or senior relation to more than one object, there is surely nothing inherently contradictory in remarking that a universal may bear the relation of local occurrence simultaneously to more than one place. The logical parity , incidentally, of times and places is instructive: "Whenever we suppose that a thing is absolutely at rest for any length of time, we are supposing that it is in the same place at two di#erent times. But if a thing may be in the same place at two different times, why (it may be asked) should it not be at the same time in two different places?" 1 It won't do, clearly, to reply, "Because it never happens that way." For this was precisely the occasion of the difficulty: whenever two things or more display the same trait, we are seeing it happen that way. The same character or "universal" is in two distinct places at once. And in the absence of logical objection, our sight may fairly reap the benefit of the doubt. To go a step further, since what we commonly refer to as an individual is simply the "in-stance" or "standing-in-place" of a character that might well bear this very relation to any number of places at a time, it would be rather arbitrary to classify only unique instances as individuals. The nature of the phoenix, be it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 341-361
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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