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On the Borders of Being and Knowing

Late Scholastic Theory of Supertranscendental Being

John P. Doyle. Edited by Victor M. Salas

Publication Year: 2012

Sylvester Mauro, S.J. (1619-1687) noted that human intellects can grasp what is,what is not, what can be, and what cannot be. The first principle, ‘it is not possible that the same thing simultaneously be and not be,' involves them all. The present volume begins with Greeks distinguishing ‘being' from ‘something' and proceeds to the late Scholastic doctrine of ‘supertranscendental being,' which embraces both. On the way is Aristotle's distinction between ‘being as being' and ‘being as true' and his extension of the latter to include impossible objects. The Stoics will see ‘something' as the widest object of human cognition and will affirm that, as signifiable, impossible objects are something, more than mere nonsense. In the sixteenth century, Francisco Suárez will identify mind-dependent beings most of all with impossible objects and will also regard them as signifiable. By this point, two conceptions will stand in opposition. One, adumbrated by Averroes, will explicitly accept the reality and knowability of impossible objects. The other, going back to Alexander of Aphrodisias, will see impossibles as accidental and false conjunctions of possible objects. Seventeenth-century Scholastics will divide on this line, but in one way or another will anticipate the Kantian notion of ‘der Gegenstand überhaupt.' Going farther, Scholastics will see the two-sided upper border of being and knowing at God and the negative theology, and will fix the equally double lower border at ‘supertranscendental being' and ‘supertranscendental nonbeing,' which non-being, remaining intelligible, will negate the actual, the possible, and even the impossible.

Published by: Leuven University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6

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Editor’s Foreword

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pp. vii-xii

In his Being and Some Philosophers (1952), before a discussion of modern accounts of ‘being,’ Étienne Gilson writes, “[N]ow that Scholastic philosophy has been dead for nearly five centuries, philosophers don’t even care to remember how it died.”1 ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Beginning with Antisthenes (d. ca. 365 BC) and Plato (d. 348 BC), the essays comprising this volume trace a passage that begins with a distinction between “being” and “something” and ends with the late Scholastic doctrine of supertranscendental being that will offer a bridge over this distinction. ...

Table of Contents

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pp. xvii-xviii

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1. Sprouts from Greek Gardens: Antisthenes, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics

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pp. 1-18

Looking to treat a doctrine that has roots in Greek antiquity and then grows to the main trunk of Kantian philosophy, I begin with a passage in Plato’s Republic where Socrates is talking to Glaucon. ...

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2. Suárez on Beings of Reason and Truth

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pp. 19-66

From Parmenides on, it has been a commonplace in the Western philosophical tradition that truth is a function of being. One need only remember the general Platonic doctrine of Forms, which are at once “really real” (ὄντως ὄν) and the locus of intelligibility and truth. ...

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3. Extrinsic Cognoscibility

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pp. 67-94

Following its first publication at Salamanca in 1597, the Disputationes metaphysicae of Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) had almost incredible influence. Comprising two quarto volumes, each approximately a thousand pages long, in the thirty-nine years immediately after its debut it was reprinted at least seventeen times ...

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4. Impossible Objects

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pp. 95-126

As is well known, Aristotle in his Metaphysics distinguished being as found in the categories from ‘accidental being’ (τὸ ὂν κατὰ συμβεβηκός) and from ‘being as true’ (τὸ ὂν ὡς ἀληθές).1 The latter two ‘beings’ he then excluded from ‘being as being’ (τὸ ὂν ᾗ ὄν), the subject of metaphysics.2 ...

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5. The Teleology of Impossible Objects

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pp. 127-150

With his own intention of instructing novices, Luis de Lossada, S.J. (1681-1748), has summarized the new, yet old, terminology of the disputed Scholastic doctrine of intellectual intentionality.1 Although the Scholastics have ambiguously used the term ‘intention’ – first in relation to will and then to understanding,2 ...

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6. Beings of Reason and Imagination

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pp. 151-166

Think of “real” being as that which can exist independent of the human mind, and beings of reason will be “unreal.” They will not be actual or even possible existents. Best examples would be self-contradictory things, which, although they are somehow in our minds, ...

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7. Four Degree of Abstraction

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pp. 167-184

The doctrine of three degrees of abstraction is a venerable Scholastic commonplace. Related to Aristotle’s division of theoretical sciences,1 briefly it states that physics, mathematics, and metaphysics are distinguished one from another on the basis of the abstraction of their objects from matter. ...

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8. From Transcendental to Transcendental

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pp. 185-214

In the second edition (1787) of his Kritik der reinen Vernunft, in the Transcendental Analytic, just after the Table of Categories and just before his Deduction of the Pure Concepts of Understanding, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) added a section (Abschnitt § 12, B 113-14) that marked at once the deficiency ...

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9. Supertranscendental Nothing

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pp. 215-242

For those innocent of geography, let me first explain that Finisterre is a cape in northern Spain at the westernmost point of the Spanish mainland. It marks an end of Europe; beyond Finisterre there is only the ocean. As readers of this essay may see, “supertranscendental nothing” is arguably a philosophical Finisterre ...

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10. Wrestling with a Wraith

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pp. 243-272

Philosophers have traditionally been concerned with thinking and its boundaries in relation to things. Of course, any such concern immediately provokes a further query about what is a thing? The prima facie answer might be that a thing is whatever is or can be, which is to say, whatever is actual or possible. ...

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11. The Borders of Knowability

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pp. 273-292

This essay concerns the upper and the lower borders between what is and what is not knowable for human beings, particularly as these borders were variously considered by some seventeenth-century Jesuit thinkers. Expanding, let me say that the boundary above is reached when one confronts the reality of God, ...

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12. Conclusion

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pp. 293-300

While our basic journey from the Greeks to Kant should lie open, the entries in this volume are not always arranged along its exact timeline. All but the first such entry, as they developed several interests, were previously published over years, in different venues with different style sheets to follow. ...


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pp. 301-318

Indices of Names

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pp. 319-323

Index of Terms

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pp. 324-326

Further Reading

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pp. 345-350

E-ISBN-13: 9789461660688
Print-ISBN-13: 9789058678959

Page Count: 350
Publication Year: 2012