Sunday, October 22, 2006

Wolfson Notes II


“Religion” – knowledge found in scriptures. Knowledge here is of Divine origin.

“Philosophy” – knowledge found in what the Greeks had written & called “Philosophy”. The origin is in human reason.

There is a large overlap between religious and philosophical problems, e.g. nature, origin of Man and the world; ethics; God, etc.

The job of Medieval Philosophy is to correct philosophy according to religion, and to clarify religion according to philosophy.

The Concept of Faith

As a religious term (mainly from the OT), faith is the acceptance of the content of revealed writings as true.

As a philosophical term, it has been defined differently by various writers:

Aristotle: a judgment that partial knowledge is true (correspondence), i.e., a consciousness of the truth of a doctrine. We classify knowledge in which we may have faith as follows:

1) direct knowledge

a. sense perception

b. first principles (a priori “primary premises”)

2) Scientific knowledge (indirect, through reasoning)

Sometimes Aristotle implies (as the etymology suggests) the necessity of persuasion; i.e., one does not automatically believe.

Regarding evaluation, he uses the term “assent”, albeit only once.

Stoics: saw it differently

“Faith” = “strong opinion.”

“assent” = Aristotle’s “faith”, as well as “assent”, i.e. regarding both knowledge and evaluation. Assent is clearly voluntary

Religious: (Church Fathers)

Clement: used the Stoic term “assent”, but combined it with faith.

“Faith” equals by definition “an assent of the soul” (cf. James)

Interpret in religious terms of “faith” thus:

There are three kinds of knowledge in Scripture

1) That which cannot be rationally demonstrated;

2) That which is self-evident as primary premises (or like sensation)

3) That which can be pvoed through that which is more or less self-evident, like Aristotle’s scientific knowledge.

Later: Faith implies that there is sometimes doubt, therefore it is applicable only to rubric #1, not to what must be believed.

Others: held that there is always eventually doubt.

Since Faith must be voluntary, a child or a simple-minded man has faith; but does the philosopher have faith? Therefore, is the man who accepts sans reason, better than one who proves the idea?

[Insertion from loose sheet; seems a logical place to add:]

Arabian Philosophy

529: the Schools in Athens were closed, but philosophy had already been imported by the scholars of Rhodes into Persia.

Philosophical tradition:

No Plato

Mostly Aristotle, though a couple of neo-Platonic treatises were attributed to Aristotle which tended to blend the two.

[note medieval anti-purism, whereby one can attribute to a man any doctrine which can be reconciled with his works] Arabs never thought of two competing philosophis (Plato vs. Aristotle) but of one philosophy with two masters.


Applying Religion to Faith

Unicity of God, justice of divine will [independent of divinity (?)]

Contra anthropomorphism (negative theology)

Doctrine that God conforms to justice [not the reverse] implies that there is an objective Law (or values) discoverable by Religion.



Orthodoxy contrasted with the application of Greek philosophy to Theology.

This led to a secularization of philosophy – studied for its own sake. In Arabic tradition, the philosophers were not the clerics or theologians [and it was the philosophers and laymen that influence Christian theology].

Al-kindi (d. 873)

De intellectu: concerning distinctions: possible – active intellect. Separation of active intellect from individual soul always in action, superior to soul on which it act.

Beginning of Arab doctrine: one (1) active intellect for all men [cf Berkeley one over-mind source of ideas in souls].

Al-Farabi (d. 950)

Distinguished Essence – Existence by way of saving the Greek rational world (Causes {?}) and OT, unlimited absolute power of God (and therefore, the contingence of the world). Notice in Aristotle that this was only a logical distinction, [that a thing is not implied by what it is]. Here it is metaphysical. Existence is always an accidental predicate of essence. [unlike St. Thomas, for whom there exists that which is neither included or accidental but the act of essence or being].

The cause of what things are is that of our knowledge

Averroes (d. 1198)

Maimonides (1204)

St. Thomas (1274)

Averroes (Ibn Rushd):

mainly known as a commentator on Aristotle. – therefore the “Pure Philosophy” is but one book on the relation between religion an dphilosophy (i.e. Applied Philosophy).

Double Truth theory (Averroist heresy – beware of Medieval tendency to ascribe all heresy to him)

Double Truth – there exist two truths, one for philosophers, one for people.

Actually, it’s a Double Faith theory:

Faith =

1) belief in what can be demonstrated (scientific faith); or

2) belief in what cannot be demonstrated.

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