The relationship of knower to known

the relationship of knower to known

The identity of knower and known, then, is to be distinguished from the view that what we know are ideas or sense impressions that are caused. Between the Knower & the Known examining the human relationship to nature that has taken shape in modernity, but Pope Francis is the first. the known is a possible experience either of that subject or another, to which To discuss all the ways in which one experience may function as the knower of.

the relationship of knower to known

One way to put this stronger claim made for the identity doctrine is that it gives Aquinas a direct realist account of perception and knowledge in general. Norman Kretzmann takes this position, writing that our access to the external world "is utterly direct, to the point of formal identity between the extra-mental object and the actually cognizing faculty. How does the identity doctrine secure direct realism?

The answer isn't entirely clear. The most obvious motive for emphasizing the identity between species and object would seem to be that this allows one to admit that the species is itself apprehended, but nevertheless deny that this entails representationalism, since the species is identical to the object. This seems the most natural way to understand the move being made by Kretzmann and Gilson above. This is a surprising conclusion to reach, however, because most commentators would deny that Aquinas thinks species are in any sense the objects of cognition.

Kretzmann, for instance, claims on the very next page that the relationship between species and object is causal, not representational - i. But if species are merely causal intermediaries between our cognitive faculties and external objects then it is hard to see why it should matter that they be identical with those external objects.

Surely any modern direct realist theory of perception will allow causal intermediaries between object and percipient: And it is not clear what more is to be gained by holding that those causal intermediaries are in some sense identical with the external object. The debate between direct realists and representationalists isn't about the causal connection between percipient and object, and n if species are mere causal intermediaries then it is hard to see how the doctrine of formal identity contributes to the argument for direct realism.

To put this same point another way, Kretzmann, by taking species as merely causal intermediaries, is already ascribing direct realism to Aquinas.

It's not clear what more he gains by formal identity. So formal identity seems relevant to direct realism only if species are somehow themselves apprehended. Now I don't think that saying this is enough to end discussion of the identity doctrine, since I argue elsewhere that there is a sense in which Aquinas does treat species as the objects of cognition. But we should notice that even if the identity doctrine gives us a way to reject representationalism this still isn't going to help us refute the associated skeptical difficulties.

The skeptic makes the following line of argument against the representationalist: If all you see directly are your inner ideas and impressions, then how can you have any knowledge of the external world?

How can you know that things really are as they seem to be?

The Knower and the Known | Gornahoor

From the outset the identity doctrine can do no more than beg these questions by presupposing that things are as they seem to be. The skeptic might concede for the sake of argument that if our perceptions are veridical, then our ideas are formally identical with external objects. But the skeptic will want to know how we are entitled to assume that this formal identity holds.

The doctrine of formal identity itself offers no answer to this question. The skeptic has to be answered in some other way. Again we see that formal identity provides no help against the skeptic. But the doctrine may still serve a useful purpose if it can show us how to be direct realists.

Emphatic Relationship between Knower and Known | Speechless

On my analysis formal identity appears to give us a way of having our cake and eating it too. We can treat species as the internal objects of cognition, and still reject representationalism. Because the species is identical with the object, apprehending the species is apprehending the object. This line of argument, however, rests on an invalid move.

IV. The Relation Between Knower and Known (1909)

The argument assumes that we can substitute identical objects into claims about perceiving and apprehending while preserving the truth of those claims. It's not clear that this schema holds even when limited to objects that are numerically identical. Phrases such as 'S apprehends Y' or 'S sees Y' might, at least arguably, be instances of an opaque conclusion.

The objection supposes that, however we take the claim that intellect is the thing cognized, that identity will entail that the thing cognized is in intellect. But the only candidate for being in intellect is the intelligible species.

the relationship of knower to known

Therefore the intelligible species is itself cognized. One way Aquinas could deal with this objection is to accept the conclusion, but remind the reader of the identity doctrine: Hence cognizing the species is the same as cognizing the external object. This is what I referred to above as the strategy of having your cake and eating it too. Aquinas doesn't answer the objection in that way, which isn't surprising since -as we've just seen - the move is invalid when the identity in question is mere formal identity.

Rather, Aquinas answers the objection 3 by clarifying his interpretation of the identity doctrine: And in this way it is said that "what is actually cognized is the actualized intellect," insofar as the likeness of the thing intellectively cognized is the form of intellect just as the likeness of the sensible thing is the form of sense actualized 15 Here Aquinas isn't giving up the doctrine of formal identity.

On his view one thing can be a likeness of another only if there is a formal identity between them: Hence the identity doctrine doesn't entail that the species is the object of cognition.

the relationship of knower to known

Elsewhere he makes this point even more plainly, saying that "the application of what is cognized to the one cognizing Hence contrary to 3 external objects could be cognized directly without species being cognized at all. And, vice versa, species might be cognized directly without external objects being cognized at all.

Aquinas of course holds that the former possibility in fact obtains and that the latter does not except in introspectionbut we've seen that the doctrine of formal identity cannot help him reach this conclusion. All quotations from the De anima are based on the medieval Latin translation by William of Moerbeke. The Christian Philosophy of St. Random House,p.

the relationship of knower to known

Here I'm drawing on the discussion in Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, Notre Dame,pp. Summa contra qentiles III].

  • The Knower and the Known

Cornell University Press,p. Cambridge University Press,p. Sed nihil de re intellecta est in intellectu actu intelligente, nisi species intelligibilis abstracta. The experiences of tendency are sufficient to act upon — what more could we have done at those moments even if the later verification comes complete?


A positively conjunctive transition involves neither chasm nor leap. Being the very original of what we mean by continuity, it makes a continuum wherever it appears. Objective reference is an incident of the fact that so much of our experience comes as an insufficient and consists of process and transition.

Our fields of experience have no more definite boundaries than have our fields of view. Both are fringed forever by a more that continuously develops, and that continuously supersedes them as life proceeds. Only the admission, such a critic might say, that our ideas are self-transcendent and true already, in advance of the experiences that are to terminate them, can bring solidity back to knowledge in a world like this, in which transitions and terminations are only by exception fulfilled.

What would the self-transcendency affirmed to exist in advance of all experiential mediation or termination, be known-as? What would it practically result in for us, were it true?

Where direct acquaintance is lacking, knowledge about is the next best thing, and an acquaintance with what actually lies about the object, and is most closely related to it, puts such knowledge within our gasp. Ether-waves and your anger, for example, are things in which my thoughts will never perceptually terminate, but my concepts of them lead me to their very brink, to the chromatic fringes and to the hurtful words and deeds which are their really next effects.

the relationship of knower to known

And this cash-value, it is needless to say, is verbatim et literatim what our empiricist account pays in. On pragmatist principles, therefore, a dispute over self-transcendency is a pure logomachy.

Why need he quarrel with an account of knowledge that insists on naming this effect? Why not treat the working of the idea from next to next as the essence of self-transcendency? Why insist that knowing is a static relation out of time when it practically seems so much a function of our active life?

For a thing to be valid, says Lotze, is the same as to make itself valid. When the whole universe seems only to be making itself valid and to be still incomplete else why its ceaseless changing? Why should it not be making itself valid like everything else? That some parts of it may be already valid or verified beyond dispute, the empirical philosopher, of course, like any one else, may always hope. Of which all that need be said in this essay is that it also can be conceived as functional, and defined in terms of transitions, or of the possibility of such.

This is why I called our experiences, taken together, a quasi-chaos.