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"Aquinas On Self-Perception"

John J. Haldane, in his essay "Aquinas On Self-Perception," considers his own and other contemporaries' views on the meaning and accuracy of St. Thomas Aquinas's explanation of the reception and perception of things in the world. The question is whether Aquinas is correct in attributing spiritual or immaterial qualities to the things, forms, and process of perception. Haldane argues that Aquinas contradicts himself, that he seems to be saying that both physical and spiritual elements are present and important, and that Aquinas's account is nevertheless "a serious attempt to develop a philosophical theory of cognitive psychology, consistent with the assumption of epistemological realism" (234).

Haldane does Aquinas no justice when he utterly ignores the fact that everything Aquinas wrote was meant to bolster the Christian faith. He was trying to combine Aristotelian reasoning with Christian faith, to demonstrate that the fundamental tenets of belief in God were supported by rational processes. The word spiritual is mentioned twice in the essay---one of those being enclosed in quotes as if Haldane were granting a courtesy to a religious fool. The word spiritual is then quickly supplanted by "immaterial" or "intentional" or "nonphysical." Haldane insults Aquinas when he says the latter's thoughts on sense-perception comprise "a philosophical theory of cognitive psychology." This is nonsense. To say that Aquinas was mainly developing a psychological theory when he is actually attempting to lay the groundwork for the proof of the existence of God is like saying that a man is mainly going out the door when he is on his way to church.

Haldane criticizes Aquinas for talking of "two grades of immaterial experience," calling it "a vain attempt to combine incompatible features" (238), but it seems that Haldane himself is not being as pure in his analysis as he insists Aquinas should be. He picks and chooses from the theories of Aquinas, Co...

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"Aquinas On Self-Perception". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:53, July 01, 2022, from