Knowledge and the Metaphysics of Experience: The Debate in Early Modern Aristotelianism

1 Leave a comment on Absatz 1 0 Stefan Heßbrüggen-Walter

2 Leave a comment on Absatz 2 0 Abstract

3 Leave a comment on Absatz 3 0 Aristotle holds that experience has a role to play in gaining (scientific) knowledge. In order to assess this role, it must be decided whether this role is ‚rational‘ (experience as ‚proto-knowledge‘) or ’non-rational‘ (experience as a primarily perceptual activity of the knower). The paper analyses this controversy in early modern Aristotelianism, focusing on the 16th century. Its starting point is the question how to define experience, either as a repetition of particular perceptions or as a sensual awareness sui generis, namely sensual awareness of facts. Correspondingly the problem how perceptual and intellectual activities interact in the cognition of propositions is as controversial. Whereas Scotists hold that the connection of terms in a principle can be cognised without any experiential input, Thomists believe that all principles of scientific knowledge must rely on experiential data. Yet, even Thomists are no ‚proto-Humeans‘. There is widespread agreement that experience cannot be the principal cause of scientific knowledge. But, again, the open question is whether or not it should be regarded as a requirement for such knowledge. Those answering in the affirmative must give an account of mathematical knowledge that does justice to its self-evidence which seems to preclude the idea that experience must be regarded as a necessary precondition for all kinds of knowledge. The paper concludes with some methodological remarks on the heterogeneity and systematicity of early modern Aristotelianism.

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