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The aims of philosophy: What does really count?

1 Leave a comment on Absatz 1 0 The second option for defining philosophy is based on what is taken to be its primary aim:

  1. 2 Leave a comment on Absatz 2 0
  2. Philosophy can enhance our cognitive abilities. In this case, it is seen as a primarily theoretical enterprise.
  3. Or philosophy is intended to enhance both our cognitive abilities and the way we act, in which case it is concerned with both the theoretical and the practical.
  4. Or it may be a desirable activity or constitutive for a certain way of life – then it is seen as a primarily practical enterprise.

3 Leave a comment on Absatz 3 0 Ad 1.: The most important objective of philosophy in the theoretical sphere is knowledge of truth (cognitio veritatis). As such it is a science of everything there is (scientia entis), because it relates to objects of the intellect, objects of the will, and mental or linguistic objects (Complutenses, Disputationes, p. 6).

4 Leave a comment on Absatz 4 0 Ad 2.: If philosophy is seen as a means for the perfection of man, it is taken to have both theoretical and practical impact. This perfectio hominis may consist in an attempt at “self-deification” (assimilatio hominis cum Deo, Mas, In Universam Philosophiam, p. 3). The extent to which this attempt can be successful is however limited by the fact that we are finite beings (Villalpando In Quinque Voces, fol. 7v, Toletus, Commentaria, Una cum Quaestionibus, p. 2, uses the Thomist term ‚proportional equality‘ (De veritate, q. 2 art. 11 co.) in this context). The Complutenses require us only to enhance our cognitive and voluntative abilities in the best possible manner and refrain from referring to divine ideals (Disputationes, p. 6).

5 Leave a comment on Absatz 5 0 Ad 3.: While these definitions are not analysed in depth, the question whether philosophy instructs in leading a philosophical life is broadly discussed. In this perspective, the defining aim of philosophy is reflection of our mortality (meditatio mortis). According to Villalpando (the only author endorsing this definition) the contemplation of philosophical truths liberates our soul from the input of the senses. The soul is then governed only by its rational faculties (In Quinque Voces, fol. 8r). This philosophical mors spontanea enables us to dissolve the connection between body and soul temporarily, whereas natural death consists in the permanent dissolution of the natural union of body and soul. The Platonic roots of this notion are explicitly mentioned in this context:  Mas, In Universam Philosophiam, p. 2 relates this definition to Plato’s Phaidon.

6 Leave a comment on Absatz 6 0 For Rubio and Toletus, this ‚death of the philosopher‘ is only a metaphor – and it is erroneous to use metaphors in a definition, because they do not clarify the concept to be defined (Rubio, Commentarij in octo libros  de physico auditu, p. 2, Toletus, Commentaria, Una cum Quaestionibus, p. 2,  tracing this criticism back to Aristotle, though without giving a reference). For Sáenz de Aguirre, this attempt at a definition of philosophy is not just a logical mistake. It fails to grasp the essence of philosophy. Philosophy consists of truths. It may well be the case that the way to obtain these truths is precisely to abstract from what is given to us by the senses. But it is these truths – and not the process of obtaining them – that must be regarded as what philosophy is about (Philosophia nou-antiqua, p. 5). Or, in his own terminology: Even if a form (philosophy as a system of truths) can only be received in a thing if this thing has a disposition to receive this form (a disposition to abstract from the senses), this disposition to receive the form (the disposition to abstract from the senses) must be distinguished from the form received (philosophy as a system of truths) (ibid.). For Toletus, this definition is inacceptable, because it does not include practical philosophy in its scope (Toletus, Commentaria, Una cum Quaestionibus, p. 2).

7 Leave a comment on Absatz 7 0 For the majority of Aristotelians under examination here, the Platonic definition of philosophy cannot be incorporated into a Peripatetic frame of reference. The first argument against this inclusion is logical: To use metaphors in a definition is a fallacious. The second argument is ‚methodological‘: Philosophy is a body of true propositions rather than a particular attitude of an individual even though that attitude may be instrumental in obtaining this body of true propositions. The third argument concerns the scope of the definition: The philosophical life it envisions is a life of speculation. It does not take into account that practical philosophy is a constitutive part of philosophy.

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