The specific question to be considered

The specific question to be considered over the next few months is: “Is the moderate epistemological realism of Aquinas a better approach to understanding the world around us than Ockham’s nominalism?”. I will be preparing a lecture on this topic that I will post as a Powerpoint, WMV file recording and a transcript of the lecture. Your comments and suggestions are invited and will be much appreciated.


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2 responses to “The specific question to be considered

  1. Sue Reilly

    Thanks, John, for the blog. In a nutshell, Aquinas has a systematic, logical, and,do I say it, common sense approach to the world around us. Presupposing that we were endowed with five senses, which have a purpose, the starting place for knowledge is with the physical world around us. As noted in the “perennial philosophy” of St. Thomas, our minds discover reality and we conform out minds to it. We don’t create our own reality. In that process, universals are discerned by the mind and we orient ourselves to reality.

    If Occam is right then there are no universals and thus no natures exist. This stance doesn’t hold up to most people’s experience with the reality.

    I haven’t said anything profound or new–Just wanted to chime in and lend some support!


    • Sue,

      Thanks for your contribution and the support as this is my first blog. I’m very excited about the topic and looking forward to the discussions. I agree the physical world around us is where our knowledge starts and that we are engaged with the physical world. Hopefully we are happy about that, but I don’t think we have much choice in being disposed toward the world to learn about reality. Otherwise, we would receive knowledge like the angels, which my wife would not attribute to me. She keeps me honest.

      It’s interesting you said the Aquinas has a common sense approach. That speaks directly to the question about moderate realism or nominalism. The word common and universal are related in that universal ideas are common to all humans. I agree it is a common sense approach and without universals we are falsely degraded to the epistemology of the non-human animals.


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