Another brief thought on Bonaventure and Van Til and the nature of knowledge. In the quote from the last post, notice what Gilson says: "things are true in so far as they are conformed to the thought God has of them, . . ."
I supposed someone could say, "Then is God the ultimate Idealist?" Interesting thought. It does seem that (if we are to trust Gilson's summary of Bonaventure at this point) that something is what it is, because of what God "thinks" of it. Now, God has created all things. But we could still say that reality is what it is because God--in his thoughts--constitutes all things.
I have tried long and hard to understand how someone could really be, philosophically, an "Idealist." Does anyone really think that reality is what it is because the human person "constitutes" reality? I doubt it. But God is different, of course and indeed!!!
Greetings Friends. I am currently reading Van Til (Common Grace and the Gospel), while I am working on a book introducing Augustine. I have also been reading Etienne Gilson on a variety of things. With Van Til in mind, it is interesting what Bonaventure could say (I have in front of me Gilson's The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure. Here is Gilson on Bonaventure:
"Consider Adam's intellect: it was endowed with a perfectly right knowledge. Truth, by St. Anselm's definition, is rectitude perceptible only by the soul: which signifies that the thought of God is the measure of all things, that things are true in so far as they are conformed to the thought God has of them, and that our thought in turn is true in so far as it is conformed to the nature of things and to the divine model that they reproduce." (p. 432).
Now, I suspect Van Til could pretty much affirm/say this. Things are the way they are because God has created all things, and he currently is governing all things. In Van Til's terms, there are no "brute facts." Rather, all things are--all the way down--"interpreted" facts. That is, God's understanding or "interpretation" of all things is what a thing (and every thing) is.
Thus--as Van Til works this out, we come to truly understand something, when we understand it in light of, and in agreement with, and in terms of God's understanding or "interpretation" of what a thing is.
It is good to be reminded of why we read, why we think, why we take classes, why we read a good novel. Augustine is often a good one to turn our minds to the basics. For Augustine, we all want to be happy (maybe in another post we can try to push or challenge Augustine here. We shall see).
But, Augustine is on to something. He writes:
"Man has no reason to philosophize except with a view to happiness" (The City of God 19.1.3).
Found in Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine, 115.
I am simultaneously reading Husserl and Augustine, and some secondary literature on Augustine. I have also been reading Dallas Willard, who argues that Husserl was not only a realist at the beginning of his career, but remained one throughout his life. So there are many things bouncing around my mind these days.
Today, in reading Augustine, I discovered this in his On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis:
"Knowledge, after all, cannot arise unless it is preceded by objects to be known; and these again are first in the Word through which all things were made (Jn 1:3), before they are in all the things that have been made." (IV.32.49)
Augustine has written the following a little earlier:
"So without bringing into existence yet any of the things which he made, he has all things primordially in himself in the same manner as he is. After all, he would not make them unless he knew them before he made them; nor would he know them unless he saw them; nor would he see them unless he had them with him; and he would not have with him things that had not yet been made except in the manner in which he himself is not made."
That is: God "has" all things in himself (perhaps in his mind), which he "later" brings into being. For how could God make something which he did not in some sense know?
All things that have come into being were known by God before they were brought into being. These things were first "in the Word."
I have shared with a number of friends that a couple of years ago I read Husserl. I have continued to read phenomenology, and am going to try and read some more during this research leave. There is a longer story I would like to tell, but the short version goes something like . . . About 20 years ago, when Dianne and I were working with college students in Waco, when I was in school at Baylor, Dallas Willard came to town. I contacted him in advance, and asked him if he would be willing to visit with the college students we were working with. It was a fantastic evening, with Dallas fielding various questions from the group, after having already spoken at a more formal event at Baylor. During that conversation I asked him what one should read if one were interested in affirming/understanding the objectivity of knowledge (yes, I know, my more post-everything friends are already balking at how the question was asked). Dallas said that if one were serious, one must go back and read Edmund Husserl. Well, some 18 years ago (two years ago) I took a stab at it--reading Husserl's The Crisis of the European Sciences. Currently I have just started Logical Investigations.
The "Translator's Introduction" (by J. N. Findlay) is very helpful. Here is a snippet, which nicely gives the reader a sense of what Husserl was trying to do, and why it might benefit contemporary readers to understand what Husserl was trying to accomplish. Here is Findlay:
[Husserl's Logical Investigations is important] "because it uses its investigations of logic to illuminate much more fundamental topics: the nature of meaning, the ontology which meaningful discourse presupposes, and infinitely most important, the nature of those conscious acts in virtue of which alone our words point beyond themselves to things in the world, and in virtue of which alone there is a world for us and any fellows with whom we can communicate." (p 3)