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Whether there is a double mode of proceeding in science?


In every noble opinion," etc. In this eleventh book one makes a determination regarding the scientific process. This is why in this eleventh book one inquires first whether there is a double mode of proceeding in science: one, descriptive,[2] and the other by assigning causes.

1. And it seems not. Because a demonstration is a syllogism that creates knowledge [ scire]. Since, therefore, every science creates knowledge, then every science will be capable of leading to demonstration, and as a result none will be descriptive.

2. In addition, "to know is to recognize a thing's cause." Whoever implants knowledge [scientia] implants knowledge [ notitia] of the cause. Therefore, there will not be a descriptive process in any science.

3. In addition, all of our cognition arises from sensation. But sensation is able to recognize accidents but not causes. Therefore, in no science is there recognition of causes.

The Philosopher says the opposite and argues by reason. According to the Philosopher in On Sophistical Refutations [Elenchis], the wise person has two functions: one is "not to tell falsehoods about things he knows," and the other "to be able to expose one who tells falsehoods." But the first occurs by describing, and the second by assigning causes. Since, then, the functions of a wise person are necessary in every science, there will be a double process in every science.

One must reply that there is a double process in science. And this is clear both with respect to the object [ res] and with respect to us. With respect to the object, because something is presupposed in every science, as a foundation for that science, and it is from this foundation that the causes of the consequences are subsequently assigned. But suppositions are conveyed only by describing them, whereas consequent conclusions are only conveyed by assigning causes. Therefore, etc. With respect to us, each process is required, since description pertains both to teaching and to learning, when one is in doubt, to seek the causes. And this is why the Philosopher, as the one most wise and expert in the sciences, proceeds in science first by describing and second by seeking after and assigning the causes of the things that have been described, and in so doing points out or hints at what we ought likewise to do.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must reply that demonstration is of two kinds: namely, propter quid and quia. A demonstration propter quid occurs through the cause, but a demonstration quia is considered through the effect or from a supposition.

2. To the second, one must reply that the Philosopher defines the most powerful knowledge in that spot when he says, "To know is to recognize a thing's cause," etc.

3. To the third, one must reply that although our knowledge [ cognitio] arises from sensation, nevertheless our intellect can [achieve knowledge] of many things by discursive thought about which things sensation is ineffective. Therefore, etc.

  • [1] "In science": in scientia, which can also mean "in knowledge," but with this book A. proposes to examine the scientific method or process by which knowledge is acquired. A. employs several various terms, however, which can be translated as "knowledge." Whenever feasible, we will attempt to alert the reader as to A.'s shifts in vocabulary, either through notes or by leaving the Latin in brackets, while frequently using "knowledge" or "know" for a Latin word such as scire (and scientia), "cognition" or "come to know" or "recognize" for cognitio or cognoscere. No scheme will be perfect, however, and the interested reader is directed to the original.
  • [2] "Descriptive": narrativus, i.e., through a narrative or descriptive approach, rather than by an investigation of causes.
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