The Mirror of Language: A Study in the Medieval Theory of Knowledge

The Mirror of Language: A Study in the Medieval Theory of Knowledge

The Mirror of Language: A Study in the Medieval Theory of Knowledge

The Mirror of Language: A Study in the Medieval Theory of Knowledge

Excerpt

From the patristic period roughly until the end of the thirteenth century, the period encompassed by this study, western European thinkers produced a number of different yet reciprocal expressions of one basic mental universe. This mental universe embodied certain standard preconceptions about the nature of reality which in turn entailed standard preconceptions about the nature and methodology of knowledge. It will be useful at the outset to enumerate these preconceptions. We may thus orient our discussion of what is to follow by considering here the fundamental epistemological perspectives of medieval thinkers during these centuries.

Most of the classical philosophers whom the Middle Ages knew and regarded as authoritative held that there was an objective order of being prior to the subjective order of knowing. Following their lead, medieval philosophers endorsed the idea of an epistemology grounded in and controlled by its objects of knowledge with equal assurance and vigor. And, notwithstanding the scholastic demand for a theory of cognition explaining man's knowledge of the world of nature, the object to which medieval thinkers normally addressed themselves was the world of spiritual reality, with preeminent attention to God. The theory of knowledge professed by the thinkers treated in this study was a direct consequence of this radically ontological emphasis. Epistemology was conceived as a function of metaphysics. The existence of an objective order of being was the primary condition which was held to make human thought possible at all. Furthermore, medieval thinkers identified being par excellence with the God of the Bible. Thus, they held, the being of God himself was the guarantee, the criterion, and the conditio sine qua non of whatever men might know about him, or about anything else.

The relationship between man as knower and God as object of knowledge depended not only on God's absolute and transcendent existence. It also depended on his decisive intervention into the mutable world of his creation.

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.