Epistemology and Being

I thought fairly long and hard about the previous post I put up – Hart made a persuasive case for ‘practical idealism’. But is it true? I’ll expound a little on the realism to which I hold (which is very heavily influenced by Torrance) and see if they can fit together.

In knowing, we come into contact with a distinct reality that discloses itself to us – it discloses its own ‘truth of being’. This disclosure is controlling, in that it forces the a priori concepts/categories we have to conform with the nature/activity if whatever reality is at hand. Basically, we think ‘after’ the nature of things as they reveal themselves in their activity/operations (there are similarities here with Gregory of Nyssa’s trinitarian theology).

This disclosure of nature by activity doesn’t mean that the nature is something we know comprehensively – since nature is related to being, and the intelligibility of being is inexhaustible, even though we can know the nature as revealed, we cannot comprehend the nature. While our active intellect is formal cause of our knowledge, our concepts, significations, categories, etc, can never exhaust even the simplest reality – its very act of existing is, in a way, infinite in being.

Now, our active intellect is, as just stated, a formal cause, in that it organizes our knowledge of the intelligible being of the reality at hand into meaningful ‘structures of knowledge’. These structures are what is extracted, as Hart said, from everyday experience and formalized into meaningful categories of understanding. The key difference is that the active intellect is, for lack of a better term, subordinate to the reality it apprehends, in that its categories are always open to revision or outright discontinuation in light of the reality at hand disclosing itself to us anew, or as we experience it anew. The most simple reality, with which we are in contact with and acquainted with everyday as a matter of mundane life, has an intelligibility of being which is infinite and incomprehensible, because even the most simple reality simply exists. 

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