Augustine is concerned about the certainty in knowledge claims especially of knowledge in things that he has never seen or things that were enacted beforehand by predecessors. He confesses ignorance in terms of what can be asserted about the substance of God. However, he believes that God would not have given scripture if it were not to be believed in. To understand scripture or that which one has not seen by his own eyes, Augustine sees the need to withdraw into oneself. By so doing, the divine issues become clearer to the seeker of truth.
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Augustine considers the world of senses a world of inferior things. He argues that persuaded by beauty, which surpasses what one may see with his senses, he contemplates the truthfulness that is God. Therefore, according to Augustine, the sense perceptions only serve as pointer to the more profound reality beyond.
Such profound reality is contemplated when one goes beyond just sensual perception and is intellectually or rationally engaged. Augustine rejoices because his understanding surpasses platonic formulation. Having come to this realization in the course of trying to understand the scriptures, Augustine asserts the place of God’s grace and Spirit as a helping hand or guide to understanding.
Thomas Aquinas affirms the nature of man as disposing humanity towards being led by things that are corporeal to things spiritual. Therefore, corporeal signs or things are very instrumental in knowing anything spiritual.
Consequently, man is generally drawn towards corporeal things and it is through daily interaction with corporeal things; in the course of bodily activities, that man learns or acquires knowledge. It is based on such an understanding that Aquinas asserts the place of priests as the corporeal route to heavenly things or heavenly reality.
Bacon criticizes the authoritarian mode of knowing i.e. that relying on authority for knowledge limits individuals’ capacity to attain knowledge or recognition for the same. Further, he asserts that custom, stereotypes or ‘popular prejudice’ and hiding of own ignorance through not sharing with others are key factors that hinder knowledge acquisition.
He further argues that although theology is supreme, its knowledge claims have to be informed by other sciences. Key in knowing anything according to Bacon is experience and thus empirical sciences have a critical role to play in advancing human understanding. Experience brings to life knowledge in a way that rationalization cannot.
Knowledge from experience may be direct or by mediation. One can attest to knowledge gained through experience but, although problematic, narrations of experience also provide true knowledge claims. Knowledge from indirect experience is intimated by way of intuition or illumination.
Pseudo-Dionysius relates a mystic way of knowing that consists in one loosing oneself in order to experience or face the purest form of things. He argues that human understanding by itself is not sufficient towards understanding the mystic reality that is the transcendent one.
Moreover, that it is not possible to initiate those who believe in the power of human understanding into the mystic way of knowing that involves self-renunciation. Therefore, true knowing occurs when one transcends all that can be known by experience and rationalization and plunges into the darkness that is unknowing.
Dante is a lover of wisdom and relishes in the rationalism of the renaissance period. Talking of angels and heavenly bodies, Dante logically argues for the assertion that they are more than normally imagined. In his discourse, one discerns coherence and logic as measure of truthfulness. Based on the strength in Aristotle’s arguments, he also affirms the centrality of earth in the universe and immovability of earth.
Based on the mystery around the golden section, it is clear that one only understands that which he or she has interest in. In nature truthfulness is not self evident to all. This means that not all people are able to discern wisdom held by nature or in nature. The people who are able to learn of nature have a certain disposition.
Such a disposition is characterized by “openness, sensitivity, enthusiasm” and earnest desire or interest in understanding. There are many who go through life without noticing the marvels around them or the exquisite order of things. However, for those interested or keen on examining, there are enough clues in nature to guide towards understanding.