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A website for the book by Ian J Thompson:

"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"


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14.2 Abstract knowledge

We also need to distinguish thought about what exists from abstract thought. We recognize abstract thought as knowing the forms of things, and this is contrasted with thought of existing things, whether they be material, mental or divine. According to the Aristotelian ontology developed in Chapter 4, everything non-abstract that exists is constituted by a substance (or power) in some form. The role of abstract thought is to consider the forms of things and ignore their substance or power. We say that the form of an object is ‘entertained’ in the mind, and thereby known. It can be mentally compared with other forms, used to make conclusions, etc.

Mathematics is the science of forms par excellence, so mathematics can tell us nothing about what actually exists. Rather, it can tell us about what can possibly exist. It can describe the forms which may possibly be instantiated in natural or mental objects. We had a discussion in Chapter 4 about whether the physical world could be made out of forms, as, for example, Pythogoras imagined a world made out of triangles. The conclusion was that some additional component of substance was needed, as otherwise the world would be purely abstract or formal (of forms). Formal worlds do not change. Forms can be used to describe change, by effectively removing the temporal aspect or modeling processes as a new (changeless) spatial component or dimension that is only called time. A formal theory cannot describe substances (which are powers) themselves but only describe how they change. Abstract theories of causes in science describe how objects have changed, will change, and might change. They define dispositions, for example, in terms of possible changes.

Formal worlds do not change, as physical and mental worlds do. Abstraction and lack of change cannot be used to distinguish God from the world, because, though God’s love and wisdom do not change, God is definitely not solely abstract.

Abstract knowledge only knows forms and only knows love according to its effects and not its essence. So abstract knowledge does not itself constitute wisdom. There is more to wisdom than abstract knowledge or abstract understanding. That extra something must come from a more intimate acquaintance with love. Only by having wisdom fully linked to love can it yield a general knowledge about the essence of love and thereby be truly wisdom. Without that link, wisdom cannot be properly said to exist.

Previous: 14.1 Knowing causes and loves Up: 14. God is Wisdom and Action Next: 14.3 Divine Wisdom

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