Thomas Aquinas and the Problem of Human Self-Knowledge

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Thomas Aquinas and the Problem of Human Self-Knowledge

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Title: Thomas Aquinas and the Problem of Human Self-Knowledge
Author: Cory, Therese
Abstract: This dissertation presents a comprehensive analysis of Thomas Aquinas's theory of self-knowledge, examining each of the four kinds of self-knowledge he identifies: (1) actual perception of one's existence (actual self-awareness); (2) habitual self-awareness; (3) apprehension of the soul's nature; and (4) the judgment of this apprehension in light of divine truth. Broadly speaking, it contends that Thomas is attentive to experienced phenomena and provides precise and thoughtful analyses of phenomena such as bodily consciousness, implicit and explicit awareness of oneself as subject, unified perception of the self as a single subject, and scientific knowledge of the soul's nature. Moreover, his explanation of self-knowledge is consistent with the principles of his general theory of knowledge, while it also takes into account the unique characteristics of an act of knowledge wherein the knower is the known, and integrates both Augustinian and Aristotelian principles. Thus Thomas's comments on self-knowledge constitute a carefully nuanced doctrine with significant implications for both his theory of knowledge and his explanation of human subjectivity. The first chapter examines the doctrine of two of his main sources, Augustine and Aristotle, while placing special emphasis on the way that difficulties of interpretation of texts in both these thinkers helped shape Thomas's own conception of self-knowledge. It then reviews chronologically his major texts on self-knowledge, while examining them for possible doctrinal developments and highlighting significant systematic problems for consideration in the thematic discussions of the following chapters. The second chapter analyzes in detail the first type of self-knowledge--the soul's awareness of its individual existing self, focuses on the problem of its content and the mode in which it is achieved, and argues that according to at least one definition of "intuition," Thomas is defending a theory of intuitive self-awareness. The third chapter investigates the second type of self-knowledge--the soul's habitual self-awareness through its own presence to itself--and argues for the existence of a Thomistic account of implicit actual self-awareness. The fourth chapter examines the third and fourth kinds of self-knowledge and reviews F.-X. Putallaz's argument that reditio completa constitutes a fifth type of self-knowledge. Lastly, the fifth chapter studies the implications of Thomas's theory of self-knowledge for his view of human nature. It returns to the commentaries on the De anima and Liber de causis to argue that habitual self-knowledge is essential to immaterial being, and that Thomas's discussion of habitual and actual implicit self-knowledge constitutes a psychological approach to the nature of human personhood which complements his much better-known metaphysical definition of personhood.
Description: Degree awarded: Ph.D. Philosophy. The Catholic University of America
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1961/10095
Date: 2011-12-01


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