South African Journal of Philosophy

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Facing being: the significance of Thomist ontological epistemology to realism in post-Kantian philosophy

Callum D Scott


The Kantian ‘Copernican Revolution’ contained in his Prologomena and The Critique of Pure Reason deemed metaphysical statements to be ‘transcendental illusions’, so directing metaphysics to its dearth. As a consequence, no longer could objects be known ‘in-themselves’ by the sensorily-reliant human. This perceived impossibility of metaphysical knowledge in the turn to the subject from Kant through Nietzsche’s rejection of true knowledge has heavily inclined Continental Philosophy to an anti-metaphysical quandary. Analytic Philosophy is no different following the influence of Carnap, Wittgenstein and Rorty upon its own ‘linguistic turn’. An inevitable consequence of things not being knowable in themselves is the philosophical distance from ‘the world’, which Stephen Hawking has argued, makes the philosophical enterprise ‘dead’. In dialogue with this widespread decline in metaphysics, I will attempt to reclaim realist metaphysics through the employment of a Thomist paradigm. If philosophy is to be relevant to the knowledge economy, it is compelled to be in relation with what is. Thus, in my theoretical framework, being will be considered as central to all knowledge systems seeking to correspond to ‘hard’ science. The Thomist realist natural philosophy of ‘scientia’ – wherein truth is conformed with being – will be at the core of the argument. This paper challenges the ignoring of being because extant reality is composed of all that is, continuously faced and never evadable. Consequently, Thomism is recaptured as significant to post-Kantian philosophy as Aquinas articulated a means through which the thinking subject engages with being through sensation and cognition.

South African Journal of Philosophy 2014, 33(3): 347–364

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