Friday, May 29, 2015

Finality and Evolution

Finality and Evolution

Although our main focus in this thesis is on the thought of St. Thomas himself in its historical context, the scientific theory of evolution in our own day appears, at least, to pose so serious a challenge to the Thomistic doctrine of intelligence as the ground of all natural forms that it seems to us appropriate to consider briefly here whether the two positions are compatible and if so what adaptations would have to be made in St. Thomas' teaching to accommodate the data of evolution. The point of conflict arises in the explanation of the origin of new biological forms. According to the most widely accepted evolutionary theory new biological forms emerge throughout the history of the cosmos out of previous ones due, at least in large part, to the interplay of chance factors, the survival of the fittest, etc. Yet, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas which we have just expounded, no natural form can be set up with its intrinsic finality save through the causality of an intelligence, which alone can ground the future-oriented dynamic intentionality of any active nature. There is also no doubt that St. Thomas, following the science of his time–what else could he do?–believed as a matter of fact in the fixity of species, as did the vast majority of scientists right down till the time of Darwin. Hence he had no difficulty in assigning God as the immediate cause of the various species of living beings in the world, following the guidance of the biblical account in the book of Genesis. The opposition between the Thomistic metaphysics of final causality and the theory of evolution seems to be clear-cut.
We have no intention of denying the well-grounded character of the theory of evolution in general. It has fought its way successfully into our contemporary scientific view of the world as the most fruitful hypothesis for explaining the emergence of new biological forms throughout the billions of years of earth's history. Any metaphysical doctrine which found itself in principle opposed to such a well-grounded theory would have to be considered gravely suspect. However, it can be seriously questioned whether such a general theory of evolution requires or has provided–indeed, could provide–any convincing evidence that the process of emergence of new forms takes place totally and exclusively by the working of chance. It would seem to be enough to hold that the interplay of chance factors in the environment plays at least some significant role. Whether or not a provident God, once His existence has been established, actually guides the overall process or intervenes unobtrusively at crucial turning points would be beyond the ability of any scientific techniques or theories either to prove or disprove. What does seem clear, however, is that the constitution of every new living form need not be attributed solely to the direct and immediate intervention of a divine or other supra-cosmic intelligent cause. The fixity of species and the immediate origin of all natural forms from God cannot be made part of a viable metaphysics today.
What adaptations does this require in St. Thomas' doctrine? Although St. Thomas himself undoubtedly did hold as a matter of fact the fixity of species and their direct origin from higher intelligence, there is nothing in his metaphysical principles as such which necessarily requires such a conclusion. Finality, as we have seen, must ultimately be grounded in some intelligent cause as its adequate sufficient reason. But there is no intrinsic reason why this ultimate causality cannot be mediated through other secondary causes, including the interplay of chance factors for the details of evolution, leaving the overall general lines of the whole process intact according to the plan of God. Thus it seems to us that a consistent Thomist could admit as a minimum hypothesis that at least the primary elements of the world-system would have to be set up in their original state by an intelligent cause, which would order their dynamic potentialities and properties toward each other in mutual correlation so that there could be a world at all. Otherwise no interactions could occur at all since there would be no determinate properties; every element would remain in total isolation and nothing further could happen. This basic constitution of the original elements would thereby set up the range of potentialities of these elements to enter into combinations with others, and these combinations in turn to enter into more complex unities, and so forth, thus opening up a vast spectrum of possible future developments, given the appropriate circumstances. The actual detailed working out in space and time of some segment of this range of potentialities could be left in whole or in part to the interplay of chance factors within the context of this basic matrix of intrinsically finalized original elements. This would be a rational way of planning the development of the universe, incorporating into the plan chance factors working according to statistical law, instead of rigidly deterministic laws pre-planning everything in detail. Thus St. Thomas' demand for intelligence at the root of all finality would be preserved intact, but the causality of intelligence would be less direct and immediate, more mediated through non-rational causes, than he himself held. Exactly how much in this whole process, however, would be left to secondary and non-rational causes and how much directly guided and planned by God would be a mystery beyond the penetration of either science or metaphysics.


1 De principiis naturae, c. 31: Efficiens vero dicitur causa respectu finis, cum finis non sit in actu nisi per operationem agentis; sed finis dicitur causa efficientis cum efficiency non operetur nisi per intentionem finis. Et ideo non est causa causalitatis finis, id est, non facit finem esse causam finalem.
2 Paul Alexandre Janet, Final Causes (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clarke, 1883), p. 33: is therefore a sort of cause, but a cause which acts in some fashion before existing; it is an effect which foreseen or predetermined by the efficient cause, has obliged it to take one direction rather than another, it is an end. Paul Janet continues, p. 32: “From all this it follows that the sought for criterion of the final cause is the agreement of the present with the future, the determination of the one by the other.”
3 Summa theologica I, q. 28, a. 2.
4 Ibid.
5 Schmitz, Disput uber das Teleologische Denken, p. 171.
6 de Régnon, La métaphysique des causes d'après Saint Thomas et Albert Le Grand as quoted by de Raeymaeker, The Philosophy of Being, p. 272: “Hence the intention and the action are united in one and the same term. Thus the end is the bond between the intentional and the efficient order and consequently belongs to both orders. In the efficient order the end is the goal of the operation, finis in re, but antecedently it was in the intentional order …the purpose of the operation, finis in intentione.”
7 Summa theologica, I, q. 44, a. 7; q. 105, a. 5; also, I, q. 2, 5; Summa contra gentiles, III, cc. 2, 3, 16, 18, 22, 24-25, 112.
8 Quaest. disp. de Veritate, q. 22, a. 4.
9 Summa theologica, Ia-IIae, q. 12, a. 5: “prout scilicet ordinat motum alicuius, vel sui vel alterius in finem, quod est rationis tantum.” Cf. also Ia-IIae, q. 12, a. 2; Quaest disp. de Ver., q. 24, a. 2.

Plato on Democracy

Finality as Participation in an Idea

Finality as Participation in an Idea

We have established up to this point that all finality in this universe must ultimately be reducible to some intelligence as its source since only intelligence is capable of being the originating source of conscious and self-determined finality. The basic reason for this conclusion was the necessary immateriality of the self-determined agent acting for an end. The necessary transcendence of time, the intelligibility of the possible as such and the intelligibility of relations (now-future, actual-possible, means-end, etc.) are within the capacity of an intrinsically immaterial intelligent agent alone.
We recall that the end must be present in an immaterial fashion in the agent since it is not yet physically existing according to its own nature. This immaterial existence is a form of ideal existence: the end is present in the intelligent agent as an idea. This very presence of the end in an ideal fashion St. Thomas calls intentional presence. Thus intentionality spells an order of immateriality and intelligibility.
Let us consider the fact that an external thing understood by us does not exist in our intellect according to its own nature; rather, it is necessary that its species be in our intellect, and through this species the intellect comes to be in act. Once in act through this species as through its own form, the intellect knows the thing itself. This is not to be understood in the sense that the act of understanding itself is an action proceeding to the thing understood as heating proceeds to the heated thing. Understanding remains in the one understanding because the above mentioned species which is a principle of intellectual operation as a form, is the likeness of the thing understood.
We must further consider that the intellect having been informed by the species of the thing, by an act of understanding forms within itself a certain intention of the thing understood, that is to say, its notion which the definition signifies. This is a necessary point because the intellect understands a present and an absent thing indifferently. In this the imagination agrees with the intellect. But the intellect has the characteristic in addition, namely, that it understands a thing as separated from material conditions, without which a thing does not exist in reality. But this could not take place unless the intellect formed the above-mentioned intention for itself. Now since this understood intention is, as it were, a terminus of intelligible operation, it is distinct from the intelligible species that actualizes the intellect and that we must consider the principle of intellectual operation, though both are a likeness of the thing understood. For, by the fact that the intelligible species, which is the form of the intellect and the principle of understanding, is the likeness of the external thing it follows that the intellect forms an intention like that thing since as a thing is, such are its works. And because the understood intention is like something, it follows that the intellect, by forming such an intention, knows that thing.65
Finality presupposes necessarily the intentional order without which there simply would not be any finality at all, since we already established that the order of the ideal or intentional is an indispensable condition for self -determined origination of finality by some intelligence, which must be the cause of all finality. Now since this finality belongs to all beings (every agent acts for an end), it follows, that through finality all being somehow participates in the intentional and thus in the ideal. Finality pervades all reality since every agent acts for an end. We also recall that finality admits gradation in different beings; it is realized in different degrees. In the most proper sense it is the domain of intelligence which is its self-determined and conscious originating source. The lower form of finality, the infra-intelligent cognitive finality of the animal and the finality of the non-cognitive order of being must also be derived from the same originating source: the intentionality of an intelligent agent of some sort, and, as determined finally, participate somehow in the intentional order although in an analogical and derivative mode, i.e., conscious or unconscious although not self-determined. There exists an obvious gradation here and thus participation in the order of the intentional.
This is quite clear to one who observes the nature of things. He will find, in fact, if he makes a careful consideration, that the diversity of things is accomplished by means of gradations. Indeed he will find plants above inanimate bodies and above plants irrational animals and above them intellectual substances. And among individuals he will find a diversity based on the fact that some are more perfect than others, inasmuch as the highest members of a lower genus seem quite close to the next higher genus.66
This gradation which is determined by the diversity of forms is based on a different relationship of those forms to matter in different beings. And since forms determine the mode of action the operations of each being depend on this relationship. St. Thomas points this out very often, e.g.
From the diversity of forms there also follows a diverse relationship of matter to things. In fact, since forms differ because some are more perfect than others, there are some of them so perfect that they are self-subsistent and self-complete, requiring no substructure of matter. But other forms cannot perfectly subsist by themselves, and do require matter as a foundation. So that what does subsist is not simply form, nor yet merely matter, but a thing composed of both.67
And somewhat later he continues: “Moreover as a result of the diversified relationship to matter, there follows a diversity of agents and patients…those things whose forms are more perfect and less material must act on those that are more material and whose forms are more imperfect.”68 “The immateriality of a thing is the reason why it can know, and the mode of its non-materiality sets the measure of its knowledge. Plants are unable to know because they are so earthbound, but sense is cognitive because it receives non-material impressions, while the mind is freer still and less involved in matter.”69
Immaterial, intelligible, intentional mean ideal. To the degree something participates in the intentional order it “takes part,” “has a part,” in an idea. Thus an idea is present to all beings since all beings have some part in it, but in an analogical derivative way when we talk of sense-cognition and non-cognitive beings. Thus inanimate and non-cognitive beings are the “lowest” in that respect. This presence of the idea in non-cognitive beings we may call an unconscious, inanimate, incarnate mode of the idea's presence. Then in the realm of life would come theplants and animals. Here the idea is more perfectly present in the plant (life) and still more perfectly in sense-awareness and activity of the animal, where it is consciously present although in a sense-mode intrinsically dependent on conditions of materiality in an essentially instinctual, not self-determined fashion. Sense-powers participate in the idea in a deficient way since, as has been shown, sense-powers are not a sufficient ground for self-determined and conscious finality. Thus the immateriality of the animal soul is, as intrinsically dependent on matter, sufficient neither for the comprehension of intelligibles nor for transcending time as such, nor for establishing ends for itself since it is incapable of intellectually grasping relations. Nevertheless there is a higher participation in intentionality here.
With the self-determined finality of an intelligence the idea is consciously and properly in an intrinsically immaterial mode present to the mind, whose product it is, as shown in Chapter IV of this work. All other modes the idea takes, are deficient, improper, analogical modes of its presence. Because of that they are derived from intelligence since whatever perfection indicates a gradation, a participation, does not derive from itself. The being which possesses such perfection has it as taking part in it, as a partaking, and consequently there must be some other which possesses it on its own, which is the source of that perfection and consequently its origin. (St. Thomas says in Summa theologica, Ia, q. 14, 2: “The intelligible form is the divine mind itself, understanding itself by and through itself.”)
Finality, as participation in the order of the ideal or the intentional, indicates that all reality is pervaded according to degrees by the presence of idea, which in turn points to the presence of some mind. St. Thomas explains:
It must be then, that the species of things caused and intended by the intellectual agent exist beforehand in his intellect, as the forms of artifacts exist in the intellect of the artist and are projected from there into their products. So, all the forms that are in the lower substances and all their motions are derived from the intellectual forms which are in the intellect of some substance or substances. Consequently, Boethius says in his book The Trinity that “forms which are in matter have come from forms which are without matter. And on this point Plato’s statement is verified that forms separated from matter are the principles of forms that are in it. Although Plato claimed that they subsist in themselves and immediately cause the sensible things, we assert that they exist in the intellect and cause lower form.”70
“So, then, it is not difficult to see how natural bodies, devoid of knowledge are moved and perform actions for an end. They tend to that end as things directed to it by an intellectual substance.”71
All finality presupposes the intentional presence of an idea and thus since all reality is finally determined it participates in idea. The modes of this participation in idea are (1) most proper and perfect: self-determined and conscious mode of participation (originating finality); (2) derivative analogous mode which again may be subdivided into conscious but not self-determined (animals endowed with sense-powers) and neither conscious nor self-determined participation in idea in the non-cognitive beings. Finality proves that the idea can be present in a deficient incarnate mode of presence in the lower forms of intentionality. It is a graded participated mode of existence of the idea outside the mind. As O'Mahoney so well expresses it:
The world is saturated with idea, with spirit, with law: it is idea crystallized, thought materialized, law realized. The Mind reflects back this inherent intelligibility of things. It answers to the dynamism of reality. It is the term of the evolution of things…Matter, that is, “materia prima,” is as such purely indeterminate, the merest limit and negation. But the moment it has idea towards which it tends insofar as that is possible, it has the germ of activity and prophetically the guarantee of its intelligibility… Mind is the truth of nature.72

The Destruction of Thought - Crisis Magazine

The Destruction of Thought - Crisis Magazine

Final Cause in St. Thomas Aquinas

Final Cause in St. Thomas Aquinas

Although St. Thomas was primarily a Christian theologian, we are interested here in his philosophical vision. It must be pointed out that for St. Thomas there exists a fundamental harmony between human thought (reason) and faith. Both come from the same source, God. Philosophy has its own authority and autonomy. In working out his philosophical vision St. Thomas repeated time and again that the human intellect is capable of attaining at truth on its own, and that this is possible even without the aid of grace. Here he pointed out the Greek Thinkers as an example.
For St. Thomas philosophy is necessary since it is the common ground on which all people willing to seek the truth can meet, even if they differ insofar as their religious faith in revealed scriptures is concerned.1
The primary concern of St. Thomas was always one: to show the truth. Here is the root of his extraordinary universalism, when it comes to collecting true insights from any thinker whatsoever whether among his predecessors or contemporaries. Although Aristotle remained for Thomas always 'the Philosopher,' he had to modify Aristotelian views considerably, and elements of Platonism, Neo-Platonism, Arabic and Judaic thought are not lacking within his synthesis, which nevertheless remained thoroughly original.2
Thus, from Aristotle, Aquinas took the basic position of the theory of knowledge and on it he built his moderate realism, within which the ultimate ground of truth is always in realistic experience. The Stagirite provided also the theory of the causal connection of beings. When it comes to the theory of finality in the universe, Aquinas utilized the analysis of change done so well by Aristotle and his notion of immanent finality of beings composed of matter and form. In this regard, however, he had to modify Aristotle on many essential points, especially when it comes to consider the relationship between God and the universe. For Thomas, God is the Creator–the Efficient Cause of all reality that is not God. He is also the Ultimate Final Cause of the universe. It is impossible to know the First Cause without at the same time knowing the First End.3 For St. Thomas all beings are most intimately dependent in their whole reality on God's causality: in their existence, in their operations, in their structure and in their finality. But, most importantly, finality in Thomas' thought is ultimately grounded in the Divine Intelligence operative in the universe as well as directing all towards God, as the Ultimate Final End. Here Thomas went-as we shall show later in what follows–far beyond Aristotle. The relationship between the God of Thomas Aquinas and the universe is far richer and more intimate than any ancient thinker could imagine. The essence of this relationship can be briefly, in a condensed version, expressed as: Creator-creature. The basic condition of every finite is defined by creatureliness. God's position is best expressed in this respect by the two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and omega.
There is in Thomas a considerable amount of Plato's thought. Two elements especially are of Platonic origin: the idea of participation, and the idea of forms as models of all creatures. Both positions are deeply transformed: although the ideas are models of all creatures, they are in God's mind in Thomas' philosophy, as God sees his Essence as imitable in finite modes ad extra. They are not, as in Plato, independent, subsistent entities on their own. As for participation, Thomas considers it on the plane of being primarily:4 each finite being insofar as it is a limited act of existence, and to that degree, participates in the perfection of Existence Itself in an analogical mode. The last remark is to be kept in mind always: being is intrinsically analogical for Thomas. God as an Intelligent Planner of the Whole Universe may also be of Platonic parentage (The Demiurge of Plato's Timaeus).
In many points Thomas agreed with Augustine, insofar as the doctrine about God is concerned both Aristotle and St. Augustine were the source, and moreover the Christian Neo-Platonist Pseudo-Denys, the early scholastics like St. Anselm and St. Bernard. It is hardly necessary to mention that the one who influenced St. Thomas the most insofar as the Aristotelianism of Aquinas goes, was his master Albert the Great.
Without falling into crude pantheism, St. Thomas incorporated into his synthesis the Plotinian idea of a hierarchical universe in which different layers of being are related to each other within the scheme of a ladder, from the least perfect to the highest. The section below man is pictured by Thomas primarily according to Aristotle, but the upper part, from man up, is predominantly neo-Platonic. Utilizing those principles, Thomas remained always within the limits of Christian philosophy; pantheism is completely alien to him. One of the fundamental principles pervading his whole metaphysical vision is the analogy of being.9 Within the emanationist system of Plotinus, in which everything proceeds with necessity – an idea not acceptable to the Christian understanding of the God/creature relationship–nevertheless all is ordered and pervaded by Intelligence. The principle of the sensible world realized according to order in space and matter “can only be absolutely fixed intellectual order, containing in an eternal form and accessible to pure intelligence the relationships and harmonies which are perceived in the sensible world.”10 In the Plotinian system, Intelligence–the first hypostasis–is the central hypostasis. It is above all an order, an intelligible world. But the ultimate ground of order is the Unity, the One. The One of Plotinus is a reality higher and anterior to the order itself: the One is the 'source' or the 'First.' The One includes all without distinction. St. Thomas could use much of Plotinus and he certainly did. There is a certain primacy of intelligence in the Plotinian system. This element is certainly very clear to Aquinas. However, more detailed discussion of this problem here, would go beyond the purpose of this work.The influence of St. Augustine is visible especially insofar as God's knowledge of this world is concerned, and Augustine's view of the world as created and ordered by seminal reasons: principles of teleological development, intrinsic to beings in which all perfections are potentially present. Those principles are designed by God and 'put' into things by the very fact of creation which is done according to the plan of God's ideas, in God's Intelligence. Those ideas are the exemplars according to which God's creative work is designed. In St. Augustine's own words: “God therefore knew all things which he made before He made them… He knew them that He might make them, not because He had made them.”5 In book XVIII of De Civitate Dei the bishop of Hippo says: “And His wisdom being simply multiple and uniformly multiform, can comprehend all incomprehensible things with such incomprehensible comprehension that whatsoever thing that is new and unlike to all other He should ever please to create, it could not be irregular or unforeseen by him.”6
In the “seminal reasons” (rationes seminales) there is a principle of intrinsic teleological development of all reality: “As in the seed there are invisibly present all the things which in course of time will grow into a tree, so the universe must be conceived…”7 And so, according to Augustine, “God's will diffuses itself through all things by certain perfectly ordered movements of created things, first spiritual, then corporeal, and puts all to the service of the immutable bidding of its purpose…”8 The Platonic ideas are now ideas of God's creative structuring of all reality according to His intelligent design. This idea is obvious in the system of Thomas Aquinas. For him, too, all action for an end is ultimately grounded in God's Intelligence. The Christian Platonism of Augustine was primarily Christian. As such it could be utilized, to an extent, by St. Thomas.
We must stress emphatically at this point that although St. Thomas used all those elements of other thinkers, and he confesses this openly (see footnote), nevertheless his synthesis is not a mere eclectic conglomeration: as we hope it will appear later in this work, Thomas hardly used any elements of other thinkers without a deep transformation and adaptation within his basic focus of reflection, always present to his mind: the focus on the plane of being as such, the existential plane, on the basis of which all principles flow together to form a thoroughly original and unified vision of the thinker from Aquino.

We presuppose this knowledge in the reader: the existential character of St. Thomas thought. At this point we mention it only, saving a more detailed elaboration of it for one of the following chapters.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When Does Consciousness Begin and End?

Image result for conscience images pictures

When Does Consciousness Begin and End?

In March of this year, the beloved singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell was rushed to the hospital after being found unconscious on the floor in her Bel Air home. Subsequently, long-time friend Leslie Morris filed a petition to become the Mitchell’s legal guardian, stating that the singer “remains unconscious and unable to make any responses, and is therefore unable to provide for any of her personal needs.”
Statements issued on Mitchell’s official website deny that Mitchell is in a coma, claiming instead that “she comprehends, she’s alert, and she has her full senses. A full recovery is expected.” But Mitchell’s doctor, the neurosurgeon Paul Vestra, has confirmed that her mental faculties are severely impaired and that she will unlikely be unable to attend the court hearing over guardianship, which is scheduled in July.
The conflicting information about Mitchell’s health status reveals the stigma attached to coma and other conditions in which consciousness is impaired. In such situations, complex ethical questions regarding end-of-life decisions inevitably arise, ones that most societies are still struggling to answer.
“Clinically, consciousness refers to two quite distinct things—wakefulness and awareness,” explains neuroscientist Adrian Owen of the University of Western Ontario in a recent public lecture. “But the problem for people working on consciousness is that none of us can agree on what it actually means.”
Owen is less interested in defining consciousness than he is in measuring it. He’s also keen on finding ways to detect hidden signs of consciousness and determining if patients have conscious awareness, exactly what they are aware of, and how much of their mental faculties they retain. Owen’s is one of several research groups that are pioneering new ways of doing this, and although the work is still in its infancy, it has already helping clinicians to diagnose consciousness disorders more accurately.

Awake, Asleep, or Neither?

Our understanding of consciousness has been hampered by our historically rudimentary ways of understanding its absence. We can easily determine if someone is awake, because their eyes will probably be open. Wakefulness can also be detected if one’s eyes are closed, because the awake and sleeping brain are each characterised by distinct patterns of brainwaves, which can be recorded with electroencephalography (EEG), using electrodes placed onto the scalp.
Electroencephalography is commonly used in studies to determine sleep vs. wakefulness.
Awareness is much harder to detect, because the only way we have of knowing whether or not someone is aware is by asking them. Comatose patients, for example, have their eyes closed at all times, and are neither awake nor aware. Patients in the vegetative state, however, often show signs of wakefulness. “They ften open their eyes and look around the room and they have intact sleep-wake cycles,” Owen says, “but they won’t fixate on anything in particular and, importantly, never respond to a command, so they’re often referred to as awake but not aware.”
This poses a major problem for clinicians working with patients who have consciousness disorders because, while minimally conscious patients are more likely to recover, they do not show outward signs of awareness. The problems with diagnosis thus make it extremely difficult to identify those whose conditions might improve.
Owen and his colleagues pioneered the use of functional neuroimaging to detect signs of consciousness in patients diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, and to communicate with them. The method was first described in a landmark 2006 paper, and involves scanning patients’ brains while asking them a series of questions that require a “yes or no” answer. Upon entering the scanner, the patients are instructed to imagine playing a game of tennis if they want to answer “yes” or to imagine walking around their apartment if their answer is “no.”
Each task produces different brain activation patterns that be detected by the scanner—one activates the supplementary motor cortex, which is involved in planning movements, and the other activates the hippocampus and surrounding areas, which play critical roles in spatial navigation.
Remarkably, Owen and his colleagues found that a significant proportion of apparently vegetative patients can actually follow these commands and respond to the questions by imagining one scenario or the other. The ability to do so indicates that certain of their mental abilities—especially attention, memory, and language comprehension—are intact, and that they are, in fact, aware of what is going on around them.
“All of these things are part and parcel of what we call conscious awareness, things that we all use day every day just to get through our activities,” Owen says. “We’ve seen a lot of patients, all of them diagnosed as being in the vegetative state, and about one in five of them are entirely unresponsive at the bedside but will reliably produce these activity patterns in the scanner.”
On the basis of these results, Owen and his colleagues conclude that around 20% of patients with these disorders are misdiagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state when they are actually minimally conscious. For many, this is a matter of life or death: Court cases that decide whether hydration and nutrition should be withdrawn from apparently vegetative patients are becoming increasingly common around the world, and such decisions often hinge on the question of whether or not the patient is conscious.
Brain scanning is expensive, and moving patients to have these tests can be hugely problematic, so Owen and his colleagues have developed a cheaper, portable EEG-based version of the test. They want to test as many patients as they can, and to that end have built what they call the EEJeep, which they use to visit patients in their homes. And they believe that some patients may be unable to follow commands despite retaining some awareness, so have developed a “passive” test based on the shared experience and brain activity people have when watching the same movie together.

Defining Consciousness

Despite these important advances, this research tells us very little about what consciousness actually is, or about how the brain generates it. Consciousness is at once familiar to us all, and deeply mysterious. We are all familiar with the content of our consciousness, and how those contents change as time passes, and we all lose consciousness every night when we go to sleep, only to regain it in the morning. Yet, neuroscientists and philosophers alike are still struggling to find an adequate definition of consciousness.
When brain scanning technologies first emerged in the 1990s, some researchers began using them to identify the neural correlates of consciousness—activity patterns in specific parts of the brain that are associated with certain aspects of awareness—but this did not explain the relationship between brain activity and experience or why we only become aware of some aspects of the brain’s workings but not others.
Neuroscientists are increasingly viewing the brain as a complex network of inter-connected modules, and so there is growing interest in mapping the long-range neural pathways linking them. They have also come to believe that the synchronized activity of large groups of brain cells—which produces brain waves—is important for information processing and that the synchronization or de-coupling of brain wave frequencies between inter-connected brain regions is likely important for the flow of information between them.
But many say that we still have no real understanding of consciousness. “I often hear that we haven’t made much progress and still don’t know what we’re talking about,” says Anil Seth, director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Studies at the University of Sussex, “but I think that’s simply wrong, because we’ve seen huge developments in understanding.”
One such development is integrated information theory (IIT), developed by neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which explains consciousness in terms of the amount of information that is shared amongst brain regions. IIT states that consciousness is graded, and equates the amount of information being integrated with the level of conscious experience, such that conscious awareness increases with the amount of integration taking place. It predicts that any sufficiently complex system that integrates information could have “bits of consciousness.”
Thus, most animals are conscious to a greater or lesser extent, and the internet, with its billions of interconnected computers worldwide, could conceivably be conscious in some sense. Yet a supercomputer simulation of the human brain, which is only partly integrated, could not.
“This is an interesting theory that allows us to make all sorts predictions,” Seth says. For example, it predicts that general anesthetics make us lose consciousness by reducing information integration in the brain to below a certain critical level and that integration is reduced or otherwise disrupted in consciousness disorders. Both of these predictions turn out to be accurate.
Marcello Massimini of the University of Milan and his colleagues developed a test based on Tononi’s theory. It involves using transcranial magnetic stimulation to interfere with the brain’s electrical activity and then measuring the complexity of the brain’s response. Massimini and his colleagues have performed the test on healthy participants while they are awake, asleep, and at different levels of sedation by anesthetic, as well as in comatose, vegetative, and minimally conscious patients. They’ve shown that it can reliably determine the level of consciousness in each of these states.
Similarly, researchers in France have devised a way to measure how much information is being shared between pairs of scalp electrodes during EEG sessions. Using it to record brainwaves both in patients with consciousness disorders and in healthy controls, they found that unconscious patients’ brains do indeed exhibit lower levels of what they called “global information sharing” than those of the others.
These methods could potentially be developed into cheap bedside tests that allow for more accurate diagnosis of consciousness disorders. Broader access to portable EEG tests promises to revolutionize how these patients are diagnosed and cared for.
“We’ve made a great deal of progress and discovered a lot, but it’s a very hard problem, and it’s not going to just go away so easily,” Seth says. As new ways of measuring consciousness are developed further, we will become better equipped to deal with its disorders. And although we may still be a long way from understanding consciousness, by studying its various forms, we now seem to have a loose grasp of it.

Mo Costandi

Mo Costandi is a freelance science writer based in London. He is author of 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know, published last year, and he writes the Neurophilosophy blog, hosted by The Guardian.

What is Gravity Made Of?

Władczynie i matki-królów Polski – historie znane i nieznane

Władczynie i matki-królów Polski – historie znane i nieznane: pPanowanie Jagiellonów to okres największej potęgi państwa polskiego, rozkwitu demokracji szlacheckiej i kultury staropolskiej. To również czas silnych kobiet – królowych, które odcisnęły wyraźny ślad na ówczesnych wydarzeniach. Warto przypomnieć o nich również przy okazji Dnia Kobiet./p
p class=wp-caption-text Portret królowej Jadwigi Andegaweńskiej, autor Marcello Bacciarelli/p
pJadwiga Andegaweńska/p
pCórka Ludwika Węgierskiego i Elżbiety [...]

Populism2015: Construction Crew for Democracy |

Populism2015: Construction Crew for Democracy |

Human Knowlege

Human Knowledge
Connection. Life is a dynamic movement. Each human being is carried by time towards … What? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What should I do right now? Why should I do what I am doing now? I somehow find myself existing with others in a mysterious environment which people call “the World”. In every situation I must decide what to do. How can I make a good decision? What is this world surrounding me? Is there a God? What happens after I die? Questions, questions, questions. Man is a questioner. We cannot live our lives without constantly asking questions. The fact that I question indicates that there is something lacking in me without which I would not be able to live. This something is called knowledge. Knowledge is absolutely necessary for life. For it can be compared to a beam of light in a dark, mysterious forest of reality which envelops me. Without knowledge I perish. The reason why mankind survived for so great stretches of time, and dominated this earth is in its knowledge. The same applies to each individual. Knowledge means living, growing, developing,  Ignorance means death. Thus the question “What is knowledge?” (Epistemology) was from the very beginnings of philosophy a central problem.
We shall consider this problem in the following sections:
1.         What are the sources of knowledge?
2.         How does man know? (The nature of human knowledge.)
3.         What is knowledge?
4.         Truth or Illusion.
5.         Summary and concluding remarks.

1. The Sources of Knowledge.
A.        Faith. Faith is necessary in human life. When a baby is growing it must rely on much information (usually coming from parents) which it does not yet understand.
The capacity to know for it-self, that is to understand critically, is practically nonexistent. To live it must believe, it must take things on faith. Faith is an indispensable element in our life, also later on. We put our very lives into the hands of many people almost every day in many ways. The only motive why we do this is that we trust them, we believe them or we have faith in them. It is impossible to check at each moment everything. Life would come to a stop. (Think, for example, about going to a doctor, to a lawyer, or even shopping.)
The domain where faith becomes crucial is religion. Religious faith is an assent to some truths which transcend the normal understanding of man. Those truths are not against human understanding they transcend it. If it is true that God exists, and that God is an Infinite Reality it may not appear so shocking that such Infinite Reality may not be completely comprehensible for the finite, that is limited mind of men. It does not mean, however, that religious assent has to be completely blind assent. As Thomas Aquinas pointed out, faith is a reasonable assent. It is not any kind of uncritical and blind “yes” without thinking at all. For if I accept a religious creed I should be able to know why I accept it. This question shall be treated in more depth later on.
B. Authority. This source of knowledge is grounded in accepting the testimony of some expert in matters that are not necessarily religious in nature. As already mentioned above, there are many difficult problems connected with accepting something on authority of another. What elements must be present to constitute someone as an authority? What criterion shall we use in selecting one authority above another? What are the psychological effects produced in an individual who accepts something on authority without having some valid reasons for doing so. Blind worship and uncritical submissions to authority are never justified, and may lead to disastrous consequences. History shows that some most cruel atrocities and crimes were done by people who were hiding their responsibility behind some alleged authority, in the name of which, they supposedly acted. Blind appeal to authority is unphilosophical and unscientific way of acquiring knowledge. There are many dangers connected with such authoritarian attitude:
a) it tends to block progress.
b) it leads to confusion (conflicting authorities)
c) it leads to mental laziness and lack of confidence in oneself
d) it leads to immoral pushing of one's responsibility to others, and thus it is dehumanizing.
e) it perpetuates errors, prejudices and ignorance.
f) it produces fanaticism and mental blindness.
Prejudice, public opinion, propaganda and social tyranny are the most potent factors, destructive to independence of thought, and authentic search for true knowledge.
C. Common Sense. Common Sense is the view of the “the man on the street”. We are born into a definite social-group-situation, in a definite time and place. Thus from the very beginning of our conscious existence we are being influenced by the powerful factors of our social existence. We acquire feelings, habits of behavior and thought, beliefs and memories. Those ways of acting and thinking are all designed to “keep in line” the individual members of a society. Common Sense is a vague notion. It may contain traditional opinions, maxims and proverbs which are supposed to be the outcome of common experience through generations.
Common Sense may lead people in the right direction but also into error, prejudice and falsehood. This happens to be true for the following reason:
a) common sense is usually uncritically accepted. It is not permitted to question the “obvious”, which common sense allegedly contains;
b) Common Sense opinions are vague and ambiguous. Almost any proverb can be contradicted by another one, as “venerable” as the first;
c) Common Sense contains a mixture of truth and wisdom with emotional bias, prejudice, and falsehood and untested, unexamined beliefs, which are wholesale accepted;
d) Common Sense opinions are very rarely justified by explanations or a valid appeal to experience, and reasonable evaluations.
To summarize, although common sense has its undeniable merits, it needs constant examination, and critical evaluation. Many beliefs which were “common sense” in the past, are today rejected as relics of past errors. There is hardly any domain of human experience in which what was common sense, is not so any more. What today passes for common sense will in many respects be discarded by future generations.
D. Reason as a source of knowledge is the distinctive mark by which human knowledge is different from the kind of knowledge other living organisms possess. By following carefully some informal procedures, which are called thinking man can arrive from knowing A to know B and C. Reasoning must follow definite rules of procedure. Only correct and logical thinking may lead to valid conclusions. The rules how to think clearly and correctly are studied by logicians. The science of correct and valid thinking is called Logic. Even a cursory acquaintance with Logic will show how difficult it may be to think correctly, and how many pitfalls and fallacies are waiting for everyone, whose thinking neglects the necessary caution in drawing conclusions.
The question discussed in philosophy again and again is:  Is reason a real source of knowledge or a tool with which to acquire knowledge? Do we possess innate fund of insight, somehow present because we possess reason? Some philosophers of note believed that this is the case (Parmenides, Plato, Descartes, Leibniz, Hegel). This belief, however, is not the most commonly accepted in philosophy. The more prevalent outlook is that reason is a tool in acquiring knowledge. The fact is that conceptual thinking belongs to the essential capacities of man, and man only. For it is the originating source of all typically human modes of living and acting (see Part II, chapter I, #3).
E. Experience. Experience is the source of knowledge resulting from concepts (ideas) originating in accordance with observed facts. A host of disputed problems is connected with this source of knowledge. We shall discuss some of them later on. The problems will naturally emerge when we shall proceed examining the nature of human knowledge. Some of those problems are:
a) how do we know that this kind of knowledge validly represents extra-mental reality?
b) should all knowledge be ultimately reduced to senses?
c) is it possible to have purely “objective and unbiased” knowledge, or is all our knowledge influenced and biased by other motives (more or less “blind” urges in us) which necessarily obstruct our knowledge?
2. How Does Man Know?
When do I possess valid knowledge, and when do I enter into illusion? How can I locate this borderline between valid insight and illusion?
The Question Revisited:  How Does Man Know?

From the preceding sections we learned that the problem of human knowledge is by no means an easy problem. If we approach it from a wrong vantage point, or with the wrong unjustified frame of mind, we cannot arrive at any true insights. Many philosophers ended up in blind alleys. It should be evident that the sources of mistakes resided in the wrong approach to the problem. Once the first assumptions are made without proper caution, and openness to evidence, the outcome necessarily leads to false solutions. We must keep in mind the fate of the Subjective “Idealist and the Radical Empiricist, and draw a conclusion that one-sidedness and exaggeration will not do. Neither will any dogmatic attitude, for dogmatism is nothing but a prejudice, a sort of lack of openness to evidence at hand, in the name of un-proven, and preconceived viewpoints.
In restating the question on human knowledge we are particularly indebted to insights developed by Phenomenology and some Existential Thinkers of modern times. (Husserl, Merleau Ponty, Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel, Karl Jaspers, J. P. Sartre, and others.)
In order not to end up in a blind alley leading nowhere, we must at the start recollect some facts which are commonly evident
The first fact is that philosophy intends to interpret and to draw meaningful conclusions from illuminating the already existing man-in-the-world-with-others. The role of philosophic reflection is not to deny, what is evidently there, but to recollect, to critically examine the fact of human existence-in-the-world. The result of philosophic reflection should be a deeper, more rational, more comprehensive, and more coherent vision of all reality insofar as it is intelligible to human insight. Philosophy is an attempt constantly renewed, at a unified vision of What is and what such a vision means for humans.
I should always keep in mind that philosophic reflection does not start in a vacuum. There are people living in a world and these people living in a world start to reflect philosophically on the deeper meaning of their existing and living in a world with others. It follows that before philosophic reflection takes place there exists a universe inhabited by living, and wondering, concrete, human beings.
The undeniable fact is the philosophical given of myself-as-a-living-being-in-a-universe which is equally given in pre-reflective awareness. This must be the starting point of philosophic reflection. I cannot begin to philosophize by artificially wiping out any of the givens which I am, and part of which I am. I cannot radically doubt everything I am, and know already. If I would, there is the end of my philosophy. If I would truly doubt that I exist, I would never get out of such a doubt, for I would deny the very data on which to reflect. (David Hume, Subjective Idealism, Rene Descartes). The fact is that I cannot reflect on reality by pretending artificially that this on which to reflect, is un-reality! If I start with a dogmatic negation which is contrary to evidence already possessed by me, I must end up in a blind dead darkness of un-reality. We know that this actually happened to the philosophers examined in this section under the topic: Roads Leading to Nowhere. (D. Hume, I. Kant, etc.)
Those remarks do not invalidate philosophy as such, they are methodical in nature. Each question and each problem I face requires a proper approach, and a proper method. If this method is not adapted to the problem at hand, it will not lead to any fruitful insight. To clarify. I cannot investigate the question: what is correct thinking, by denying that thinking really is a fact of experience, that is that  there truly exists correct thinking. Why not? For the obvious reason that in order to examine what is correct thinking, I already must think and I will have to think correctly! Unless this is evident and accepted, there is no question, no problem, no hope of any solution. All has been doomed to nonexistence by my contradictory, and erroneous denial. I would be like the microbiologist who would write a scientific book on bacteria and would begin by saying that bacteria do not exist, and then proceed to describe different classes and morphology of non-existent bacteria.
Keeping in mind the above remarks let us now reflect on our question.

3. What is knowledge?

Can knowledge be defined? This is not easy because to define something is an act of knowledge. To answer the question what is knowledge is itself knowledge-in-action. Thus it is impossible to define knowledge and it does not seem necessary.
I know what knowing is, as I know what seeing is, what loving, or hating, or fearing is. All those are mental activities which I performed for quite a time of my life. The purpose of philosophic reflection is to illumine and meaningfully examine those pre-reflective activities.
I know that I am a Subject in the world and all my knowing activity is intentional, that is directed to something that is not me, something that is outside me. I intend other things (tend knowingly towards them). Of this I am vaguely aware. Then there exists a pre-reflective, original and spontaneous knowledge of reality based on the fact that I-exist-in-the-world. Neither I exist alone, nor the world exists alone, but I-in-the-world. This is an important observation which should not go unnoticed.
Next I-existing-in-the-world am a kind of oneness in myself rooted in the world. I am living-existing knowingly in, and with the world. This fact has important implications. As a living Subject in the world I am intending always something else than I, myself. There is no just consciousness, but always consciousness-of-something; there is no just awareness, but awareness-of-something. My Subjectivity is incomprehensible unless seen as correlative to some object. Both exist together. Consciousness awakens as response-solution to some object. Let us note next, that like all other material beings I am oneness intrinsically composed of two co-principles (matter + form). Let us note also that those two co-principles are co-existing, and can be known only by a mental analysis, or rather co-knowing, i.e., known together. Man is a materialized spirit or spiritualized materiality. It is the whole, living, this man, who knows, who acts, who wonders, etc. This point needs some clarification. When I see a tree, it is I, the whole man, who sees the tree. Since I am material and spiritual in one, or better a unity of materiality in spirituality, I always act as such. Thus in all my actions there will be a combination of materiality and spirituality. There will be material aspects and spiritual aspect for each human act. Each human act therefore is an intentional, living, dynamic, spiritual-material act. Thus the only proper way of speaking is that the whole man sees the tree. Since the act of knowing is some sort of union with what I know, I reach to the known object in my human way:  by material-spiritual means. For knowing a tree is an act of a living-material-spiritual Self.
Now since I am materiality, I know the tree with my materiality (organs called senses), but since I am living spirituality in materiality, my act of knowing the tree is pervaded and is a living spiritual act too.
It follows that it is improper to say “my eye sees the tree”, or “my hand touches the tree.” The fact is that I see the tree, I touch the tree. It is incorrect to say “My mind understands” or “my mind grasps this or that.” The fact is that I understand, I grasp this or that in a mental way.
The eye does not see for itself. I see with my eye. The eye is a living material prolongation of myself with which I see. My mind is not understanding itself, but I understand mentally something. Thus I knowingly live my spiritualized materiality always in dynamic relatedness to other things or persons.
Let us remember this well:  the expression “human senses” or the “human mind” have meaning only when I consider them within the totality of a living human being in the world. It follows that I am my eyes, I am my mind, I am my ears etc. I am all this as living knowingly my existence in the world.
When Socrates was about to drink the poison in prison, his friend asked him:  “Where shall we bury you?” Socrates mockingly pointed out that this expression “bury you” was wrong, because after death, he will not be there any more! There will not be any living, human Subject any more, and consequently no “you”. He correctly indicated that what remains after he dies, is not him all. The non-living remains are precisely that:  non-living remains. They are a thing, or rather many things, for a time having the appearance of unity. But even this appearance of unity vanishes gradually away, and the different elements join other more complex, different unities. We say that the body de-composes. That which remains after death is nothing human anymore. The appearance of unity is the vanishing after-effect of the one act of existence of this one living human form (Subject), which is no more there. Many other forms join the underlying materiality (prime matter) which, when this living Socrates existed was his materiality.
Now imagine a scientist, who would like to discover, what is life by studying those remains. He may discover a great number of things, and construct great many theories except one:  he will not know what life is. For the obvious reason that there is no life there.
The Subjective Idealist, as we recall, considers knowing as something that occurs totally within consciousness, shut up within itself, and aware only of conscious interests. Then, he asks how does this content correspond to extra-mental reality. He will never be able to answer it. In order to answer it he must reach, and compare, both sides of the relation. but he already decided for one only.
The Sensist or Empiricist considers knowing as a result of physical and physiological stimulation. There is a tree. From it light vibrations are reflected. Those light vibrations affect the retina of the eye and effect chemical changes. These are transmitted by the optical nerves to the optical brain center. But now what? Now a surprising thing happens:  I see the tree! I know the tree! How is the scientist to explain that? He never will. Why not? Because his whole approach to the question is based on a number of assumptions contrary to what really happens.
First he assumes that knowing is an end result of all those stages of physiological stimulation. He assumes that first there is a tree, then light vibrations, then affecting of the retina, then affecting of the optical nerves, then after that, – What? After all those stages of stimulation have taken their time, and run their course, then, he may imagine, that there is something inside me (?) (consciousness, mind, Self?), and this something is fed in the information about the outside tree. The fundamental mistake here is understanding the act of knowingly perceiving the tree as a telephone message. The objects are supposed to send messages which are picked up over receiving systems, then transmitted over the wires of our nerves to the brain (central board?), then they pass out the visual. This mysterious mind then interprets those messages by decoding the mysterious input according to some (inborn?) rules. The mind is like the spy, who processes the key to a complicated code of information. When the mind decodes them, mysteriously enough, it knows! But how does it know remains a mystery here.
Let us note first that a living human being is not a telephone! Next that the mysterious “decoder”, the mind is not a little ghost in a machine (Descartes), and third that such picture of the act of knowing would not be knowing at all. For how does the passive, waiting mind interpret the code? Decoding to what rules does the mind do it? How does the mind know that the decoding gives one insight about extra-mental reality? This is not knowledge. We are again on a road to nowhere.
Let us put together the basic observations made so far on knowledge.
First, in order to answer the question What is knowledge, or how do I know, I must presuppose a pre-reflective knowledge which I already have. I know already before I start reflecting on my knowledge. There is no other way open.
I must presuppose some knowledge, because to reflect on the problem of knowledge I must already be able to know. This presupposition is not gratuitous. Scientific knowledge is based on it, philosophic reflection must presuppose it. Thus I can only ask how can I justify my knowledge, how can I reflect on the validity of my knowledge, but I am not allowed to question or deny the very existence of knowledge. For I do have pre-reflective knowledge before I examine its nature.
Next I must note that knowing is a living and dynamic intentional activity of a human being who knows. This human being is both materiality and spirituality in one. Thus a human being knows as a totality. Both principles (materiality + spirituality) will be present in each act of knowledge (senses + mind).
Third knowledge is intentional activity. This means that knowledge is in the Subject, but of reality which is not the Subject. It is an immanent living activity about extra-mental reality. It intends the object.
Next all knowledge is reflective. This means that I not only know, but I know that I know. Knowing is knowing of one's own knowing. It means to be knowingly engaged in the activity of knowing.
Next knowledge is consciousness. To be conscious is to actively identify myself with myself. This is where I am most perfectly in touch with being itself. I am my own being and I know that I am my own being. This is existing as a human being. A stone is, but it does not know that it is, or what it is. An animal is and knows on sense-level other beings. But the animal does not know itself. The animal mind goes out to things, but it does not revert back to itself. There is no self-reflective knowledge there. In man we realize self-reflection. Thus we observe (from the stone upwards a gradual increase in immateriality of the form in question. The human form is  most immaterial of all the other forms. Its dependence on materiality still exists, but it is free from this dependence to a great extent. This freedom is the reason why man can know in an immaterial way. He can form universal principles and ideas (matter constricts, stiffens a being to the “here and now”, to this concrete individuality and singularity in space and time). The fact of universal principles and ideas present in human knowing cannot be denied. This needs some clarification. Each material object of this material is singular i.e. numerically one. This chair, this table, this book, this pencil etc. The chair has one act of existence, is made, it has this shape.
However, when I know a thing I know “what” it is. My idea of “chair” is not only of this here and now chair in front of me. Once I understand what does it mean that something is a chair, I know, I have an idea of all chairs, and any chair. My idea of a chair is universal. It applies to all chairs independently of space and time. I grasp the very nature, “whatness” or “essence” of chair. I grasp the meaning of the notion “chair”. My mental notion is free from the “here and the now”, and is valid by being applied to all beings which constitute the class “chair”. This constitutes immaterial universality of my ideas. Since it is materiality that concretizes and binds to the “here and the now” concrete singular existence, it is the character of my ideas that accounts for the universality of my mental knowing. Now this with which I form universal ideas, the power to do this, we call the mind. Ideas are the elements with which I judge. Every judgment in turn is a union of ideas compared with each other. Every judgment is some sort of affirmation whether it is negative (A is not B) or an affirmative (A is B). Let us note parenthetically, that a Materialist, a Radical Sensist, or Radical Positivist, covertly or openly does not take into account the immaterial character of my mental spirit or knowing. If we take him seriously, he simply dislikes knowledge. In any case human knowledge.
The “a priori” and “a posteriori” in human knowledge. Let us recall that by “a posteriori” we mean “coming from  object, the experienced “other”, and by “a priori” we shall understand “from the knowing subject”. It is obvious that both elements must be present whenever there is act of knowledge. Since knowledge is of another, there must be “a posteriori” present, and since knowledge is an immanent living, dynamic activity of the knower, there must be “a priori” elements present. In every act of knowing both elements interpenetrate each other, or there is no knowledge. Knowledge is some sort of union between the known and the knower. It seems that we arrived at a contradiction:  on one hand there must be an intellectual knowledge since elements come from within, on the other hand our knowledge comes entirely “through the senses”, from without. This is only a seeming contradiction. We never have any knowledge without some contribution from the sense and some contribution from the intellect. The contribution of the mind (intellect) consists in the first affirmation or first principles. (“whatever is, is”, “a being cannot be, and not be, at the same time under the same aspect”, Every being must have a sufficient reason for its existence”, “Every contingent being must have an efficient cause”, “every being acts for an end”).
Those affirmations or judgments are called principles, because they are beginnings of knowledge. They come from the mental power (mind) in us. We know them habitually and we know that they are valid always and everywhere, wherever applicable.
Let us note carefully that although we naturally possess those principles because we are endowed with the mind, we do not explicitly discover them “in” our intelligence without or before or independently of, some sense-experience. As soon as I get in touch by means of sense with some object, those principles are discovered in intelligence as valid. Thus we discover them in the object as known by intelligence in the act of knowing. The mind sees the object in the light of those principles. This light comes from the object as reflection of the mind's light thrown at the object first.
An example always helps. Suppose you drive a car at night. Within the beams of your car's headlight you see a road sign. The road sign is known within the light, and it reflects the light of your headlights. Note well:  without the light, you would not know the sign. But the light does not originate in the sign. It is because the sign is within the beam of light that it becomes luminous itself, “lights up” and is known by you. What is known is not the light itself, but the sign as illumined, becomes known to you.
We do not possess any inborn ideas. Every idea supposes the cooperation of the senses. Without this sense-cooperation it does not exist.  I do not have any idea of color unless I see color first; I will never have any idea of a tree unless I see a tree. This goes for everything I know. All knowledge requires sense-contribution. Nothing is in the intellect that somehow is not in senses too.
Knowledge is a dynamic living activity. Both our senses and our mind are active, intentional faculties with which to know. Knowledge occurs within us, but its object is outside of us. But the object must – to be known – somehow be present within the knower. This presence of the object in the knower is not physical. When I know the tree, the tree is not physically present in me. It is growing in the yard over there. Nevertheless the object is somehow in the knower. This presence of the object we call intentional. Let us recall again that the knower is intentional towards the object. Knowing is a dynamic, active reaching towards the object, by the knower. All conscious activities are in-tending something. They are directed outside towards reality. (I love something, I am conscious of something, I decide something, I judge about something). This intentionality of consciousness is a given fact. In knowing something, I reach, I grasp the object knowingly. Since I am material, and since knowledge is a union with the object in this world, there is necessarily a physical and physiological impact (impression). This impact is the prolongation of the object in the animated materiality of the knower. This impact is actually an aspect of the act of knowledge. The act of knowledge is the conscious illuminating meeting with the object. If the object is not actually present in itself there must be at least a revived former impact which will serve as an impression. In that case the knower produces an image of the object or an idea, it “experiences” the object vicariously.
Let us note well that the material meeting of the knower with the materiality of the object (sensation) is   completely    permeated  with the living mental light of the knower. Sensation is one element or aspect – although a necessary one – of the total living act of knowledge in which the materiality of the knower is permeated through and through by the dynamic presence of the mental aspects. There are two aspects, but one activity of knowing in which the living human knower meets the object intentionally present in the knower, within the light of the knower.Neither the senses nor the mind know, as it were separately, but they are dynamic extensions in which the knower becomes present knowingly, and unites with the object known. Knowing is neither “subjective” nor “objective”, it is both. “A priori”, and “a posteriori” elements are, in an act of knowledge actively meeting in one, living dynamic and conscious act. Whatever is known is known according to the knower's mode of knowing. Knowledge admits degrees. To what extent a being knows depends on the degree to which it possesses awareness and consciousness. Since knowledge implies some sort of freedom from the bonds of sheer materiality, the degree to which a being knows will correspond to the degree it manifests such freedom (the law of complexity-consciousness – Teilhard de Chardin). In man we observe the highest degree of freedom from materiality in his needs of existing, and his mode of knowing. This is why man, and only man, developed religion, philosophy, science, art. None of those would have been possible without the immateriality and thus universality of man's mode of knowing.
Knowledge therefore is a fact. Man knows himself in knowing relation to the community of other beings. He knows that there are other things and what those things are. He knows that the world in which he lives is an active system of beings, because he acts and reacts to them. Man's knowledge is real. It is not creative, but reflective. This position which steers in between Idealism and Sensistic Skepticism we shall call Moderate Intellectualism. Man is neither a disembodied mind, not “a ghost in a machine” (Plato, Descartes), nor a passive “bundle of perceptions” (David Hume), nor “nothing but a system of behavioral patterns (Behaviorism).

Man is a living oneness of materiality in spirituality; a dynamic Subject-in-the-world, capable of intellectual knowledge. For he is always engaged in a conscious search for a more unified, and meaningful understanding of himself and his role within the horizon of his human knowledge.
The principle:  whatever is known, is known according to the knower's mode of knowing spells not only the specificity of human knowing, but also the limitations of human knowing.The different factors which limit human knowledge are so numerous that we shall mention only the most obvious, and basic without pretending to have exhausted the list.
A.        The fact of my materiality or my bodiliness. As explained already, the fact that I am material limits my existence and knowledge to a definite place, at a definite time:  to the “here and now”. I must extrapolate.
My knowledge is limited by the structure, the number and the “power” of my senses. Since they are selective and limited, so must be my knowledge. This fact makes my knowledge egocentric, and perspectival. Every human knower is the center from which he knows in a perspectival way. This egocentric predicament of man's being and knowing is an unavoidable, powerful limiting predicament.
My materiality imposes limitations on my mind. No human knowledge is ever complete, without the probability of growth and improvement. Thus, at any moment of my life, what I know is very, very little, but what I do not know is practically infinite.
B.        Cultural, Social and Psychological Determinants.
I am born into a definite environment:  from the very beginnings of my life I am subject to, and fashioned by the totality of the culture into which I am born. My modes of behavior, my feelings, my thoughts, my beliefs, my interests are to a great extent the result of the powerful influence of environment. The social molding of my person is continuous and persistent. I cannot escape it.
Thus, I absorb all the valuable elements, the true and the positive, but also all the prejudices, phobias, false mythologies and beliefs, the destructive, and inhuman ways of living, thinking, judging and acting. In short, I absorb all the evils of my social acculturation process. Needless to say that to a great extent I am all my life a prisoner of those external molding factors. Insofar as I remain in an uncritical mode of naive acceptance alone I do not live really my life, “I am lived” by the powers which mold me. In order to authentically live my existence there is the demand for constant critical evaluation of my environmental influences. I must develop the courage to think for myself, or remain enslaved, and manipulated all my life.
The modern society has at its disposal far more powerful means of propaganda and manipulation than ever before in human history:  radio, press, television, penetration of private life, investigation of each individual by police. All those potent factors, if I submit, gradually kill independent thinking and enslave me into becoming a worshiper of the idols of the time.
The psychological factors, conscious or subconscious are also powerful limitations of my knowledge. My interests may become determined by motives, urges, which if not controlled and directed, can ruin my life. Many lives have been ruined tragically by uncontrolled destructive passions, which gradually took possession of the whole personality. Since it is not our concern to go into detail here, we mention only those factors briefly. Their importance, however, should not be overlooked. There are too many people in mental asylums in our times. Their sickness puts a question mark on the sanity of the society in which they lived before ending up in a mental institution. The instinctual guidance the animals are endowed with has been denied to man. If there is no vision of meaning, a kind of focus on which my life is centered, there will be no direction, no unifying center of my life. I may find myself in a state of “existential vacuum” (V. E. Frankl) a decentralized, dissipated state of boredom and blindness of mind. This may easily lead to the decay of my whole personality and reduce my life to a level of senseless vegetation.
All limitations of knowledge are also limitations of my freedom, and my whole life.
Thoughts for Reflection
1.         Knowledge has been quite often compared to light. Life is a dynamic “going towards”. Evaluate the functions of light in everyday experience. Is it a proper analogy to the function of knowledge in human life?
2.         Since people make errors of judgment is therefore all knowledge undermined?
3.         The Subjective Idealist denies the possibility of knowing extramental reality altogether. What do you think is the basic assumption leading to such position? Is it justifiable?
4.         The position of the extreme Sensist (David Hume) leads to Skepticism. Why?
5.         Can the Skeptic remain consistent with his own philosophy?
6.         Reflect on the following statements. Do you agree or not?
            a) “I think therefore I am.” (Rene Descartes)
            b) “Mental events are only brain changes; and thinking is speaking soundlessly.”
            c) “One never really knows other minds.”
            d) “Perhaps all knowledge is nothing but illusion.”
            e) “Is not my life a kind of dreaming?”
            f) “Knowledge is the factor that changes the world. It is the source of all meaning for man.”
            g) “The most reliable way of life is the one based on “common sense”.
7.         Computers are sometimes called “thinking machines”. Do computers really think?
8.         Why should man strive to bring under control his blind animal passions. Why not”let them loose”? Is reason really so important in human life? Is not a “life by passions” far more exciting and colorful?
9.         The Positivist believes that “special sciences” are the only “true” and reliable sources of knowledge. Any question which is “unscientific” is therefore meaningless. What do you think? Can you point to meaning human questions which are “unscientific”?
10.       Faith
            a) What assurance can man have that his/her belief is truly from God?
            a) What elements must be present to constitute one as authority?
            b) By what criterion do you select one authority above another?
            a) What part do emotions play in influencing thinking processes?
            b) How do attitudes of bias, prejudice, credulity, indecisiveness, timidity, sloth, fear, rigidity, submissiveness influence the individual's reasoning?
            a) Is all knowledge reducible to sense-data?
            b) Is all knowledge reducible to “ideas in the mind”?
            Common Sense
            a) Is “Common Sense” an unquestionable source of true knowledge?
            b) How does “Common Sense” influence an individual's modes of learning?
            c) Can we liberate ourselves from the influence of “Common Sense”?
11.       Since human knowledge obviously is a limited and finite knowledge, does this mean that it is worthless?
12.       Why do we call the positions of Subjective Idealism (Berkeley) and Extreme Sensism or Empiricism (D. Hume) “roads leading to nowhere”?
13.       Why is Skepticism a “road leading to nowhere?”
14.       What is pre-reflective” knowledge?
15.       Why must all science and all philosophical reflection be based on pre-reflective knowledge?

For Further Reflection Study Also:

Donceel, J. F.
Philosophical Anthropology, New York, Sheed and Ward, 1967. (Chapters: I, IV, V ,VIII.)
Hassett, J. D.
Mitchell, R. A.
Monan, D.
The Philosophy of Human Knowing, Westminster, Maryland, The Newman Press, 1967.
Heisenberg, W.
Physics and Philosophy, New York, Harper and Row, Publ., 1958.
Schrodinger, E.
Mind and Matter, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1958.
Gunderson, K.
Mentality and Wackiness, Garden City, Audion Books, 1971.
Hamlyn, D. W.
The Theory of Knowledge. Garden City, Doubleday, 1970.
Montague, H. P.
The Ways of Knowing, New York, Macmillan, 1925.
Polanyj, Michael
Personal Knowledge:  Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1958.
Selections from Classics:Any Edition
Plato: Thaetetus.
Descartes:  On the Nature of the Human Mind.
J. Locke: An Essay on the Human Understanding
Berkeley: Principles of Human Knowledge.
D. Hume: An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding