Volume 92, 2018
Philosophy, Catholicism, and Public Life
Fr. James Dominic Rooney, OP
Believing the Incomprehensible God
Aquinas on Understanding God’s Testimony
There has been recent epistemological interest as to whether knowledge is “transmitted” by testimony from the testifier to the hearer, where a hearer acquires knowledge “second-hand.” Yet there is a related area in epistemology of testimony which raises a distinct epistemological problem: the relation of understanding to testimony. In what follows, I am interested in one facet of this relation: whether/how a hearer can receive testimonial knowledge without fully understanding the content of the testimony? I use Thomas Aquinas to motivate a case where, in principle, the content of received testimony cannot be understood but nevertheless constitutes knowledge. Aquinas not only argues that we can receive testimonial knowledge without understanding the content of that testimony, but that we have duties to do so in certain cases.