Volume 10, Issue 2, 2013
A Journal of Analytic Scholasticism
Scientific Knowledge and the Metaphysics of Experience The Debate in Early Modern Aristotelianism
Early modern commentaries on Aristotle’s Metaphysics contain a lively debate on whether experience is ‘rational’, so that it may count as ‘proto-knowledge’, or whether experience is ‘non-rational’, so that experience must be regarded as a primarily perceptual process. If experience is just a repetitive apprehension of sensory contents, the connection of terms in a scientific proposition can be known without any experiential input, as the ‘non-rational’ Scotists state. ‘Rational’ Thomists believe that all principles of scientific knowledge must rely on experiential data, because experience consists in an apprehension of facts rather than objects. And it is only apprehension of facts that can justify knowledge of principles. In this context, the role of mathematical knowledge is special, because it is self-evident. So Thomists must either show that mathematical principles do rely on experience, or that they do not express knowledge claims.