Perception Theory and Analytic Philosophy

Setting the stage for this study on Aquinas and perception theory requires a discussion both of the analytic tradition and of the development of classical neo-Thomism. It is in the realm of analytic philosophy where significant recent creative and constructive work in Aquinas’s philosophy of mind has arisen.[1]

This study on Aquinas follows in the wake of renewed interest in Aristotelian philosophy of mind—a study of merely historical interest when foundationalist epistemology dominated discussions in English-speaking philosophy. Moreover, as Kenny noted, unless a person merely lists what a philosopher has said, in doing the history of philosophy one cannot help but philosophize. Ted Honderich commented on the importance of scholarship in the history of philosophy:

Philosophy has a peculiarly close relation with its own traditions. The problems and arguments of the great thinkers of the past are a permanently present element in the contemporary debate. At any time a significant portion of the best work in philosophy is historical, enriching the current practice of philosophy with ideas arrived at by thinking through and reassessing the work of one of the great philosophers in the near or distant past.[2]

It is in the spirit of Kenny’s observation and Honderich’s assertion that this book on Aquinas’s theory of sensation and perception has been undertaken. The arguments developed in the following chapters attempt to shed light from the perspective of analytic philosophy on those issues in sensation and perception discussed by Aquinas but so far mainly neglected in studies in the history of philosophy.

  • [1] John Haldane, ‘The Metaphysics of Intellect(ion), in Intelligence and the Philosophy of Mind: Proceedingsof the American Catholic Philosophical Association 80 (2006), 38-55.
  • [2] Ted Honderich, ‘Introduction’ in Ted Honderich and Myles Burnyeat (eds), Philosophy As It Was(New York: Penguin, 1984), 3.
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