THE SCOPE OF PHILOSOPHY
by John Young
(Warrane College, University of New South Wales, 2008, 339pp,$20.00.
Available from Freedom Publishing)
The Scope of Philosophy is clearly and simply written. These qualities, together with the arrangement of the material, will enable attentive readers to bring to birth in their minds essential concepts for understanding philosophy.
The philosophy promoted in this work is that of St Thomas Aquinas, but neither St Thomas nor anyone else is appealed to as an authority. This philosophy derives its authority from its own rational evidence and is presented because it is demonstrably true.
John Young is a specialist in Thomism and, in the spirit of a true Thomist and displaying a power of penetrating analysis, he is able to recognise what contours of truth lie hidden in the systems of other phil- osophers. Thereafter, whether by direct exposition or by 'objection and reply' technique, he finely adjusts any aberrations and corrects any errors in these philosophies - philosophies such as Idealism, Empiricism, Postmodernism, Pragmatism and others which adversely influence the thinking of the present age.
More important than the refutation of error is the presentation of truth. In this work it is emphasised that attaining truth in philosophical matters begins with the natural and spontaneous apprehensions and judg- ments of the human intellect.
Because these apprehensions and judgments are insufficiently perfect to answer objections which may be posed, one of the tasks of philosophy is to penetrate more deeply into the reality signified by these concepts.
In this process it is readily seen that the resolution of these concepts is into being - into the depths of reality. Indeed, this resolution into being is a mark of all philosophical concepts.
Herein lies the distinction between philosophy and the empirical sciences; the latter resolve their concepts into what Sir Arthur Eddington has called 'a schedule of pointer readings.' So it is that philosophy is a science in its own right and distinct from any empirical science or complex of empirical sciences.
It is difficult to say whether any chapter of the book is more engagingly informative than another. The chapters 'Knowledge in General', 'Sense Knowledge' and 'Intellectual Knowledge' seem to be the key of the work. Admittedly, some technical terms are used in these chapters, but gaining an understanding of these terms presents no difficulty because they are defined well and the function of the reality they signify is adequately explained.
The concept, or idea, is shown to be an immaterial quality inhering in a power (the intellect), from which it follows that the intellect itself is immaterial. Given the immateriality of the intellect and that the intellect is a power of the soul, John Young rightly argues to the immateriality (spirituality) of the human soul. In addition, since the intellect is a power of knowing, it has subordinate to it a power of loving which is called the will.
As to the freedom of the will, three cogent arguments are given for free will. From here one is led to consider the nature of morality and a very fine chapter on Moral Philosophy follows.
For the level at which The Scope of Philosophy aims it is doubtful whether anywhere there is a better discussion of metaphysical being. Here, a remarkable and necessary insight into the meaning of essence ordered to existence is given.
To complete the discussion whether being is in the mind through intellection, the first principles must be defended. These principles cannot be proven, but they are defended by manifesting the evidence for each and reducing each to the supreme principle (the principle of contradiction).
In Ontology, the Heraclitean- Parmenidean dispute about being and becoming presents itself. This dilemma can be resolved only if the notion of the analogy of being is admitted. (Analogy is most important in understanding the proofs of God's existence and for a correct understanding of God's perfections as they can be known by the human intellect.)
The solution of the dilemma mentioned above enables readers to advert to the existence of act and potency which divide between them the totality of created being.
The importance of act and potency cannot be over-emphasised, for wherever there is a philosophical act there is act and potency. Study of this well written section will pay great dividends, especially if the section on analogy is mastered.
Certain aspects of the book's layout deserve comment. The schematic summaries are well placed and should help the students to distinguish correctly, to recall easily and, above all, not to lose their way! The bibliography is extensive and will be an asset to those who wish to further their studies.
Thought has gone into the arrangement of the general index inasmuch as headings are given for quick reference not only to the topic required but also to the specific aspect of the topic.
Some years ago an exceedingly intelligent man confessed that, although he had spent many years reading philosophy books, the essentials and unity of the discipline eluded him. Had The Scope of Philosophy been available to him then, most of his labour would have been far more productive. Indeed, those who have studied The Scope of Philosophy would agree that John Young stands among the modern midwives of philosophy.
John Whitty is a retired secondary school teacher who has made a lifelong study of philosophy.