Four Kinds of Knowledge: Revealed Knowledge, Speculative Knowledge, Scientific Empirical Knowledge, Practical Empirical Knowledge. This book is intended as a discussion of human knowledge and a denial of the 'problem' of human knowledge usually studied under the name of 'epistemology', a branch of philosophy forbidden to those who accept the claim of St. Thomas Aquinas that things are true.
From a philosophical or theological viewpoint, epistemology is a sin of sort, a dangerously corrupting ﬁeld of study. St. Thomas Aquinas never spoke of the so-called problems of knowledge. Etienne Gilson was the most prominent and plausible Thomist of modern times; Gilson denied that his good friend Jacques Maritain was a true Thomist just because Maritain was willing to discuss problems of knowledge with modern philosophers and theologians.
St. Thomas Aquinas went so far as to say that things were true. Modern thinkers will generally say that only statements can be true. For example, the statement “The ball is red” can be true, but the ball, as a thing, cannot be true. Aquinas claimed that the red ball is true just because it exists. Once things are seen as being true and truths are seen as thing-like, we should have no more questions as to the grounds and nature of knowledge, though there remains much about human perception and cognition that needs studying. Still, even there, a Christian would have the faith that we have the proper perceptual organs and proper intellectual talents to see and understand what God has manifested in this universe.
We are physical creatures and what we know comes through our physical organs of perception. Truth comes from what we learn from the things which surround us. It is a sign of our corruption that we retreat from our own physical nature and from the physical world into which we are born, pretending that – by some unknowable act of magic – we can have some sort of knowledge which transcends our own natures and those of the things around us. Our apish ancestors didn’t come into this world knowing 1 + 1 = 2. They knew that two handfuls of berries were better than one. It took centuries for men to train their minds to imagine these abstract truths and that very process seems to have left us with the delusion that these abstract truths came to us independent of those two handfuls of berries.
To exist is to be true. From a Christian perspective, this is clearly a proper claim because things are manifestations of thoughts of God. Often, things with complicated histories can be better regarded, from the human viewpoint, as being the results of stories told by God, but that just adds another layer of complication to the insight that they are manifestations of thoughts of God. To speak in this more complicated way is far better because it emphasizes something that is obvious with an unbiased reading of the Bible: God is both the Transcendent God, I-Am, and also the story-telling and story-participating God of the book of Exodus and the Gospel of Matthew. God’s thoughts – including His stories – are true and, thus, things are true and events are true. Moreover, abstract truths are true. Those abstract truths accessible to human beings come from God in His immanent role as Creator and Author just as things come also from God in His freely-chosen role.
I repeat that there are no problems with human knowledge in theology or philosophy as free-standing enterprises. That means that ultimately there are no problems with human knowledge. After all, theology deals with God the Creator and any existing thing is a image of God, that is, any existing thing is a manifestation of thoughts of God. Moreover, Christian theology is based upon revelations of the Incarnate Son of God, revelations which even tell us something about God’s inner life, about the relationships between Father and Son and Holy Spirit.