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Philosophy is the science of ultimate grounds. What is
sophy? It will be seen, by reference to the tabular view of the sciences in the Introduction, that Rosmini draws a clear distinction between the terms philosophy and metaphysics, employing the latter in the limited sense of Science of the Real, which, according to him, includes Cosmology, Ontology, and Natural Theology. Thus the term metaphysics, while narrower than philosophy, is wider than ontology (cf. Preface to Metaphysical Works, in Psychology, vol. i. pp. 5–16, where these distinctions are treated at length).
The above definition of Philosophy does not differ materially from that of Leibniz, who calls it “the science of sufficient reasons"; or from that of Descartes, who makes it "the science of things evidently deduced from first principles (cf. Hamilton's Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic, vol. i. pp. 48–53, where a list of the more famous definitions of philosophy, ancient and modern, are given). It approaches, perhaps, still more closely the definition which Aristotle gives of wisdom (copía), "the science which considers first principles and causes (επιστήμη των πρώτων αρχών και αιτιών Oew pntikń." Metaph., i. 2, 982 b, 9); and it coincides with the definition of first philosophy, which St. Thomas in part borrows from Aristotle. “The philosopher," says he, mean
ing Aristotle, "determines it (i.e. first philosophy) to be the science of truth, not of truth in general, but of that truth which is the origin of all truth, that is, which relates to the first universal principle of being (primum principium essendi omnibus ” (Summa contra Gent., cap. i.; cf. Aristotle, Metaph., i.1, 993 b, 20). Rosmini condemns several other definitions of philosophy, especially those of Hobbes, Galluppi, Plato, and Wolf. Hobbes had defined philosophy as “a knowledge, acquired by correct reasoning, of effects or phenomena from their conceived causes or generations, and also of possible generations from known effects” (Computatio sive Logica, cap. i.). In regard to this Rosmini says, “Since from effects alone or from phenomena alone, without the aid of the ideal object, we can know only the proximate causes, or, more properly speaking, the laws, according to which sensible things change, philosophy is destroyed by this definition, and there remain only physics and the natural sciences, usurping the title of philosophy (Pref. to Metaph. Works, § 14). Of Galluppi's definition, which makes philosophy “the science of human thought,"
"But human thought is only the instrument wherewith philosophy finds and contemplates its objects, and these, among which the greatest is God, cannot in the smallest degree be reduced to thought. It would be a most manifest absurdity to say that the science of God, which certainly belongs to philosophy, treats of nothing but human thought” (Ibid., § 15). In regard to the remark of Plato, that the philosopher “devotes himself always to the idea of being” (τη του όντος αεί προσκείμενος ιδέα. Soph. 254, A), he says, “On the contrary, the idea of being must guide the human mind to discover the absolute and most real being, this being the end of all its speculations-an end which it reaches, not through any idea, but through affirmation and intuition” (Ibid., § 16).
To Wolf's definition of philosophy as “the science of things possible,” he objects : " Possibilities do not by any means constitute the grounds of things in their completeness, being but a single element of those grounds. Contingent things, for example, do not exist merely because they are possible, but because, being
possible, a first cause has created them ” (Ibid.). These objections help to make clear Rosmini's view of the sphere and functions of philosophy, and the cardinal distinction which he makes between ideal being, which is in itself intelligible, and real being, which is intelligible only through the other. When he asserts (Theosophy, vol. i. § 6) that "the real, as merely real, signifies nothing, not going beyond itself or expressing anything but itself,” and that it “goes beyond the power of natural signs, altogether beyond the power of any spoken word, however eloquent, and of any writing, however learned, elegant, and sublime it may appear," he comes very near drawing that distinction which, at first sight, seems to involve an absurd paradox, but which is, nevertheless, strictly true—the distinction, namely, between thought and knowledge. Thought being the mere instrument of knowledge (the quo cognoscimus, as the Scholastics say), and knowledge being that which thought accomplishes (quod cognoscimus), it follows that thought and knowledge are absolutely exclusive with respect to each other ; that what is known cannot, as such, be thought; and that what is thought cannot, as such, be known. It is the failure to observe this distinction that has led Herbert Spencer and others into their strange muddle respecting the unknowable, by which they mean the unthinkable. Ideas are thinkable but absolutely unknowable ; things are knowable but absolutely unthinkable.
In regard to Science, the genus of which philosophy is · a species, Rosmini approves of the view expressed by
Aristotle in the Later Analytics, where he says, “We think we know a thing absolutely (Kaotov árlūs), and not in the sophistical, accidental way, when we think we know the cause which produced it, know that that is the cause of that thing, and know that it must be the cause of that thing” (cap. ii. 71 b, 9 sq.). He, moreover, distinguishes between the subjective and objective senses of the term. “The word science," he says, "has a universal sense, equivalent to that of cognition ; but it is also employed in a more restricted sense, to signify a particular mode of cognition. In this limited sense it may be regarded either subjectively, that is, as possessed by man, the knowing subject, or objectively, as knowable, as that which is intuited by a mind” (Logic, § 825). In the former view it is equivalent to philosophy; in the latter, it means “an entire system of demonstrated cognitions, depending upon a single principle” (Ibid., § 836).
It is instructive to compare with these views respecting science and philosophy, the definitions of these terms given by Herbert Spencer. “Science,” says that writer, “is partially unified knowledge; Philosophy is completely unified knowledge” (First Principles, Part II. cap. i. § 37). It follows from this that we have not at present any philosophy, and indeed, that only omniscience is philosophy, and God the only philosopher.
Ultimate grounds are the answers which satisfy the last why's put by the human mind to itself.
It thus appears that the final, self-sufficient test of truth is perfect mental satisfaction, the cessation of all desire for further evidence or explanation. This satisfaction, being of the nature of a feeling, is immediate, given, and, therefore, incapable of explanation. Why does truth satisfy ? is a foolish question. We may, nevertheless, discover and state the conditions under which such satisfaction is felt, and, in so doing, we shall discover and state the conditions of truth itself. It is almost unnecessary to say that by grounds (ragioni) Rosmini does not mean causes. Indeed, he finds fault with Aristotle for confounding the two terms. “ What Aristotle calls cause (aitía)," he says, “ought more correctly to be called ground, the term properly belonging to the order of the knowable, with which he is dealing (Logic, $ 827). The passage referred to is the one quoted above, p. I. According to Rosmini, a ground is “that light which enables the mind (spirito) to know that what any given judgment affirms in the order of possibility, is”
(Ibid., § 188). "A ground is always an idea, simple or complex ; but the terms ground and idea differ as two different modes of regarding the same thing. Ground indicates the logical necessity which the mind feels of assenting to a possible judgment. It is, therefore, a virtue which emanates from the intuition of the necessary nexus between two or more ideas, which nexus, however, as intuited by the mind, may likewise be called an idea” (Ibid., § 192). “The grounds which justify assent to any possible judgment are either intrinsic or extrinsic. A ground is intrinsic when the judgment requires no other proof, foreign to it, in order to appear true to the mind of any one who examines it with sufficient care. .. A ground is extrinsic when the mind, in order to be convinced of the truth of a possible judgment, is obliged to have recourse to some judgment different from the first” (Ibid., SS 193, 195). In reference to the relation of grounds to reality, we have the following statements:-“Things real must be treated in the doctrine of ultimate grounds. First, because ground is a word whose signification is relative to that whose ground is sought, and that whose ground is sought is the real.
Hence it follows that real things, as such, do not constitute the object of philosophy, but merely its occasion and condition. Philosophy deals with them, because it deals with their possibilities and their ultimate sufficient grounds. Second, because the first ground requires a reality coessential with it, . . . and hence cannot be fully known without the knowledge of that first reality which constitutes it, not as a ground, but as complete and absolute being containing within itself the ground of all things ” (Psychology, Pref., § 13). It is needless to say that ultimate grounds are, of necessity, intrinsic, immediate, and self-evident. Rosmini, in common with Aristotle * and St. Thomas,f and in opposition to Hegel,I
* «'Ανάγκη και την αποδεικτικής επιστήμην έξ άληθών τ’ είναι και πρώτων και αμέσων και γνωριμωτέρων και προτέρων και αιτίων του συμπεράσματος” (Αnal. Post., ii. .71 b, 20 sq.).
+ “Per se, et directe intellectus est universalium, sensus autem singularium” (Summa Theol., p. i. q. lxxxvi., concl.).
$ “Logisch ist der Anfang, indem er im Elemente des frei für sich seienden