Stevin Seminar: ‘Our’ Common Knowledge. Epistemic Constellations and the A priori in the Early Stoa, in Arabic Philosophy, and in Medieval Latin Philosophy
Lecturer: Wouter Goris
If Kant, in a famous passage in the first Critique (A166-7), refers to Epicurus to connect his anticipation of perception with the latter’s notion of prolēpsis, this prolēpsis, meanwhile comfortably embedded in the opposition between the empirical and the transcendental, is defined in contradistinction to one of its main characteristics in Epicureanism and the Early Stoa: its empirical character. Between Epicurus and Kant, the history of the a priori is enacted. In this contribution, we present some stages of this history. Instead of analyzing a continuity, however, we set out to describe the way different epistemic constellations put into operation like formal structures. In the Early Stoa, in Arabic Philosophy, and in Medieval Latin Philosophy, we encounter the idea of natural conceptions common to all mankind. In each of these traditions, this idea is put forward to provide an answer to the Meno-paradox. And in each of these traditions, finally, we can observe a specific tension between the empirical and the transcendental dimensions of these natural conceptions. Judged from the history of philosophy, we are confronted here with the question of reason, the inalienable associate of human nature, and the need to allow for anthropological constants. Judged from the variety of epistemic constellation, however, the question is rather how these discourses create the illusion of continuity.
Wouter Goris is professor of the history of ancient, patristic and medieval philosophy at the VU University