The Philosophy of Logic

Francisco Bonnin Aguilo (1982), quoting Józef Maria Bocheński (1966), states in a short essay that in the history of thought there is perhaps no other philosophical and scientific term that has adopted as many meanings throughout history as that of Logic. This is not surprising, he says, since it is one of the core categories of Western philosophy—a trajectory that goes from Aristotelian logic, through Stoic logic, medieval logic, Kantian logic, Hegelian logic, Marxist dialectical logic, to contemporary mathematical logic with its diversity of variants and nuances.

Following Aguilo’s work, “El concepto de la lógica a lo largo de la historia de la filosofía” [“The concept of logic throughout the history of philosophy”], the approach of W. & M. Kneale (1972) is complemented, particularly in his other work entitled, “El Desarrollo de la Lógica” [“The Development of Logic”], which gives a brief description of the evolution of the conceptual treatment of Logic, this being one of the starting points of the Philosophy of Logic, or what is the same thing, the answer to the question, “What is Logic?” In this sense, we may briefly note, for example, that the bases of Aristotelian logic, which took as a reference the previous logical tradition, were the first great systematization of Logic.

Thus, it is correct to point out that we owe to Aristotle the very foundational act of this branch of knowledge. For Aristotle, logic is the analysis of the principles according to which reality is articulated. The syllogism, therefore, is the central pillar of Aristotelian logic, being nothing more than a form of reasoning of deductive character, formed by two propositions that are in turn the premises from which the syllogism starts and a third as a conclusion that includes the latter two. Deductive reasoning or deduction is an argumentation in which the conclusion is necessarily inferred from the previously stated premises; and this became the basis of scientific reasoning from then on, since it contributed to the demonstration of scientific knowledge. Therefore, in Aristotle, Logic is, according to Aguilo, the science of discourse.

Stoic logic complemented Aristotelian logic in the sense that it could be understood, with its use of truth tables of propositions, as the science of what is true, what is false and what is neither true nor false; that is, the science of the famous paradoxes.

For its part, medieval logic has its own treatment, which for the brevity of this paper we will not be able to cover, insofar as it can be divided into three stages, namely: (i) logica vetus, (ii) logica nova and (iii) logica modernorum. Notwithstanding this, for the medievalists, without taking into account the broad nuances, the conception of logic as scientia recte judicandi prevailed, which can be understood in two ways—as the act or as the process. As the act per se of judging rightly; that is, as the act that leads to correct or true knowledge; or as the process by which it can be obtained.

With the advent of the Renaissance, mathematics began to be considered as the most perfect expression of logic (Agulilo, 1982: 24). This opened two approaches to logic—understood as calculus and as epistemology. Subsequently, Leibniz came to be considered the creator of mathematical logic, while Descartes came to represent the epistemological approach. Regarding the latter approach, the following may be stated: Kant, although in line with Aristotelian logic, ultimately proposed a different logic that ended up opposing the formal logic of Aristotle, which he called transcendental logic, which was also distinguished from the later logic of Hegel, in the following sense:

“It is the application of logic within the realm of epistemology, leading to the delimitation of human knowledge. This is what Kant calls “transcendental logic”… This presupposes, as Descartes had established, conceiving reason as “Cogito,” that is, not as Platonic idea nor as Aristotelian definition, but as “thinking substance,” that is, thought assumed, not as formal content but as an act, as a spontaneous action or activity of the spirit on which human freedom is founded” (Mora, 2000).

With Marx, the “idea” of Hegelian logic (of a spiritualist metaphysical nature) becomes “matter.” For his part, and continuing with Aguilo’s exposition (1982), Lenin summarized the logical laws as three: unity of opposites; mutual convertibility of quantity and quality; and negation of negation. But for Aguilo, as a footnote, this Marxist dialectical logic would be logic by mere pareidolia, in the sense that it has more in common with an ordering of matter than with a science of reason or logos.

As for mathematical logic, as mentioned, Leibniz, although considered its creator, did not succeed in his project of systematizing logic as universal logic, as calculus ratiocinator universalis; that is, as a system that could be understood by all, like music and mathematics, based on absolute principles applicable to all possible worlds (Aguilo, 1982:2). Without detriment to this, these contributions served for later parallel developments, such as the work of Boole (1854), Gottlob Frege (1879), and so on, along with that of Weierstrass, Dedekind, Cantor, Peano, etc.

According to what we have seen, we understand that there are two types of Logic: a Philosophical Logic with its origin in Aristotle, and a Mathematical Logic with its origin in Leibniz. What is the common stroma, without blurring in any way their differences, of both, which may allow us to propose a unitary conceptualization of Logic? This common stroma, according to Aguilo, Bochenski, Kneale and Lukasiewicz, is in the process of formalization (by formalization we mean—to produce a model, a proposition, an argument, an equation or rule, in order to better explain or understand properties and relations relative to objects or phenomena that are the subject of study). In other words, Logic, from the philosophical to the mathematical, is the progressive formalization of the deductive process, i.e., Logic is the formal theory of deduction.

Israel Rene Lira is Member of the Peruvian Society of Philosophy and part of its Board of Directors as Secretary for the period 2020-2022 and is Deputy Director of the Center for Crisolist Studies and Head of its Department of Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economy. He also serves as the Legal Advisor in Contracts with the State, Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Boards. He is a Columnist for the newspaper The Truth of Lambayeque, and has authored over 240 articles on philosophy, science and politics. [The Spanish version of this article appeared in Dario La Verdad].

Featured: “When the Lights were Out,” by Rob Gonsalves; painted in 2013.

The Diversity of Science: A Personal View of the Search for God

In one of his most famous works, Contact, the American astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist Carl Sagan (1934-1996) speculates in the guise of a novel on what would be the possible social, economic, political, philosophical, scientific and theological repercussions of receiving an interstellar message from a civilization more advanced than ours and one that could be within reach of our terrestrial radio telescopes; with the subsequent plausibility of being decoded and translated. The protagonist of these events is astronomer Eleanor Arroway (inspired by astronomer Jill Cornell Tarter, who worked for the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence for more than 30 years), who in the novel directs the Argos project of SETI (a U.S. government project that still operates to this day).

The decoding and translation of the message, coming from the vicinity of the star Vega, in the constellation Lyra, shows it to be instructions for the construction of a Machine, a mechanism for the production of Einstein-Rosen bridges; that is to say, of wormholes or shortcuts through space-time, by means of which it is possible to displace matter and that would allow, for now only at a theoretical level, interstellar travel, by allowing us to travel the long distances of hundreds or thousands of light years in a matter of seconds, minutes or hours.

In Chapter 18, of the second part of the book, Eleanor (Ellie), along with four other scientists (Xi Qiaomu, Devi Sujavati, Abonneba Eda and Vasily Lunacharsky—in the film adaptation Ellie travels alone) is chosen for the preparations taking place at Hokkaido, Japan, where the Machine is located. In this context, Ellie and Eda have a spirited conversation on the subject that the Message and the manufacture of the Machine itself were bringing about a theological revolution in the whole world, since the atmosphere of a universal brotherhood was being experienced. In the meantime, Ellie (who throughout the novel makes clear her skeptical stance regarding the narrative of human religions) asks Eda if he has had any religious experience that led to an existential transformation, to which he replies that he has; and Ellie asks him to elaborate and explain when this happened. Eda replies as follows:

When I first picked up Euclid. Also when I first understood Newtonian gravitation. And Maxwell’s equations, and general relativity. And during my work on superunification. I have been fortunate enough to have had many religious experiences” (Sagan, 386).

Ellie replies to Eda negatively that by religious experience she was not referring to the awe and amazement that can be experienced in any field, but to the strictly religious; that is, to something alien to the plane of science, to which Eda replies, never; and that his religious experiences had always taken place in science. In all of Sagan’s work, the limits between religion and science are blurred, awe and amazement that is common to both branches of human knowledge. This is the starting point of another of his works, which is actually posthumous and the product of a compilation of his lectures at the Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology by Ann Druyan.

Regarding the relationship between religion and science, Sagan’s opinion is that their goals are identical or almost so, and that in reality the disruptive issue has more to do with the reliability of the truths proclaimed by both fields and the respective methods of approaching them (Sagan, 2007: 24). And that one of the best ways he knows of experiencing the religious feeling, that is, the feeling of awe, is to look up on a clear night; and that this can be reflected in both science and religion, endorsing in turn Einstein’s approach in his book, The World as I See It (1934), which is homologous in that sense: “I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.” Along that line, it would seem that religious sentiment would be clearly inevitable (Sagan, 2007: 50), similar to the position of the 18th century astronomer Edward Young who said: “An undevout astronomer is mad.” But devotion to what, Sagan asks himself; and the answer cannot be other than to the Cosmos and its terrible and unfathomable immensity; it is a love informed by the truth (Sagan, 2007: 53). And if there is a Creator God of the traditional type, Sagan says, our curiosity and intelligence come from him, because it is his creation which is the source of such admiration, and if he does not exist, that curiosity and intelligence are essential tools to manage our survival in an extremely dangerous era (Sagan, 2007: 53). Without prejudice to this, he concludes in this part:

In either case the enterprise of knowledge is consistent surely with science; it should be with religion, and it is essential for the welfare of the human species” (Sagan, 2007: 37).

Now, this part precisely connects with another chapter of the book entitled, “The God Hypothesis,” within the framework of natural theology, which Sagan understands as theological knowledge that can be acquired only through reason, experience and experiment; not through revelation or mystical experience, but only through reason (Sagan, 2007: 167).

An interesting idea derived from the treatment of this hypothesis is related to the concept of God, and it is important in this regard to provide some ideas on our part prior to this, since there are those who claim that scientific praxis has nothing to do with the faith of the scientist; that they are separate issues. Now, some theoretical physicists give us another vision and interesting ideas in this regard, showing us the close relationship between scientific praxis as a way to the constant search for the big questions that undoubtedly have a profound impact on the scientist’s faith. And the problem lies in the way of asking and approaching the question, i.e., the question, “Does God exist” can only be approached after having answered a previous question: What do you understand by the idea of God? A position known as ignosticism. And this question is not confined to the Christian experience alone, and not even to that of all theistic religions, but is also proper to philosophy.

On the other hand, the efforts of many who consider themselves atheists, in focusing on delegitimizing aspects of the mythology of many religions (understanding the term “myth” in its positive sociological and theological sense as sacred traditional history, and not in its negative or pejorative sense as farce, invented history or deception), in order to delegitimize aspects of the mythology of many religions (understanding the term “myth” in its positive sociological and theological sense as sacred traditional history, and not in its negative or pejorative sense as farce, invented story or hoax), especially Christian mythology (Christian mythology or true Christian myth, i.e., traditional narratives as realities whose historical correlates and empirical-archaeological references that gave rise to them are susceptible—contingently—to be traced, to a greater or lesser extent), when it is not a sincere attitude of methodical doubt, it becomes an exercise of intellectual dishonesty or a lack of objectivity typical of arguments ad ignorantiam, by the simple fact of invisibilizing with the narrative of the anti-religious discourse, the question about which concept of God is compatible with scientific knowledge, and therefore the approach to a more complex reality that transcends even theoretical physics itself and that ends up delegitimizing any atheistic narrative (especially of the most radical sectors that cannot conceive the idea of God outside traditional religions), and in the following sense:

Physicists who believe in this God, believe that the universe is very beautiful, that its absolute laws could not be an accident. The universe could have been totally random or composed of lifeless electrons and neutrinos, incapable of creating any kind of life, let alone intelligent life” (Kaku, 2008: 358).

It should be noted that the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, when referring to the idea of God, does so in allusion to a creator God or a universal superior intelligence of order and design (2008: 87). In this regard, Sagan has something to say about the hypothesis of God as we have commented; he specifies that regarding the word “God” there is a series of hypotheses that is immense, from the one he considers naive, where God is presented to us as an immense man, light-skinned, with a long white beard, who sits on a big throne and keeps track of every dead sparrow, to the one he makes his own:

Contrast this with a quite different vision of God, one proposed by Baruch Spinoza and by Albert Einstein. And this second kind of god they called God in a very straightforward way. Einstein was constantly interpreting the world in terms of what God would or wouldn’t do. But by God they meant something not very different from the sum total of the physical laws of the universe; that is, gravitation plus quantum mechanics plus grand unified field theories plus a few other things equaled God. And by that all they meant was that here were a set of exquisitely powerful physical principles that seemed to explain a great deal that was otherwise inexplicable about the universe. Laws of nature, as I have said earlier, that apply not just locally, not just in Glasgow, but far beyond: Edinburgh, Moscow, Peking, Mars, Alpha Centauri, the center of the Milky Way, and out by the most distant quasars known. That the same laws of physics apply everywhere is quite remarkable. Certainly that represents a power greater than any of us. It represents an unexpected regularity to the universe. It
need not have been. It could have been that every province of the cosmos had its own laws of nature. It’s not apparent from the start that the same laws have to apply everywhere.
Now, it would be wholly foolish to deny the existence of laws of nature. And if that is what we are talking about when we say God, then no one can possibly be an atheist, or at least anyone who would profess atheism would have to give a coherent argument about why the laws of nature are inapplicable.
I think he or she would be hard-pressed. So with this latter definition of God, we all believe in God
” (Sagan: 109).

About God, as Sagan rightly says, there are hypotheses; each religion has its hypothesis and its vision of God, from anthropomorphic and zoomorphic approaches to God, to their replacement by the current monotheism, that which envisions God as omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Now, I consider that the concept of God as Sagan puts it, should not be understood as something that aims to make science a new religion in the Comtian way or to scientify the current religions, but on the contrary, it is simply one more concept, within the wide range of possibilities that this idea generates, to be highly speculative (and as such the idea of God is expressed in its multiplicity of manifestations); a more materialistic conceptualization of God (which could be identified as pantheistic. However, if you read carefully, it is not saying that God and the material reality are the same; God and the existing totality, the Cosmos, are not said to be one and the same thing. But God is spoken of as a sum of very concrete questions, of the physical laws of the universe; a position closer to the deism that has been very characteristic of many scientists since the Copernican revolution), which can be in communion or not, be inclusive or not, be complementary or not, with the main dogmas of the institutional religions; its applicability to the gnoseological framework of each religion or vision of God being contingent. But what this materialistic conception of God is useful for us is to reaffirm the fact that there is no disruption between scientific praxis and the faith of the scientist (whether Christian or of any other religion, or receptive to the possibility as a hypothesis within a process of contingent conversion), that rather instead rather than being disjunct issues, they are binding and feed back on each other.

It is worth concluding this paper with Sagan’s impressions of traditions and institutional religions. On tradition Sagan spared no effort in affirming that tradition is something precious, a kind of synthesis of tens or hundreds of thousands of generations of humans. It is a gift from our ancestors; it being essential to remember that tradition is a human social construction whose objectives are perfectly pragmatic (Sagan, 2007: 209). But he also did not hesitate to affirm that while some traditions are maintained over time, others change and must change at the same speed as conditions do (Sagan, loc. cit.). Likewise, and regarding religions, although he does not hesitate to point out that religions have often served as a means for political authorities to maintain themselves in power, that is, as a means of social control, this does not mean that this is the only form of manifestation of religion in human history; there is a spurious component as well as a virtuous one; and his conclusion in this regard is clear:

By no means does it follow that religions thereby have no function, or no benign function. They can provide in a very significant way, and without any mystical trappings, ethical standards for adults, stories for children, social organization for adolescents, ceremonials and rites of passage, history, literature, music, solace in time of bereavement, continuity with the past, and faith in the future. But there are many other things that they do not provide” (Sagan, 2007: 129).

Regarding this last quotation, our final comments are that religion as a social phenomenon—regardless of its gnoseological value—is a universal fact worthy of study; inasmuch as far from disappearing with the advent of scientific thought, it has been maintained and has merged with the culture of various peoples, forming part of their heritage and traditions. It is true that religion has had many forms of instrumentalization through human history (as has science), from a benevolent sense as the basis of a moral normative and an eschatology whose vision has had an impact on art, architecture and music (which in science is the improvement of the quality of life of all mankind), to a negative sense, (science was and is no stranger to it either, the victims of progress in experimentation with human beings, weapons technology with the capacity for the extermination of humanity, and new methods of digital slavery and social control through uncritical technophilias, such as transhumanism). However, to reduce the religious phenomenon to the exclusively negative (as well as the scientific), would be nothing more than a full reductionism and a sign of a very serious ignorance, which wrongly denies the role and social function that religion fulfilled in the past and today; facts that are evident when we approach the subject from the History of Religion, the Philosophy of Religion and the Sociology of Religion. Whoever calls himself a humanist and belittles the religious phenomenon as a whole, reduces himself to an anti-humanist, because the origin and development of humanity (to varying degrees), has always been linked to metaphysical speculation (and science is no stranger to metaphysics either; but unlike religion, whose base is a spiritualist metaphysics, science has a base in a materialist metaphysics) and likewise its evolution is also presumed, along with the religious expression within it, part of the hermeneutic and cultural creativity of the peoples of the world.

Awe, astonishment and creativity are the common stromata between religion and science.

Israel Rene Lira is Member of the Peruvian Society of Philosophy and part of its Board of Directors as Secretary for the period 2020-2022 and is Deputy Director of the Center for Crisolist Studies and Head of its Department of Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economy. He also serves as the Legal Advisor in Contracts with the State, Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Boards. He is a Columnist for the newspaper The Truth of Lambayeque, and has authored over 240 articles on philosophy, science and politics.

Featured: Folio from the Bible Historiale: Genesis 1, creation; God, creating heaven and earth, ca, 1411.

Thomistic Gnoseology

Regarding Catholic philosophy there is a particular lack of knowledge, even within the Catholic population itself, so that accusations of idealism are generally accepted with heads bowed. It is true that Catholic philosophy is not materialistic—but it does not follow that it is the opposite, i.e., idealistic. This accusation is very old, and so is its refutation. But in a time when reading is not the common virtue, periodic reminders are necessary, in the face of a self-imposed amnesia. We say that the accusation is old because it goes back to thinkers like Holbach and Feuerbach (whose approaches had a critical echo in later scientific socialist thought, particularly in that of Engels and Marx), with their works, Christianity Unveiled (1766) and The Essence of Christianity (1841). And we also say that the refutation is old because it appears in the work of Ceferino González (1883), in La causa principal originaria (The Root Cause). And it is precisely because Catholic philosophy is neither idealistic nor materialistic, but realistic; and in the following sense:

“The philosophical realism of St. Thomas is first of all metaphysical; it starts from the being and reality of things. It has often been said that his conception of the real and of being dominates all of Thomistic metaphysics, and consequently all of his philosophy. Nothing is more accurate. And one might even add that it is the existence of an Aquinian philosophy itself that presents this notion as primordial. For at the basis of all reality and of every concept we find being as the ultimate and irreducible element. It is the last residue of all analysis—ontological, logical, psychological or moral. Being is the ultimate ontological foundation of all reality and the indestructible support of every concept” (Villafañé, 1974: 50).

And if there are still doubts about this, it is enough to review the encyclical Aeterni Patris of Pope Leo XIII, where Neo-Thomism, as Christian realism, is made the official philosophy of Catholicism:

“We exhort you, venerable brethren, in all earnestness to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas, and to spread it far and wide for the defense and beauty of the Catholic faith, for the good of society, and for the advantage of all the sciences” (Aeterni Patris, 1891).

On Thomism, in reference to the work and theological and philosophical legacy of St. Thomas Aquinas, it is known that one of his greatest works is the Summa Theologiae or Summa Theologicae, where Aquinas, in the words of Aspacia Petrou (2013), concentrates his efforts on building a synthesis between reason and faith, an attempt at mediation between the Christian conception of the universe and the human culture known to him. But what does this synthesis mean? A rationalization of faith? A fideization of reason? Not exactly; but an approach where faith is the volitional expression of a rational subject (i.e., which occurs in a framework of rationality and not irrationality, the latter attributed to non-human animals) that in order to gather knowledge needs to come into contact with the given natural reality that pre-exists him, through his senses, as a first step to a better understanding and comprehension of his surrounding reality, and of deeper issues.

It is worth mentioning that, during the time of St. Thomas, in the middle of the 12th century, Aristotelian thought was generating a great influence in the diversity of knowledge taught at medieval universities; and theology was not alien to this process, where the syllogism particularly gained relevance as a method of reasoning for scientific demonstration. It is in this sense that Aquinas’ Summa Theologicae incorporates Aristotelian logic into theological research, something that had already been previously suggested by the French theologian Peter Abelard and by Pope John XXI. Thus, Summa Theologicae becomes the highest expression of this process of rescuing the best of Classical thought for theological reflection; and this is how the fundamental structure of the contents of the Christian faith is consolidated in his work (Petrou, 2013:3); and within this, most particular is the interest of Aquinas in the intellectual faculties of the human being, in his Treatise on Man (Question 75 to Question 102).

The difference between a Thomist gnoseology and modern gnoseology should be specified. The difference lies in the fact that while the former is interested in how the human understanding operates in the perception of the reality of the natural world and of God, the latter is only interested in the first aspect, completely leaving aside the second, and relegating it to a mere space of criticism with the intention of discrediting it.

For Petrou (2013), Thomas Aquinas did not formulate a theory of knowledge in the sense that it would be known after Kant and thereafter, but undoubtedly, a systematization of reflections can be recognized in the Summa in this regard; and in that, whether a gnoseological justification of the feasibility of metaphysical knowledge, beyond the natural world that accesses the knowledge of God, is possible or not.

For Aquinas, following Petrou, these justifications are three in particular:

  1. The human mind does not possess a priori knowledge, in some sense. “The human understanding… is in potency with respect to the intelligible; and, at the beginning, it is like a tablet on which nothing is written” (ST, I, c.79.a.2: 723).
  2. Abstraction is the principal means that man has to make cognizable the essence of material things: “…agent understanding… by means of abstraction, makes intelligible the images received by the senses” (ST, I, c.84.a.7: 770).
  3. The knowledge of the essence of material things passes first through the sensible perception of these. That is, the senses provide the immediate data and are the source of knowledge in the present human condition: “For the operation of the sense, an alteration is required by which an intentional representation of the sensible form is established in the organ of sense” (ST, I, c.78 a.3: 716).

At this point, the foundations of a Thomistic gnoseology, in the part that is linked to justify the possibility of knowledge of spiritual objects, for authors such as Petrou (2013) and Copleston (2000), would be in principle endangered by the very foundations on which it is based, since if our knowledge begins and ends in sensible perception, is not the possibility of direct knowledge of immaterial substances, which are not, nor can they be, objects of the senses, annulled in this way? (2000: 381) This would also in principle nullify the capacity for metaphysical cognition (2013:5). Thus, the big question that presents itself to us is that if, spiritual objects cannot be appreciated by the senses, can human beings attain any objective knowledge of God?

In the sense-dimension of Aquinas, the human being, in his threshold of perception, is limited to the observation of physical objects; then the possibility of observation and, therefore, knowledge of spiritual objects is apparently annulled. Only in appearance, since the immediate refutation to this paradox is that, since the human being has a limited threshold of perception, the only way for him to become aware of spiritual objects is for the latter to be revealed to him at his threshold of perception. However, despite being a logical solution, it is at the same time naïve; a position that we share with the aforementioned authors, a reductio ad revelatio; and it is not the way in which Aquinas resolves the question.

As we have already mentioned, Aquinas rescued Aristotelian thought for his theological research; and it is within this framework that he integrated the doctrine of the hylemorphic composition of material substances, that all physical bodies possess matter and form (which in turn are created by God), into his theological theory. As well as the principle of individuation, where matter exists through form, i.e., when something takes form, it materializes and becomes cognizable, it is particularized. Aquinas limited the hylemorphic composition to material substances; he did not extend it to the incorporeal creation; that is, to angels, for example (Copleston, 2000: 322). He argued at this point that the form that makes possible the materialization of man in a body is the human soul (2013:7)—man being the material substance composed of soul and body. For Aquinas the human soul is the noblest of all forms because of its intellective nature; and for this reason, it has a faculty that transcends the mere plane of corporeal matter; and this is the faculty of understanding.

Now, at this point, Aquinas starts from an axiomatic premise, that the existence of the human soul is presumed, which in turn has been created by God (on the existence of God, Aquinas devotes question 2, articles 1, 2 and 3, in his Summa; for a view from natural theology, see my short essay on the work of Carl Sagan: “The Diversity of Science: A Personal View of the Search for God“). It is not the purpose this paper to compare the correlation between Thomism and neuroscience, which would be interesting to address in another work, without detriment to this; and in this regard, we will only say that, on the existence of the human soul, until some time ago the category of soul was rejected outright by modern psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience. However, this is beginning to change, since it depends on what we understand by “soul.” If by “soul” we understand a substance of a quasi-magical-etheric nature, then we are sure that there is no proof of its existence. On the other hand, if by “soul” we understand instead reference to the human mind itself (Giménez Amaya, 2010:163), then there is no doubt that this is an undeniable empirical reality.

Continuing with Aquinas, the faculty of understanding is what allows the human being the sensible abstraction necessary for the act of knowledge; and as a faculty different in each person, it is therefore the agent understanding—active, present—of each particular person; and it is this agent understanding that makes the spiritual objects intelligible in potency (they are not yet intelligible), and they become intelligible in action (they are in fact intelligible); and this is called illumination. Not an Augustinian illumination. The Thomistic illumination, unlike the Augustinian one (in reference to the gnoseology of St. Augustine), and which is crucial for the attainment of knowledge in Thomistic gnoseology, lies in the fact that God does not participate in the illumination of things; but that the active understanding present in man, and given to us by God, is the one that illuminates those things; that is, God has already given us the faculty for it, by endowing us with a soul with the faculty of understanding. And it is this active understanding that enables us to apprehend both particular (the corporeal objects of the natural world) and universal realities (and within these universal realities, the Universal in causando being the prototype of this universal category, God Himself and all the spiritual reality related); All this means that: “…human reason, even far from God and without the help of God, can apprehend the structure of the reality of the natural world; but not by virtue of reason itself in a materialistic sense, but by virtue of the human soul that God has placed in man. This is the central anthropological thesis from which the whole of Thomistic gnoseology is built; which, as can be seen, has metaphysical foundations” (Petrou, 2013:13).

As a colophon, and which would also be a topic for another section—what validity does the Thomistic theory of knowledge have, if it is confronted with contemporary neuroscience? At the very least, in the part concerning sensible perception as the first way of knowledge, we have an important correspondence, and in the following sense:

Do external sensible perceptions and, in general, sensible perception itself, objectify? Psychology and contemporary neuroscience tell us that they do. This objectification is, for example, the visual image that is formed at the end of the visual act, which can be very varied, depending on the circumstances, and can also be inadequate. The object (“what is seen”, “what is heard”, etc.) is a representative medium that refers in itself to the external thing in the case of external sensations. The same can be said of perception. We usually discern without problems between the objects of external perception and those of internal senses, such as imagination and memory, or between physically present objects and those that we capture through cognitive means external to our body, such as a mirror, a television set or the Internet; although we have to learn to make these discernments well; and sometimes we can deceive ourselves. The existence of objectivations in sensible knowledge is beyond doubt. We have already said that Aquinas has texts in which the sensitive species can be understood as the sensitive act itself in its content of intentio [information] (Sanguineti, 2011).

Israel Rene Lira is Member of the Peruvian Society of Philosophy and part of its Board of Directors as Secretary for the period 2020-2022 and is Deputy Director of the Center for Crisolist Studies and Head of its Department of Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economy. He also serves as the Legal Advisor in Contracts with the State, Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Boards. He is a Columnist for the newspaper The Truth of Lambayeque, and has authored over 240 articles on philosophy, science and politics.

Featured: “The Trinity,” Rothschild Canticles, ca. 1300.

Putinism: Between Russophobia and Russophilia

Putin the tyrant, Putin the satrap, Putin the murderer, Putin the genocidal, who has turned Russia into an authoritarian and anti-democratic country, who violates human rights and particularly those of sexual minorities, who violates freedom of expression, who intimidates his own officials, who persecutes his opponents. In short, Putin the Stalin of the 21st Century. This is the predominant vision today in the West as an obvious consequence of the Russian strategic intervention in Ukraine, typical of a demonization carried out by the so-called “Free Press” of the “Free World,” the latter being the highest category of a quasi-lysological expression—that of “International Community;” quasi-lysological because it pretends to mean many things (in the narrative), but which in the end, (and in reality), is reduced to the United States and the Atlantic Alliance and their enormous geopolitical power.

If, for the West, Putin is something like the Third Antichrist—why is he still re-elected by the Russian population? And at this moment—how much support does this same population give to the decisions taken by the Russian government on the Ukrainian issue? These are questions that arise in the present context and that people who dance between pathological Russophobia and pathological Russophilia cannot answer objectively. We know that the reader will wonder why it is not better to speak of Putinophobia or Putinophilia, since Putin is not Louis XIV and Russia is not France of the XVII century. However, today we see that Putinophobia or Putinophilia has escalated by osmosis to Russophobia and Russophilia, since the extreme rejection or support, respectively, have spread to other extra-war spaces. For example, the attempt to cancel foods that have the denomination of being Russian (although they do not even have a Russian origin) for the purpose of symbolic support for Ukraine [AM750, 01.03.2022]; the attempted cancellation of authors, such as Dostoevsky, by a university in Italy, to show support for Ukraine [Telam Digital, 02.03.2022]; and the suspension of the flow of Russian tourists around the world as a result of sanctions [Europapress, 25.02.2022]—are some concrete examples of what is being pointed out here.

Putin has been in power for more than 20 years, re-elected for a total of four terms (2000-2004; 2004-2008; 2008-2012; and as Prime Minister: 2012-2018; 2018-2024), and with an overwhelming percentage of support compared to his opponents (52.94%, first term; 71.31%, second term; 63.60%, fourth term; 76.69%, fifth term). Except for the 2000 election, no other election has been questioned, and even the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), pointed out that the 2018 elections, despite the tight political control of the ruling party, were efficient and open [OSCE, 19.03.2018]. All this information is available for public consultation. At this point, it could also be argued: What about the law that allows Putin to run again for the presidency at the end of his 2024 term? Well, this law was passed by the State Duma (Russian legislative branch), within the framework of constitutional amendments approved by referendum in July 2020, and which had an approval of 78.56% in favor—by the Russian population.

So, is Russia a dictatorship? Is Putin a dictator? A tyrant? And so on and so forth. We see that it is not and he is not. Another thing is that the Russian population in its vast majority—at least contingently—trusts Putin’s governmental leadership of Russia. That is a matter of the merit of leadership, and the political and economic stability made viable by the Russian government, which has made the Human Development Index rise to 0.824 points in 2019, an HDI level catalogue as Very High. Putin’s popularity in Russia (and outside Russia, principally in South America, as an example of leadership, the interest in learning Russian is also increasing in South America, according to Russian-Argentinian language teacher Dr. Tamara Yevtushenko (22.05.2020) with a tremendous increment during quarantine time in South America. Nowadays, according to Forbes (24.05.2022) despite having suffering a drop, Russian is still among the most relevant languages in online learning)— all of this is a fact that cannot be denied by the Putinophobes—and that has determined his reelection; nor is this an exaggeration by the Putinphiles, since Putin is also the subject of a series of questions that cannot be ignored, some most unlikely (typical of Western propaganda) and others worthy of attention (typical of citizen complaints). As far as that is concerned, for the sake of brevity, we will only make a note of such questions.
Apart from the bickering, in general terms, Russia is a democratic country, with separation of powers and an electoral system; and Putin came to power democratically, and has remained in power democratically and under the legal channels of the Russian legal system, until proven otherwise. Now it will be said here: What about the persecution of political opponents like Alexei Navalny, investigative journalists like Roman Dobrokhotov, NGOs like Memorial International, and collectives like Pussy Riot? With such management of the opposition any political leader will remain in power easily—is the first thought that comes to mind and may be readily stated. But the truth is that we have mixed information about all this, both from opponents and from panegyrists, which does not allow us to do an objective analysis.

The truth is that these practices, if being common currency, would not be exclusive to Russia (even Ukraine has its own “pearls” in regards to the harassment of pro-Russian citizens in their own society, in times previous to the Russian intervention, harassment which now in full conflict has escalated to public humiliation through those images of citizens tied to public posts); and the United States and the nations that are proud of their freedoms are the first to not hesitate to attack them for less than what Russia does, when they see that this affects national security, which was exposed in the controversial statements of Edward Snowden, a former NSA and CIA contractor [The Diary, 13.03.2016].

This situation also makes obvious that the so-called Free Press is just an illusion; there is no such thing as a “free press;” every press has a narrative line, an many US press conglomerates—better known as the Corporate Control of the Media—are promoted with the Seal of Approval of the Government of the United States, just as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram do with Russian or Chinese information platforms with the label “Controlled by.” This corporate control of the media is more visible in crisis (wars, pandemics) and electoral times; and we have already seen how it works, for example, in the US election of 2016, in a clear campaign of demonization of the figure of Donald Trump, and since then through the suggestion of him as a Neo-fascist, in the most algid moments of the protest against him. Also, the truth is that opponents, journalists, non-governmental organizations, and groups are not oblivious to financing and external support; and Russia, like any sovereign nation, exercises reason of state and that should not surprise anyone these days. What can be criticized is the double standard of some sectors of opinion, which in their ignorance and under the logic of the lesser evil (for them), accept these repressive policies of the West, but not when Russia legitimately does the same under more coherent justifications than the Western ones, but no less open to criticism.

On the other hand, we have the issue of the human rights of sexual minorities, where the Russian position is not based on empty reactionism. For example, in 2012, the Russian judiciary banned the celebration of gay pride from that date until today [The World, 07.06.2012}. Why? A more than sufficient reason, but one that for current Western values is objectionable, in the sense of safeguarding the right of children not to be exposed to propaganda, namely:

Russian Federal Law No. 436-F3: on the protection of children against information harmful to their health and development: “…the purposely directed and uncontrolled activity of disseminating information that may cause harm to the moral and spiritual development or health of minors, leading them to form distorted perceptions that traditional marriage relationships and the non-traditional are socially equal, taking into account that minors due to their age cannot estimate such information critically and decently.

None of this has anything to do with a debate about the social status of sexual minorities and the great problems that concern them; but rather that children’s rights always prevail over the rights of adults, and there is no point in discussing that. The Principle of the Best Interest of the Child always prevails. But naturally Russia’s action horrified the West, when it is common knowledge concerning the degree of LGBT propaganda to which children are exposed during such events in most of the West where that day is celebrated.

Continuing with our analysis: What about Russia’s authoritarianism? Here we believe that we can bring everything together. Indeed, Russia is an authoritarian country, because the Russian State, under the leadership of the Russian Government, represented by Vladimir Putin, exercises an iron authority for the fulfillment of national objectives. In my paper, “Teoría General del Autoritarismo” (The General Theory of Authoritarianism), I pointed out that the concept of authoritarianism has two equally valid interpretive meanings that flow from the very praxis in which the aforementioned category has developed: (i) a negative or spurious one and (ii) a positive or institutional one; and both meanings are aligned with the two classic meanings by the RAE (Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences). The first alludes to the experiences of governments (and the personalities in charge of them—the rulers) that abuse public authority; while the second refers to a regime or system based on the principle of authority. Thus, while in the first meaning the principle of authority is denaturalized, in the second it fulfills its structural function.

As far as the Russian government of Vladimir Putin is concerned, the Putinophobic view reaffirms that it would be in the first meaning; while the Putinophilic view could say that it is in the second meaning. The truth is that every authoritarian regime has a little of both. What makes it possible to differentiate between a strong democracy and a total tyranny is whether the principle of authority fulfills its structural function or whether it is distorted by abuse. In the case of Russia, it can be fully said that it is an institutional (positive) authoritarianism to a greater degree than a spurious (negative) one.

But isn’t this some kind of convenient oxymoron? An authoritarian democracy? That is, a popularly backed authoritarian regime, a democratic caesarism. We do not hesitate to recognize that while in non-Western political societies, other forms of socio-political and economic praxes are manifesting themselves that the West doesn’t like at all, this does not make them any less valid; on the contrary, this generates the need to broaden the spectrum of understanding of political phenomenology. Russia, in this sense, would fit perfectly into what is now known as illiberal democracy [Foreign Affairs, 2018]. Now, this has nothing to do with a relativism of contemporary political phenomenologies, in the sense of accepting a political regime only because there are cultural differences, but in recognizing that liberal democracy is not the final frontier, as Fukuyama believed, and that social, economic and cultural development can also take place outside the liberal sphere. This is why liberals hate Putin, and they are absolutely right in doing so, because of the following:

For liberals, the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict (where the United States and NATO endorse their strong logistical support for Ukraine) is the classic civilization (liberal order) and barbarism (authoritarian disorder) dichotomy. However, this reductionist reading does not leave aside a liberal ideological narrative, when the reality they refuse to accept is the confrontation of two opposing civilizational orders (ideas, culture, traditions, mysticism, etc.) with particularized claims according to their own hermeneutical frameworks—the confrontation between a liberal order and a non-liberal or illiberal order. In this respect, liberals have every reason to fear Putin’s Russia, because it represents all those values that, as a result of constant “liberalizations,” their liberal societies have been losing under the tutelage of the idea of linear progress:

  • Losing their religiosity (1st liberalization, via the process of secularization);
  • Losing their nationalist identity (2nd liberalization, via globalization);
  • Losing their sexual identity (3rd liberalization via gender theories);
  • Losing their humanity—the final liberal frontier being post-humanity (4th great liberalization, the transhumanist utopia, the liberation of man from the weaknesses inherent in his biological body which belongs to him, through fusion with the machine or cyborg).

The unequivocal consequence of all these liberalizations is none other than the total control of the human being by emptying him of all transcendental identity so that it is easier to saturate the vacuum left with the identity of consumerism; and once again we return to the fact that those who boast of freedom are the first to trample it under the garb and the promise of greater freedoms.

Likewise, many in defense of the West, that is, of the so-called “Western values,” end up being functional to the agenda of the liberal order; and this is because the classic sense of the expression “Western values” has been lost or is in clear decline because the societies that gave birth to those values are being deconstructed under the rule of political correctness and cancellation, twisting history to accommodate an ideological narrative that is more in line with the ideology of postmodernity.

Western values are liquefying in postmodernity, becoming increasingly identified with the liberal order, which is why the expression “Western values” is configured as a lysological expression, which can be used for many things, and which does duty for many things, and which as a catch-all can accommodate any discourse, from the already mentioned classical sense, in that it be used to defend cultural traditions and axiologies of various peoples, their community lifestyle and thereby their art, music, architecture, as well as their development in gnoseological terms (religion, philosophy and science); that is to say, a civilizational golden age. In other words, from a civilizational golden age, to something more contemporary, such as the narratives of linear progress that admits no return, and ranging from such disparate fields as technological advances, to what some consider as sociopolitical advances, such as the emergence of liberalism and with it its processes of liberalization, and as a consequence, alleged legal advances, such as the legalization of abortion, some psychotropic drugs, euthanasia and the recognition of multiple rights for sexual minorities.

Contrary to all of this, Russia presents itself (in narrative and in reality, both in Russian society and in state policies) as Orthodox Christian religiosity that influences state policies; patriotism and nationalism that gives dynamism to economic, social and scientific developments; the social function of the family, and a heroic humanism in cosmism. In other words, as we said, everything that the West is progressively losing.

Finally, about the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which has confronted brotherly Slavic peoples, and where the United States and NATO have gained a lot of political benefits (not to mention the military logistic support to Ukraine), where for them Ukraine is nothing more than a piece in the geopolitical chessboard—we can say that there is a guilty party, and that is the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian oligarchy, since the conflict could have been avoided, if the Ukrainian government had complied with the Minsk Agreements of 2014, which it did not do. And the government of the United States (which has no moral authority to judge anyone, since for lesser reasons it has intervened in countries militarily and for issues of imperialist economic control and strategic resources (petroleum in the Middle East: oil war), instead of sending arms, to which is added the political support of NATO, in its logic of defending peace, should have been the guarantor of the fulfillment of that agreement.

However, the opposite happened. And since 2014 there have been thousands of ceasefire violations by the Ukrainian army, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE SMM, 22.12.2017], in addition to the savage harassment of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine (now the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics) during the 8 years of the conflict, thus creating a recipe for Russian intervention. After all this, can it be said that Russia is to blame for what is currently happening?

We believe that the question answers itself. Ukraine is a sovereign state. Yes, but so is Russia, with its state and national security interests. And on this particular occasion, the Russian government has no shortage of justifying reasons to act as it has done already (currently the support of the Russian population for Putin’s decisions on Ukraine is 68% [Interfax, 28.02.2022]. So, this proves that it is not only Putin´s conflict as some liberal, or functionaries of the liberal narrative, believe. On the contrary, it proves that Putin´s decisions are in line with the interest of all Russian people, since, in addition to the above, it is in Russia’s national security interests that NATO (which for a long time now has not hesitated to show its defiant attitude near the Russian borders in numerous military exercises, e.g., in the Black Sea) does not expand further to the east. About all this, it is very infantile to say (as some liberals believe) that NATO has not the intention to expand to the East, because that is the first thing that happened after the retreat of Soviet troops in Germany. Gorbachev was deceived; any academic knows that. It is also true that it was a “gentlemen’s pact”—the condition to accept Germanys’ reunification—but precisely the very essence of treaties and international law is consuetudinary (based on the uses and ceremonies of states in international affairs which not always written in a document); any professional lawyer and even a first-year law school student know that.

In this context, contrary to the liberal narrative, China is playing a part that the US should have played in defense of the logic of peace, as an arbitrator (and not as an arms dealer, as the US is playing now)—calling Russia and Ukraine to return to the table of negotiations (CGTN, 09.03.2022). Plus, in the liberal narrative, China is seeking somehow the weakening of Russia. But this is totally false, because it is the opposite; in the sense that President Xi Jinping has reaffirmed his support of Russia in aspects of sovereignty and security (The Vanguard, 17.06.2022). So, this proves perfectly and totally that we are not living in a multipolar order, as some liberal narrative sustains to argue that all countries have equal relevance in the NATO alliance. Only an ideological liberal would think like that, because the truth is that the importance of the US in NATO is not only foundational in an idealist or symbolic sense of protecting common interest in the West, but the US is the neuralgic center in the economic foundation of NATO right up to today; for without the huge economic support of the US, NATO would have ceased to exist, or would face serious budgetary problems in financing joint activities which in turn that would have determined the extinction of the alliance. This was noted by President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 and also by President Trump in 2017; and that´s why all the members of NATO were very afraid of Trump´s statements at that time, because the US is responsible for 70% of the budget of NATO (Swissinfo, 16.12.2021).

Thus it is that the Theory of the Multipolar World of Russian political philosopher Alexander Dugin is gaining relevance in current events, because no country, not even China or Russia, has the strength on its own to counterpart the enormous geopolitical power of US through the Atlantic Alliance, the very basis of the current unipolarity: “In the 21st century it is no longer enough to be a nation-state, to be a sovereign entity. In such circumstances, real sovereignty can only be achieved through a combination and coalition of states. The Westphalian system, which continues to exist in iure, no longer reflects the reality of the international relations system and requires revision” (Dugin, 2016).

A few words about the sanctions. We all know the consequences of that policies on Western economies. In contrast, Russia’s economy is doing generally well, even in the absence of foreign enterprises. Now Russian McDonalds, which was the predilect first obelisk of the liberal capitalist revolution in Gorbachev’s Russia, has now been replaced by “Vkusno i Tochka,” a Russian fast food chain that hardly needs to be envious of McDonalds. The train of economic nationalism (choo-choo) is doing very well in Russia. In contrast, Western economies had a boomerang effect on monetary balances (e.g., the dollar and the euro fell in the context of more sanctions against Russia [Euronews, 25.02.022; Swissinfo, 28.02.2022; The Economist, 02.03.2022; 03.03.2022]). So, only time will tell the fate of the current war events (political, geopolitical and economical). But at this point Putin’s Russia is apparently winning the war—and all the indicators are pointing to that result.

The Ukrainian government by relying on the United States and NATO, and accepting their support, made a useful fool of itself. In the end, the Ukrainian population will have to hold its government accountable for the devastation.

Notwithstanding the above, it is our sincere wish that these military-strategic operations end as soon as possible for the sake of the brotherhood of peoples and the safety of the Ukrainian population.

The bloodshed of brotherly peoples must be stopped as soon as possible, and peace negotiations must be resumed. Peace will always be preferable to war—that is a universal maxim; and at this time, peace must be advocated. Our best wishes, greetings and respect to the brave Russian and Ukrainian peoples from this humble pulpit.

Finally, also in the present context, there has been talk of Russian imperialism. But Russia has only 9 military bases abroad—as opposed to the 800 bases that the United States has (of which 76 are in Latin America, 12 in Panama, 12 in Puerto Rico, 9 in Colombia, 8 in Peru, etc.) So, what kind of imperialism are we talking about? At least for the moment—and in a contingent manner of course—it is not possible to identify a correspondence between the current Russian foreign policy and an imperialist escalation.

We are no longer in the times of the USSR. There is an abysmal difference that is obvious; and the foreign policies of both nations (Russia and the United States) also make us see the difference between international aid (and/or very concrete geopolitical interests) and the pursuit of imperialist domination (understood as total military control and generalized socio-cultural influence for full economic domination).

Israel Rene Lira is Member of the Peruvian Society of Philosophy and part of its Board of Directors as Secretary for the period 2020-2022 and is Deputy Director of the Center for Crisolist Studies and Head of its Department of Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economy. He also serves as the Legal Advisor in Contracts with the State, Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Boards. He is a Columnist for the newspaper The Truth of Lambayeque, and has authored over 240 articles on philosophy, science and politics.

Featured: “At the Crossroads,” by Hugo Sumberg; painted in 1896.