Discerning Epistemic Worth for the Philosophical Theology of Aquinas in the Decolonial Academy

By: Callum Scott  

As the ideological constructor of the destruction of colonised peoples and knowledge, Western philosophy must bear its burden for complicity. Decoloniality is amid the discourses of critique contra Modernity and its denigration of the colonised. In the South African academy, for instance, much support has been validly rendered to decoloniality, consequently those employing “Western” frameworks - both philosophical and religious - should be challenged to constant re-evaluation. Here, the virtues and vices of decoloniality will not be considered. Rather a discernment will be undertaken of the “epistemic worth” of specifically mediaeval and Western philosophy/theology within the tradition of Saint Thomas Aquinas, amid societal calls for the decentring of Western epistemological dominance. The argument is proffered that Aquinas, as both pre-modern and pre-colonial, does have relevance to the decolonial society. The case is defended that Arabic philosophers importantly influence Aquinas’ work, thus, demonstrating his openness to non-Western thought. Furthermore, from an epistemological perspective, it is contended that Aquinas’ placing of the subject at the focal point of adequations to truth by credencing the situatedness of the perceiver, deconstructs Modern objectivity, which in itself has caused considerable damage to non-Western epistemologies. Aquinas’ epistemic relevance as a philosopher-theologian always centred upon God, it is argued, may contribute to a median between demonstrable science and the multi-layered context of the epistemic subject.

Philosophy, Religion, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Aquinas
2019 Special Focus—Universal Religious Symbols: Mutual Influences and Specific Relationships
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Callum Scott

Associate Professor, Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, University of South Africa, South Africa
South Africa