DOI 10.12887/33-2020-1-129-20 

Piotr DUCHLIŃSKI – Thinking (cogito) or Knowing (cognosco)? Thomistic Epistemology at the Heart of the Ethics of Tadeusz Styczeń

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In my commentary on the paper “Być osobą to przekraczać siebie: O antropologii Karola Wojtyły” [To Be Oneself is to Transcend Oneself: On the Anthropology of Karol Wojtyła], I reconstruct the epistemic assumptions taken over by Tadeusz Styczeń from the Thomistic scholarly tradition as it developed within the milieu of the Lublin School of Philosophy. In particular, I focus on the tradition’s core assumption emphasizing the difference between cogito and cognosco. Styczeń adopted this distinction as an epistemological foundation of his ethical theory, which made it possible for him to formulate specific (epistemological and metaphysical) theses concerning the nature of both normativity in general and moral obligation in particular. Following my reconstruction of Styczeń’s views, I formulate some polemical remarks by claiming that his rationale for adopting a certain image of the world is a condition for accepting, on the one hand, epistemological theses on the primacy of cognosco over cogito and, on the other hand, ethical theses concerning the structure of our knowledge of the normative position of the human person. Based on these analyses, I claim that moral facts influence our acceptance of ethical theories only to a limited extent. Instead, acceptance of an ethical theory is above all determined by our world-picture whose heuristic function consists in that it suggests which facts to accept and which to reject, which facts are obvious and which are not, or which facts can be known by means of an intuitive insight and which must be derived from other facts. Finally, I point out that the acceptance of a specific world-view is often associated with the so-called ‘epistemic conservatism.’

Keywords: ethics, Polish ethics, Tadusz Styczeń, knowledge, Thomism, personalism, dignity, human nature, values, moral facts

The article is a modified version of the paper delivered during the seminar “On Personal Identity and Transcendence: Insights into the Ideas put forward by Tadeusz Styczeń in his ‘Być sobą to przekraczać siebie,’” held by the John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University of Lublin on 13 December 2019.

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  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. e-ISSN 2720-5355
  3. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 100.00
  4. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  5. DOI Prefix 10.12887