From Relativism and Skepticism to Truth and Certainty

Professor Josef Seifert

I. The War Against Truth

The very term philosophy refers both to wisdom and love. Philosophy as the love of wisdom was always conceived as being intimately related to truth. For wisdom consists in the knowledge of those truths which are most central to human life and in a life based upon this truth. In the Presocratics, in Plato and Aristotle, and in the whole great tradition of Western philosophy which followed them, this relationship between truth and philosophical knowledge was always central. The idea of severing philosophy from the concept of truth or even of attacking truth as the foundation of philosophical and human life was unthinkable. Such an idea appeared indeed in various Greek sophists and skeptical schools but was never accepted by the great thinkers whose philosophy shaped the Occident.

Not only was philosophy conceived as the loving quest for wisdom as knowledge of truth but it was also assumed that this loving desire for truth could be fulfilled, at least partially, through philosophical knowledge. Cognitive certainty and the liberation of man from mere opinions through indubitable knowledge of the truth was by no means a modern idea introduced first by Rene Descartes, but constitutes the classical ideal of philosophical knowledge, in Parmenides and the Presocratics, in Plato and Aristotle, with special emphasis in St. Augustine and throughout medieval philosophy.

The situation in the philosophical world has changed drastically over the last 250 years. Both central foundational assumptions of Western philosophy, that it seeks to achieve truth and that it can attain indubitable certainty about truth, were shaken at the roots. Philosophy, or rather philosophers or people considered to be such, began to eliminate truth, to dethrone it, to attack its very concept, or to replace it with other ideals of philosophy and to engage, in a word, in an all-out war against truth. This despair of the truth, this attack against it, this sapping of the foundations of truth and of certainty, took on many different forms which can hardly be even listed here.

At the root of this attack on truth there lies, perhaps, a profound skepticism which throws its shadow on man's previously unchallenged conviction that he was able to know reality and objective truth about reality. Fundamentally, this skepticism denies that man is able to know or to achieve any kind of certainty about reality and truth. Some skeptics argue to this position from an analysis of human subjectivity and from the impossibility of conceiving anything except by subjective acts of consciousness. Why would not all being and all truth be nothing but the object of man's thinking so that, to use Nietzsche's words, man knows nothing about the world as it would be if man's "head were cut off?" This form of skepticism which challenges the self-transcendence of consciousness (of the subject) to objective being "in itself" appears in various forms in Kant, in the late Husserl, in Nietzsche, and in many others.

Another possible reason why skepticism has become a dominant trend in Western thought is perhaps increasing historical knowledge, the living together of people with various religions and world-views in the same communities, and the kind of reflection on history we find in Hegel and other thinkers influenced by him. In these views it appears impossible to break out of the bounds of historically conditioned consciousness. Dilthey's work gave rise to a radical historical skepticism according to which all man can do is to feel himself and think himself into past cultures and world-views, reliving them and understanding them. Yet he can never rise to any trans-historical judgement on the truth or falsity of the opinions prevalent at different historical epochs. And while Hegel seeks to overcome historical relativism with his absolute standpoint, Kierkegaard points out in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript that, ultimately, such an attempt to overcome relativism with Hegelian assumptions is impossible. It is never clear in Hegel's work why his own opinions, too, could not just be one phase in the historical development of the Absolute Spirit and why their content might not be canceled and shown to be untrue by future historical developments such as occurred after Hegel. A similar historical relativism also dominates much of Existentialist philosophy and Marxist thought.

Other roots of skepticism lie in modern science and modern mathematics in which those truths that seemed prime examples of indubitable certainty to Euclid and Plato were challenged by such theories as the relativity theory of time or non-Euclidean geometries.

Along with these roots of skepticism, we also find the problem of the antinomies and paradoxes which play a crucial role in the Critique of Pure Reason,[1] but not realist philosophical thinking. Paradoxes and antinomies play an immense role in modern science and mathematics, too, where they led to a foundation crisis in mathematics and logic that is associated today with names such as Godel and others.

Again another root of skepticism lies in the empiricist and positivist philosophy of David Hume and his followers. According to them all human knowledge must be based on experience which they narrowly conceive to be nothing but sense impressions and ideas arising from these. From such a philosophical standpoint it appeared impossible to make any universal claims to truth because future experiences could always falsify any general claim. But if there are no absolutely universal principles that can be known with certainty, it follows that nothing can be known with certainty because there is no empirical thesis which does not presuppose universal logical or other propositions some of which at least must be "informative" or "synthetic a priori." For this reason, the doubt cast upon the possibility of knowledge of universal natures and essences of things led to a more universal doubt cast upon all knowledge.

Can we as thinkers, and not exclusively as Christians, escape the tremendous impact of such skepticism?

While skepticism threw into doubt the possibility of knowledge of the truth, it still accepted the fundamental notion of truth, it still presupposed that the truth of a proposition lies in some form of conformity between that proposition and things themselves. Truth is "adaequatio intellectus ad rem" or "adaequatio intellectus et rei." (Truth is a "conformity of the intellect to reality" or "a conformity between the intellect and reality.") Skepticism only doubts the possibility of ever knowing the truth of a proposition but simultaneously presupposes that truth would exactly lie in such a correspondence.

Therefore we are confronted with a much more radical attack on the notion of truth in those philosophies which replace the very concept of truth by other concepts. This is found, for example, in Pragmatism where we are no longer confronted with the understanding of truth as the conformity of a proposition to those states of affairs that obtain independently of it but where the truth of a proposition is identified with its success, be it with its success in the prediction of other events or be it with the success in a social or political sense. The most varied brands of Pragmatism pervade modern thought. A certain type of historical-political pragmatism also constitutes an element in Marxist philosophy. Here truth becomes functionalized. Propositions are true insofar as they contribute to social progress, to overcoming alienation, to the liberation of the proletariat, and so on. A similar reinterpretation and distortion of the concept of truth takes place in many traditionalist philosophers such as Mauras or de Bonald. For them the truth of propositions is identified with their function in the support of the ancien regime, of the established political order and traditions. Again, truth is no longer conceived as the conformity of propositions with reality but instead identified with some success that is wholly foreign to the questions of their conformity with reality. Similar forms of relativism and radical reinterpretations of the concept of truth implied in any relativism dominate the philosophies of transcendental German idealism and psychologism. The truth of propositions is identified with a relationship between beliefs of the subject and propositions, or with the social acceptance of propositions at a certain historical epoch, or with the coherence of propositions in a given system, and so on. Thus when we look at the overall situation of philosophy in our time, philosophy presents itself not as the simple effort to search for the truth and as achieving the supreme certainty of truth of which human reason by itself is able. Rather, much of the philosophy of the last few centuries and of the present shows itself to be a concentrated effort to attack the two notions that were fundamental for philosophy of the past: truth and certainty.

Thus the question poses itself: Can philosophy today in a critical form that remains mindful of what Hume, Kant, and other philosophers have posed as problems, recuperate knowledge and certain knowledge concerning reality itself? The question is larger still in scope: Can man, modern man, still reach, be it in religion, be it in philosophy or science, truth and certainty of knowledge?

This journal, as its very title states, is dedicated to laying anew the foundations of intellectual and religious thought, to preserving these two great ideals which, uniquely modified, also apply to the Christian faith which is based upon the rock of truth and achieves a certainty peculiar to the act of faith. As there is no supernatural faith without nature, as there is no knowledge of Christ without some fundamental experience of the nature of things and of man, so the task of working towards the foundations of Christian faith also implies eminently the task of reason and of philosophy to clarify the natural foundations of any truth and knowledge. As I attempted to show in a book on the Philosophical Presuppositions of Faith, there is a great variety of epistemological, logical, ethical, metaphysical, anthropological truths which are necessarily presupposed by Christian revelation but which are never spelled out by revelation because their exploration belongs to the domain of natural human reason. This theme cannot be developed further in this context but the task of this paper is to show briefly that a rational foundation of a realist and objectivistic philosophy is possible today-despite the attacks of Hume and Kant and many of their successors against such a possibility.

The International Academy of Philosophy which was founded five years ago in Dallas, Texas, and continues its work, in 1986, in the principality of Liechtenstein, has set to itself the task of showing that an authentic philosophical renewal which returns to things in themselves, to reality and objective truth, is still possible today on a critical philosophical basis. In a book, to be published in 1986 by Routledge & Kegan Paul Press in the new IAP series, Studies in Phenomenological and Classical Realism, we have attempted to lay these foundations in a broader way. In the next few pages I shall only attempt to point to a few insights formulated by Augustine which allow us to overcome any form of skepticism and relativism, as well as any other replacement of authentic philosophy with substitutes. The importance of these insights can hardly be exaggerated, at a time when some of the greatest champions of liberal education, for example Leo Strauss, can write:

"Philosophy is a quest for wisdom or quest for knowledge regarding the most important, the highest, or the most comprehensive things; such knowledge, he (Plato) suggested, is virtue and is happiness but wisdom is inaccessible to man . . . From this we must draw the conclusion that we cannot be philosophers- that we cannot acquire the highest form of education. We must not be deceived by the fact that we meet many people who say that they are philosophers. For those people employ a loose expression which is perhaps necessitated by administrative convenience . . . We cannot be philosophers, but we can love philosophy; we can try to philosophize. This philosophizing consists at any rate primarily chiefly in listening to the conversation between the greatest philosophers or, more generally and more cautiously, between the greatest minds, and therefore in studying the great books . . . Let us face this difficulty-a difficulty so great that it seems to condemn liberal education as an absurdity. Since the greatest minds contradict one another regarding the most important matters, they compel us to judge of their monologues, we cannot take on trust what any one of them says. On the other hand, we cannot but notice that we are not competent to be judges."
Here it is assumed that no knowledge of truth is possible. For it is silently presupposed by Strauss that the sufficient and necessary condition for knowing truth and achieving wisdom is the brilliance of a mind. In the light of Christianity this is of course a great mistake because very many simple people may be more open to the faith and receive it as a gift from God than the greatest minds. But it is also an illusion in the light of the insights philosophy can gain: in many of his dialogues Plato outlines the important ethical conditions of philosophical knowledge of the truth and the tremendous obstacles to the knowledge of truth and the sources of errors which afflict most of all the most brilliant and gifted of the Sophists. In his Republic, Book VI and VII, for example, he points out with great profundity that the most dangerous minds and those which fall into the deepest errors are precisely the ones that are most gifted but for one or another reason are misguided.

But can we be the judges between a Plato and a Protagoras! Is not Strauss right and truth altogether hidden from us? Is it accessible to us simple minds and accessible through reason?

The universal accessibility of truth and certainty, even on the level of natural philosophical knowledge, becomes not yet sufficiently evident when we realize the great moral obstacles to the knowledge of truth which may explain the conflict of opinion between the greatest books but will appear more clearly when we now turn to a further unfolding of insights which Augustine has developed and in which the evident givenness of things themselves, and the evidence of objective truth discloses itself to our minds.

II. Indubitable Knowledge of Truth in the Cogito

In De Trinitate (X,X,14) St. Augustine formulates with great precision how the human mind, even when it finds itself threatened by the most radical skeptical doubt, can reach indubitable certainty of knowledge, a certainty which is immune to any possible skeptical objection because it reaches that which is both evident in itself and which is presupposed by any skeptical doubt. He writes:

On the other hand who would doubt that he lives, remembers, understands, wills, thinks, knows, and judges? For even if he doubts, he lives; if he doubts, he understands that he doubts; if he doubts, he wishes to be certain; if he doubts, he thinks; if he doubts, he knows that he does not know; if he doubts, he judges that he ought not to consent rashly. Whoever then doubts about anything else ought never to doubt about all of these; for if they were not, he would be unable to doubt about anything at all.
Transl. by Stephen McKenna
In this and many other formulations, Augustine takes his sole starting point in doubt, more radically still than Descartes, and he overcomes this radical doubt in a more grandiose fashion than Descartes, by showing that the reality of doubt itself presupposes necessarily what will turn out to be two types of indubitable knowledge.

Indubitable Knowledge of Real Being in the Cogito: Cogito; ergo sum; ergo esse est

Even if I doubt the reality of everything, I still discover in this act with absolute certainty that I live and that I am conscious as subject.

At first, we have to marvel at the datum of the immediate experience of myself as knowing existing subject which is an experience of such an original structure that it is entirely irreducible to anything else.

To begin with, this knowledge of myself is in no way arrived at by mediation of other premises, but it is immediate and not a conclusion of a logical argument.

But it is not enough to characterize the inescapable givenness of my own being in indubitable knowledge by referring to the immediacy of the cognition of my being. We have to add that our own being is accessible to us in an entirely interior fashion-by being consciously lived from within. There is no more immediate and interior givenness of a being than this self-awareness of the person. It is decisive to see with Augustine that my being is not given here like an object over against me of which I would be conscious, as this occurs in explicit reflective self-knowledge (se cogitare). I know myself already prior to any such objectifying, turning myself into an object as it occurs in conscious reflection-in which my being becomes an object of which I gain consciousness and over which I return-in what Plotinus and Thomas Aquinas called a reditio perfecta mentis in seipsam. Augustine distinguishes the immediate self-awareness of my concrete individual being which I constantly possess and identifies it as nosse se. He contrasts it in another famous passage with the cogitare (cognoscere) se, saying that only in such a cogitatio a full thematic cognition of the mind itself happens:

But so great is the power of thought that not even the mind itself may place itself, so to speak in its own sight, except when it thinks of itself. And consequently nothing is so in the sight of the mind, except when one thinks of it, that not even the mind itself, by which is thought whatever is thought, can be in its own sight in any other way than by thinking of itself. But how it is not in its own sight when it does not think of itself, since it can never be without itself, just as though itself were one thing and its sight another thing, I am unable to discover. It remains, therefore, that its sight is something belonging to its nature, and the mind is recalled to it when it thinks of itself, not as it were by a movement in space, but by an incorporeal conversion; on the other hand, when it does not think of itself, it is indeed not in its own sight, nor is its gaze formed from it; but yet it knows itself, as if it were a remembrance of itself to itself.
Saint Augustine, The Trinity (XIV, VI, 8), translated by Stephen McKenna (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1970), p. 420-421.
Here we see that the vivere se, our own conscious being, life, and acts, are known to us more immediately than by reflective thought: in the very performance of consciousness itself. We are our own conscious being and live it, and in living it is given to us in a most interior fashion prior to any objectivizing reflection in which we think of ourselves (cogitare se).

Moreover, our actions, so we may interpret Augustine's philosophy of consciousness in the light of some contributions of K. Wojtyla, are reflected by our consciousness, even after they have passed, in a memoria which is again prior to any explicit act of reflection. As it appears clearly in moral conscience, we know ourselves prior to thinking about ourselves, as this occurs in explicit reflection and self-knowledge. In fact, as Augustine puts it audaciously, it is "as if we were the memory of ourselves." Our acts are reflected, illumined, and judged in some fashion prior to them becoming explicit objects of reflection.

Nevertheless, this immediate, pre-objectivizing acquaintance with our own being, in spite of its indubitable immediacy, is not yet what occurs in the cogitatio sui ipsius (thought = explicit knowledge of oneself). For only when we make our being an object of acts of reflection and thought, can it be known fully by us. Tanta enim est cogitationis vis-"for so great is the power of objectivizing thought" that even the mind, which knows itself most immediately and by which we know everything else, can know itself only when it places itself as it were in front of its own thought. While on the level of such objectivizing thought about our being and life many errors and distortions can occur which do not exist on the two previously mentioned more immediate forms of self-acquaintance, the philosophical knowledge "that we live" is not less evident and absolutely indubitable. It is indubitably certain and makes the evident and immediate cognitive contact with our own being the starting point of the knowledge: "I am." The philosophical knowledge of ourselves grasps the concrete fact of our own being with indubitable certainty.

Someone might object: Is this not a merely subjective knowledge that we (I) exist? This knowledge does not refer to the objective reality of the material world explored by science, the object of our sense-perception and social relations. We reply: Far from establishing any merely "subjective" knowledge, the thrust of Augustine's insight is precisely that not only is the I just as objective a reality as all the trees out there and all the stars and the entire material world but also the mind is far more wonderful than all the mountains, trees, and material beings. Thus we touch in our own being one objective and real being, and one which is far more important and real than the whole material universe. Therefore we can interpret Augustine with Hildebrand and say that the point of the cogito really is: "I am; therefore one objective entity is; therefore being itself is."

In this indubitable knowledge of real facts I grasp not only that I as subject exist, but also that I doubt, that I do not know, etc. Hence, each and every act of mine is given to me with a similar certainty to the one in which I grasp the reality of the sum in self-knowledge in the strictest sense. And in knowing the vivere se as well as the existence of all the acts in me I grasp also the truth, the truth that I am, and that I think, doubt, lack certainty, judge, etc. This indubitable discovery of truth in the Cogito is explicated by Augustine in another important passage:

Then conceive the rule itself which you see, in the following way. Everyone who knows that he is in doubt about something, knows a truth, and in regard to this that he knows he is certain. Therefore he is certain about a truth. Consequently everyone who doubts if there be a truth, has in himself a true thing of which he does not doubt; nor is there any true thing (verum) which is not true by truth. Consequently whoever for whatever reason can doubt, ought not to doubt that there is truth. Where this is seen, there is a light without the spaces of place and time, and without the deceiving imagery associated with such spaces. Can these truths in any way corrupt, even if every thinker were to die or would long be in the grave? For the thinker does not make such (truths) but he finds them. Therefore also before he finds them, they remain in themselves; but when they are found, they renew us.
(translation mine).

The truth of these facts, the truth of the proposition that I exist, and that I doubt, is likewise discovered in the indubitably known fact that I exist. More than that, Augustine says that each of these facts and truths implies even infinitely many others which formally follow from it:

But if such things alone belong to human knowledge, then they are very few; unless it be that they are so multiplied in each kind that they are not only not few, but are even found to reach an infinite number. For he who says: 'I know that I live,' says that he knows one thing; if he were then to say: 'I know that I know that I live,' there are already two things, but that he knows these two, is to know a third thing; and so he can add a fourth and a fifth, and innumerable more, as long as he is able to do so. But because he cannot comprehend an innumerable number by adding one thing to another, or express a thing innumerable times, he comprehends this very fact and says with absolute certainty that this is both true and so innumerable that he cannot truly comprehend and express its infinite number. Likewise if someone were to say: 'I do not will to err,' will it not be true that whether he errs or does not err, yet he does not will to err? Would it not be the height of impudence for anyone to say to this man: 'Perhaps you are deceived,' since no matter in what he may be deceived, he is certainly not deceived in not willing to be deceived? And if he says that he knows this, he adds as many known things as he pleases, and perceives it to be an infinite number. For he who says, 'I do not will to be deceived, and I know that I do not will this, and I know that I know this,' can also continue from here towards an indefinite number, however awkward this manner of expressing it may be.
Augustine, De Trinitate XV, XII, 21 (translation McKenna, ibid., p. 480-2).
Thus from the indubitable truths of fact about my own existence and acts follow infinitely many other factual truths about my knowledge. This discloses also the access to number, to infinite number, with all the necessary lawfulness of numbers explored by arithmetic, as contained in the indubitable knowledge which is given with, and is the condition of, even the most radical skeptical doubt. Yet this leads us already to a new point to which we shall instantly return: the cognition of universal necessary truths contained in the Cogito. If this can be justified, both Hume and empiricism, which seek to reduce them to analytical propositions, and Kant, who denies their objective foundedness in the essences of things themselves, can be overcome and therewith the two main roots of modern subjectivism, skepticism, and relativism.

Knowledge of Universal Necessary Truths Implied in Skeptical Doubt

Yet all of these things could not be known by me, had I not also some knowledge of universal fact, of eternal truths. In the everyone contained in the quoted passages Augustine already refers to this fact. Indeed, without knowing such strictly necessary and universal facts, I could also not know the individual facts of the "that I live" and all the others discussed thus far. Let us explain this, following again the lead of Augustine's and Descartes' texts.

The reality of my own conscious existence and life is known indubitably precisely because I understand that my being cannot just appear or seem to me but is real and is in itself. For every "seeming" to a subject, every "appearing" to him, presupposes the real subject to which something appears or seems. And this subject of deception cannot be an appearance again. This is a universal essentially necessary fact, which I grasp in a synthetic a priori knowledge which is founded on the objective essence of appearing, seeming, and being. Augustine expresses this in another important passage, the best known form of his cogito- argument:

But, without any delusive representation of images or phantasms, I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the Academicians, who say, What if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I am. For he who is not, cannot be deceived: and if I am deceived, how am I deceived as to my existence? For it is certain that I am if I am deceived. Since therefore I, the person deceived, would be, even if I were deceived, certainly I am not deceived in this knowledge that I am. And, consequently, neither am I deceived in knowing that I know. For as I know that I am, I know this also, that I know. And when I love these two things, I add to them a third thing, namely my love, which is of equal moment. For neither am I deceived in this, that I love, since in those things which I love I am not deceived; though even if these were false, it would still be true that I loved false things. For how could I justly be blamed and prohibited from loving false things, if it were false that I loved them? But, since they are true and real, who doubts that when they are loved, the love of them is itself true and real? Further, as there is no one who does not wish to be happy, so there is no one who does not want to be. For how can he be happy if he is nothing?
Augustine, De Civitate Dei XI, XXVI (translation by M. Dods, Basic Writings of Augustine, Vo1 II, New York, 1948).
My own being and my acts can never be only an irreal object of conscious acts, without really being in themselves. Noemata (Husserl's term for objects of any conscious, intentional act) of the form of seeming and appearance have no other being except the "thin" existence which they possess as pure object of our consciousness. Augustine's and Descartes' insight is precisely that it is impossible that our own being and acts only appear to be. They are existing real beings and part of my real being. Any possible deception and error in which we are fooled by seeming facts which are not, presupposes this absolute Archimedean point of the real being of the subject who is deceived and who therefore cannot be deceived in this cognition that he exists.

Any form of theory which interprets the being of the subject as merely constituted object of some transcendental consciousness (which would also constitute itself) falls into the same untenable contradiction pointed out by Augustine, and denies the eternal truth which Augustine uncovers: that any possible object of thought and constitution presupposes the non-constituted reality of the subject, and therefore of one real being.

Yet with equally indubitable evidence I find, says Augustine, that I cannot doubt without remembering what I am doubting about. Again, this fact is not just found in myself as the individual fact of my own doubt discussed above. Rather, I grasp from the very essence of doubt that no man, no thinking subject in any possible world, could doubt without having some awareness and cognition of the object of his doubt. This intentional structure of doubt as necessarily going beyond an immanent state of consciousness towards something which is doubted, is disclosed as belonging to the very essence of doubt itself. Moreover, we can see that this object of doubt must possess a certain structure, that is, it cannot be simply a man, a rose, etc. which I doubt. Rather, only a "state of affairs," the "being-b of an A" can be the object of doubt: only that something exists, or that something has or does not have a certain predicate, can be the object of doubt.

I doubt not simply the one state of affairs but I doubt whether or not it obtains. This "whether or not" which characterizes the complex object of doubt reveals another essentially necessary fact about the object of doubt. In doubt we always regard at least two contradictorily opposed states of affairs (Sachverhalte): that something is or is not X. Thus the radical doubt of all truth implies that it is not certain whether or not there is truth. I doubt all truth, that is, I am uncertain of whether or not it is.

But if this is the case, Augustine explains in an earlier version of his Cogito, I grasp at the foundation of doubt also the universal principle which Aristotle calls the "first and most certain of all principles," namely the principle of contradiction. For if it were not impossible that one and the same thing A possesses and does not possess existence or a predicate B, then the meaning of doubt is undermined. Doubt, in order to be meaningful at all, presupposes the absolute validity of the principle of contradiction. I grasp that either there is truth or there is no truth, but both cannot occur. If they could both be, A and its contradictory opposite, then doubt would make no more sense.

Count, if you can how many there are: . . . if there is one sun (only), there are not two; one and the same soul cannot die and still be immortal; man cannot at the same time be happy and unhappy; . . . we are now either awake or asleep; either there is a body which I seem to see or there is not a body. Through dialectic I have learned that these and many other things which it would take too long to mention are true; no matter in what condition our senses may be, these things are true of themselves. It has taught me that, if the antecedent of any of those statements which I just placed before you in logical connection were assumed, it would be necessary to deduce that which was connected with it . . .
Augustine, Contra Academicos, III, XIII, 29.
Hence the most radical skeptic sees that a thing cannot be and not be in the same sense and at the same time. The unfolding of this knowledge would make us understand how many additional evidences it implies, and how all the things Husserl's Logical Investigations and Pfaender's Logik unfold about the essence of the principle of contradiction, about the distinction between its ontological and its logical sense, about the difference between the immediate knowledge in which it is given, about the difference between its evident objective truth and its mere presupposedness by thinking, etc., are contained and implicitly seen in the most radical doubt. They form part of the nucleus of indubitable truth without which the person cannot live and perform any conscious act at all, including doubting.

Moreover, everybody who doubts also understands (intelligit) that he doubts. This implies the truth that no apersonal unconscious being could ever doubt. Doubt presupposes not only the directedness towards an intentional object of doubt but also the self-awareness and self-consciousness which permits the unique act of reflection, the understanding that I think and doubt. A being which would be totally absorbed in objects and which could not take the step back involved in reflection, a being which could not bend back over itself in what Augustine calls an entirely immaterial conversion over itself and in what Thomas Aquinas called the "complete return of the mind over itself," could also not doubt. This fascinating act in which the subject is both subject and object of reflection, is again necessarily implied-at least as possibility-by doubt. The type of consciousness which suffices for feeling physical pain, which animals can likewise experience, would not suffice for doubt, because doubt presupposes precisely that higher mode of personal consciousness that permits that its subject "understands that he doubts."

Moreover, I do not only understand that I doubt but "I know also that I do not know." This refers again to an absolutely universal fact that in order to doubt I have to know that I do not know. First of all, when I doubt, at least in the sincere doubt which is not just a pretext and rejection of knowledge, I do actually not know the fact of which I am doubting. For it is impossible for me to doubt the indubitable truths which I have just discovered. I can only doubt if my knowledge is uncertain in virtue of some deficiency, and if there is, for this reason, some dubitability in my conviction about a fact or state of affairs. But the mere lack of (certain) knowledge is not sufficient for doubt. Rather, I have also to know that I do not know, in order to doubt. This is another reason why doubt presupposes necessarily a subject which is capable of the act of reflection and of grasping the absence or limits of knowledge.

Another essentially necessary fact which is presupposed for any act of doubt is the will to be certain and to avoid error. Any genuine doubt presupposes the desire for knowledge. This implies again a whole world of related facts. In seeking to know, the one who doubts also understands what knowledge is, and that only a receptive- discovering contact with being in which that which is the case manifests itself to the spirit, is knowledge, not any mere assuming or positing which does not coincide with that which is.

But also the nature of truth is thus discovered in doubt, the nature of truth as a unique sort of conformity between judgements and the states of affairs posited in them. And with truth which I wish to attain, also the essence of the error which I wish to avoid in doubt is known. For I could not doubt if I did not wish to avoid error. Then it would make no sense to doubt.

Thus knowledge, conviction, judgement, truth, error, certainty-all of these are given in the act of doubt, and countless further essentially necessary facts about each of their natures can be brought to evidence by simply carefully attending to the act of doubt. Insofar as doubt contains the question about truth, one could also unfold the necessary essence of the question both as act and as thought, and show that the latter cannot be true or false, etc.

Insofar as nobody doubts who does not prefer knowledge to error and to doubt, I also perceive that some axiological knowledge is gained in doubt. The value of knowledge and truth when compared to falsity and error, the superior value of knowledge when compared to doubt, etc. are known in doubt. Even the difference between the purely intellectual disvalue of error as opposed to the moral disvalue of the person who does not even seek truth or who lightly claims its possession, can be known by delving into the nature of sincere doubt.

One can also see that, apart from their intrinsic value as a positive importance which they possess in themselves, knowledge and the desire and love of truth are goods for the person who possesses them and that error is an evil for him. Even hierarchical gradations of values and goods for the person must be known, in order for genuine doubt to be possible. The doubting subject must understand that it is a greater evil to err than to doubt, otherwise he would have no motive to doubt instead of putting forth blind claims. He must understand that his doubt differs from a cynical rejection of truth as well as from a hypocritical untrue claim to certainty where it is lacking.

Finally, everyone who doubts judges that he ought not to assent rashly. In this again the doubting subject has to make at least two judgments: that he does not possess sufficient knowledge to give his assent to a proposition, and that he ought to abstain from judging if he possesses insufficient knowledge to warrant the judging assent. The doubt is then recognized as the response due to this situation and as preferable to the blind assent of the one who judges lightly.

Also the existence and essence of time-in the transition from the moment in which I doubt to that in which I gain certainty and in the impossibility of doubting and being certain about the same thing simultaneously in the same sense-can be known by grasping the essence of doubt.

"If these things were not, he could not doubt of anything."

Of all of these things of which Augustine says that their knowledge is presupposed for even the most radical doubt to be possible, we shall examine, in a sequel to this paper, more closely only one, in accordance with the topic of this paper, namely truth.