Nature and essential characteristics of classical rationality
XX century began under the sign of deconstruction of classical comprehension of substantiality of
the history, culture and mind. It turned out that each culture has its unique worldview universals and a
conclusion has been made that there’s a principal difference between classical and modern cultural worlds
and so is the rationality, which is proper to them. In the article, basing on the conception of scientific
rationality made by V.Styopin, the essential characteristics of the classical mind, which possess heuristic
potentials when comparing the pre-modern and modern rationality, are explicated. In particular, the
ontologism of pre-modern mind has been distinguished and substantiated basing on historical and
philosophical material - rootedness in being, only partially related to man; its hierarchy is the dependence
of cognitive possibilities on the ontological level of the entities opening to the mind and the
transcendence is the fundamental incomprehensibility of the bases and "guarantors" of the mind and the
world for the mind itself.
Within the framework of the classical mind, archetypical principles of Western rationality were
formulated as such, some of which, after the secularization of medieval culture, became the principle of
organizing secular social reality, which ultimately led to the emergence of a new social reality, later
Keywords: mind, rationality, modernity, ontology, hierarchy, transcendence.
Природа и сущностные характеристики классической рациональности
ХХ столетие прошло под знаком деконструкции классического понимания
субстанциональности истории, культуры, разума. Оказалось, что каждая культура имеет свои
уникальные мировоззренческие универсалии, был сделан вывод о принципиальном отличии
классического и модерного культурных миров, а соответственно и свойственных им
рациональностей. Если классическая рациональность опиралась на мифологические и
религиозные доминанты, то разум эпохи модерна абсолютизировала просвещенческие ценности.
В статье предпринимается попытка уточнения существенных черт классического разума и его
отличия от современной рациональности, в частности реконструируется место и значение
взглядов на трансцендентное в домодерном рациональном дискурсе, подчеркивается значение
процессов секуляризации для формирования модерной рациональности. В статье концепция
научной рациональности, разработанная В.С. Стёпиным, которая получила заслуженное
признание в философии науки, распространяется на более широкий культурный контекст. С точки
зрения этой концепции предпринимается попытка охарактеризовать классический разум на основе
онтологического, эпистемологического и субъект-объектного критериев. Экспликация
сущностных характеристик классического разума имеет эвристичный потенциал при сравнении
домодерной и современной рациональности. В частности выделяются и на основе историко-
философского материала обосновываются отличительные черты классического (домодерного)
разума: его онтологизм – укорененность в бытии, только частично связанном с человеком;
иерархизм – зависимость познавательных возможностей от онтологического уровня
открывающихся разуму сущностей и трансцендентность – принципиальная непостижимость
оснований и «гарантов» разума и мира для самого разума.
В рамках классического разума были сформулированы архетипические принципы западной
рациональности как таковой, часть которых, после секуляризации средневековой культуры, стала
принципом организации светской социальной действительности, что, в конечном итоге, повлекло
за собой формирование новой социальной реальности - Модерна.
Ключевые слова: разум, рациональность, модерн, онтология, иерархия, трансцендентность.
Every person is surely confident in his ability to use his/her own mind. Rationality for
some time has generally become synonymous with civilization. At about the same time (the
second half of the nineteenth century), doubts about the cultural invariance of rationality also
began to creep in. Practical use of mind has become dependent on a particular cultural tradition.
Inclusion in this tradition makes us confident in the adequate operation of the mind: rationality
becomes a part of the norm. In this case, in an ordinary situation, the question of the basis of
one’s own, and especially cultural mind never arises.
The situation changes when “anomalies” appear in the discourse (using Kuhn's
terminology), in the form of representatives of other cultures, or the heritage of other eras. In
such situations comes an awareness of the particularity of mind of one's own culture - even if a
person believes infallibly in the superiority of his own rationality, he cannot but feel the
otherness of his opponent's rationality leading to the specified stress.
It should be noted that the twentieth century began and went under the sign of the
deconstruction of Hegel's (originally Christian) understanding of the substantiality of history,
culture, and mind. Neo-Kantians of the Marburg school showed that the transcendental subject is
culturally determined, Wittgenstein linked rationality with depth grammar, Heidegger combined
linguistic and ontological imperatives, Foucault put meaning in discourse. In the second half of
the last century, and especially after the linguistic turn, the particularity of individual cultural
worlds became philosophy’s commonplace. It turned out that each culture has its own unique
worldview universals, if we use the terminology of Stepin. Thus, this philosophical tradition
comes to the necessary conclusion regarding the fundamental difference between the classical
and modern cultural worlds, and their rationalities accordingly.
At the same time, many authors (Losev, Averintsev, Boroday, Sidash, Heidegger,
Maritain, Gilson, Swiezawski) made the specifics of the classical period the subject of their
research. They were able to identify its characteristic features and indicate some of its universal
features. Against the background of these explications regarding the classical mind, a different
architectonics of its modern heir is well seen.
The subject of this article is formed at the intersection of these two methodologies. On
the one hand, aimed at clarifying the unique for the premodern mind and at the same time its
unique foundations, on the other hand - establishing their connection with those of its structures
(principles) that the Modern Mind inherited.
Before moving on to the main subject of this research, it is vital to have a clear
understanding of the main terminology. We are talking about such definitions as "mind",
"intelligence", "reason". On the one hand, it seems that there is no problem here, and the use of
these terms is quite self-evident - we use them on a daily basis and, without the slightest
difficulty, move from one to the other, often using them as synonymous. On the other hand, if we
talk about the scientific problem of demarcating the meanings of these terms, then it is very
difficult to reach a certain level of generalizations (for example, cultural), because even within
the same cultural integrity, different authors can use these terms variably 1 . Therefore, the
following reflection is not an attempt to linguistic, but rather to semantic classification.
The thing the ancient Greeks called διάνοια (Dianoia), and with which they associated
discursive thinking, reasoning that is passing from one sensual subject to another, in Latin,
became the ratio, and the most adequate analogue of it in Russian can be considered as reason. 2 .
In the Russian-speaking tradition, the more well-established translation of the Latin “ratio” is
“mind”, but if you follow the meaning, the more appropriate translation is still to recognize the
“reason”, especially when it comes to medieval philosophy. Moreover, such a reading is quite
admitted by Latin dictionaries. 3
Greek νοῦς (noûs), corresponds to the Latin intellectus and the Russian "mind", less often
the "intellect" is used 4 (due to the greater everydayness of the meaning of the latter). In
philosophical literature, it is customary to use “reason” 5 rather than “mind” if it is not a question
of special studies dedicated to, for example, the philosophy of Aristotle, Plotinus or Proclus. This
is the highest intellectual ability of a person, the main characteristic of which is associated with
the intuitive grasp of truth as a whole - this is not thinking, but knowledge, vision,
contemplation 6 . This position typical of ancient philosophy was well understood by the Church
1 A good example in this case is the work of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus. Speaking of higher cognitive ability,
which the Greeks called νοῦς (mind), Thomas uses the term "intellectus", which is translated into Russian with the
term "mind" (sometimes intellect). In the same case, Duns Scotus along with “intellectus” and “ratio” uses the
definition of “mentis”, which is generally characteristic of the Augustinian tradition of the Franciscans (“mens” is
the term of St. Augustine to mean “reason”). See, respectively, ; .
2 Plato, at the end of the sixth book of the dialogue “The Republic”, gave an excellent hermeneutics of the
separation of mind and reason. See “State” 511 de
3 See, for example, the interpretation of this term in the Large Latin-Russian Dictionary
4 Such a synonymous series is confirmed by the article in the European Dictionary of Philosophy, which deals with
the interpretation of the term “Intellectus”. This article especially draws attention to the codification in the period
of the scholasticism of the repathetical understanding of “intellectus”, as “νοῦς”, on the one hand, and Abelard’s
(although not only his) interpretation of ratio in the context of Greek διάνοια, rational discursive activity on the
other. See [3, p. 96-107]. At the same time, for example, Losev in the volume “Aristotle and the Late Classics” of
“The History of Ancient Aesthetics” citing an excerpt from “On the Soul” of Aristotle, indicates that “the translator
instead of the Greek" mind "puts the Russian" mind " which is corresponding, rather not Greek noûs, but Greek
dianoia [4, p. 78]. Although in the volume “Sophists. Socrates. Plato ”, in the part of Plato’s thinking on thinking
that is devoted to analysis, uses“ mind ”and“ reason ”as interchangeable concepts [5, p. 451]. However, this
remark of the Russian-Soviet scholar is intended, rather, to emphasize the difference between the understanding
of the “mind” in antiquity (which is sometimes translated as intelligence) and the “mind” of modern philosophy.
5 However, despite the fact that “reason” is a more commonly used term in philosophical literature, the Russian
language still captured the essential characteristic of this type of knowledge in the word speculation (умозрение),
which indicates intelligent vision (умное зрение), when by analogy with the eye, the mind seizes the intelligible
image as a whole.
6 Analyzing Plotinus’s legacy, Averintsev summarized the difference between reason and mind (intelligence) very
succinctly: “The founder of Neo-Platonism, Plotinus contrasts the alphabet with the Egyptian hieroglyph: the sign
system of the alphabet, like the discursive work of reason, parses the word into“ elements ”and then mechanically
Fathers, so Anthony the Great wrote: “The body’s organ of vision is the eye, the soul’s organ of
view is the mind ... The soul that lacks a good mind and a good life is blind ... The eye sees the
visible, and the mind perceives the invisible. The God-loving mind is the light of the soul. Those
who have a God-loving mind are enlightened by the heart and see God with the mind 7 ”[cit. by:
It should be said that even though the use of the category “mind” in modern philosophical
discourse will be perceived rather as a kind of rudiment, the archetype of the dichotomous
division of cognitive ability remains unchanged throughout the history of the development of
Western philosophy. Even Kant, with the revolution he had accomplished, could not do anything
with the structure of the Greek-scholastic heritage. The only thing he managed to do was to add
new content to these categories, although this Copernican revolution, which is crucial for the
West, can be organically written into the history of the development of European nominalism,
showing that this revolution is only a radicalization of the existing tradition.
Having some terminological subtleties clarified, we can go directly to the foundations of
the classical mind, which constitute its being. Despite the fact that the subject of further
consideration will be the pre-modern classical mind, scientific research must take into account
the transformations of the rationality that has occurred and resulted in the birth of scientific
rationality itself. Speaking of various types of scientific rationality that underlie classical, non-
classical and post-non-classical science, Stepin, on the basis of the structure of the foundations of
science proposed by him, identifies three criteria that determine them: 1) the peculiarity of the
systemic organization of objects that make up the subject of scientific research, 2) instrumental
and methodological features of cognitive activity, 3) features of subject-object relations between
the scientist and the subject of science. The first criterion, by its nature, is ontological and
reflects the scientific community’s ideas about the world under study, the second,
epistemological, fixes the most adequate ways of the researcher’s cognitive interaction with
reality, the third characterizes the scientific community’s ideas about the goals and possibilities
of the scientific mind as such. Taking into account the deserved authority of Viacheslav Stepin’s
concept received in the philosophy of science, it seems justified to extend it to a wider cultural
context and try to characterize the classical mind on the basis of ontological, epistemological and
assembles it from them, but more noble is the symbolism of the hieroglyph offering our “vision,” the intuition of
our mind is a holistic and indecomposable eidos ”[7, p. 87].
7 Archpriest Leonov gives a good difference analysis for the difference between "mind", "intelligence" and "reason"
in patristic literature, showing that the price for sin was the "slide" from the contemplative mind to the reasoning
From the point of view of the “ontological” criterion, the most stable feature of the world
that opened up to the classical mind as an object of its comprehension, distinguishing it from
later views (for example, the mechanistic picture of the world of classical science) is its religious
and mythological coloring. The world did not appear in front of a man in the form of a “picture”,
but absorbed him as a necessary element of the Cosmos or Creation. The mind itself was not
considered as an attribute of "humanity", but was a structural element of the existing. From the
point of view of the “epistemological” criterion, the classical mind, in accordance with the
ontological hierarchy of the being, should be characterized as principally hierarchical. If we talk
about the third criterion of rationality when characterizing the type of subject-object relations,
then the classical mind, in accordance with the features of the basic for ancient antiquity Platonic
ontology and, moreover, Christian ontology, is distinguished by the fundamental transcendence
of its foundations.
In this case, classical mind is characterized by ontologism - rootedness in being, only
partially connected with a person; hierarchism - the dependence of cognitive possibilities on the
ontological level of entities that are being opened to the mind and transcendence - the
fundamental incomprehensibility of the foundations of mind and the world for the mind itself.
Ontologism of the classical mind
The mind (intelligence) for classical discourse is always a part of ontology, an essential
entity in the hierarchy of the degrees of being. Hence, human cognitive activity is not a function
of thinking (brain), but an existential cosmic (theological) process: knowledge (as, indeed, the
sphere of practical reason), is determined ontologically, not by anthropology in the broad sense,
as it is in the case of the modern mind. The idea of unity of thinking and being, starting from at
least the philosophy of the Eleatics, runs like a red thread through all antiquity: you can (and
need to) know only what dwells forever and never changes - everything sensual is just an illusion
that needs to be avoided. “One and the same is a thought and that to which the thought strives,”
said Parmenides, “since one cannot find thoughts without being, in which this thought is
realized. After all, there is and there will be nothing else other than being, since fate has tied
being with completeness in itself and stillness” . Thinking is a true being - Mind is not a
means (tool) of knowledge, but being itself, which thinks of itself. As Losev believed, Plato was
the first who gave thinking, substantiality - Mind, in his philosophy, became a separate
The ontological nature of the foundations of reason in the works of Plato is not difficult
to find. Here it can be said, firstly, that the structure of man completely repeats the structure of
the cosmos: there is a body in which the soul dwells, and the mind is placed in it. This is the old
idea of the coincidence of the microcosm with the macrocosm. Losev, analyzing Plato's
“Timaeus”, writes: “The body, mind and soul are equal components of both God and man (30b,
70a ff.). We find a striking correspondence between the structure of the cosmos’ soul (35a cl.)
and the properties of the human soul (43 and 37a) ... The human mind of Plato functions in the
same way as the mind of the cosmos (43de-44a and 41d) ” [5, p. 621]. Secondly, we can describe
a more significant point, which allows us to speak about Plato's ontologism. The Demiurge
himself, the creator of the world, is Mind. In Timaeus, Plato writes: “Everything said so far, with
a few exceptions, pointed to phenomena created by the power of reason” 8 (48a) [9, p. 419], and
the Russian explorer of the creativity of the Greek thinker on this basis asserts: "The text cited
suggests that Plato identified the demiurge with the mind ..." [10, p. 52-53]. The author of the
classical translations (which in some way became canonical) of Plato’s texts into Russian Vasiliy
Karpov wrote in this context: “Plato understood God as the highest and absolute mind, free and
independent of anything outside, - from which everything that exists, got its start "[9, с. 354-
355]. The demiurge creates the world by looking at ideas 9 - eternal patterns 10 that set the
archetype and the human knowledge of truth. Avoiding the changeable, the human mind should
focus on finding the eternal identities of true eidos. Thus, true knowledge for Plato lies in the
contemplation of the world of ideas, genuine being, the human mind imitates the universal mind,
which observes the eidos within itself. “The whole point is,” Losev writes, “that thinking,
according to Plato, is primarily ontological ...” [5, p. 457]. In this way, a balance of being and
thinking is established and, perhaps, for the first time, the concept of self-thinking thought is
developed. Climbing up the steps of thinking, one gradually gets closer to the true being,
respectively, the truth is not a search for authenticity, but a contemplation (reunion) of being
From the ingenious intuitions of Plato, Aristotle developed an explicit teaching about the
cosmic Mind 12 . This is the topic, to which he dedicated the XII book of his "Metaphysics". In it,
8 It should be said that there are more emblematic translations of this passage, for example, Boroday in the
monograph “The Birth of a Philosophical Concept. God and matter in the dialogues of Plato "translates it as
follows:" Everything we have said so far, with minor exceptions, described things as they were created by the
Demiurge’s mind "[10, p. 52].
9 See, for example, Timaeus 30b-31b, 39e.
10 This moment fundamentally distinguishes the creationist theories of Plato and the Bible - unlike the Plato texts,
in Christianity God creates the world from nothing.
11 It is appropriate to recall the concept of Martin Heidegger, who understood the truth of the times of antiquity as
ἀλιθεια (aletheia) and opposed it to modernity of authenticity, and considered the entire history of the West as
oblivion of existence. See more: [12; 13].
12 Losev, for example, justifies a position opposite to a long tradition that comes at least from the Middle Ages, he
insists that Aristotle did not criticize and deny Plato’s teachings, but developed and perfected - it is completely
wrong to understand Aristotle as an antagonist of Plato - he is the successor of his work. Thus, in the context of the
theory of the Mind, Losev writes: “In Plato’s work the Mind consists of ideas, and in Aristotle’s work the Mind
consists of ideas in exactly the same way; and both of these Minds, both philosophers have as the same eternal
and actual cosmic or rather supra-cosmic Mind ”[4, p. 43].
Stagirite develops the concept of God-Mind, perhaps, for many centuries ahead, defining
reflection strategies on this topic. This divine Mind is motionless, unchanging, eternally relevant,
having itself as a goal, thinking itself. “Thus,” Aristotle writes about this Mind, “it is clear that
the mind thinks the most divine and the most worthy and is not a subject to change, because its
change would be for the worse, and this is already some movement. So, firstly, if the mind is not
an activity of thinking, but an ability for it, then naturally the continuity of thinking would be
difficult for it. Secondly, it is clear that something else would exist, more worthy than the mind,
namely, comprehended by thought ... Therefore, the mind thinks of itself if it is superior and its
thinking is thinking about thinking”[11, p. 371]. Here it is important to note a few things. Firstly,
the mind is a part of the structure of being, even more so, the very being. Secondly, a distinction
is made between potential and actual reason, which from this time will steadily go down in the
history of this question, and will be especially important for medieval philosophy. Thirdly, self-
reflection (knowledge of oneself knowing and at the same time awareness of the coincidence
between subject and object, if we are using the language of German classical philosophy) is
substantiated as the highest form of activity.
By virtue of the existential dependence of man on this Mind and actions in his likeness,
the private subjective mind can reason only because there is this eternally actual Mind. This was
amply summarized by Losev, pointing to the ontological understanding of thinking in antiquity:
“The potential mind, from its (Aristotle’s — V.L) point of view, can exist only when there is an
actual energy mind. The material immersion of the mind has for itself the condition of its ability
to have an immaterial mind. The passive mind, burdened with sensual representations, is
possible only when there is an actual mind without any material sensuality. And, finally, the
individual and subjective mind of a person has as a condition of its possibility for the existence
of the universal and objective Mind ”[4, p. 44-45].
The most complete form of this concept of the divine Mind was acquired in Plotinus’
philosophy (if you agree with the opinion that Proclus simply developed the Plotinus’ doctrine,
without adding anything substantially new to it), which in this context is closer, oddly enough, to
Aristotle than to Plato. 13 The founder of Neo-Platonism develops and substantiates with the new
power the classical ancient idea of the unity of being and thinking (“Parmenides — before Plato
— taught the same thing, because he connected the essence and the Mind in the identity,
believing that things are not sensible things, saying that “to think and to be is the same ”[14, p.
22]), and develops the Platonic-Aristotelian conception of the self-thinking thought as the
13 See the position of Losev on this subject, which then became widely replicated in many studies on the Plotinus’
essence of Mind 14 : Thus, the Mind and the intelligible are one thing, it is the Being, and the first
Being, it is the first Mind that has things truly or, rather, is identical with them 15 ”[14, p. 70].
Plotinus not only reduces everything to one reason, insisting that “all things exist thanks
to the One” (En VI.9.1), but he develops a complete cosmology that implies a strict hierarchy,
supported by the emanation of the One. The Cosmic Mind turns out to be the ultimate essence
about which the cataphatic discourse is possible, which, in turn, makes possible any thinking of
private minds. In the Fifth Ennead, Plotinus writes: “And all things, attaining perfection, give
birth; The One always gives birth perfectly and forever; while the creatures are smaller than
himself. What then should be said about the absolut perfect? Nothing can happen from Him,
except the following after Him in greatness. The mind is this next in greatness, and second;
because the Mind sees the One and needs only Him; The One does not need Mind; born of the
Superior, there can only be Mind - Mind that surpasses all things, because other things come
after Mind, for example, the Soul, which is the Logos of Mind and one of His energies, since
Mind is the Mind of the One ”[14, p. 18]. For antiquity, to be rational and to exist generally
means to be part of the hierarchy of beings. The mind is a part of being, being itself, and
therefore thinking (rational action) is not a function of the body, but an approach of the soul to
the true being itself.
During the period of the Middle Ages, not only was this maxim not abandoned, but
developed even more on new cultural soil. Here you can recall the work and saint Augustine, and
the treatises of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, and the heritage of St.. Thomas Aquinas and
others. Medieval thought absorbed many ancient developments: from the categorical apparatus
and methodology to the Neo-Platonic trinity and the doctrine of entelechy. The concept of God
as the supreme Mind (the second hypostasis is completely analogous to the ancient tradition),
already formulated in the first lines of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and
the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1: 1) which, on the one hand, canonizes
the idea of God-Mind, on the other, introduces a specifically Christian understanding of this
Being — from the faceless abstract world principle of antiquity, it turns into the personified
personality of God the Son.
In the philosophical language of high scholasticism, it began to sound as follows: “Thus,
we know the mind, which refers to the universal being as an act of all being, and this is the
divine mind, which is the essence of God and in which everything that exists from the very
beginning and virtually is preexisting as in its reason"[17, p. 92]. This excerpt from the " Summa
14 The same idea is concisely formulated by Proclus, the finisher of the neo-Platonic tradition, in his treatise “The
Fundamentals of Theology”: “167. Every mind thinks of itself, but the first mind is only of itself; and in it the mind
and the intelligible are one in number”.
15 Enneads contain dozens of arguments on this topic in this context. See, for example, En V.3.5; 4.2.
Theologica" by Thomas Aquinas says that there is a (single) ever-pressing mind in which there
are no unrealized potencies, otherwise it would not be all-knowing and not perfect, not only does
the essence coincides with the existence in it, or rather even the existence and its essence, it is
also a pure act, which is the cause of all things (ST I. 79. 2). In the universal hierarchy it is
followed by the angelic mind, which “is always relevant in relation to the things that it thinks of
because of its proximity to the first mind” (ST I. 79. 2). And finally, the last, the lowest and most
distant from the perfection position is the human mind, which is potential in relation to
Naturally, this entire hierarchy exists and is supported by only one reason: everything that
exists is existing because of its connection with the universally existing, it draws its being and
finds its main goal. Whatever happens in the world, according to the Medieval Reason, occurs
solely by involvement and the higher it is, the more perfect the action is. Neretina very
accurately noticed this feature of medieval culture, indicating at the same time a certain tragedy
of the age: “True uncreated existence (God) was one thing, and the created thing did not merge
with Him, but received communion with Him - this eternal not-before-connectedness gave the
era a special tragedy, which is conventionally called the Middle Ages ". This, by the way, is
one of the essential differences between the Middle Ages and antiquity: the antiquity is looking
for mergers, the Middle Ages - the sacrament. Last but not least, this is why the teachings of
Averroes regarding a single intellect, followed by Siger of Brabant, Boetius of Dacia and others,
were rejected. The Arabic thinker, relying on the legacy of Aristotle, primarily on the treatise
“On the Soul,” argued that there is a single world mind (intellect), and individual human
intellects are world particles. After death, they merge with this single intellect and cease to exist
as independent substances, which naturally went against the Christian teaching about personal
(individual) immortality of the soul and salvation. Actually, therefore, the best representatives of
scholasticism, including Thomas Aquinas, who dedicated a special treatise to refute mono-
intellectualism, opposed the teachings of Averroes.
So, the medieval mind knows the universe, in which (beyond) the God-Logos (Trinity) is
at the top of the hierarchy, causing not only rational activity, but also the very being of all
beings. Not only action, but also being is possible in this world solely by participation: the
hierarchy of entities is determined by the hierarchy of existence. Analyzing the philosophy of
Thomas Aquinas, Étienne Gilson, one of the best experts on the philosophy of Aquinas, gave a
very good hermeneutics of this maxim: “Every entity, not being an act of existence, exists
because of it and consists in it as its self-determination. Outside of the pure Act of being, nothing
can exist in any other way than as this or that concrete existence. Consequently, it is the
hierarchy of acts of existence that substantiates and regulates the hierarchy of entities, each of
which expresses only the intensity of a certain act of existence”. The nature and cause of the
human mind (man as such) indicates pure being, transcendent to all created things: the earthly
mind is the result of the existence of the Divine mind. The nature of the classical mind is deeply
ontological - rationality does not appear as the adequacy of the conventionally established norms
(which is characteristic for the modern mind), or rather, this is not the ultimate level of
legitimation, but these norms themselves have a transcendental rationale.
Thus, it can be stated: first, the ontologism of the foundations of the pre-modern mind;
secondly, the basis of the classical mind is the Divine Mind - the highest level of the hierarchy of
beings (being itself); thirdly, thinking is an “attribute” of being, and not a function of the subject.
Hierarchism (Subordinationism) of the classical mind
The hierarchism of the pre-modern mind is well known and has been repeatedly analyzed
in philosophical and theological literature. As a proof, one can simply turn to the works of
Plotinus, Pseudo-Dionysius or John of the Ladder. The hierarchical structure can be easily found
in the internal processes of thinking, for example, from sensory seizure through a rational
movement to intelligent contemplation, in which the latter is incomparably higher in the general
hierarchy. In Plato’s “Republic” Socrates, after a long discussion, summarizes it as follows: “...
at the highest level is mind, on the second — sanity, third place one must give to faith, and the
last is likeness, arrange them accordingly, considering that the more this state is participial to the
truth and the more reliability it has”[20, p. 249]. You can see it in the structure of being itself,
which is a system with a clear subordination, built depending on the intensity (proximity) of
higher being. “And the aesthetic consciousness and its subject,” Losev writes, “are hierarchical,
ranging from eternal, immovable and self-identical entities, which are principles and ideas, and
ending with the physical, bodily world. Higher here is a pattern for the lower and a condition of
possibility for the lower [5, p. 276]. And Gilson, when analyzing the philosophy of Thomas
Aquinas, and the medieval worldview in general, wrote that the thinkers of this period were
clearly aware of the dependence of any essence on the act of existence, which is the cause of its
(essence) existence. Accordingly, the hierarchy of entities is a derivative of the hierarchy of
existence that is showing the degree of closeness to the pure act of existence, which of course
was God in medieval discourse. All this does not cause any doubt and, to a large extent, this is
what distinguishes the classical mind from the modern one. The modern mind is not aware of the
hierarchy of entities, and every other hierarchy that it perceives has completely different
However, the transformation process that led to the emergence of a new form of mind
and culture did not occur simultaneously, and all of its prerequisites are not only in the modern
discourse. Another representative of French neo-Thomism, a deep connoisseur of Aquinas
philosophy, Jacques Maritain in his work “Saint Thomas, Apostle of modernity” is inclined to
blame philosophy of the XVI century and especially Descartes for “treason of reason for its
highest purpose” without noticing the symbolism of the name of his own work. He believed that
it was then when “... the internal hierarchy of the virtues of reason collapsed, philosophy
separated from theology in order to claim the title of higher science, and the mathematical study
of the sensual world and its phenomena began to crowd metaphysics, the human mind began to
talk about its independence in relation to God and to being ... " . However, it is problematic
to categorically agree with such conclusions today. If the destruction of the hierarchy can be
viewed as a condition for the emergence of new historical conditions, later called Modernity,
then ignoring the mental revolution that took place in scholastic philosophy, which, in the end,
led to this destruction, looks today completely unjustified. It was within the framework of high
scholasticism where a new gnoseological approach to creation has been formulated and the result
of which such a reality as “nature” 16 was discovered, mind gained the opportunity to look at the
world as a picture (using Heideggerian terminology), which resulted in the discovery of an
interaction (cognition) method with the surrounding reality and adequate to the new realities.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the debate about the nature of universals did not abate; it
can be schematically represented as a continuation of the struggle of Aristotelism against
Platonism, in the end of which the peripatetics won.
For the Platonic tradition, the process of knowledge is associated with the contemplation
of the world of ideas that are substantial in nature. Sensuality can add nothing to this knowledge,
and the material world itself appears as contingent and accidental. This maxim of the ancient
worldview is perfectly reflected in the work of st. Augustine: “All that bodily senses achieve,
that they call sensual, never cease to change. Whether hair grows on our head, the body ages or
blooms with youth, this happens in constant becoming, which is never interrupted. But that
which is not, cannot be comprehended. Indeed, to comprehend means to understand
scientifically, but one cannot understand something which does not cease to change. Therefore,
one cannot hope that bodily senses will deliver us the truth in its purity. ” [cit. to: 22, p. 319].
Matthew of Aqua Sparta concisely formulated the main ethos of this approach, indicating that
not things, but ideas are the cause of our knowledge, and if God had captured the form of ideas
in our mind, as he did in the case of angels, we would know things as we know now.
Representatives of the same tradition, however, in this matter, already following Plotinus
more, were forced to recognize the fundamental unknowability of God. As Plotinus once wrote
about the One, showing that the maximum on which the human mind can count is to know that it
16 Very useful in this context is the work of Anatoly Akhutin, which is dedicated to the genesis of a contemporary
understanding of "nature" and its difference from the ancient "physis". See more: .
is not the One, and not what it is. Similarly, representatives of apathic theology denied the
possibility of obtaining any positive knowledge about God.
It would seem that this approach fits perfectly into the Christian worldview and is not
only based on the ancient tradition, but also on the Holy Scripture, and therefore should not be
revised. However, during the period of scholasticism, the opposite approach became the main
one, within the framework of which the world of new meanings was born. Paradoxically, it is
also completely orthodox and no less grounded from the point of view of the Scripture than
Platonic-Augustinian is. On the one hand, it can be described as a struggle for the recognition of
the value of creation 17 and, in this case, st. Francis’ “Little Flowers” or Aquinas’ “Summa
Theologica” personify one semantic field: creation is the work of God and therefore is not
something that should be avoided. On the other hand, to present it as an attempt of seeking hearts
to know the Lord at least by analogy, and therefore the evidence of the existence of God at this
time became almost an independent genre.
Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, while developing
a new methodology, discover the heuristic character of sensory knowledge. As Gilson notes in
“The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy”, after realizing the danger of skepticism emanating from
the Platonic concept of knowledge, medieval thought “had nothing left but to rehabilitate the
sensual order; this is exactly what was to be done first by St. Thomas Aquinas, then by Duns
Scot” [22, p. 324]. Aquinas indicates that the human soul occupies the lowest place among
intelligent substances and, like angels, does not possess knowledge of truth by nature, and is
therefore capable of knowing only on the basis of private things, through feelings 18 . Here’s what
Swiezawski writes about the philosophy of St. Thomas: “Sensual knowledge here on earth, in
our earthly conditions, determines mental knowledge” .
Aquinas asks a question about the connection of the eternal and the transient in our
knowledge and responds as follows: “So these two kinds, namely the eternal and the transitory,
are connected with our knowledge in such a way that each of them serves as a means for
knowing the other. Thus, by reasoning, from knowledge of the transient we arrive at the
knowledge of the eternal, for, according to the apostle, "the invisible through the viewing of
creations is visible" (Romans 1:20) [17, p. 109]. Basing on the canonical text of Scripture,
17 The disciple of Gilson and the scientific director Karol Wojtyła, the recognized expert on the philosophy of
Thomas Aquinas Stefan Swiezawski noted that Aquinas did enough to defeat sacralism, according to which prayer,
service, fasting, etc. has a higher status than ordinary work. “... each question is sacred in its own way - sacredly
everything, wrote Swiezawski ,Analyzing the philosophy of St. Thomas. - There are no divisions into sacred and
non-sacred. Everything is sacred, and this is the true position of true sacralism. Recall here the words of St. Paul:
“So, whether you eat, drink, or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10.31). 
18 In this question, and especially regarding the distinction between human and Divine knowledge, there is one
interesting and one of the most in-depth studies on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, which came out recently,
which belongs to the American researcher Eleonore Stump .
Thomas Aquinas substantiates the possibility of knowing God through His creations, thus giving
the creation a new unprecedented status of the apodictic element of God-knowledge. As
Frederick Copleston notes: knowledge becomes anticipation of the vision of God in heaven.
From this principle there is only one step to the modern natural science: it is necessary to stop
the transcendental level, giving natural knowledge an independent status, and the mind will
acquire a new (modern) form that it can apply to the new reality - nature. 19 Rudolf Steiner in his
lectures on tomism, appreciating the great merit of this tradition in opposition to nominalism,
with which he associated the regress of the West, nevertheless said: “The problem that was
previously solved by clairvoyance, by means of supersensory perceptions, has now descended
into the sphere of thought, into the sphere of activity of the mind. This is the essence of the
philosophy of Albert the Great and the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas ...” .
Franciscan Duns Scotus developed in parallel to Dominican way and came to even more
radical conclusions. Starting from the same passage from the Epistle to the Romans of Saint Paul
and relying on the Augustinian legacy, Duns Scotus insists that invisible ideas are learned on the
basis of creations, respectively, and their cognition (of creations) is of decisive importance. By
virtue of a person’s lack of the ability to know the truth in itself, he must constantly resort to the
help of reason in order to find it. This is how the methodology looks like according to Duns
Scotus: “… the human wanderer contemplates the essence of the stone, which for the divine
mind is incommensurable and eternal, but he does not see it as eternal and incommensurable,
[what it is] in relation to the divine mind, because it does not see its relationship to the divine
mind, by virtue of which it is immutable; and he [a person] sees in this object the truth of an
object and all that it contains virtually, through a rational study conducted in relation to this
object ”[2, p. 371]. And in the treatise “On the Knowability of God,” he deciphers how this
knowledge should be carried out: “The philosopher in Book III about the Soul says:“ Images for
the mind are perceived as feelings ”. But the feeling feels nothing but the sensed; therefore, the
mind does not know anything, besides, the images of which it can acquire through feelings ”[2,
19 Describing the process of overcoming Platonic skepticism undertaken by the great scholastics, Gilson wrote: “The
only way out of the difficulty lies, therefore, in recognizing: there is empirical certainty based on inference with a
stress put on experience. Undoubtedly, the induction of patterns from experience will not lead us to absolutely
necessary conclusions: there is no contradiction in the fact that things can be generated in a different way than
they are actually produced. But the knowledge that we have about their laws will not be less reliable and infallible
because it relies on the stability and necessity of the natures themselves. The great principle, which guarantees the
value of experienced knowledge, says that everything that happens regularly, due to some reason that does not
act freely, is a natural consequence of this reason. "Natural" means: not appropriate, but necessary. Therefore, the
knowledge of nature, which we are able to acquire through experience, has the necessary character” [22, p. 331].
William of Ockham on this matter has advanced even further, he is convinced, as indeed
many thinkers before him, that only universals one can know; only he refuses them of any
substantiality. The British thinker in his treatise “On Universals” explicitly writes that “a
universal is a spoken word” [27, p. 119], and in the treatise “The fact that a universal is not a
thing outside the soul” substantiates the position that “no universal is any substance that exists
outside the soul ...” [27, p. 119]. It follows from this that universals (ideas) have no
substantiveness, and therefore no independent existence, independent from the knowing subject.
On the contrary, the universal is a product of abstraction, the selection of quidditas, which
produces the human mind, and this is where their (universals) universality lies. “There are no
such objects as“ man in general ”or“ humanity, ”writes medieval philosopher and translator of
the works of the English Franciscan into Russian, A. Appolonov, concerning U. Ockham’s
philosophy, - the general is“ mental image ”(fictum) or“ act of thinking ”(actus intelligendi) and
does not exist outside of human consciousness” [27, p. XV]. Universals are not separate
substances of the world of ideas, but derivatives of human thinking. In the same treatise,
Ockham writes: “... the statement exists only in the mind or in written or spoken words. But this
is not a private substance. So it is clear that no statement can be made up of substances; but the
statement is composed of universals; therefore, universals are not substances in any way
possible”[27, p. 123]. Thus, a completely logical connection is built. Universals are not
substances, but only a word, a product of abstraction, material for “extracting” quidditas, getting
this extract, which provides an empirical world, cognizable by sensuality, respectively, to find
the truth, you should pay maximum attention to empirical studies that form the basis of genuine
An analysis of the texts of representatives of high scholasticism shows that it was during
this period, on the one hand, that a new region of reality was discovered and substantiated -
“nature”, which was initially used exclusively for orthodox purposes of God-knowledge; on the
other hand, a new type of mind was formed, adequate to this dimension of reality, which, after
detranscendence, has been carried out in the philosophy of New Time, will become an
independent system-forming entity. 20
The transcendence of the foundations of the classic mind
Proceeding from the fact that for the classical mind the intellect is not a unique result of
evolution which characterizes the crown of its development - a man, but an ontological (cosmic)
essence, manifested in the human race with the least intensity, its bases are of transcendental
nature. Appealing to various classical texts, it is not difficult to show that the origins of the pre-
20 In this regard, see also Piama Gaydenko’s study on the influence of medieval nominalism on the development of
the science of the New Age .
modern mind are transcendental (in the pre-Kantian sense of the term). The individual, potential
human mind is able to act only because there is a universal actual mind, which does not only
give being to the private minds but is also a rule-maker for them and is itself nothing more than a
manifestation of the Good (Plato), an emanation of the One (Plotinus), a manifestation of God
This tradition can be traced from Plato, who, for example, in “Phaedo” considers what
makes beautiful beautiful, makes reasonable reasonable, etc. “Look, what will come next,” said
Socrates, “will it seem so to you, like to me? It seems to me that if there is something beautiful
besides beautiful in itself, then it is beautiful for nothing but its participation in that beautiful. I
say the same about everything. Do you agree with this reason? “I agree,” he answered, “Plato
writes [28, p. 170-171]. This is just a sample of the study by the ancient Greek philosopher of his
main concept — the theory of the true world of ideas. But at the same time, it is the
legitimization of the maxim, which will become the commonplace of all the predominant
philosophies about the transcendental dimension as the true cause of the immanent world.
From this point of view it is quite logical that the closer human thinking (action) is to the
divine, the more perfect it is. This type of transcendentalism is well noticed by A. Losev.
Analyzing the philosophy of Aristotle, the Russian-Soviet thinker pointed out the apodictic
connection of the individual mind and the divine: “But if this is so, then the potential presence of
mind in a person must be required to recognize the existence of the mind as a whole, regardless
of man, mind as such. And if the mind contains only potentially in a person, but actually if it
manifests itself and doesn’t also, then there is also a mind that is always relevant, infinitely
relevant” [4, p. 44]. The meaning of what has been said is quite clear and does not require
additional comments. It is only worth noting that this thought of Aristotle will be a very popular
Christian philosophy and especially scholasticism.
Plotinus in his “Enneads” repeatedly illustrates the same thought about the transcendental
basis of the functioning of individual minds. The extract from the second treatise "On the birth of
being" VI "Ennead" is as follows: “Mind is beyond [private] minds, it directs individual minds, it
is their strength [= opportunity], it possesses them in their universality. And, again, all minds in
their partialness have a universal Mind, just as private knowledge contains knowledge [as such 21 ]
” [30, p. 145]. Simply put: the human mind is the weak counterpart of the Mind of the Divine,
that is acting as a transcendental condition for the action of private minds.
At the same time, the concept of enlightening the individual mind with the divine light,
which Plotinus 22 also developed, became an integral part of the Christian doctrine of rational
21 And in the treatise "On the mind, ideas and existence" of the fifth "Ennead" Plotinus writes: "Beauty arises in the
soul through reason. Then: what is that which the mind gives to the soul? With necessity - Mind, but not the mind
that is sometimes clever, and sometimes stupid, but the true Mind ”[14, p. 262].
action and the possibility of knowledge. Already St. Augustine in his “Confession”, developing
this Plato's idea, wrote: “if we both see that what you say is true, and both see that what I say is
true, then where, say, please, do we see it? Of course, neither I am in you nor you are in me, but
both are in that unchanging Truth, which is higher than our mind” [31, p. 212]. Although the
doctrine of the independent existence of ideas was not always accepted in the period of the
Middle Ages, nonetheless, knowledge and thinking as a process completely imbued with
otherworldly light was shared by almost all thinkers. Thomas Aquinas argued that our intellect is
capable of action only because of the penetration of mental light from God. “In fact,” writes
Aquinas, “the very mental light that is in us is nothing more than a participial likeness of
uncreated light, which contains eternal types. In this regard, we read [in Scripture]: "Many say:"
Who will show us the good? ". And the psalmist answers: “Reveal to us the light of Your Face,
Lord!” (Psalm 4: 7), which, in essence, means: we know everything through the divine light
imprinted on us 23 ” [17, p. 166]. British connoisseur of heritage of St. Thomas, Frederick
Copleston summarizes the thoughts of the great scholastic as follows: “When this [understanding
– L.V] is attributed to God, it is thus stated that there is perfection in God that the human mind is
like and not like at the same time. And since this perfection in God is the original source and the
highest model for every created mind, this word is metaphysically attributed to God primarily”
[32, p. 134]. In order to think and, in general, act rationally, the upper light must appear in the
human mind and the potential mind must be enlightened by the mind which is eternally relevant.
Although another representative of high scholasticism, Duns Scotus did not always agree
with his senior colleague, there is unity between them on this issue. So in a treatise with the
symbolic title “On the knowledge of a human wanderer and the illumination of it with an
uncreated light” he writes: “So now everyone agrees that it is true that we learn in the light of the
acting mind, not formally though, but effectively; it means that it is also true about us about what
we cognize in uncreated light, which contributes to the acting mind, because, as it contributes to
our act of knowledge, it has a meaning of light, as does the acting mind; and it is more correct to
say about us that we cognize in an uncreated light rather than [to say that we know] in the light
of the acting mind, since the first and higher cause has a stronger effect than the immediate
cause. And thus, we see the genuine truth in the uncreated truth, which is Light” [2, p. 369], and
a few pages earlier, while leading the dialogue, he insists: “The last thing I ask, considering this
22 Here is what Plotinus writes about this in the treatise “On Cognitive Hypostases and what is on the other side”:
“So, the mind sees the light with light not through anything else. Light sees a different light and, therefore, the
light sees itself. This light shines in the soul, enlightening it, making it intelligent, that is, likening itself to the
mountain light. If now you present [the light in your soul] as a trace of light coming into the soul, and even more
beautiful, great and pure, then perhaps you will come close to the nature of Mind and intelligible ”(En V.3.8). See
also En V.3.17.
23 There are many of such discourses in “Summa theologica”. For example, see ST I. 87.1; ST I. 89. 2.
problem of knowability, is whether the mind of a wandering person can naturally come to know
any authentic and genuine truth without the help of special enlightenment from uncreated light. I
prove that he can’t” [2, p. 337].
Therefore, it can be seen that the search for the foundations of the classical mind leads to
otherworldly dimensions, but its very nature and effectiveness are unthinkable without
transcendence, which gives energy to it (in the Aristotelian sense) and beingness.
This definition concerns issues that go far beyond epistemology: an aspiration towards
the highest goal can be traced in any process from movement to goal-setting. From ancient times
this phenomenon is known as entelechy. The most classic description of this process is
considered to be a fragment from the seventh chapter of the book XII of Aristotle’s
“Metaphysics”. In this part, Stagirus justifies the nature of motion, pointing to the need to allow
the existence of a prime mover (the divine mind), so as not to fall into the regression of evil
infinity, which itself is eternally motionless, but is the cause of motion. Further Aristotle
wonders about how everything is set in motion. The answer given by the Greek thinker became
the cornerstone for the whole Western civilization: “And the object of desire and the object of
thought move in this way; they move without being moved” (1072a) [11, p. 362]. The
motionless prime mover is so beautiful that the whole creation (using Christian vocabulary)
clings to it with its whole nature and wants to merge with it in a burst of unified ecstasy, creating
movement in the world and acquiring, thus, the ultimate goal of desire. 24 The soul is capable of
any act only because it has the highest guideline (ideal) of its action, which is a necessary
condition for any will (goal-setting). The bases of any action are of transcendental nature.
The idea of entelechy, as an organizing principle of being, has perfectly rooted on
Christian soil, both in the East and in the West of the Empire. St. Augustine begins with these
words his “Confession”: “... You have made us to Yourself, and our Hearts are Restless Until
They Rest in You” 25 [31, p. 5]. And almost one and a half millennia later, Silouan of Athos
proclaimed the same maxim: “... For the soul you need the Lord and the grace of the Holy Spirit,
without which the soul is dead. As the sun warms and gives life to wild flowers and they are
24 It should be said that although Aristotle gave the most universal definition of entelechy, the intuition and
phenomenology of this process is already present in the texts of Plato. In the “Republic”, the founder of the
Academy writes: “So, this is what I see: in what is knowable, the idea of good is the limit, and it is difficult to
distinguish, but as soon as you discern it the conclusion suggests itself that it is the reason to all right and beautiful.
In the realm of the visible, it begets the light and its ruler, and in the realm of the intelligible, it itself is the ruler, on
which truth and understanding depend, and anyone who wants to act consciously in both private and public life
should look at it” [20, with. 253]. See also [20, p. 233].
25 Sim. to the philosophy of Plotinus, for whom entelechy is perhaps the main system-forming principle, and the
“Enneads” themselves can be viewed as continuous melancholy and prayer to the One — the only thing that
interests the Alexandrian philosopher ultimately is a transition from himself to Him, as an image to a primordial
character, thus completing the path (En VI. 9. 11). In the Fifth Ennead, Plotinus writes: “[Not a man only, but] all
things are movedand move to Him [to the Good] by virtue of natural necessity, foreseeing [an inner sense] that
they cannot be without Him” [14, p. 158]. See also En VI. 2. 11.
drawn to him, so the soul who loves God, draws to Him and bliss in Him... ”. Thus, on the
one hand, entelechy acts as a principle that gives energy to anything, on the other hand, due to
the existential dependence of being on the root cause of being, it is the organizing principle of
the whole hierarchy of being.
Basing on the analysis of this principle, it is necessary to note its relevance throughout
the history of the development of the West. After the transcendental dimension was finally
docked (German classical philosophy), the principle of entelechy was not forced out of history.
Modern mind was unable (did not want?) to overcome this rudiment. The only thing is that the
field of its implementation has finally moved to the immanent space of social practice. This
process can be easily found in the principles of the functioning of the limit (for the modern mind)
dimension - the hierarchy of collective subjects (states).
Thus, it can be stated that the necessary condition for the functioning of the classical
mind is the transcendent as such, which is generally the primary cause of everything immanent.
At the same time, the doctrine of entelechy, despite its ancient origins, is in demand throughout
the history of the West and today is representing the system-forming principle of the
organization of social space.
Summarizing the results of this study, one should focus on the following. First, the most
emblematic characteristics of the classical mind, which constitute its nature and form, are
ontological, transcendent, and hierarchical. Each of these attributes fundamentally distinguishes
the classical mind from the modern one. Secondly, within the framework of the classical mind,
certain principles were formulated (dichotomous division of knowledge into rational and
rational, entelechy, ratiocentricity, etc.), which became archetypical for Western rationality as
such, some of which, after the secularization of medieval culture, became the principle of
organization for secular social reality. Thirdly, in times of high scholasticism, intellectual basis
was prepared for the destruction of the hierarchy of entities, which led to the emergence of a new
subject of research - an empirical reality that required a new type of rationality. In the end, this
led to the emergence of a new social reality as such, later called the Modernity.
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