If you would, please distinguish on a dumbed-down level science from knowledge. Is science a sub-set of knowledge? And even if it is, what is science anyway? Thank you.


For Aquinas, science (scientia) is an organized body of knowledge following in a demonstrative manner from certain premises which are either immediately known to be true or which are proved in another other science. Thus, a science is primarily the habit of soul, a speculative virtue of the intellect (Summa Theologiae Ia-IIae, q. 57, a. 2) in which a person retains the syllogistic arguments for certain conclusions from the first principles and basic assumptions in a given subject matter. E.g., one has (part) of the science of human nature if one knows habitually the argument: all animals are mortal; humans are animals; therefore, humans are mortal. It is also (at least speculative science is) concerned only with universal conclusions about its subject matter. Secondarily, a science is expressed in words and written down in text books. Geometry is the paradigm of a science.

Science is a sub-set of knowledge. One can (and must) know some things without being able to prove them. The principles upon which demonstrations or proofs are based are themselves unproven. Some of these, the most general, are immediately known to be true once the terms are understood. The classic examples are “every whole is greater than a part,” and “a thing cannot be and not-be at the same time and in the same respect.” Other principles, those proper to given sciences, are known from experience, e.g. “a human is a rational animal” (theoretically). The habit by which we know such first principles is called “intellectus.”

There is another kind of habit of knowledge, wisdom, which is the grasp of things in their first principles. It is thus synthetic (i.e. seeing the whole) rather than analytic (breaking things into parts). The height of wisdom attainable by natural reason is metaphysics; the height of wisdom attainable with the aid of supernatural grace is theology (Sacra Doctrina) which reaches its fulfillment and consummation in the contemplative activity of the beatific vision of seeing God as He is, i.e. His Essence and His inner life as a Trinity of Persons.

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