Newman and Epictetus

In his Idea of a University, Newman offers the following (stipulative) definition of “Philosophy,” the “science of sciences”: “the comprehension of the bearings of one science on another, and the use of each to each, and the location and limitation and adjustment and due appreciation of them all, one with another, this belongs” (3.4, cf. 5.2). Philosophy for Newman covers much the same ground as “logic” does in Epictetus’s Discourses, where it is a discourse that contemplates and evaluates both itself and all other discourses (1.1.1-6). I’m not quite happy with this way of sorting human inquiry, since it puts an essentially secular discipline on a higher plane even than theology (as to scope, if not as to certainty; this is a point about which Newman is quite explicit, cf. Idea 3.4). It might be interesting to contrast Newman’s view with Aquinas’s ordering of the disciplines, with theology, as “regina disciplinarum,” subaltern only to the “scientia Dei et beatorum” (ST I.1.1.c., 2).

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