Karpov Kirill

Religious epistemology of Alexander of Hales and wisdom as a sense of taste

Karpov Kirill (2020) "Religious epistemology of Alexander of Hales and wisdom as a sense of taste ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2020, vol. 90, pp. 49-67 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturI202090.49-67


This article discusses the concept of wisdom as a sense of taste in the religious epistemology of Alexander of Hales (1185/86‒1245). The concept of wisdom as a sense of taste was quite common both in the tradition preceding Alexander and among his younger contemporaries (for example, it can be found in writings of Bonaventure and even of Thomas Aquinas). Alexander of Hales used this concept in order to solve some of the most important questions within his religious epistemology, the most important of which is recognising religious beliefs as having the highest epistemic status among all possible kinds of knowledge (belief — justifi ed belief — wisdom). The attribution of religious beliefs to wisdom, the highest form of knowledge, had a number of problems, e.g. why is an opinion based on authority placed higher than evidencebased knowledge?; why does higher knowledge begin precisely with faith, and not with rational reasoning?; what procedures can reliably transform religious beliefs into wisdom? The answers to these questions given by Alexander of Hales are analysed in the article in relation to the solutions proposed by his contemporaries. An analysis of the last of these questions led to the conclusion that the concept of wisdom as a sense of taste constituted a special procedure for verifi cation of religious beliefs. Following this, it becomes clear that wisdom in Alexander of Hales’ religious epistemology has at least two meanings. Firstly, it designates the highest type of knowledge available to man, and secondly, a special feeling that provides justifi cation of religious beliefs. In the final part, the article shows that religious epistemology of Alexander of Hales combines both evidentialist and anti-evidentialist traits. On the one hand, Alexander, like almost all his contemporaries, shares the fundamentalist scheme of knowledge and considers it the highest among those available to man and obligatory to any scientifi c knowledge. On the other hand, in order to justify religious beliefs, Alexander builds the concept of sense of wisdom, which echoes the concept of proper functioning as well as certain approaches in epistemologies of virtue and of authority


Alexander of Hales, science (scientia), theology, wisdom (sapientia), sense of taste, evidentialism, anti-evidentialist move


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Information about the author

Karpov Kirill

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Philosophy;
Place of work: Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences; Goncharnaya Str. 12/1, Moscow 109240, Russian Federation;
Post: Senior Research Fellow;
ORCID: 0000-0002-0223-7410;
Email: kirill.karpov@gmail.com.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.