OPENERS // Thursday, Sept 28  9:30-10:50am (Rm 210)

Five Ways That Art Knows Spiritual Reality
Chris Morrissey

Art makes guesses about spiritual reality. While science excels at making categorical classifications, art avoids the scientific use of univocal language that understands reality by “putting it in a box”. Instead, art is sensitive to all the ways analogical thinking may probe reality. Art thus concerns itself with the transcendental: all those ways of knowing that transcend the (merely useful) categorical modes of classification. It takes an expansive view beyond the categories, opening an approach to the transcendental aspects of reality found everywhere: being; unity; truth; goodness; beauty.

Logic as an academic discipline has recently emphasized the scientific aspects its own peculiar mode of critical self-awareness brings to human knowing. But logic has also been recognized as a liberal art within the tradition, preceding the modern craze to mathematize logic (since the nineteenth century). Logic is not just a science, but also an art. It can share with science an ability to navigate those aspects of reality that may be understood univocally. But more importantly, it is an art, a way of knowing reality that relies on analogical thinking: “making guesses”. For this reason, the Aristotelian tradition viewed logic as an “organon”, a “tool” of knowing that could not be classified as a distinct discipline, like mathematics or physics, which have distinct subject matters. Rather, logic was a “tool” that transcended merely categorical modes of inquiry.

As a liberal art, attuned to modes of knowing the transcendental, logic allows us to appreciate what it shares with the fine arts’ own orientation to the transcendental. This claim may be illustrated with Thomas Aquinas’ “Five Ways” of knowing God as a transcendent spiritual reality. The “Five Ways” are frequently construed as “proofs” about spiritual reality. Yet they merit comparison with René Girard’s analysis of literature’s analogical approach to transcendental aspects of reality.


Christopher S. Morrissey teaches Greek and Latin on the Faculty of Philosophy at the Seminary of Christ the King located at Westminster Abbey in Mission, BC. He also lectures in logic and philosophy at Trinity Western University. He studied Ancient Greek and Latin at the University of British Columbia and has taught classical mythology, history, and ancient languages at Simon Fraser University, where he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on René Girard. He is managing editor of The American Journal of Semiotics. His poetry book is Hesiod: Theogony / Works and Days, and his philosophy book is The Way of Logic.