Sociology Index

Jaime Luciano Balmes

Jaime Luciano Balmes (1810 – 1848) was a Spanish philosopher, theologian, sociologist, Catholic apologist, and political writer. Familiar with the doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Jaime Luciano Balmes was an original philosopher who did not belong to any particular school or stream was called by Pius XII the Prince of Modern Apologetics. The philosophy of Jaime Luciano Balmes is understood merely as "philosophy of common sense", when in reality it is something more complex. Both in Fundamental Philosophy and in Elementary Philosophy is the subject of certainty.

Balmes divides the truth into three irreducible classes. These are the subjective truths, the rational truths and the objective truths. The three types of truth are irreducible, and the methods of recruitment differ from one to the other. It is necessary that the philosophy first of all consider what kind of truth we are looking for.

The first type of truth, the subjective one, can be understood as a present reality for the subject, which is real but depends on the perception of the speaker. Affirming that one is cold or that one is thirsty are subjective truths. The second type, the rational one, is logical and mathematical truth, using any operation of this type as an example. Finally, the objective truth is understood as that which, although perceived by all, does not fall within the category of rational truth: to affirm that the sky is blue, or that there are trees in the forest.

For Jaime Luciano Balmes there is no possibility of doubting everything: making such statement, we forget that there are a series of rules of thought that we admit as truths in order to be able to doubt. Similar to that posed by St Augustine or Descartes, to affirm that we doubt necessarily implies the certainty that we are doubting. Doubt is also a certainty. An authentic radical skeptic is impossible, because there is no universal doubt.

Certainty is natural and intuitive like doubt, and prior to philosophy. Thus, the common and natural certainty also encompasses the Cartesian philosophical certainty. To reach this certainty, the so-called "criteria" are necessary, the means by which we can access the truth.

Jaime Luciano Balmes prefers to distribute them in three: the criteria of conscience, those of evidence and those of common sense. To define the corpus of Balmes's thought as "philosophy of common sense" is not so much due to his conception of common sense as inherent in philosophical work, but especially because of his definition of this sense as a criterion for reaching a certainty. It is worth noting the relationship of subjective truths with criteria of conscience, rational truths with those of evidence and finally, objective truths accessible through the criterion of so-called "common sense".

Jaime Luciano Balmes argues that metaphysics should not be sustained only on one column, but on three that correspond to the three truths: thus, the principle of Cartesian consciousness, the cogito ergo sum is a truth subjective, while the principle of non-contradiction Aristotelian is truly rational. Common sense, the intellectual instinct presents the so-called objective truth. It is impossible to find a truth common to the three principles.

Jaime Luciano Balmes denies the exclusivity of the theories of philosophers: philosophy is the fullness of natural knowledge, and is rooted in being a man. To affirm that the "cogito" is the foundation of truth and philosophy is not in itself a wrong assertion, because it is true what it affirms, but false what it denies, because besides the "cogito" there are other possibilities of foundation. Jaime Luciano Balmes does not reduce this idea only to the field of philosophy, and extends it also to general human thought. The fundamental thesis of Balmes is that there is no formula from which the universe can be detached. There is no truth from which all others arise. At this point, the three criteria can be defined more thoroughly.

Consciousness is what you notice on the inside, what you think and experience. Sensations would be useless if they were not experienced in consciousness. This criterion has several characteristics: the first is the subjective nature of consciousness, that is, our perception is that of the phenomenon, not that of reality, although for Balmes, subjectivity does not imply that the certainty achieved is not true. Consciousness does not put us in contact with external reality, nor with others, but it presents facts, it is an absolute that dispenses with relationships. Consciousness has no objectivity or light, it is pure presence.

When the language expresses the conscience, it betrays it, because something personal can not be expressed through something universal. Language is incapable of expressing pure consciousness, something that art can do. Consciousness can not be wrong either, because we are not mistaken about the experience of it, although it can be fallible when it leaves its ground to go outside. There is no error in the internal phenomenon, but perhaps in its correspondence with the outside. Balmes, against the Cartesian animaina machina, defends that the animals also have conscience, but in his case it is reduced to the sensation, and not to the intellectualization of it. For Jaime Luciano Balmes, consciousness is the foundation of the other criteria, and all are necessarily born of it.

Unlike consciousness, the evidence is not singular and contingent. The evidence has universality and a logical necessity. Jaime Luciano Balmes divides between two types of evidence, the immediate and the mediate: the first does not require proof, it is a priori knowledge, such as knowing that every object is equal to itself. On the other hand, mediate evidence requires demonstration.

The evidence does not capture a fact, but captures its relationships. It is captured that the idea of the predicate is in the subject. All evidence is based on the principle of non-contradiction, and is reduced to the analytical. Forget the synthetic judgments that are not exclusively rational, do not consider that the criterion of evidence is accompanied by the senses. For Jaime Luciano Balmes, the analysis of consciousness is better than the analysis of evidence.

The intellectual instinct gives us the correspondence between the idea and reality, it is not an animal instinct, but a rational instinct. Through this instinct we know that what we see exists. These kinds of truths are by definition broader than the intellectual truths of the evidence. The same truth can also be had by means of an intellectual rather than an instinct—whether a business works or not can be known through an economic study or through an intuition of common sense. In the common sense, there is the unconscious, like the moral truths, or the sensations, or that which through the intellectual instinct we see as evident, like the scientific truths. It is also through this instinct that we know demonstrable truths without having to prove them, or we consider truth as probability, that is, the awareness of contingency—to be aware of the possibilities we have to win the lottery, or to achieve write something coherent by moving the pen randomly on the paper.

For Jaime Luciano Balmes, these are the three pillars of metaphysics. "I think, therefore I exist" Cartesian philosophy is in principle a truth of conscience, later transformed into an intellectual truth of evidence, a logical syllogism whose reality is understood through intuition. Having founded the cogito on something intellectual, Descartes falls into the risk of reducing the cogito to something logical and intellectual. For Jaime Luciano Balmes, consciousness is the fundamental pillar of metaphysics, but for him transcends the "cogito" the clear and distinct Cartesian idea: consciousness is the pillar because it is where experience is lived and given sense.