Sylvester Mauro, S.J. (1619 1687) noted that human intellects
can grasp what is, what is not, what can be, and what cannot be.
The first principle, "it is not possible that the same thing
simultaneously be and not be," involves them all. On the Borders of
Being and Knowing begins with Greeks distinguishing being from
something and proceeds to the late Scholastic doctrine of
supertranscendental being, which embraces both. On the way is
Aristotle's distinction between being as being and being as true
and his extension of the latter to include impossible objects. The
Stoics will see something as the widest object of human cognition
and will affirm that, as signifiable, impossible objects are
something, more than mere nonsense. In the sixteenth century,
Francisco Suarez will identify mind-dependent beings most of all
with impossible objects and will also regard them as
By this point, two conceptions will stand in opposition. One,
adumbrated by Averroes, will explicitly accept the reality and
knowability of impossible objects. The other, going back to
Alexander of Aphrodisias, will see impossibles as accidental and
false conjunctions of possible objects. Seventeenth-century
Scholastics will divide on this line, but in one way or another
will anticipate the Kantian notion of der Gegenstand uberhaupt.
Going farther, Scholastics will see the two-sided upper border of
being and knowing at God and the negative theology, and will fix
the equally double lower border at supertranscendental being and
supertranscendental non-being, which nonbeing, remaining
intelligible, will negate the actual, the possible, and even the
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