Doubting Thomas

Doubting Thomas
by Glenn W. Most

How best do we know what we know? What proof, gained by what sense, most assures us that what seems so, is in fact so? Is it sight, as often claimed, that best comforts us: “To see is to believe”? But the eyes are notorious liars. We are fooled by appearances again and again. Plato was right about that. Hearing is no better: if the eyes cannot distinguish appearances from reality, the ears are just as bad at discriminating the valid proposition from the arrant falsehood. No one has ever claimed much for either smell or taste as epistemological tools, tied as they are to our stomachs, chained as they are to our appetites. Then there are touch, feeling, sensitivity. Though not first considered, touch is often first consulted when we seek to confirm what we suspect. Is the iron hot? I wet my finger, touch the surface, and “see”; is what I have heard, what I may have beheld, really there? My awe, my doubt, will not be satisfied until I lift my hand, reach out, and bring its shape into contact with my own. “Now I see,” I say, but not with my eyes.

This way of knowing is of particular import to St. Thomas. The significance of his actually touching-or not touching-the risen Christ is the focus of Glenn W. Most’s absorbing book. His stated aim is to “reconstruct the conception and organization of certain textual and pictorial documents [concerning the Thomas episode] that have played a significant role in European...

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About the Author

A. G. Harmon teaches at the Catholic University of America. His A House All Stilled (UT Press) won the Peter Taylor Prize for the novel in 2001.