of remarkable intellectual gifts and attainments. Her father was professor of mathematics at Bologna. When nine years old she spoke Latin fluently, and wrote a discourse to show that liberal studies were not unsuited to her sex: "Oratio qua ostenditur artium liberalium studia femineo sexu neutiquam abhorrere". This was printed at Milan in 1727. She is said to have spoken Greek fluently when only eleven years old, and at thirteen she had mastered Hebrew, French, Spanish, German, and other languages. She was called the "Walking Polyglot". Her father assembled the most learned men of Bologna at his house at stated intervals, and Maria explained and defended various philosophical theses. A contemporary, President de Brosses, in his "Lettres sur l'Italie" (I, 243), declares that conversation with the young girl was intensely interesting, as Maria was attractive in manner and richly endowed in mind. So far from becoming vain over her success, she was averse to these public displays of her phenomenal learning, and at twenty years of age desired to enter a convent. Although this desire was not gratified, the meetings were discontinued, and she led a life of retirement, in which she devoted herself especially to the study of mathematics. The 191 theses which she defended were published in 1738, at Milan, under the title, "Propositiones Philosophicæ". Maria showed a phenomenal aptitude for mathematics. She wrote an excellent treatise on conic sections, and in her thirteenth year her "Instituzioni Analitiche" was published in two volumes (Milan, 1748), the first treating of the analysis of finite quantities; the second, the analysis of infinitesimals. This, the most valuable result of her labours in this field, was regarded as the best introduction extant to the works of Euler. It was translated into English by Colson of Cambridge, and into French by d'Antelmy, with the notes of Abbé Bossuet. The plane curve, known as versiera, is also called "the Witch of Agnesi". Maria gained such reputation as a mathematician that she was appointed by Benedict XIV to teach mathematics in the University of Bologna, during her father's illness. This was in 1750, and two years later her father died. Maria then devoted herself to the study of theology and the Fathers of the Church. Her long aspirations to the religious life were destined to be gratified, for after acting for some years as director of the Hospice Trivulzio of the Blue Nuns in Milan, she joined the order and died a member of it, in her eighty-first year.
Frisi, Elogio Storico (Milan, 1696); Boyer, in Revue catholique des revues (1897), IV, 451; Anzoletti, Maria Gaetana Agnesi (Milan, 1900).
Agnetz (Latin, agnus, lamb), the Slavonic word for the square portion of bread cut from the first loaf in the preparation (proskomide) for Mass according to the Greek rite. The word is used both in the Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches of the United States, as well as in Europe.
Agnoetæ (ἀγνοηταί from ἀγνοέω to be ignorant of), the name given to those who denied the omniscience either of God or of Christ. The Theophronians, so named from their leader, Theophronius of Cappadocia (370), denied that God knew the past by memory or the future with certainty; and taught that even for a knowledge of the past He required study and reflection. The Arians, regarding the nature of Christ as inferior to that of His Father, claimed that He was ignorant of many things, as appears from His own statements about the day of judgment and by the fact that He frequently asked questions of His companions and of the Jews. The Apollinarists, denying that Christ had a human soul, or, at least, that He had an intellect, necessarily regarded Him as devoid of knowledge. The Nestorians generally, and the Adoptionists who renewed their error, believed that the knowledge of Christ was limited; that He grew in learning as He grew in age. The Monophysites logically believed that Christ knew all things, since, according to them, He had but one nature and that divine. But some of them, known as the Severian Monophysites, set limits to the knowledge of Christ. Luther attributed extraordinary knowledge, if not omniscience, to Christ, but many of the reformers, like Bucer, Calvin, Zwinglius, and others, denied His omniscience. Some Catholics during the last century have also questioned the omniscience of the human intellect of Christ, e.g. Klee, Gunther, Bougaud, and the controversy has again aroused some interest owing to the speculations of Abbé Loisy. See Knowledge of Christ; Monophysitism.
Petavius, De Incarnatione, I, XL, c. I–IV; Stentrup, Christologia (Innsbruck, 1882), XI. theses lxviii–lxxiii; Vacant, in Dict. théol. cath., s. v.
Agnosticism, a philosophical theory which limits the extent and validity of knowledge.
I. Exposition.—(1) The word Agnostic (Greek ἀ, privative + γνωστικός, "knowing") was coined by Professor Huxley in 1869 to describe the mental attitude of one who regarded as futile all attempts to know the reality corresponding to our ultimate scientific, philosophic, and religious ideas. As first employed by Huxley, the new term suggested the contrast between his own unpretentious ignorance and the vain knowledge which the Gnostics of the second and third century claimed to possess. This antithesis served to discredit the conclusions of natural theology, or theistic reasoning, by classing them with the idle vapourings of Gnosticism. The classification was unfair, the attempted antithesis overdrawn. It is rather the Gnostic and the Agnostic who are the real extremists; the former extending the bounds of knowledge, and the latter narrowing them, unduly. Natural theology, or theism, occupies the middle ground between these extremes, and should have been disassociated both from the Gnostic position, that the mind can know everything, and from the Agnostic position, that it can know nothing concerning the truths of religion. (See Gnosticism.) (2) Agnosticism, as a general term in philosophy, is frequently employed to express any conscious attitude of doubt, denial, or disbelief, towards some, or even all, of man's powers of knowing or objects of knowledge. The meaning of the term may accordingly vary, like that of the other word "Scepticism", which it has largely replaced, from partial to complete Agnosticism; it may be our knowledge of the world, of the self, or of God, that is questioned; or it may be the knowableness of all three, and the validity of any knowledge, whether of sense or intellect, science or philosophy, history, ethics, religion. The variable element in the term is the group of objects, or propositions, to which it refers; the invariable element, the attitude of learned ignorance it always implies towards the possibility of acquiring knowledge. (3) Agnosticism, as a term of modern philosophy, is used to describe those theories of the limitations of human knowledge which deny the constitutional ability of the mind to know reality and conclude with the recognition of an intrinsically Unknowable. The existence of "absolute reality" is usually affirmed while, at the same time, its knowableness is denied. Kant, Hamilton, Mansel, and Spencer make this affirmation an integral part of their philosophic systems. The Phenomenalists, however, deny the assertion outright, while the Positivists, Comte and Mill, suspend judgment concerning the existence of "something beyond phenomena". (See Positivism.) (4) Modern Agnosticism differs from its ancient prototype. Its genesis is not