[4.9.7] St Thomas Aquinas on the Human Soul

St Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274 AD), in his works Summa TheologiaeSumma Contra Gentiles, and Disputed Questions on the Soul, elaborates on the faculties and processes working in the human soul:

  • The distinctively human vital activity (see [4.9.6]) is cognition, “and thus spiritual rather than corporeal since intellect neither is nor directly uses a corporeal organ.”
  • Cognition involves and depends on sense perception, which has corporeal organs as substrate. So, the proper objects of cognition come to the intellect only through bodily organs.
  • Some aspects of the external sensation are beyond reason’s control since reason itself has no control over the presence or absence of external things. Appetite, the natural inclination to certain external things (e.g., food, sex, etc.) depends on the presence of these external things.
  • However, internal senses are not directly dependent on external things, because with the help of the will “passions can be stirred up or calmed down by applying certain intellectively cognized universal considerations to the particular occasions or objects of the passions, and reason exercises just that sort of control.” The medium of control is phantasms, which manipulates the imaginative power.

The following UML Use Case diagram presents Aquinas’s model of the human soul:

Aquinas on human soul
FacultyRelated use caseRelations
COGNITIVESecond operation: acquire intellective COGNITION of the properties, accidents, and dispositions associated with the thing’s essence.
“the cognition of quiddities [essences] will partially depend on this second operation, and on reasoning as well: ‘the human intellect does not immediately, in its first apprehension, acquire a complete cognition of the thing. Instead, it first apprehends something about it – viz., its quiddity, which is a first and proper object of intellect; and then it acquires intellective cognition of the properties, accidents, and dispositions associated with the thing’s essence. In doing so it has to compound one apprehended aspect with, or divide one from, another and proceed from one composition or division to another, which is reasoning’. The resultant full-blown intellective cognition may be either theoretical or applied.”
includes First operation: acquire COGNITION of essences of things from phantasms through abstraction
COGNITIVEAcquire theoretical COGNITION of things.
“The resultant full-blown intellective cognition may be either theoretical or applied [practical].”
inherits from Second operation: acquire intellective COGNITION of the properties, accidents, and dispositions associated with the thing’s essence
COGNITIVEAcquire practical COGNITION of things.
“The resultant full-blown intellective cognition may be either theoretical or applied [practical].”
inherits from Second operation: acquire intellective COGNITION of the properties, accidents, and dispositions associated with the thing’s essence
COGNITIVEFirst operation: acquire COGNITION of essences of things from phantasms through abstraction.
“intellect’s ‘first operation’ consists in the formation (by agent intellect in possible intellect) of concepts of external objects […]. But since the proper objects of the first operation are identified as the quiddities, the essential natures [essences], of things […]
His account of intellect’s first operation depends on our recognizing that a child’s first acquisition of the concept of a star differs only in degree from the most recondite advance in astronomy’s understanding of the nature of a star. Quiddities, the proper objects of intellect’s first operation and, in just the same respect, the objects of the culminating cognition of nature may helpfully bethought of, then, as proper objects of both inchoate and culminating (alpha and omega) intellective cognition.” thought of, then, as proper objects of both inchoate and culminating (alpha and omega) intellective cognition.”
includes INTERNAL SENSES process sensory impressions; create and store phantasms
WILLWILL exercices control over appetite.
“We can see that will exercises some control of the relevant sort, because a human being, as long as he or she is not aberrantly behaving like a nonrational animal, ‘is not immediately moved in accordance with the irascible and concupiscible appetite but waits for the command of will, which is the higher appetite’.
[…] “intellectively cognized good moves will […] The kind of control exercised by a cognitive rational faculty (standardly identified in this role as practical reason, strictly speaking, rather than intellect).”
extends Acquire practical COGNITION of things
INTERNAL SENSESINTERNAL SENSES process sensory impressions; create and store phantasms. “Internalized sensory impressions, the ‘sensory species,’ are transmitted to ‘internal senses’ which store the sensory species and process them in various ways. Our principal concern with the internal senses now is with one of the roles of the one Aquinas calls ‘phantasia’: producing and preserving the sensory data that are indispensable for intellect’s use, the ‘phantasms’ […]
The likenesses that are identified as sensory species and phantasms may be literally “likenesses”: images – realizations of the material forms (colors, sounds, textures, etc.) of external objects in different matter, the matter of the external/internal sensory apparatus of the human body. And, in keeping with the formal-identity theory, the sensory species, at least, are likenesses that lose none of the detail present in the external senses themselves (which, of course, vary in sensitivity among individuals and from one time to another in the same individual […]
Phantasms are likenesses of particular material things re-realized in physical configurations of the organ of phantasia, which Aquinas located in the brain. Although the forms presented in the phantasms have been stripped of their original matter, the phantasm likeness is particularized by its details, the external object’s original individuating matter being ‘represented’ by features of the phantasm. Phantasms themselves, then, are not proper objects of intellective cognition, although they are indispensable to it.”
includes Corporeal things make physical impressions on the corporeal organs of ‘the EXTERNAL SENSES’
EXTERNAL SENSESCorporeal things make physical impressions on the corporeal organs of ‘the EXTERNAL SENSES’
which have both ‘proper objects’ (colors for sight, sounds for hearing, and so on) and ‘common objects’ (shapes for sight and touch, and so forth). […]
A sense organ is affected by a sense-perceptible thing, because to sense is to undergo something. For that reason the sense-perceptible thing, which is the agent [in sensation], makes the organ be actually as the sense-perceptible thing is, since the organ is in a state of potentiality to this [result]”
External senses are:  touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.
APPETITESensory APPETITE provides inclination to things.
“The human soul of course involves natural appetites (for instance, for food of some sort), […] The appetitive power associated with sensory cognition is one we share with nonhuman animals – a cluster of inclinations (passions) to which we are subject (passive) by nature.”
extends Corporeal things make physical impressions on the corporeal organs of ‘the EXTERNAL SENSES

Sources

  • All citations from:  The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas, CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, Edited by  Norman Kretzmann and Eleonore Stump, 2010
  • McInerny, Ralph and John O’Callaghan, “Saint Thomas Aquinas”The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

First published: 22/10/2020

[4.4.5] Abelard’s Philosophy of Mind

Peter Abelard (1079?-1142 AD), in the Treatise on Understandings (Tractatus de intellectibus) and Logica Ingredientibus describes the faculties and way of working of the human mind:

  • The main faculties are the senses, imagination, and reason, but sensation, perception, abstraction, and intentionality also have importance.
  • Understanding is based upon sensation.
  • The mind works with mental images, but “the image is not the act of understanding, and so there is no formal identity between understanding and thing.”

The following UML Use Case diagram presents Abelard’s model of the human mind:

Abelard on the human mind
FacultyRelated use caseRelations
5 SENSESUsing 5 SENSES: tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, seeingrelates to Extramental Item
SENSATIONGrasping sensibles with SENSATION:
● Abelard “viewed the power of sensation as a mental power by which the mind peered directly out at the world, as if ‘through a window’.”
● e.g. when we see a white horse, we sense the whiteness (an accident).
includes Using 5 SENSES;
extends (REASON) produces understanding of the metaphysical
structure of the Item represented by the metal image
PERCEPTIONGrasping insensibles with PERCEPTION:
●”Perception would seem to be almost automatic and very closely related to sensation”
● the “initial grasp of insensible items is accomplished by an act of perception that is more than simple sensation but less than an act of reason.”
● e.g. when we see a white horse, we precieve the horseness (the nature of the thing, insensible).
includes Using 5 SENSES;
extends (REASON) produces understanding of the metaphysical
structure of the Item represented by the metal image
IMAGINATION(IMAGINATION) creates/processes confused mental image of the Item (universal or particular) when that is not present or not sensible:
● we create confused mental images of items, because “our limited power of imagination precludes the formation of accurate images. Presumably we would be able to form accurate images were our imagination not so restricted by a dependence on sensation. We sense individuals as individuals; we do not sense the underlying metaphysical structure.”
● “At its more interesting the productive power allows the mind to form mental images of items that cannot be sensed – of immaterial objects, and perhaps of universals”
● e.g. Imagination is able to create the image of the particular horse “Spirit”, or of the image of universal “horseness”.
REASON(REASON) produces understanding of the metaphysical structure of the Item represented by the mental image:
“A sound understanding is an understanding in concord or harmony with the status of the thing. […] A sound understanding is an act of attending to some nature or property of an item as that nature or property is found in the item.” (see also [4.4.1])
includes (INTENTION) directs attention Item sensed or to mental image;
includes ABSTRACTION of universals (forms)
ABSTRACTIONABSTRACTION of universals (forms):
● “Universals are not subject to sense, not because they are insensible, but because they do not exist.”
● “Universal understandings are formed by abstraction. Abelard does not describe the process of forming abstract understandings, but the end results are understandings that are alone (sola) or apart from sense; bare (nuda) or stripped of some or all other forms; and pure (pura) or conceived of in abstraction from individuating conditions”.
INTENTION(INTENTION) directs attention to the Item sensed or to the mental image:
“The attention of the mind in thinking about some item, and not the representative qualities of the image determine the intentional object of the act of understanding.”
REASONUnderstanding at the level of Opinion:
● Obviously, some understandings grasp a nature or property more fully and completely than others. To mark the degrees of accuracy Abelard uses the terms “opinion” (opinio), “knowledge” (scientia), and “intelligence” (intelligentia). The three terms mark, in ascending order, the depth or completeness of the grasp of a nature or property; opinion is the lowest level grasp, intelligence the highest. Knowledge is between the two.”
● “Abelard genuinely wavers in his use of ‘opinion.’ Sometimes ‘opinion’ is used to denote understandings with a very low-level grasp of the nature or property in question but which are nonetheless sound. Sometimes ‘opinion’ is used to denote unsound understandings. On either use opinion is at the opposite end of a spectrum from intelligence.”
inherits from (REASON) produces understanding of the metaphysical structure of the Item represented by the mental image
REASONUnderstanding at the level of Knowledge:
● “Knowledge is an understanding in which a nature or property is grasped to a degree somewhere between opinion and intelligence. Abelard will also call the habit of having such understandings of
a nature or property ‘knowledge’”.
● “Discrete individuals are the objects of knowledge.”
inherits from (REASON) produces understanding of the metaphysical structure of the Item represented by the mental image
REASONUnderstanding at the level of Intellectinherits from (REASON) produces understanding of the metaphysical structure of the Item represented by the mental image

Sources

  • All citations from: Guilfoy , Kevin, chapter “Mind and cognition” in The Cambridge Companion to Abelard, © Cambridge University Press, 2006, ed. Jeffrey E. Brower
  • King, Peter and Arlig, Andrew, “Peter Abelard”The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

First published: 13/08/2020