I reconstruct Aristotle’s reasons for thinking that the intellect cannot have a bodily organ. I present Aristotle’s account of the aboutness or intentionality of cognitive states, both perceptual and intellectual. On my interpretation, Aristotle’s account is based around the notion of cognitive powers taking on forms in a special preservative way. Based on this account, Aristotle argues that no physical structure could enable a bodily part or combination of bodily parts to produce or determine the full range of forms (...) that the human intellect can understand. For Aristotle, cognitive powers with bodily organs are always spatiotemporally limited, but the understanding is not. Aristotle claims that our understanding applies to all instances of the thing understood wherever and whenever they exist. On Aristotle’s own account the intellect in its nature is only “potential,” it does not actually possess any form. Thus nothing prevents it from possessing all forms. (shrink)
A study of problems, all revolving around the subject of intellect in the philosophies of Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroes, this book starts by reviewing discussions in Greek and early Arabic philosophy which served as the background for the three Arabic thinkers. Davidson examines the cosmologies and theories of human and active intellect in the three philosophers and covers such subjects as: the emanation of the supernal realm from the First Cause; the emanation of the lower world from the (...) transcendent active intellect; stages of human intellect; illumination of the human intellect by the transcendent active intellect; conjunction of the human intellect with the transcendent active intellect; prophecy; and human immortality. Davidson shows that medieval Jewish philosophers and the Latin Scholastics had differing perceptions of Averroes because they happened to use works belonging to different periods of his philosophic career. (shrink)
According to Alexander of Aphrodisias, our potential intellect is a purely receptive capacity. Alexander also claims that, in order for us to actualise our intellectual potentiality, the intellect needs to abstract what is intelligible from enmattered perceptible objects. Now a problem emerges: How is it possible for a purely receptive capacity to perform such an abstraction? It will be argued that even though Alexander's reaction to this question causes some tension in his theory, the philosophical motivation for it (...) is a sound one. Rather than a calculation of actualities and potentialities, the doctrine of receptivity is supposed to explain how human beings come to grasp universal aspects of reality in an accurate manner. (shrink)
This article seeks to provide some support for the troublesome report of Damascius in the De Principiis that, for Porphyry, the first principle is the Father of the Noetic Triad—and thus more closely implicated with the realm of Intellect and Being than would seem proper for a Neoplatonist and faithful follower of Plotinus. And yet there is evidence from other sources that Porphyry did not abandon the concept of a One above Being. A clue to the complexity of the (...) situation may be provided by a passage from Proclus (In Parm. 1070, 155ff. Cousin) which criticises him for making the One the subject also of the Second Hypothesis of the Parmenides. Here, I consider a series of passages from Porphyry's Sententiae which seem to indicate a doctrine of the One essentially faithful to that of Plotinus, but modulated in the direction of closer linkage to the levels of reality below it. (shrink)
Many educators persist in opposing art to intellect. This is incompatible with modern understandings of the interdependence of cognition and feeling. It also causes neglect of the value of art as one medium for presenting and exploring ideas. Historical examples add weight to the point by showing the richness of thought that has often informed visual art. The educational waste and cultural damage consequent on neglecting this aspect of art is indicated and remedial approaches are suggested.
I argue that Descartes's best known argument for dualism relies on claims about intellectual activity and not on claims about mental states generally to establish dualism. I explain that this must be so give his historical context, where arguments for the immateriality of the mind on the basis of the intellect were common. But sensation and other non-intellectual states were regarded as pertaining to the body-soul composite.
Desperately difficult texts inevitably elicit desperate hermeneutical measures. Aristotle's De Anima, book three, chapter five, is evidently one such text. At least since the time of Alexander of Aphrodisias, scholars have felt compelled to draw some remarkable conclusions regarding Aristotle's brief remarks in this passage regarding intellect. One such claim is that in chapter five, Aristotle introduces a second intellect, the so-called 'agent intellect', an intellect distinct from the 'passive intellect', the supposed focus of discussion (...) up until this passage.1 This view is a direct descendent of the view of Alexander himself, who identified the agent intellect with the divine intellect.2 Even the staunchest defender of such a view is typically at a loss to give a plausible explanation of why the divine intellect pops into and then out of the picture in the intense and closely argued discussion of the human intellect that goes from chapter four through to the end of chapter seven.3 Revolting against an extravagant postulation of entities, Michael Wedin, for example, has argued with considerable subtlety and ingenuity that there is in fact only one intellect discussed in De Anima.4 This unified intellect is fully capable of being integrated into Aristotle's hylomorphic psychology. In order to make his case, though, Wedin is himself forced (1) to discount the importance of some texts and (2) to interpret others in a way that strains credulity. (shrink)
This paper argues that Aquinas's conception of the human soul and intellect offers a consistent alternative to the dilemma of materialism and post-Cartesian dualism. It also argues that in their own theoretical context, Aquinas' arguments for the materiality of the human soul and immateriality of the intellect provide a strong justification of his position. However, that theoretical context is rather "alien" to ours in contemporary philosophy. The conclusion of the paper will point in the direction of what can (...) be done to render Aquinas's position more palatable to contemporary philosophers. (shrink)
One of Ockham's fundamental tenets about the human intellect is that its acts constitute a mental language. Although this language of thought shares some of the features of conventional language, thought is commonly considered as prior to conventional language. This paper tries to show that this consensus is seriously challenged in Ockham's early writings. I shall argue that, in claiming the priority of conventional language over mental language, Ockham established a novel explanation of the systematicity of thought—an explanation which (...) anticipates the idea that thought becomes systematic through the acquisition of conventional language. (shrink)
In "De anima" 3.5, Aristotle argues for the existence of a second intellect, the so-called "Agent Intellect." The logical structure of his argument turns on a distinction between different types of soul, rather than different faculties within a given soul; and the attributes he assigns to the second species make it clear that his concern here -- as at the climax of his other great works, such as the "Metaphysics," the "Nicomachean" and the "Eudemian Ethics" -- is the (...) difference between the human and the divine. If this is right, we needn't go on a wild goose chase trying to invent a role for the so-called Agent Intellect to play. God moves our intellects as he moves the heavenly spheres, "as a beloved": he constitutes the complete actualization towards which all of our intellectual striving is directed. Aristotle regards such final causation as an efficient cause, but not in a way that would make it part of what we would call the causal processes or mechanisms of human psychology. But, he would insist, it is essential for appreciating who we are and what our place is in the world. (shrink)
This paper discusses some aspects of the controversies regarding the operation of the agent intellect on sensory images. I selectively consider views developed between the 13th century and the beginning of the 17th century, focusing on positions which question the need for a (distinct) agent intellect or argue for its essential "inactivity" with respect to phantasms. My aim is to reveal limitations of the Peripatetical framework for analyzing and explaining the mechanisms involved in conceptual abstraction. The first section (...) surveys developments of Aristotelian noetics and abstraction in Ancient and Arabic philosophy. The second section presents a discussion of some "positive" accounts on abstraction and the agent intellect, and some "negative" accounts. (shrink)
One of the hallmarks of Descartes' philosophy is the doctrine that the human mind has a faculty of pure intellect. This doctrine is so central to Descartes' teaching that it is difficult to believe that any of his disciplines would abandon it. Yet this is what happened in the case of Malebranche. This paper argues that in his later philosophy Malebranche adopted a theory of divine illumination which leaves no room for a Cartesian doctrine of pure intellect. It (...) is further argued that Malebranche's abandonment of the Cartesian doctrine left a void in his philosophy which he filled with the theory of efficacious ideas. (shrink)
Recent scholarship understands Aristotle to hold that the human intellect is in part corruptible and in part immortal. The main textual support claimed for this understanding is De Anima III.5, where Aristotle, it is said, presents his doctrine of an immortal active intellect and a mortal passive intellect. In this paper I show that Aristotle distinguishes at III.5 not an active and a passive intellect, but an agent and a potential intellect, both immortal. I further (...) show that the mortal passive intellect mentioned at the end of III.5 is an analogous use of the term intellect, and refers to imagination, the act of a corruptible bodily organ, here called intellect only because it supplies the images from which intellect abstracts concepts. (shrink)
Since the crisis of Fordism, capitalism has been characterised by the ever more central role of knowledge and the rise of the cognitive dimensions of labour. This is not to say that the centrality of knowledge to capitalism is new per se. Rather, the question we must ask is to what extent we can speak of a new role for knowledge and, more importantly, its relationship with transformations in the capital/labour relation. From this perspective, the paper highlights the continuing validity (...) of Marx's analysis of the knowledge/power relation in the development of the division of labour. More precisely, we are concerned with the theoretical and heuristic value of the concepts of formal subsumption, real subsumption and general intellect for any interpretation of the present change of the capital/labour relation in cognitive capitalism. In this way, we show the originality of the general intellect hypothesis as a sublation of real subsumption. Finally, the article summarises key contradictions and new forms of antagonism in cognitive capitalism. (shrink)
The article examines the relation that Aquinas' theory of the beatific vision maintains with Averroes' noetics as presented in his Great Commentary on the De anima. Starting with his Commentary on the Sentences, in which the young Thomas Aquinas offers an explicit transposition of the philosophical intellection of separate substances into the Christian theological order, through to his later works where no mention of it is found, we will endeavour to present the exact nature of these borrowings and to evaluate (...) their accuracy by questioning the conceptual coherence of Aquinas' gesture: could Aquinas base his conception of a vision of God by essence on a noetic construction which was originally part of a system judged both erroneous and contrary to faith? Can one concede theologically, concerning the relation between divine essence and intellect, what one refuses philosophically, concerning the relation between the separate intellect and the body? Although Aquinas and his followers, in the incipient quarrel, assert it to be so, we will indicate how the original paradoxical borrowing maintains something conceptually problematic at the heart of Aquinas' thinking. (shrink)
The noted psychologist, Doreen Kimura, has argued that we should not expect to find equal numbers of men and women in various professions because there is a natural sexual inequality of intellect. In rebuttal I argue that each of these mutually supporting theses is insufficiently supported by the evidence to be accepted. The social and ethical dimensions of Kimura's work, and of the scientific study of the nature-nurture controversy in general, are briefly discussed.
This paper explores Aristotle’s account of the human intellect, with special emphasis on how this account relates to Aristotle’s treatment of nature. In his complex account of the intellect, Aristotle distinguishes very broadly between two types of intellection. One type (nous) involves the reception of what things are and is non-discursive in character, while the other type (dianoia) is the result of intellectual activity and is discursive in character. While Aristotle affirms that both types of thinking are distinctive (...) and essential functions of the intellect, it is also clear that dianoia presupposes nous, insofar as dianoia assumes as given what nous has received. This paper also investigates Aristotle’s account of truth, arguing that the very principles of the intellect’s functioning are naturally given to the intellect. Given Aristotle’s account of the intellect as well as his account of truth and the principle of non-contradiction, one can see that, for Aristotle, nature has a primacy relative to the intellect. (shrink)
The article analyses the idea that according to the averroist Jean de Jandun, Master of Arts in Paris at the beginning of the 14th century, human beings are composed of a «double form» the separated intellect on the one hand, the cogitative soul on the other hand. After recalling several major accounts of the time, we explore Jean's reading of Averroes' major conceptions concerning the problem. Finally, we challenge the idea according to which we observe in his writings the (...) radical thesis of a sometimes cogitating sometimes thinking «double human being» that makes of the homo intelligens a punctual and exclusive new being, which is accidentally produced while the thinking takes place. (shrink)
Bergson never dared to entitle his own work in such a fashion. However, his philosophical contribution on the workings of intelligence deserves such a high title. This article seeks to elucidate Bergson's contribution to philosophy in terms of his anticipation of several developments in human understanding. The work begins by investigating the relation between thought and the world (reality) by reviewing a series of constructivist concepts. In many ways, constructivism is related to both structuralism and post-structuralism, however this work does (...) not seek to detail these interrelations in any overt way. Instead, these concepts lay the groundwork for a review of Bergson's discussion of intellect in relation to life, psyche, and modern physics. Central concepts include limitation, circularity, and complementarity. Ultimately, the article seeks to display how Bergson's work is not only a precursor to constructivism but lays the foundation for a modified constructivism that can achieve a rigorous philosophical level. The proposed ground for the intellect is in the organic. Such an epistemological foundationalism would ultimately justify an evolutionary epistemology, in that, the structuring of the organic is evolving and thus the structuring of intellect would likewise evolve. Clarifying such an epistemology may aid in developing Delueze's an-organic bergsonism. (shrink)
Plotinus (205-269 AD) led the philosophical movement of Neoplatonism, which reinterpreted Plato's thought later in antiquity and went on to become a dominant force in the history of ideas. Emilsson's in-depth study of Plotinus' central doctrine of Intellect caters for the increasing interest in Plotinus with philosophical clarity and rigor.
This article investigates a tension among Aquinas’s basic claims about what constitutes the proper object of the human intellect. Aquinas asserts that the mindhas only one proper object, yet he repeatedly endorses two different candidates for this role: the being of a thing (ens) and a thing’s essence (essentia). One might assume the tension disappears if ens signifies the essence of a thing. Alternatively, the tension seems to dissolve if each operation of the intellect (apprehension and judgment) takes (...) its own object (essence and ens respectively). Although each approach effectively hides the tension from immediate sight, neither genuinely resolves it. This is because neither sufficiently accounts for the features of simplicity and priority Aquinas claims our “first conception of being” must have. Alternatively, I suggest how we might mitigate this tension by treating the intellect itself as having its own proper object (ens) and apprehension as having another (essence). (shrink)
Intellectual receptivity is both the prerequisite for objective human knowledge and the condition of possibility for all human knowledge. My arguments are cast in Thomistic terms. In the first part, I review the most important arguments with which Aquinas defends the receptivity of the human intellect, especially the argument from intellectual media and the argument from actualization. In the second part, I attempt to resolve the apparent contradictions involved in the claim that the intellect is receptive, contradictions that (...) stem from the fact that the intellect is an active potency (since its proper act is to reason) and receptivity is the act of a passive potency. In the final part,I argue that knowledge of the proper object of the human intellect (material singulars) is possible if and only if the human intellect is receptive. (shrink)
The notion of physical premotion (praemotio physica) is usually associated with the theological topic of divine concurrence (concursus divinus). In the present paper I argue that the Thomist Domingo Báñez (1528–1604) applied the concept of premotion (though not the expression “praemotio”) also in his psychology. According to Báñez, the active intellect (intellectus agens) communicates a kind of “actual motion” to the phantasma (i.e. the mental sensory image perceived by the imagination) in order to render it a collaborator of intellectual (...) cognition. Such an actual motion is, in other words, a premotion to the effect, as the phantasma is, in Báñez’s view, “elevated” to the production of an effect that transcends its proper powers. This Báñez’s theory was largely accepted in the subsequent development of Thomism. (shrink)
The objective of this article is to analyze some of the ambiguities of the Thomistic theory related to the agent intellect. Precisely, it is about those contradictionsor confusions that appeared as a consequence of Saint Thomas necessity to prove the existence and continuity of intellectual human activity after the death. These ideas are mainly found in Quaestiones disputatae de anima, where they generate two doctrines relatively opposed with regards to agent intellect, but they do not completely vanish in (...) Summa theologica. (shrink)
Aquinas puts forward two different, and conflicting, interpretations of Themistius’s account of the intellect. In his earlier interpretation of Themistius, Aquinas understands him to hold the position that both the possible and agent intellect are separate and incorruptible, existing apart from individual human souls but shared in by individual souls in the process of knowing. In De unitate intellectus contra averroistas, however, Aquinas radically departs from this reading, hailing Themistius as a genuine interpreter of the Peripatetic position, while (...) decrying Averroes’s perversion of both Themistius and Aristotle. This paper examines these competing interpretations of Themistius’s account of the intellect in his Commentary on the De anima of Aristotle, focusing on two issues central to its interpretation: (1) the nature of intellect insofar as it is separate, impassive, and unmixed, and (2) whether the productive intellect is one or many. (shrink)
Recent continental philosophy often seeks to retrieve Neoplatonic transcendence, or the Good, while ignoring the place of intellect in classical and medieval Neoplatonism. Instead, it attempts to articulate an encounter with radical transcendence in the immediacy of temporality, individuality, and affectivity.On the assumption that there is no intellectual intuition (Kant), intellectual consciousness is reduced to ratiocination and is taken to be “poor in intuition” (Marion). In this context, the present paper expounds Plotinus’ phenomenology of intellectual experience to show how (...)intellect, for Plotinus, is rather the richest mode of intuition, coinciding with the intelligible content of reality. This content, however, cannot be ultimate, but is the manifestation and apprehension of the transcendent Good as the condition of intelligibility. The Good, therefore, can be encountered only through the ascent to intellectual apprehension, and the visionof the Good is a transcendent moment within the intellectual apprehension of being, not a repudiation of or alternative to it. (shrink)
The paper raises the question of the relationship between the description of the soul as logos and the description of its cognitive activities as logismos in Plotinus’ Enneads V, 1  et IV, 3 . It first offers an interpretation of the definition of the soul as a logos of the intellect in V, 1 . Then it scrutinises the use of the terms logismos and logizesthai in the same treatise and compares it to a similar use of these (...) terms in IV, 3 . In both treatises, these terms refer to two distinct cognitive activities of the soul, one of which is the activity of a soul remaining in the intelligible realm and contemplating the cognitive contents of the divine intellect, while the other one denotes the defective cognitive activity of an embodied soul. In its concluding section the paper deals with Plotinus’ explanation, in IV, 3 , 30, of how the accomplished cognitive activity atthe level of the soul as logos of the intellect becomes a defective logismos at the level of an embodied soul. The author stresses the role of the embodied soul’s faculty of representation. (shrink)
I argue that we can arrive at a better understanding of the Ethics and why Spinoza wrote it by viewing it through certain ideas expressed in his Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect. These ideas are: 1) personal remarks, 2) the method and most perfect method, 3) true ideas, 4) false ideas, 5) definitions.
In this article, I discuss Plotinus. critique of the peripatetic idea of the divine intellect as first principle. As I am trying to show, Plotinus accepts the unity of the intellect as self-thinking, and, even more than Aristotle, he emphasizes this unity. Yet, he insists on the necessity of a principle that is even higher and simpler than the intellect. Eventually, intellect proves to be the unity of a plurality, though it is the most unitary being. (...) I discuss the dual nature of the intellect: both as thinking and as being, intellect is both unitary and plural. Starting from this, I analyze Plotinus' arguments of the absolute one as first principle, above intellect. (shrink)
The young Hegel was entranced by the notion of intellectual intuition, and this notion continues to entrance many of Hegel’ commentators. I argue that Kant provided three distinct conceptions of an intuitive intellect, that none of these involve aconceptual intuitionism, and that they differ markedly from Fichte’s and Schelling’s conceptions of intellectual intuition. I further argue that by 1804 Hegel recognized that appealing to an aconceptual model, or to Schelling’s model, or to his own early model of intellectual intuition (...) generates inevitable and insoluble problems of question-begging. By incorporating several important points from Kant’s Transcendental Ideal into his reinterpretation of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction and Refutation of Idealism, Hegel’s mature discursive and conceptual account of ‘absolute knowing’ performs some of the functions Kant assigned to the intuitive intellect, though without invoking any such intuitive intellect. I discuss several of these functions. (shrink)
Le thlicien d'identittique d'Averrotudie par les penseurs latins du XIIIe siveloppe avec exigence en vue de sauvegarder le caractritcessaire qu'identifie la pens personnelle de l'optre latin du XIIIe si le discernement d'Averrotique et l'a confirmre rigoureusement personnel de 1'intellection humaine.
Stanley and Williamson reject Ryle's knowing-how/knowing-that distinction charging that it obstructs our understanding of human action. Incorrectly interpreting the distinction to imply that knowledge-how is non-propositional, they object that Ryle's argument for it is unsound and linguistic theory contradicts it. I show that they (and their interlocutors) misconstrue the distinction and Ryle's argument. Consequently, their objections fail. On my reading, Ryle's distinction pertains to, not knowledge, but an explanatory gap between explicit and implicit content, and his argument for it is (...) sound. I defend the distinction's necessity in explaining human action and show that it propels a fruitful explanatory program. (shrink)
Muslims have always used verses from the Qur'an to support opinions on law, theology, or life in general, but almost no attention has been paid to how the Qur'an presents its own precepts as conclusions proceeding from reasoned arguments. Whether it is a question of God's powers of creation, the rationale for his acts, or how people are to think clearly about their lives and fates, Muslims have so internalized Qur'anic patterns of reasoning that many will assert that the Qur'an (...) appeals first of all to the human powers of intellect. This book provides a new key to both the Qur'an and Islamic intellectual history. Examining Qur'anic argument by form and not content helps readers to discover the significance of passages often ignored by the scholar who compares texts and the believer who focuses upon commandments, as it allows scholars of Qur'anic exegesis, Islamic theology, philosophy, and law to tie their findings in yet another way to the text that Muslims consider the speech of God. (shrink)