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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
The perennial problem in interpreting "De Anima" 3.5 has produced two drastic solutions, one ancient and one contemporary. According to the first, Aristotle in 3.5 identifies the 'agent intellect' with the divine intellect. Thus, everything Aristotle has to say about the human intellect is contained mainly in 3.4, though Aristotle returns to its treatment in 3.6. In contrast to this ancient interpretation, a more recent view holds that the divine intellect is not the subject of 3.5 (...) and that throughout the work Aristotle is analyzing the nature of the human intellect. But this view contends that the properties Aristotle deduces for this intellect, properties that have encouraged the view that Aristotle must be speaking about a divine intellect, are in fact to be discounted or interpreted in such a way that they do not indicate the immortality and immateriality of the human intellect. In this article I argue that close attention to the text and the sequence of argument supports the conclusion that Aristotle is speaking throughout De Anima of a unified human intellect, possessed of the properties Aristotle explicitly attributes to it. This intellect functions differently when it is and when it is not separate from the hylomorphic composite. I argue further that it is Aristotle's view that if we were not ideally or essentially intellects, we could not engage in the diverse cognitive activities of this composite. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
Augustine tells us in the Confessions that his reading of Cicero's Hortensius at the age of nineteen aroused in him a burning 'passion for the wisdom of eternal truth'. He was inspired 'to love wisdom itself, whatever it might be, and to search for it, pursue it, hold it, and embrace it firmly'. And thus he embarked on his arduous journey to the truth, which was at the same time a conversion to Catholic Christianity, and which culminated twelve years later (...) in his experience in the garden in Milan. In the first part of this paper I will trace Augustine's search for intellectual knowledge and truth -- the pathway from Manicheeism to Catholicism by which he achieves what he takes to be a true conception of God. Consideration will be given to the way in which his intellectual progress affects and is affected by the conative side of his nature -- his desires, habits and affections. I will then ask whether the insight into God's nature that Augustine achieves suffices to give him the wisdom that he seeks, and will consider his novel suggestion that it does not. We will see that Augustine attempts to set out additional, non-intellectual criteria for attaining knowledge of God -- where 'knowledge' has a richer sense that involves 'holding' the truth, and 'embracing it fully'. Augustine's conversion to the truth essentially involves a reorienting of the will, a radical change in attitude and motive. My second concern is with Augustine's conception of how his own will functions in his conversion. Clearly he thinks of his conversion as a process of change within the whole self, but one that culminates in a final act of will. His highly dramatized and metaphorical description of the struggle that goes on within him leading to his final decision is a repository of insight into human willing. I will attempt to elicit from the text of the Confessions Augustine's conception of the will -- whether it functions as liberum arbitrium, capable of choosing between presented alternatives, or simply as the executive organ of reason or desire. Secondly, I will consider the extent to which Augustine views himself as contributing by his overall process of conversion and to the final moment of decision. Consideration of Augustine's participation in the process must take into account his explicit recognition that he is in St Paul's predicament of not being able to do what he wants to do. The relevant questions are : What does Augustine do to bring about his conversion and Is his final decision something that he accomplishes by his own effort and striving? (shrink)
The effort to fit simple logical truths Ã¢â¬â like 'if it's either red or green and it's not red, then it must be green' Ã¢â¬â into Kant's account of knowledge turns up a position more subtle and intriguing than might be expected at first glance.
In the heyday of conceptual analysis philosophical psychology was practised without regard to the ontology of mind as that was associated with disputes between materialism and non-materialism. The rise of functionalism, however, led philosophical psychology in the direction of materialism, though with a residue deriving from phenomenal consciousness. This is now widely viewed as ‘the hard problem’ for physicalism and probably an insuperable one for it, raising the spectre of epiphenomenalism. I argue that in fact sensory consciousness is not the (...) greatest challenge to materialism, for that lies with the conceptual intentionality of abstract thought. I make these points in connection with the views of Aquinas and consider two of his arguments (from ST, Ia, q. 75) for the immateriality ofintellectual acts. While finding one inadequate for reasons internal to the Thomist account of cognition, I defend the second against recent critics. (shrink)