Two stories have dominated the historiography of early modern philosophy: one in which a seventeenth century Age of Reason spawned the Enlightenment, and another in which a skeptical crisis cast a shadow over subsequent philosophy, resulting in ever narrower "limits to knowledge." I combine certain elements common to both into a third narrative, one that begins by taking seriously seventeenth-century conceptions of the topics and methods central to the rise of a "new" philosophy. In this revisionist story, differing approaches to (...) the central subject matter of early modern metaphysics--knowledge of substances through their essences and causal powers--arise as a result of disagreements about the powers of the human cognitive faculties. Methodological writings are seen as attempts to direct readers in the proper use of their cognitive faculties. The early modern rejection of the Aristotelian theory of cognition ranks equally in importance with rejection of Aristotelian doctrines about nature. Skepticism is more often than not a tool to be used in teaching the reader the proper use of the cognitive faculties, or indeed in convincing the reader of the existence or inexistence of certain cognitive faculties or powers. Instead of early modern "epistemology" or "theory of knowledge," one speaks, with seventeenth century writers, of theories of the cognitive faculties and their implications for the possibility of human knowledge. The early modern rejection of Aristotelian logic can then be seen as reflecting a negative assessment about the fit between syllogistic reasoning and logic as an art of reasoning or thinking which refines the use of the cognitive faculties. -/- Central to this new historiography is the story of the relation between the intellect and senses as cognitive faculties or powers. The development of philosophy from Descartes to Kant can be portrayed as a series of claims about the power of the intellect to know the essences of things, with resulting consequences for ontology and the foundations of natural philosophy. I illustrate this revised narrative by comparing three conceptions of the intellect in three philosophical settings, provided by several late scholastic Aristotelians, Descartes, and Locke. I have two aims: first, to exhibit the central role played by the conception of intellect or understanding in these authors, and, second, to locate their discussions of the cognitive faculties in relation to recent understandings of psychology, epistemology, logic, mind, and their relations. Early modern writings do not easily fit into the modern categories of epistemology and psychology; more generally, the early modern concern with the workings of mind does not coincide with recent conceptions of naturalism. These findings can help us to see problems with our current categories. (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)
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)
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)
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)
In Schopenhauer’s thought, the will’s primacy over the intellect seems to suggest that the intellect plays no role in determining what we do. I provide an alternative picture of the intellect as actively deliberating and choosing in abstract cognition from what it passively receives from the will in natural cognition.
This article examines two medieval thinkers—Averroes and Aquinas—on the kind of causation exercised by the agent intellect in “abstracting” or producing intelligibles from images in the imagination. It argues that abstraction in these thinkers should be interpreted in causal terms, as an act whereby images in the imagination, through the power of the agent intellect, educe their intelligible likeness in a receptive intellect. This Averroan-Thomistic causal approach to abstraction offers an intriguing alternative to the usual approach to (...) abstraction as an epistemological content-sorting. The article also demonstrates the extensive common ground uniting these thinkers’ cognition theories, despite Aquinas’s well-known rejection of Averroes’s theory of separate Intellects. (shrink)
This paper examines Pomponazzi's arguments against Averroes in his De Immortalitate Animae, focusing on the question whether thought is possible without a body. The first part of the paper will sketch the history of the problem, namely the interpretation of Aristotle's remarks about the intellect in De Anima 3.4-5, touching on Alexander, Themistius, and Averroes. The second part will focus on Pomponazzi's response to Averroes, including his use of arguments by Aquinas. It will conclude by suggesting that Pomponazzi's discussion (...) stands as the first properly modern account of Aristotle's psychology. (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.
In this paper I challenge the claim that Bacon considered the operation of species as limited to the physical and sensory levels and demonstrate that in his view, the very same species issued by physical objects operate within the intellect as well. I argue that in Bacon the concept of illumination plays a secondary role in the acquisition of knowledge, and that he regarded innate knowledge as dispositional and confused. What was left as the main channel through which knowledge (...) is gained were species received through the senses. I argue that according to Bacon these species, representing their agents in essence, definition and operation, arrive in the intellect without undergoing a complete abstraction from matter and while still retaining the character of agents acting naturally. In this way Bacon sets the intellect as separate from the natural world not in any essential way, but rather as it were in degree, thus supplying a theoretical justification for the ability to access and know nature. (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)
Este trabajo pretende mostrar que la suspensión es la temporalidad inmanente a la noción de éxodo en Paolo Virno, a través de la potencia negativa tal como es entendida en el pensamiento de G. Agamben. La argumentación se articulará en tres momentos: en primer lugar, atenderemos a la lectura de “El Fragmento de las máquinas” de los Grundrisse de Marx que realiza Paolo Virno, en la que sostiene que la propia naturaleza del General Intellect implica que una parte importante (...) de los conocimientos no sea susceptible de ser depositada en las máquinas, sino que contiene como condición necesaria su manifestación directa del trabajo vivo y, por tanto, en fuerza de trabajo; en segundo lugar, analizaremos cómo el cuerpo biológico del individuo, en tanto que potencia puesta a producir, es el fundamento de la biopolítica; y, finalmente, nos adentraremos en el pensamiento de G. Agamben para sostener la tesis planteada. (shrink)
Le XI.ème Congrès International de Philosophie Médiévale de la Société Internationale pour l’Étude de la Philosophie Médiévale (S.I.E.P.M..) s’est déroulé à Porto (Portugal), du 26 au 30 août 2002, sous le thème général: Intellect et Imagination dans la Philosophie Médiévale. A partir des héritages platonicien, aristotélicien, stoïcien, ou néo-platonicien (dans leurs variantes grecques, latines, arabes, juives), la conceptualisation et la problématisation de l’imagination et de l’intellect, ou même des facultés de l’âme en général, apparaissaient comme une ouverture possible (...) pour aborder les principaux points de la pensée médiévale. Les Actes du congrès montrent que « imagination » et « intellect » sont porteurs d’une richesse philosophique extraordinaire dans l’économie de la philosophie médiévale et de la constitution de ses spécificités historiques. Dans sa signification la plus large, la théorisation de ces deux facultés de l’âme permet de dédoubler le débat en au moins six grands domaines: — la relation avec le sensible, où la fantaisie/l’imagination joue le rôle de médiation dans la perception du monde et dans la constitution de la connaissance ; — la réflexion sur l’acte de connaître et la découverte de soi en tant que sujet de pensée ; — la position dans la nature, dans le cosmos, et dans le temps de celui qui pense et qui connaît par les sens externes, internes et par l’intellect ; — la recherche d’un fondement pour la connaissance et l’action, par la possibilité du dépassement de la distante proximité du transcendant, de l’absolu, de la vérité et du bien ; — la réalisation de la félicité en tant qu’objectif ultime, de même que la découverte d’une tendance au dépassement actif ou mystique de toutes les limites naturelles et des facultés de l’âme ; — la constitution de théories de l’image, sensible ou intellectuelle, et de ses fonctions. Les 3 volumes d’Actes incluent les 16 leçons plénières et 112 communications, ainsi que les index correspondants (manuscrits ; noms anciens et médiévaux ; noms modernes ; auteurs). Le volume IV des Actes, contenant 39 communications et des index, est publié par la revue " Mediaevalia. Textos e Estudos ", du Gabinete de Filosofia Medieval de l’Universidade do Porto (volume 23, de 2004). Ouvrage publié avec l’appui de l’Universidade do Porto, de la Faculdade de Letras da U.P., du Departamento de Filosofia - F.L.U.P. et de la Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Portugal). (shrink)
The Dominican theologian Albert the Great was one of the first to investigate into the system of the world on the basis of an acquaintance with the entire Aristotelian corpus, which he read under the influence of Islamic philosophers. The present study aims to understand the core of Albert's natural philosophy. Albert's emblematic phrase, “every work of nature is the work of intelligence” , expresses the conviction that natural things are produced by the intellects that move the celestial bodies, just (...) as houses are made by architects moving their instruments. Albert tried to fathom the secret of generation of natural things with his novel notion of “formative power” , which flows from the celestial intellects into the sublunary elements. His conception of the natural world represents an alternative to the dominant medieval view on the relationship between the artificial and the natural. (shrink)
The connections between theories of concepts and issues of knowledge and epistemic normativity are complex and controversial. According to the general, broadly Fregean, view that stands in the background of this paper, these connections are taken not only to exist, but also to be fundamental to issues about the individuation of concepts. This kind of view fleshed out should clarify the nature and role of epistemic norms, and of different kinds of epistemic norms, in concept individuation. This paper takes up (...) an aspect of this general task and tries to make explicit the nature and role of intellectual norms, and to argue that extant paradigms for theorizing concepts fail because they fail to recognize the nature and individuative relevance of intellectual norms. (shrink)
‘The art of living with ICTs ’ today not only means finding new ways to cope, interact and create new lifestyles on the basis of the new digital technologies individually, as ‘consumer-citizens’. It also means inventing new modes of living, producing and, not in the least place, struggling collectively, as workers and producers. As the so-called digital revolution unfolds in the context of a neoliberal cognitive and consumerist capitalism, its ‘innovations’ are predominantly employed to modulate and control both production processes (...) and consumer behavior in view of the overall goal of extracting surplus value. Today, the digital networks overwhelmingly destroy social autonomy, instead engendering increasing social heteronomy and proletarianization. Yet it is these very networks themselves, as technical pharmaka in the sense of French ‘technophilosopher’ Bernard Stiegler, that can be employed as no other to struggle against this tendency. This paper briefly explores this possibility by reflecting upon current diagnoses of our ‘technological situation’ by some exemplary post-operaist Marxists from a Stieglerian, pharmacological perspective. (shrink)
We often claim to know about what is good or bad, right or wrong. But how do we know such things? Both historically and today, answers to this question have most commonly been rationalist or sentimentalist in nature. Rationalists and sentimentalists clash over whether intellect or affect is the foundation of our evaluative knowledge. This paper is about the form that this dispute takes among those who agree that evaluative knowledge depends on perceptual-like evaluative experiences. Rationalist proponents of perceptualism (...) invoke intellectual experiences, while sentimentalist proponents invoke affective experiences. The goal of this paper is to offer a fresh strategy for adjudicating between intellectual and sentimental perceptualism. I argue that the perceptualist’s hand will be forced either in the direction of intellectual or sentimental perceptualism once she decides between two views about the modal status of our basic evaluative knowledge. I close with an argument that the more plausible of the two options is the one which fits best with sentimental perceptualism. The argument, then, is that perceptualists ought to be sentimentalists. (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)
In one of the unpublished parts of his manuscript titled the Spicilegia, Arthur Schopenhauer presents an uncharacteristically sympathetic reading of an Aristotelian text. The text in question, De anima III. 5, happens to include the only occurrence of arguably the most controversial idea in Aristotle, namely the distinction between active and passive nous. Schopenhauer interprets these two notions as corresponding to his own notions of the ?will? and the ?intellect? or ?subject of knowledge?, respectively. The result is a unique (...) interpretation, according to which Aristotle's active nous is in fact non-intellectual: it is devoid of any interaction with intelligible objects, and hence lacks any intellectual activity. I show that this interpretation, though counterintuitive, is tenable, and that it may contribute to our understanding of Aristotle even if we do not adopt Schopenhauer's metaphysics. (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 scope of this book is to revisit the ancient Aristotelian and Plotinian philosophical and metaphysical problem of dualism and monism with respect to the first principle. Essentially, it defends Aristotle’s position of the primacy of an intelligible first principle over the Plotinian philosophical move to affirm a principle above Intellect.
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)
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)
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 paper offers an interpretative presentation of Duns Scotus’ notion of intellect, as it is delineated in his treatise entitled De Spiritualitate et Immortalitate Animae Humanae. Duns Scotus’ theory is gradually formed through his critical examination of the Aristotelian views which are presented in De Anima and Metaphysics.Duns Scotus accepts the Aristotelian definition of the soul, according to which the soul knows and thinks through its intellective power, and he claims that the intellective soul is the proper form of (...) man. However, he is opposed to Aristotle’s theory concerning the imperishability of the intellect, holding that since the intellect is the form of the perishable composite, it cannot exist apart from the composite. Furthermore, adopting the Aristotelian view that only human beings have two cognitive powers, the senses and the intellect, Duns Scotus shows the supremacy of the intellect compared to the senses. He distinguishes intellectual knowledge from sense knowledge by designating their functions and objects. Intellectual knowledge is an immaterial and non organic act in contradistinction to sense knowledge, which is a material and organic act; the intellect perceives abstract objects whereas the senses grasp particular objects. Although Duns Scotus proves that intellectual knowledge is superior to sense knowledge, he recognizes the contribution of the senses in acquiring knowledge inasmuch as he holds that the intellect understands only when it is rotated to the outside world: the intellect knows the universal by perceiving the intellectual images through the medium of imagination (phantasia), which modifies sense images to intellectual images (phantasms). Therefore, for Duns Scotus, knowledge would be impossible without cooperation between the intellect and the senses. (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)
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)
Such is the significance of the question concerning intellect and will that it has been discussed in both the Confucian and the Christian traditions and has even triggered two different schools of thought within each tradition. In Confucianism, it speaks of the fundamental divergence between lixue 理學 and xinxue 心學 in the Neo-Confucian movement. In the Christian tradition, it speaks of the difference between the Franciscans and the Dominicans. A comparative study of Zhu Xi, the leading master of lixue (...) in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in China, and Eckhart, the scholastic Dominican master in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in the Latin world, will give us... (shrink)