|« Prev||Chapter LXXIV. Of the Opinion of Avicenna, who…||Next »|
CHAPTER LXXIV—Of the Opinion of Avicenna, who supposed Intellectual Forms not to be preserved in the Potential Intellect393393Which is tantamount to supposing that there is no intellectual memory, but a series of recurring inspirations from without. See Summa, I, q. 79, art. 6.
THE above arguments (against Averroes) seem to be obviated by the theory of Avicenna.
He says that intellectual impressions do not remain in the potential intellect except
just so long as they are being actually understood.394394On the duration of these
impressions see Father Bödder, Psychologia, p. 162.
And this he endeavours to prove from the fact that forms are actually apprehended
so long as they remain in the faculty that apprehends them: thus in the act of perception
both sense and intellect become identified with their objects:395395Inasmuch as
the object is represented in sense and intellect by a sensible or intelligible form.
hence it seems that whenever sense or intellect is united with its object, as having
taken its form, actual apprehension, sensible or intellectual, occurs. But the faculties
which preserve forms which not actually apprehended, he says, are not the faculties
that apprehend those forms, but storehouses (thesauros) attached to the said
apprehensive faculties. Thus phantasy is the storehouse of forms apprehended by
sense; and memory, according to him, is the storehouse of notions apprehended independently
of sensation, as when the sheep apprehends the hostility of the wolf. The capacity
of these faculties for storing up forms not actually apprehended396396These notions,
though independent of sensation, are not intellectual: they are formed by that faculty
which Avicenna calls ‘judgement,’ and St Thomas vis aestimativa. See p. 125.
comes from their having certain bodily organs in which the forms are received, such
reception following close upon the (first) apprehension;397397 Receptione propinqua apprehensioni.
M. l’Abbé Ecalle in his French translation
(Vivés, Paris, 1854) has d’une manière qui est une disposition prochaine à l’apprehension
proprement dite. He takes the form to be in the storehouse of phantasy or memory
before is in the intellectual faculty. I take it to be first seized by the apprehensive
faculty, then consigned to the storehouse, from whence it is brought out again and
re-apprehended at will. So I understand the words that follow, of revival, not of
For a loan of this translation, the only translation that I have seen, I am indebted to the kindness of the Reverend James Bredin, late Professor of Chemistry at Oscott College. and 142thereby the apprehensive faculty, turning to these storehouses, apprehends in act. But it is acknowledged that the potential intellect is an apprehensive faculty, and has no bodily organ: hence Avicenna concludes that it is impossible for intellectual impressions to be preserved in the potential intellect except so long as it is actually understanding. Therefore, one of three things: either (1) these intellectual impressions must be preserved in some bodily organ, or faculty having a bodily organ: or (2) they must be self-existent intelligible forms, to which our potential intellect stands in the relation of a mirror to the objects mirrored: or (3) whenever the potential intellect understands, these intellectual impressions must flow into it afresh from some separate agent. The first of these three suppositions is impossible: because forms existing in faculties that use bodily organs are only potentially intelligible.398398Understand, — ‘and have never yet come to be actually understood, and therefore are not revivable as ideas in intelligence.’ The second supposition is the opinion of Plato, which Aristotle rejects. Hence Avicenna concludes that, whenever we actually understand, there flow into our potential intellect intellectual impressions from the active intellect, which he assumes to be an intelligence subsisting apart. If any one objects against him that then there is no difference between a man when he first learns, and when he wishes to review and study again something which he has learnt before, he replies that to learn and con over again what we know is nothing else than to acquire a perfect habit of uniting ourselves with the (extrinsic) active intelligence, so as to receive therefrom the intellectual form; and therefore, before we come to reflect on and use our knowledge, there is in man a bare potentiality of such reception, but reflection on our knowledge is like potentiality reduced to act. And this view seems consonant with what Aristotle teaches, that memory is not in the intellectual but in the sensitive part of the soul.399399“Memory is incidentally of what is understood, but ordinarily of what is primarily perceived by sense. Wherefore it is found in sundry other animals besides men: — whereas, if it were one of the intellectual parts, not many animals would have any memory, perhaps even no mortal would have any” (Aristotle, De memoria, I, i, 7). So it seems that the preservation of intellectual impressions does not belong to the intellectual part of the soul.400400 Avicenna’s theory tends to make the active intellect from without supply the potential intellect with intelligible forms: in which case phantasms cease to be necessary as a previous condition for the acquisition of intellectual ideas; and the arguments in the last chapter, which suppose such necessity of phantasms, fall to the ground. Averroes supposed one universal intellect of all men, at once potential and active: he left the individual, merely as such, nothing higher than the sentient powers. Avicenna denied to the individual the active intellect, and supposed one universal active intellect for all mankind. The potential intellect is reduced by his theory to a momentary impressibility.
Avicenna (Abu Ali Ibn-Sina), a native of Persia, lived A.D. 980-1037. Like Averroes, he was physician and philosopher. I quote from The Psychology of Ibn-Sina translated by J. M. Macdonald, M.A., Beyruth 1884. Four faculties are distinguished by Avicenna all of them belonging to the sentient part of the soul: none of them to the intelligent part. They are called “conceptual faculty,” “imagination,” “judgement,” “memory.”
I. Conceptual faculty. “There is nothing in the conceptual faculty besides the true forms derived from sense” (p. 28). This seems to correspond to what St Thomas calls virtus apprehensiva sensibilis, the faculty of sense perception.
II. Imagination. “In animals there is a faculty which compounds whatever forms have been collected in the common sense, and distinguishes between them, and differentiates them, without the disappearance of the forms from common sense; and this faculty is named imagination” (p. 28). “The imaginative faculty performs its actions without perceiving that things are according to its imaginings” (p. 28). “The imaginative faculty may imagine things other than that which the judgement considers desirable” (p. 29). If we might assume that this ‘imagination’ is purely reproductive of sense phantasms, it would answer to the ‘phantasy’ (imaginatio) which St Thomas ascribes to Avicenna.
III. Judgement. “Then in animals there is a faculty which decides decisively upon a thing, whether it is this or not. And by it the animal flies from that which is to be guarded against, and seeks that which is desirable. This faculty is called the judging and the supposing faculty” (pp. 28, 29). It is not difficult to recognise here that highest faculty of animal nature, called in other animals vis aestimativa, in man vis cogitativa (Chap. LX).
IV. Memory. “Then there is in animals a faculty which preserves the meaning of that which the faculties have conceived, e.g., that the wolf is an enemy.” It is a store-house of judgements rather than of sense perceptions: for “the senses do not perceive the enmity of the wolf; or the love of the child”: only the vis aestimativa perceives that, “then it treasures them up in this faculty.” It is not a store-house of fancies, as the “imagination” is: for “this faculty does not picture anything which the judgement does not approve. This faculty does not declare anything to be true, but preserves what something else declares to be true. And this faculty is called the preserving and remembering faculty” (p. 29). All this answers exactly to the account of “memory” which St Thomas attributes to Avicenna.
We come now to the main argument of this chapter, which is Avicenna’s belief in the ‘active intellect’ as a separate intelligence, working causatively upon the mind of man, and generating therein universal concepts, such concepts not being stored in the human mind for future use, but directly created afresh for every recurrence of them, by the action of this extrinsic intelligence. Against this doctrine of Avicenna, Averroes writes explicitly (De animae beatitudine, cap. iii, p. 151): Intellectus agens non tantum est causa in intellectu materiali [sc. possibili] per viam efficientis et motoris, sed per viam ultimae perfectionis, hoc est, per viam formae et finis. (See note, p. 135.) Averroes united the active and the potential intellect, and made both eternal: Avicenna and Alexander made the active intellect alone eternal. Avicenna’s theory of the universal active intellect is thus given in his own quaint words. — “ The proving of the existence of an intellectual essence, distinct from bodies, standing in the relation of light to sight, and in the place of a fountain: and the proving that, when human souls separate from bodies, they unite with this essence” (Title of Section x, p. 40). Speaking of the belief in mathematical axioms, he says: “It must be either by the use of sense and experiment, or by divine continuous overflow, . . . . overflow continuous with the rational soul, and the rational soul continuous with it. . . . This overflow, which is continuous with the soul, is an intellectual essence, not a body, not in a body: it stands by itself, holding the relation to the intellectual soul of light to sight” (pp. 40, 41). “The soul remains after death ever immortal, joined on to this noble essence, which is universal intelligence” (p. 42).
In Avicenna, as in Averroes, one recognises in the doctrine of ittisâl however misdirected, that craving for some connexion of man’s intelligence with a spirit above his own, which a banal materialism or positivism labours to extirpate, making man highest of beings and (perforce) self-sufficient. That craving is the root of mysticism; and in the doctrine of the Incarnation, with its corollaries of grace and sacraments, it has become the animating principle of Christianity. But on 143careful consideration this theory will be found ultimately to differ little or nothing from the theory of Plato. Plato supposed forms of intellect to be separately existing substances, whence knowledge flowed in upon our souls: Avicenna supposes one separate substance, the active intellect, to be the source when knowledge flows in upon our souls. Now it makes no matter for the acquirement of knowledge whether our knowledge is caused by one separate substance or by several. Either way it will follow that our knowledge is not caused by sensible things: the contrary of which conclusion appears from the fact that any one wanting in any one sense is wanting in acquaintance with the sensible objects of which that sense takes cognisance.
1. It is a novelty to say that the potential intellect, viewing the impressions
made by singular things in the phantasy, is lit up by the light of the active intellect
to know the universal; and that the action of the lower faculties, phantasy, memory,
and cogitative faculty, fit and prepare the soul to receive the emanation of the
active intellect. This, I say, is novel and strange doctrine: for we see that our
soul is better disposed to receive impressions from intelligences subsisting apart,
the further it is removed from bodily and sensible things: the higher is attained
by receding from the lower. It is not therefore likely that any regarding of bodily
phantasms should dispose our soul to receive the influence of an intelligence subsisting
apart. Plato made a better study of the basis of his position: for he supposed that
sensible appearances do not dispose the soul to receive the influence of separately
subsisting forms, but merely rouse the intellect to consider knowledge that has
been already caused in it by an external principle: for he supposed that from the
beginning knowledge of all things intellectually knowable was caused in our souls
by separately existing forms, or ideas: hence learning, he said, was nothing else
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar:
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.
(Wordsworth’s Ode, Intimations of Immortality
from Recollections of Early Childhood.)
3. Intellectual knowledge is more perfect than sensory. If therefore in sensory knowledge there is some power of preserving apprehensions, much more will this be the case in intellectual knowledge.
6. This opinion is contrary to the mind of Aristotle, who says that the potential intellect is “the place of ideas”: which is tantamount to saying that it is a “storehouse” of intellectual impressions, to use Avicenna’s own phrase.
The arguments to the contrary are easily solved. For the potential intellect is perfectly actuated about intellectual impressions when it is actually considering them: when it is not actually considering them, it is not perfectly actuated about them, but is in a condition intermediate between potentiality and actuality.402402So St Thomas rightly explains, ἐστὶ μὲν ὁμοίως καὶ τότε δυνάμει πως, οὐ μὴν ὁμοίως καὶ πρὶν μαθεῖν ἢ εὐρεῖν (De anima, III, iv, 7). When you know a thing, though you are not thinking of it, your mind is not quite so much in potentiality over that thing as when you have it still to learn. As for memory, that is located in the sentient part of the soul, because the objects of memory fall under a definite time for there is no memory but of the past; and therefore, since there is no abstraction of its object from individualising conditions, memory does not belong to the intellectual side of our nature, which deals with universals This however does not bar the potential intellect’s preservation of intellectual impressions, which are abstracted from all particular conditions.
|« Prev||Chapter LXXIV. Of the Opinion of Avicenna, who…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version