Of God and His Creatures

That Man is not a Member the Human Species by possession of Passive Intellect, but by possession of Potential Intellect

AVERROES endeavours to meet these arguments and to maintain the position aforesaid. He says accordingly that man differs from dumb animals by what Aristotle calls the 'passive intellect,' which is that 'cogitative power' (vis cogitativa) proper to man, in place whereof other animals have a certain 'estimative power' (aestimativa).* The function of this 'cogitative power' is to distinguish individual ideas and compare them with one another, as the intellect, which is separate and unmixed, compares and distinguishes between universal ideas. And because by this cogitative power, along with imagination and memory, phantasms, or impressions of phantasy, are prepared to receive the action of the 'active intellect,' whereby they are made actual terms of understanding, therefore the aforesaid cogitative power is called by the names of 'intellect' and 'reason.'* Doctors say that it has its seat in the middle cell of the brain. According to the disposition of this power one man differs from another in genius, and in other points of intelligence; and by the use and exercise of this power man acquires the habit of knowledge. Hence the passive intellect is the subject of the various habits of knowledge. And this passive intellect is in a child from the beginning; and by virtue of it he is a member of the human species before he actually understands anything. So far Averroes. The falsity and perverseness of his statements evidently appears.*

1. Vital activities stand to the soul as second actualities to the first.* Now the first actuality is prior in time to the second in the same subject, as knowledge is prior in time to learned speculation. In whatever being therefore there is found any vital activity, there must be some portion of soul standing to that activity as the first actuality to the second. But man has one activity proper to him above all other animals, namely that of understanding and reasoning. Therefore we must posit in man some proper specific principle, which shall be to the act of understanding as the first actuality to the second. This principle cannot be the aforesaid 'passive intellect': for the principle of the aforesaid activity must be "impassible and nowise implicated with the body," as the Philosopher proves,* whereas evidently quite the contrary is the case with the passive intellect. Therefore that cognitive faculty called the 'passive intellect' cannot possibly be the speciality that differentiates the human species from other animals.

2. An incident of the sensitive part cannot constitute a being in a higher kind of life than that of the sensitive part, as an incident of the vegetative soul does not place a being in a higher kind of life than the vegetative life. But it is certain that phantasy and the faculties consequent thereon, as memory and the like, are incidents of the sensitive part.* Therefore by the aforesaid faculties, or by any one of them, an animal cannot be placed in any higher rank of life than that which goes with the sentient soul. But man is in a higher rank of life than that. Therefore the man does not live the life that is proper to him by virtue of the aforesaid 'cogitative faculty,' or 'passive intellect.'

4. The 'potential intellect' is proved not to be the actualisation of any corporeal organ* from this consideration, that the said intellect takes cognisance of all sensible forms under a universal aspect. Therefore no faculty, the activity of which can reach to the universal aspects of all corporeal forms, can be the actualisation of any corporeal organ. But such a faculty is the will: for of all of the things that we understand we can have a will, at least of knowing them.* And we also find acts of the will in the general: thus, as Aristotle says (Rhet. II, 4), we hate in general the whole race of robbers. The will then cannot be the actualisation of any bodily organ. But every portion of the soul is the actualisation of some bodily organ, except only the intellect properly so called. The will therefore belongs to the intellectual part, as Aristotle says.* Now the will of man is not extrinsic to man, planted as it were in some separately subsisting intelligence, but is in the man himself: otherwise he would not be master of his own acts, but would be worked by the will of a spirit other than himself: those appetitive, or conative, faculties alone would remain in him, the activity whereof is conjoined with passion, to wit the irascible and concupiscible* in the sentient part of his being, as in other animals, which are rather acted upon than act. But this is impossible: it would be the undoing of all moral philosophy and all social and political science.* Therefore there must be in us a potential intellect to differentiate us from dumb animals: the passive intellect is not enough.

6. A habit and the act proper to that habit both reside in the same faculty. But to view a thing intellectually, which is the act proper to the habit of knowledge, cannot be an exercise of the faculty called 'passive intellect,' but must properly belong to the potential intellect: for the condition of any faculty exercising intelligence is that it should not be an actualisation of any corporeal organ. Therefore the habit of knowledge is not in the passive intellect, but in the potential intellect.

8. Habitual understanding, as our opponent acknowledges, is an effect of the 'active intellect.' But the effects of the active intellect are actual representations in understanding, the proper recipient of which is the potential intellect, to which the active intellect stands related, as Aristotle says, "as art to material."* Therefore the habitual understanding, which is the habit of knowledge, must be in the potential intellect, not in the passive.

2.59 : That the Potential Intellect of Man is not a Spirit subsisting apart from Matter
2.61 : That the aforesaid Tenet is contrary to the Mind of Aristotle