Of God and His Creatures

That Intelligences subsisting apart do not gather their Knowledge from Objects of Sense

A HIGHER power must have a higher object. But the intellectual power of a separately subsisting intelligence is higher than the intellectual power of the human soul, the latter being lowest in the order of intelligences (Chap. LXXVII). Now the object of the intelligence of the human soul is a phantasm (Chap. LX), which is higher in the order of objects than the sensible thing existing outside and apart from the soul.* The object therefore of a separately subsisting intelligence cannot be an objective reality (res) existing outside the soul, as though it could get knowledge immediately from that; nor can it be a phantasm: it must then be something higher than a phantasm. But nothing is higher than a phantasm in the order of knowable objects except that which is an actual term of intelligence. Intelligences subsisting apart therefore do not gather their intellectual knowledge from objects of sense, but understand objects which are of themselves terms of intelligence.*

3. According to the order of intelligences is the order of terms of intelligence. But objects that are of themselves terms of intelligence are higher in order than objects that are terms of intelligence only because we make them so. Of this latter sort are all terms of intelligence borrowed from sensible things: for sensible things are not of themselves intelligible: yet these sensible things are the sort of intelligible things that our intellect understands. A separately subsisting intelligence therefore, being superior to our intelligence, does not understand the intellectual aspects of things by gathering them from objects of sense: it seizes upon those aspects as they are in themselves.

4. The manner of activity proper to a thing corresponds to the manner and nature of its substance. But an intelligence subsisting apart is by itself, away from any body. Therefore its intellectual activity will be conversant with objects not based upon anything corporeal.

From these considerations it appears that in intelligences subsisting apart there is no such thing as active and potential intellect, except perchance by an improper use of those terms. The reason why potential and active intellect are found in our intelligent soul is because it has to gather intellectual knowledge from sensible things: for the active intellect it is that turns the impressions, gathered from sensible things, into terms of intellect: while the potential intellect is in potentiality to the knowledge of all forms of sensible things. Since then separately subsisting intellects do not gather their knowledge from sensible things, there is in them no active and potential intellect.

Nor again can distance in place hinder the knowledge of a disembodied soul (animae separatae). Distance in place ordinarily affects sense, not intellect, except incidentally, where intellect has to gather its data from sense. For while there is a definite law of distance according to which sensible objects affect sense, terms of intellect, as they impress the intellect, are not in place, but are separate from bodily matter. Since then separately subsistent intelligences do not gather their intellectual knowledge from sensible things, distance in place has no effect upon their knowledge.*

Plainly too neither is time mingled with the intellectual activity of such beings. Terms of intellect are as independent of time as they are of place. Time follows upon local motion, and measures such things only as are in some manner placed in space; and therefore the understanding of a separately subsisting intelligence is above time. On the other hand, time is a condition of our intellectual activity, since we receive knowledge from phantasms that regard a fixed time. Hence to its judgements affirmative and negative our intelligence always appends a fixed time, except when it understands the essence of a thing. It understands essence by abstracting terms of understanding from the conditions of sensible things: hence in that operation it understands irrespectively of time and other conditions of sensible things. But it judges affirmatively and negatively by applying forms of understanding, the results of previous abstraction, to things, and in this application time is necessarily understood as entering into the combination.*

2.94 : That an Intelligence Subsisting apart and a Soul are not of one Species
2.97 : That the Mind of an Intelligence Subsisting apart is ever in the act of understanding