ND   Jacques Maritain Center : Psychology / by Michael Maher, S.J.



Summary of past Chapters. -- In chapter xii. we proved that sensuous and intellectual activity differ in kind. We defined intellect as the "faculty of thought," including under thought, conception, judgment, reasoning, supra-sensuous attention and self-consciousness. In chapter xiii. we have sketched at considerable length the attempts made by the chief modern schools of psychologists to explain the relations between sensuous cognition and thought, and to trace the origin of the latter. It will be now our own duty to face this latter question, and examine more closely the nature of our intellectual operations.

Thought an Activity. -- If we analyze a process of thought, we shall observe, in the first place, that it is in a marked manner an activity. Even in simple sensations, such as those of sight, there is genuine psychical activity of a certain kind; for the mind truly reacts to the physical stimulus by a conscious state. Still, compared with thought, sensuous life is relatively recipient and passive. In thinking, however, as in recalling a train of reasoning, in following an argument or in solving a mathematical problem, we are conscious of the mind as active. It attends to certain objects and abstracts from others; it brings together different ideas and compares them; it resolves complex conceptions into simpler elements; it judges, infers, and generalizes; and throughout all these operations, even when proceeding automatically or without voluntary effort, this rational consciousness is of an eminently active character.

Thought Universal. -- But a far more important feature of thought is that it deals with general relations and abstractions. Whilst sensuous apprehension is confined to the individual and concrete, thought can lay hold of the abstract and the universal, or of the general aspects of things. Images and representations of particular objects, it is true, accompany our thinking; and when the subject of consideration is singular, or when a train of thought consists mainly of the reminiscence of concrete experiences, the intellect indirectly apprehends singular events.{1} Still the direct object of intellectual activity, even in particular experiences, is the universal and abstract. Introspection informs us that in all thinking operations the mind seizes on general features of things, their agreements or differences, the relations of cause and effect, of substance and accident, of unity, plurality, and connexions in space or time. The study of thought expressed in language makes this clear, for the common nouns, adjectives, and verbs, as well as prepositions and adverbs, all symbolize universal notions and abstractions -- but abstractions having their foundation in reality.

Take, for instance, a newspaper article, and analyze it. You will find that it is composed of reasonings or arguments. These are resolvable into several separate judgments enunciated in propositions; and these last are ultimately reducible to terms and single words expressive of general ideas or concepts. When thus analyzed the proposition -- e.g., "Liberty is a natural right," yields four such universal notions, and "Bread is cheap," gives three. It is the function of Psychology to study the nature of these intellectual processes; and, accordingly, in this chapter we purpose to treat of the formation of universal notions or concepts.

Conception: Two Questions. -- When investigating the formation of concepts, it is important to distinguish two separate, though connected questions: -- How are they elaborated? and How are they originated? The former may be stated thus: Given the most rudimentary and indeterminate acts of intellectual apprehension, what is the process by which these are developed and elaborated into the clear and distinct universal concepts, the specific ideas, and scientific notions of later life? The other is: -- How are these primitive intellectual data themselves obtained? Or: How is the rational faculty of the mind evoked into activity and made cognizant of the object which stimulates the sense?{2}

Elaboration of Universal Concepts. -- Intuitive Abstraction and Generalization: In mature life the pereption of a single specimen is often the occasion of our forming a truly universal idea. For instance, whilst visiting the Zoological Gardens, an unfamiliar object presents itself to my senses and awakens an act of intellectual attention. I at once apprehend it as a large-dark-hairy-skinned-hump-backed-long-necked-four-footed-self-moving thing. The complex idea thus awakened in my mind was termed by the schoolmen a direct or potentially universal concept. Considered abstractly in itself it is neither universal nor singular. The same holds true of any simple idea given in an act of any direct perception, such as that of colour or taste.{3} I may now, by an act of reflective consciousness, turn my attention back from the thing to the idea, and whilst considering the idea advert to its susceptibility of being realized or reproduced in an indefinite number of similar beings. In this second stage the idea has become a perfectly general concept, called by the schoolmen a reflex universal. The object before me may happen to be a unique monster; but, nevertheless, it suffices for the formation of the logically-universal concept.

It is not necessary for me to see and compare several examples of the class. I have not to await the automatic evolution of a generic image by the fusion of a succession of impressions. The mind's spontaneous power of abstraction and generalization, when once awakened, can itself construct the universal notion. The single experience reveals to me the union, and, therefore, the compatibility of the collection of notes which constitute the concept; I perceive its internal possibility, and advert to its susceptibility of multiplication. The idea, however, thus rapidly formed may not represent accurately any existing class of object; it most probably does not correspond to an actual species. The colour or the size, for instance, which enter into my representation may be accidental or even peculiar to the particular animal before me. The idea is truly general, but the generalization is precipitate, and probably false if supposed to represent the actual order of the physical universe. It possesses what Abbe Piat calls l'universalité de droit, but not yet l'universalité de fait. It is a logical, not a scientific universal. It has to be perfected by protracted experience, which involves, on the one hand, a diligent observation of new examples, and on the other, reiterated reflective consideration and readjustment of the idea, so as to adapt it more closely to the facts.{4}

Furthermore, in the act of apprehension, which seemed so rapid, we cognize the object as dark-coloured, hairy-skinned, self-moving, and the like. But each of these adjectives expresses a universal notion, and the complex conception of the camel is thus easily attained, only because we are already in possession of the more elementary ideas of which it is constituted. In mature life cognition is often a process of re-cognition, perception an exercise of apperception; we comprehend an object by bringing it under a class, or a system of intersecting classes with which we are already familiar. But we must not be misled by this fact into the error that all cognition is classification.{5} The notion of being, which is the most primitive, the most indeterminate, and the widest of all ideas, and which, moreover, enters into all our intellectual cognitions, is not the outcome of a process of comparison, but of intellectual intuition.{6} The same is true of simple ideas presented in direct acts of apprehension, though the exigencies of language force us to express the experience in the form of classification. In the mental act itself, we may simply intuit an object or attribute, which may or may not be familiar; but if we seek to put the thought into words, it must be in terms symbolic of recognized classes -- e.g., "That is scarlet," or "This is painful." Moreover, the nature of mental action must be the same in kind throughout man's life, although intellectual activity is very faint and feeble in the early stages of its exercise; at all events, any conjectures we make as to the development of rational cognition in childhood must be based on what we know of the working of the human mind at a later period -- but, of course, corrected and qualified by all relevant facts that we can gather from a diligent study of infant life.

Intellectual Apprehension. -- At what age intellectual cognition proper begins it is impossible to determine. The sensuous faculties must, however, have attained a certain maturity before the higher functions of the mind are evoked into activity. Careful observation seems to establish that the primitive consciousness of the infant is an ill-defined sensory continuum, a mass of obscure homogeneous feeling in which there is little advertence to differences of objects or sensations. (See p. 151.) With frequent exercise and varied experience in the manner already described, the sensuous powers develop until they are sufficiently perfect to minister to intellectual cognition. When this stage is reached the intellectual act elicited must be the same in kind as that which the mind exerts in later life. It must be an act of intellectual apprehension, but of course of the vaguest character. The widest and most indeterminate conception under which we can cognize any object is that of being or thing. The earliest intellectual cognition elicited by the child is, therefore, the apprehension of an object as a being, or rather as an ens extensum -- a stretched-out-thing, whilst vague intuitions of moving-being, coloured-being, resisting-being, are almost simultaneously reached. It takes in objects as confused wholes before it discriminates their separate parts. It perceives them as totalities before distinguishing their various attributes. But the process by which the vague notions thus reached are contracted and enriched, are analyzed, clarified, and perfected is merely the reiterated exercise of this same intellectual power of apprehensive attention.

Comparative Abstraction. -- Attention is especially awakened by repetition of an experience, especially if this be connected with the child's own physical comfort or pleasure. The frequent re-appearance of some object excites interest. The sensuous perception becomes more perfect; the image produced in the imagination more distinct. Suppose, for instance, that some agreeable phenomenon, as, e.g, a bright red garment or a cup of milk breaks in from time to time upon the drowsy consciousness of the infant; the pleasure occasioned will stimulate attention to the object; the recurring incident or group of incidents will be noticed, and observation will be concentrated upon them. This focussing of attention on part of an experience has as its counterpart abstraction or precision, that is, the temporary withdrawal of our mental gaze from the elements unattended to. Still, the contraction of our attention to one object or part of an object is not so complete as to result in the entire ignoring of its surroundings. Indeed, with repetition of the experience the surroundings themselves become matters of interest, and the variations which accompany the constant factor begin to be discerned more and more clearly. Whilst some attributes presented in the original vague act ot apprehension recur regularly, others are intermittent or disappear. The red garment first observed when stretched-out is afterwards noticed folded in various ways, and its shape is different. The milk is now hot, now cold, sometimes sweetened with sugar, sometimes not, and the like. The notion of sameness amid change is being evoked, and this leads the child to compare.

Comparison and Discrimination. -- Comparison plays a considerable part in the elaboration of our concepts; but it implies their previous existence in at least a vague form. The mind cannot compare unless by an act of apprehension it is already in possession of the terms to be compared. Partial variation accompanying partial sameness in the objects of experience stimulates the judicial activity of the mind, which at first acts feebly, but with increasing firmness and distinctness as the faculties develop. Discrimination involves analysis, the splitting-up of the perceived object into its constituent elements; whilst this very process of separation pre-supposes an intuitive synthetic grasp of the object as a whole in the original conception, which is now realized with greater distinctness. The shape, colour, temperature, and softness of the garment, and the sweetness, temperature, and colour of the milk are distinguished as attributes of the perceived object, and the child is perfecting its notion of unity and coming to realize the difference between substance and accident in the original vague ens extensum. It should not, however, be forgotten that the recognition of sameness involves memory; and that although the natural tendency of the mind is in the beginning altogether objective, there must be an implicit awareness of its own enduring existence, developing in the consciousness of the child concomitantly with its cognition of the persistence of external things.

But the infant's experience is not limited to the recurrence of the same individual objects. He perceives different beings resembling each other in fewer or more features; and his attention is called to the recurrence of a common element in quite different situations. Thus, after he has grown familiar with the red garment, he observes a red table-cover or a red neck-tie, and adverting to the similarity not unfrequently manifests his satisfaction at the discovery. This is an important epoch in the elaboration of the general concept, for such an experience stimulates in a lively manner the abstractive power of the intellect, and incites the infant mind to consciously consider and dwell upon the conception redness in a completely abstract state.

Generalization. -- The transition to the perfectly general concept, the formally reflex universal idea, is now very rapid. The child having observed this red colour in different objects, and conceived it in the abstract by a further reflective act, considers it as capable of indefinite realization in other objects. The mind exerts its synthetic power and constructs new specimens, all embodying this attribute, and consciously adverts to the fact that it may be predicated of them all. As we have already pointed out, the formation of a general concept is quite possible in mature life after a single perception; and the operation may be similarly within the power of the child at a very early date. Nevertheless, it seems to us more probable that the reflective consideration of the concept involved in the act of formal generalization is ordinarily excited in the infant by the comparison of different objects and the discovery of a common attribute in several individuals. But the view of the older empiricists that generalization is simply the outcome of an accumulation of experiences is utterly erroneous. The active generalizing impulse is innate in our rational nature. Nay, experience is needed not to stimulate and excite, but to check and moderate this generalizing tendency. The chief use of reiterated observation is rather to correct and verify than to generate universal conceptions.

Precisely the same functions of the intellect -- attention, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, comparison, and discrimination -- are employed in fashioning the notions of science and those of ordinary life; and their work in both cases is the same -- to correct, adjust, and verify the vague idea generated spontaneously by the mind's own activity operating on concrete individual facts. Science is, after all, but a further elaboration and systematization of our ordinary cognitions, employing more careful methods of observation.

Let us, for example, trace the growth of the idea of cat. By its repeated appearance before the infant pussy excites attention, and is apprehended as a white-four-legged-self-moving-thing. On subsequent occasions it is observed standing, moving, sometimes mysteriously crumpling itself up and sitting down, sometimes lying seemingly dead on the hearth-rug. The image of pussy is by this time very distinct, but the concept is still very imperfect. It is merely that white-four-legged-self-moving-thing-which-does-curious-acts. Still the mind can and probably does generalize it. The child is quite prepared to apply the notion to an indefinite number of white, self-moving quadrupeds. Later on a black cat intrudes, and the general likeness in form, movement, and habits, is recognized, whilst the mind is disconcerted by the startling dissimilarity in colour. The notion of cat has new to be enlarged to accommodate itself henceforth to all hues. Next day the child observes a St. Bernard's dog, and manifests his appreciation of the similarity in this new self-moving quadruped. For him it is a big cat. If a second dog now appear, the original idea is seen to embrace two classes of objects. The concepts of dog and cat are distinguished and contrasted; attention is directed to their points of agreement and difference, and both notions become speedily well defined: The shape of the cat, its furry skin, its stealthy movement, its peculiar cry, are combined and held together by a synthetic intellectual act, and the concept of cat is formed and ready to be contrasted with the idea of dog, or sheep, or to be inductively applied to all future cats. The child's comparatively clear conceptions of these domestic animals are thus elaborated out of the primitive, ill-defined, and obscure apprehension of four-legged-self-moving-being. Increasing experience continues to perfect these conceptions of the nature of common objects until the average knowledge possessed in the child's social environment is reached, when progress ordinarily stops, and his ideas become practically fixed. Thus, the conceptions of cat and dog, bread and butter, are approximately the same among most people of the same degree of culture.

Commonly, however, when a special branch of science is undertaken, there is at once a new start, and an enlarged field of possible knowledge concerning the things of which it treats opens out before our minds. Still, the process is fundamentally of the same kind, and the clear, distinct, and rich conception which the chemist possesses of the nature of water, as composed of oxygen and hydrogen and exhibiting a thousand affinities and properties which distinguish it from other species of things, is only a better elaborated form of the infant's idea of the disagreeable thing in which he is daily washed.{7} In fact the growth of our intellectual knowledge is a continuous descent down Porphyry's tree. Each step augments what logicians call the comprehension or connotation of our subjective conceptions; that is, it increases our knowledge of the essential attributes of the being represented by our idea, whilst on the other hand it lessens the extension or field of objects to which the idea can be applied.

Thought and Language. -- Naming. -- The group of attributes summed up in a concept thus formed could, however, neither be retained in the memory nor communicated to others unless they were embodied in some definite sign. Hence we mark them with general names. This is the final act of denomination, the importance of which in the growth of knowledge and the elaboration of our concepts of specific essences, it would be difficult to exaggerate. The recurrence of the name will awaken in the future by association sensuous images of the individual objects perceived in the past, but its essential functions are to hold together and express the nucleus of attributes which constitute the common nature apprehended in the universal concept. Hamilton has characterized words as the "fortresses of thought," and the phrase very fitly indicates one of their most important duties. They establish our command over conceptions which have been gained by a protracted experience and might otherwise be soon lost. By definition a term is made to signify a determinate group of properties which we have frequently found together. It registers the result of a long series of observations; it is readily represented in imagination, and serving as a general symbol, it is handled with the greatest ease in our reasoning processes. These great advantages of language in relation to complex ideas are conspicuously illustrated in sciences like Botany and Chemistry, the nomenclature and terminology of which have been formed on systematic principles.

Communication of Ideas. -- But the value of words is even more obvious as instruments of communication, for which purpose, indeed, they were primarily invented. Here the condition of the child who comes into the possession of a language already made is obviously very different from that of a human being building up a system of speech for himself. The former receives an enormous gratuitous gift of precious conceptions to be appropriated with the least possible labour. The child born into the inheritance of a cultivated language starts from a level which has required numberless generations of great minds to build up; and just as cities, roads, railways, and machinery are contributions of the labours and the genius of past centuries towards his material welfare, so the vocabulary of which he is put in possession with almost equal facility is an accumulated legacy of incalculable worth in the enrichment of his intellectual life.

Ideas prior to Words. -- Useful, however, as language is for the development and perfection of thinking, there is no evidence that it is absolutely necessary to thought. The idea precedes the word; the latter is invented to express the former. The child is possessed of many simple ideas before he can give utterance to them by oral sounds. Deaf mutes are proved to have performed many intellectual operations before they employ any kind of signs to express them. Nevertheless, it is probable that in normal life no lengthy chain of thought is carried on without the mind assisting itself by the use of words which, in the case of the dumb, are replaced by movements, images, or physical symbols of some other sort.{8}

Second Question. -- Origin of Ideas. -- Having thus described at length what seems to us to be the most common process by which the primitive vague intellectual apprehensions of being, extended being, moving being, coloured being, and the like, are contracted and elaborated into the specific ideas and scientific conceptions of later life, the question still remains: How are these most indeterminate notions themselves originally obtained? What are the relations between the sensuous and the rational functions of the mind in the initial act of intellectual cognition? Some able scholastic psychologists reply that the operation is incapable of further analysis. Consciousness assures us that the intellect lays hold of the abstract and universal aspect in the concrete sensible phenomenon; but we cannot penetrate beyond this ultimate fact.{9} The schoolmen, however, in general, answered this question by the theory of the Intellectus Agens, therein developing the Aristotelian doctrine of the abstractive activity of the intellect. This theory is thus an attempt to explain how intellectual activity is evoked, and in what way the primitive abstractive operation is exerted. it is therefore a hypothesis put forward to give a fuller account of certain well established facts; and its value is to be measured like that of any other hypothesis by its success in explaining the phenomena. It accordingly stands on quite a different level from that of the tenet that intellect is a spiritual abstractive faculty essentially different from sense. This latter doctrine we believe to be a demonstrated truth, whilst the former can only claim to be a probable or plausible theory; and it seems to us very important to recognize clearly the relatively subordinate character of this very speculative discussion. Modern writers with the most superficial information regarding mediaeval thought, are wont utterly to mistake the weight assigned to different questions; and they would fain identify the fate of the grand fabric of the whole scholastic system with a few ingenious and very speculative solutions of subtle metaphysical problems of comparatively inferior significance. Accordingly, with fair warning to those not familiar with the Scholastic Philosophy that this is amongst the most obscure and difficult of the discussions of the shoolmen, we shall give an exposition of the subject for the sake of those who may wish to go deeper into mediaeval metaphysics.

Aristotelico-Scholastic Theory of Abstraction. -- This starts from the truths already established, that in mature life the mind is in possession of truly abstract and universal ideas which transcend the range of the lower or organic faculties, and thus force upon us the admission of a higher, suprasensuous power. These ideas represent under an abstract and universal form the essence or nature which exists individualized by material conditions in sensible objects. We have thus two grades of cognitive faculties, sense (aisthêsis), the lower; and intellect (nous), the higher or spiritual power.

1. Formal objects of Intellect and of Sense. -- The formal object of sense -- that which it is ordained to apprehend -- is some particular phenomenon, some concrete quality or material thing. The formal object of intellect is being in general the essence or quiddity of things in its widest sense.{10} Within the sphere of being is included substance and accident, body and spirit, creator and creature, actual and possible reality; in fact, everything capable of being in any measure understood. It is under this aspect that every object of thought is apprehended, it is the simplest and widest of notions, and into it all notions are finally resolved. But, although the formal object of intellect embraces all forms of being, yet the human intellect has for its connatural, immediate, or proportionate object, the abstract and universal essences of sensible or material things. The connatural object of a faculty signifies that towards which it directly tends, as opposed to that which it can cognize only mediately and indirectly, or by analogy. God and other pure spirits are thus not the connatural object of the human intellect. They are known not by intuition, but by inference and analogy; whilst our earliest intellectual ideas are all of sensible objects.

2. All knowledge starts from experience. -- At the beginning of life the mind is in a purely potential condition with respect to knowledge. There are no innate cognitions, whether sensuous or intellectual. The mind is described as a tabula rasa -- a clean tablet on which nothing is yet written -- although this term is not completely appropriate, since such a tablet is entirely passive, whilst the intellect is endowed with an innate, or a priori active power of modifying itself, so as to generate abstract or immaterial representations of sensible objects. In order to apprehend any of these objects, there must be wrought in the mind a form, modification, or determination by which it is assimilated to the object. This modification or form, is called the species impressa, and we have described in chapter iv,, how material objects acting upon the senses produce modifications by which the lower faculties are determined to the sensuous apprehension of these objects. But for intellectual cognition the higher faculty must be similarly determined by a form of a higher order -- a species intelligibilis impressa -- to elicit a conception of the universal nature or esseice of the object.

3. Intellectus Agens. -- The action of the material object awakens sensuous perception, which results in a concrete phantasm of the object in the imagination from which the intellectual concept is derived. But neither this sensuous perception of the object nor the resulting phantasm can directly effect the species intelligibilis impressa or generate an intellectual concept. They only contribute the "material" elements or conditions to the elaboration of the concept. For neither the physical thing nor the phantasm can directly reveal itself to the cognitive intellect. Both are individual, concrete, material, whilst the object of the intellect is universal, abstract, and immaterial. They contain, indeed, a universal essence, but individualized in its material determinations. It is in this state only fundamentally universal, and therefore not apt to be immediately taken up into the intellect. It is, according to the scholastics, as yet only potentially intelligible, somewhat as red or green is only potentially sensible in the dark; it needs to be made actually intelligible, in order to be apprehended by the intellect. It has to be abstracted{11} from its individualizing corporeal conditions. Indeed, it was the conviction of this incapacity of the sensible material thing to directly manifest itself to the intellect and thus modify the spiritual faculty that induced Plato to assume the existence of real abstract immaterial essences separate from sensible phenomena.

It is in order to account for this modification of the spiritual faculty, or, which is the same thing, for the excitation of the intellect to the generation of the abstract representation of the essence existing individualized in the phantasm that the schoolmen ascribe to the intellect not merely the capacity of being modified so as to represent the various objects in an abstract or spiritual manner, but also an active energy or force of its own, which is chief agent in the production of this modification. The only other alternative is to assume that the intellect is determined to apprehend its object by an external spirit, angelic or divine. This, however, is a fanciful and gratuitous hypothesis incapable of proof, and in conflict with much of the evidence adduced against the doctrines of innate ideas and of ontologism. We are, they argue, thus compelled to attribute the generation of intellectual ideas to an inherent force of the intellect itself, which, reacting on the occasion of sensory stimuli, effects in itself the modification by which the object is apprehended under a universal aspect. This force is the active intellect, the Intellectus Agens. They define it as: A certain instinctive spiritual force or energy of the mind, which acting spontaneously on the presentation of objects in the imagination, generates "species intelligibiles" of them, or, an active faculty whereby the intellect modifies itself so as to represent in a spiritual or abstract manner what is concretely depicted in the phantasm.

The argument is put briefly by other scholastics thus: Neither the object itself, the sensuous impression, nor the phantasm can generate species intelligibiles, by which the intellect is determined to cognize the object, for this modification is a spiritual accident, and none such can be produced by material agencies. It is a fundamental axiom, that no being can effect in another what is not contained in itself, either formally or eminently, and a spiritual accident is contained in a corporeal agent, neither formally nor eminently. Therefore, the modification of the intellectual faculty must be immediately due to a spiritual, not an organic agency.{12}

4. Intellectus Possibilis. -- The mind's capability of being modified so as to express the essence of the object in a concept is termed the intellectus patiens vel possibilis. It is the intellectus patiens which formally understands. The intellectus agens mnst be conceived as instinctive or blind; its "abstractive" action is productive of intelligence, not formally intelligent itself. Its function is to effect the modification by which the act of intellectual consciousness is immediately awakened.{13} It may be here asked if the action of the intellectus agens be instinctive, why does it issue into the precisely appropriate activity? Why does it effect exactly the right modification to represent the object of the sensuous impression when the latter cannot directly act upon it? The answer lies in the fact that both sense and intellect have their source in the same indivisible soul, which is so constituted that on the stimulation of the former the latter sympathetically responds by a higher reaction of its own -- somewhat as the appetitive faculty, which conceived as such is blind, tends towards an object apprehended by a cognitive faculty as good. In both cases it is the soul itself which acts through the faculty.

Distinction between the Active and Passive Intellect. -- It was disputed among the schoolmen, in what way and to what extent the intellectus agens is to he distinguished from the intellectus patiens. The Arabian philosopher Avicenna and certain of his disciples interpreted Aristotle's somewhat obscure language on the point, to mean that the intellectus agens is "separate" not merely from the human body, but also from each individual soul. They, accordingly, conceived this power, after a pantheistic fashion, as one universal spirit, which in some mysterious way operates upon the passive or recipient intellects of all men. This gratuitous and fanciful hypothesis was unanimously rejected by the schoolmen, who all deny to the intellectus agens any existence separate from the individual soul. But here the agreement ends. The majority conceive the intellectus agens and intellectus patiens as two real subjectively distinct faculties of the soul, on the ground that they are opposed as agent and patient, mover and moved. The function of the one, it is urged, is to effect the species impressa, whilst that of the other is, when thus modified, to apprehend the object. Other scholastic philosophers, however, argue very forcibly against this multiplication of faculties as excessive. They object that the hypothesis of two intellects is unnecessary, and they maintain that these terms only designate different aspects or aptitudes of the same power. The name, intellectus agens, denotes the mind as capable of modifying itself, whilst the intellectus patiens signifies the same mind considered from the other standpoint as capable of being modified. In this view they are subjectively merely virtually distinct powers.{14}

5. Species Intelligibiles: Verbum Mentale. The modification of the mind viewed as wrought in the intellectus patiens by the intellectus agens, constitutes the species intelligibilis impressa. The union of this species impressa with the intellectus patiens results in the conception of the abstract essence, the generation of the abstract idea of the object, which is called the species intelligibilis expressa, inasmuch as it is the intellectual expression of the object. The same act looked at under a somewhat different aspect as the realization or utterance of the thought of the object by the mind to itself is called the verbum mentale, or mental word.{15} Finally, this same product considered as the intellectual expression of the essence of the object abstracted from the individualizing notes which accompany it in the physical world is called the direct, or potential universal. It is not as yet an actually or formally universal concept. It prescinds alike from universality and individuality. It merely expresses in an indeterminate manner the essence of the object, omitting all individualizing conditions. Moreover, it is not the object of cognition, but the instrument or means by which the intellect apprehends its object. It is the medium quo, not the medium quod percipitur.

Formally Universal Ideas. -- It is only by subsequent reflexion that this potentially universal concept, thus reached by the spontaneous, direct, abstractive action of the intellect is elaborated into the reflex or formally universal concept of the logician. The schoolmen, as we have already observed, are extremely brief on this latter part of the process; but under the term "reflexion", they must intend to include conscious abstraction,{16} ideal comparison, involving analysis and synthesis, and also generalization. For, in the reflective operation by which the primitive abstract conception is formally universalized, it must be held before the mind by a deliberate act of attention. The collection of notes, which constitute its internal possibility, must be consciously realized, and then it must be judged capable of representing an indefinite number of ideal or imaginary individuals, or of being actualized in the various possible members of a class. But such ideal comparison and generalization is the natural outcome of our rational nature; it may take place with great rapidity, and the constant check of careful observation and experiments is needed to secure that our conceptions and qeneralizations are in harmony with reality, after the manner described in the earlier part of this chapter.

Summary. -- The scholastic theory, then, may be thus briefly stated: An object produces an impression on a sensitive faculty. This results in a sensuous phantasm in the imagination, and here the work of the lower power ends. Since, however, in man the sensuous faculties of cognition have their source in a soul also endowed with intellectual aptitudes, the latter now issue into action. The presence of the phantasm forms the condition of rational activity, and the intellect abstracts the essence; that is, by its own active and passive capabilities generates the concept which expresses in the abstract the essence of the object. By a further reflective act it views this abstract concept as capable of representing any member of the class, and thus constitutes it a formally universal idea.{17}

Doctrine of St. Thomas. -- For the convenience of the student desirous of a better understanding of the scholastic philosophy, we shall here give a selection of extracts from St. Thomas bearing on this abstruse and difficult question. We shall mark them with numbers corresponding to the paragraphs in our own exposition. It will, however, be useful to premise them by the explanation of certain scholastic terms and phrases.

The Intellectus Agens is said: (1) to convert or direct itself towards the phantasm (se convertere ad phantasma), and (2) to abstract from it the essence (abstrahere essentiam), or, (3) to illuminate and make actually intelligible what is potentially intelligible in the phantasm; moreover, (4) throughout the process the intellectus agens is chief agent (agens principale), while the phantasm is viewed merely as an instrumental agent (agens instrumentale). This metaphorical language is used in order to elucidate by analogies what is involved in the single instantaneous act: (1) Indicates that the concept formed by the intellectus agens is of the object represented by the phantasm. The intellect is likened to a painter who turns towards the object he is about to copy. (2) Since the concept formed by the intellect expresses the essential attributes of the phantasm they are said to be abstracted from the latter. (3) Here the intellectus agens is likened to the sun illuminating colours indiscernible in the darkness though potentially distinguishable. The phantasm contains potentially universal relations individualized in concrete material conditions, and the activity of intellect evokes them into the light of actual consciousness. (4) The intellectus agens is termed agens principale, inasmuch as it plays the most important part in the operation, being causa efficiens.

Extracts. -- 1. Id quod est primo, et per se cognitum a virtute cognoscitiva, est proprium ejus objectum. (Sum. Theol. I, q. 85, a. 8.) Primo autem in conceptione intellectus cadit ens, quia secundum hoc unumquodque cognoscibile est in quantum est actu unde ens est proprium objectum intellectus, et sic est primum intelligible, sicut sonus est primum audibile. (I, q. 5, a. 2.)

2. Intellectus autem humanus, qui est infimus in ordine intellectuum, et maxime remotus a perfectione divini intellectus, est in potentia respectu intelligibilium; et in principio est sicut tabula rasa, in qua nil est scriptum, ut Philosophus dicit. (I, q. 79, a. 2.)

3. Hoc quilibet in se ipso experiri potest, quod quando aliquis conatur aliquid intelligere, format sibi aliqua phantasmata per modum exemplorum, in quibus quasi inspiciat, quod intelligere studet. . . . Particulare autem apprehendimus per sensum et imaginationem, et ideo necesse est, ad hoc quod intellectus actu intelligat suum objectum proprium, quod convertat se ad phantasmata ut speculetur naturam universalem in particulari existentem (I, q. 84, a. 7.):

Phantasmata et illuminantur ab intellectu agente, et iterum ab eis per virtutem intellectus agentis species intelligibiles abstrahuntur; illuminantur quidem, quia sicut pars sensitiva ex conjunctione ad intellectum efficitur virtuosior, ita phantasmata ex virtute intellectus agentis redduntur habilia, ut ab eis intentiones intelligibiles abstrahuntur; abstrahit autem intellectus agens species intelligibiles a phantasmatibus, in quantum per virtutem intellectus agentis accipere possumus in nostra consideratione naturas specierum sine individualibus conditionibus secundum quarum similitudines intellectus informatur. (I, q. 85, a. 1, ad 4.)

4. Necessitas ponendi intellectum possibilem in nobis fuit propter hoc, quod nos invenimur quandoque intelligentes in potentia, et non in actu. Unde oportet esse quandam virtutem, quae sit in potentia ad intelligibilia ante ipsum intelligere, sed reducitur in actum eorum cum sit sciens, et ulterius cum sit considerans. Et haec virtus vocatur intellectus possibilis. (I, q. 54, a. 4.)

5. Quicumque autem intelligit, ex hoc ipso, quod intelligit, procedit aliquid intra ipsum, quod est conceptio rei intellectae, ex vi intellectiva proveniens, et ex ejus notitia procedens. Quam quidem conceptionem vox significat et dicitur verbum cordis significatum verbo vocis. (I, q. 27, a. 1.)

Species intelligibilis non est objectum in quod feratur cogintio. . . . Dicenda est species intelligibilis se habere ad intellectum, ut quo intellectus intelligit. . . . Sed quia intellectus supra seipsum reflectitur, secundum eandem reflexionem intelligit et suum intelligere et speciem, qua intelligit; et sic species intellecta est secundario id quod intelligitur; sed id, quod intelligitur primo, est res, cujus species intelligibilis est similitudo. (1, q. 85, a. 2.)

Readings. -- The most complete treatment of the whole subject is to be found in Peillaubes Théorie des Concepts, Existence, Origine, Valeur. Piat's L'Intellect Actif and L'Idée contain valuable matter; the latter work largely repeats the former. Mercier's Psychologie, pp. 300-350, is good. Cf. Liberatore On Universals (Trans.), Op. II., and Psychologia, c. iv. art. 6, and Boedder, Psychologia, c. iii. The recent able work by Rousselot, L'Intellectualisme de St. Thomas (Paris, 1908), is valuable and suggestive on sundry points.

{1} "Intellectus noster directe non est cognoscitivus nisi universalium. Indirecte autem et quasi per quamdam reflexionem potest cognoscere singulare." (St. Thomas. Qq. disp. De verit. q. 8. a. 14.)

{2} The above distinction may be useful to the reader of the Scholastic manuals. Under the heading Origin of Ideas, these works discuss the second question, whilst English text-books of Psychology confine themselves exclusively to the first.

{3} "The conception of an abstract quality is, taken by itself, neither universal nor particular. If I abstract white from the rest of a wintry landscape this morning, it is a perfectly definite conception, a self-identical quality which I may mean again; but as I have not yet individualized it by expressly meaning to restrict it to this particular snow, nor thought of the possibility of other things to which it may be applicable, it is so far but a floating adjective." (James, Vol. I. p. 473.) Compare St. Thomas: "Si quaeratur utrum ista natura (natura humana considerata modo absoluto ut abstracta) possit dici una vel plures, neutrum concedendum est, quia utrumque est extra conceptum humanitatis, et utrumque potest sibi (humanitati) accidere. Si enim pluralitas esset de ratione ejus nunquam posset esse una, quum tamen una sit secundum quod est in Socrate. Similiter si unitas esset de intellectu et ratione ejus, tunc esset una et eadem natura Socratis et Platonis, nec posset in pluribus plurificari." (De Ente et Essentia, c. IV. Cf. Rickaby, First Principles, p. 316.)

{4} "Considérons par exemple la couleur d'une boule d'ivoire. Par elle-même cette couleur est la qualité de cette boule, un mode indissolublement li&ecute; à cette boule, n'existant et ne pouvant exister qu'en elle. Mais qu'une fois cette couleur soit le terme de mon intelligence que je n'en aie pas seulement la sensation, mais encore l'idée, aussitôt et par le fait même, avant de savoir si cette qualité se rencontre ailleurs dans la nature, je la vois applicable à une infinité d'autres boules d'ivoire et peut-être aussi à une infinit&eacure; d'autres corps. Il en est de même de toute substance, de tout mode, de tout rapport, de tout ce que nous connaissons. Un objet quelconque qui pénètre dans notre conscience empirique, acquiert sous le regard de notre conscience rationelle et du premier coup une sort d'universalité qui va jusqu' à l'infini. Dans tout individu donné, l'intelligence découvre une essence et dans cette essence la possibilité de se réaliser dans tous les temps et tous les lieux autant de fois qu'on le voudra. Au-dessus de l'universalité de fait il-y-a l'universalité de droit, dont le propre est d'être essentielle à l'idée; logique, absolue." (L'Intellect Actif, p. 82.)

{5} Herbert Spencer's laboured assault on the possibility of a notion of the absolute (First Principles, pp. 79-82) is based on thin fallacy. "God being unclassable," is not thereby "unknowable." We can conceive Him as a unique Being, possessed of intelligence, power, and holiness without limit; and our conception, though inadequate, is good so far as it goes.

{6} "In his autem quae in apprehensione hominum cadunt quidam ordo invenitur nam illud quod primo cadit in apprehensione est ens cujus intellectus includitur in omnibus quaecumque quis apprehendit." (St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. 1-2, q. 94, a. 2.)

{7} Mercier justly insists: "Nous n'arrivons pas subitement à l'essence spécifique des choses: nous commencons par saisir leurs qualités, comme quelque chose de concret et de subsistant, nous ne distinguons pas de prime abord, entre Ia substance comme telle et les accidents qui l'affectent et y sont inhérents, entre les qualités contigentes et les caractères necessaires, c'est-à-dire, les propriétés naturelles ou les notes essentielles du sujet que noun voudrions pouvoir définir. Ce n'est que plus tard, par voie de comparaison et au moyen de l'induction. . . . que nous approchons d'une manière mediate, de la connaissance de l'essence specifique des êtres et de ce premier fond substantiel qui demeure invariable chez eux à travers les variations incessantes de leurs accidents." (Psychologie, p. 345.) Similarly Coconnier: "Examinez les idées que vous faites des différents êtres, et vous verrez que vous les avez toutes constituées à l'aide des notions transcendentales et communes de l'ontologie, notions générales d'être, de substance, de qualités, de cause, d'action, de space, etc. Daprès cela non idées den chosen matérielles sont comme autant de faisceaux, de concepts additionés, réunis et groupés en autant de diverses manières que noun connaissons d'êtres matériels différents.' (L'âme humaine, p. 130. Cf. Peillaube, Théorie des Concepts, pp. 302, 303, 326, 332-335.)

{8} Max Muller, who argues for the inseparability of thought and language, gives a history of the dispute in his Science of Thought, pp. 32-64. Cf. also Mivart, On Truth, c. xvi.; James, Vol. II. 355-358.

{9} Dr. G. Hageman thus writes: "The soul must be endowed with the faculty of abstraction. The mind immediately abstracts the essence of the object, just as in sense-perception the soul immediately apprehends the stimulus. But we are just as incapable of obtaining an insight into the process of the spiritual abstractive activity as of deducing the nature of sensuous activity from the essence of the soul." (Psychologie, § 93, Sechste Auflage, 1897.) Similarly Abbé Piat: "Notre avis à nous, est que l'acte original par lequel l'intelligence opère sur les données empiriques, résiste, comme l'émotion ou l'acte libre, à toute definition vraiment positive il y reste un résidu impénétrable." (L'Idée, p. 244 cf. L'Intellect Actif pp. 134, 135.) "Patet nil certum remansisse apud Scholasticos in hac difficili quaestione, nisi solam formationem harum idearum per vim abstractivam intellectus . . . Quicunque enim per vim intellectus abstractivam idearum originem explicat, vere intra scholam manet." (P. J. Mendive, S.J., Psychologia, p. 301.)

{10} The student must be constantly on his guard against interpreting "essence" to imply all that is contained in "specific nature." Amongst its synonyms in scholastic literature are: Quod quid est; or, What any thing is; the Quidditas, Whatness, Washeit, to ti ên einai; or the nature of an object, the ratio interna, la raison intime, the realized idea or plan, the actualized internal possibility of a thing, the sum of the notes which constitute it. Every positive answer to the question, What is that? reveals the essence. The answer may vary in definiteness from: "It is something," to "It is a dark-extended-four-footed-long-necked-hump-backed-hairyskinned-self-moving-being." The former expresses the essence in its most indeterminate form; the latter approximates towards the conception of the specific essence of a camel. Some of the above synonyms -- e.g., nature, are more frequently used to designate the specific essence; but there is no fixed usage. When it is said that the intellect abstracts the essence, this term must be understood in its widest sense; the more determinate specific essence, as before stated, is attained by observation, comparison, and induction.

{11} It should be noted that the schoolmen employed the words abstraction, and, to abstract, in the converse signification of that which has prevailed since Kant. With modern writers intellectual abstraction primarily signifies the ignoring or omission of the attributes not attended to; with the schoolmen it was understood to primarily mean the positive side of the operation -- the assumption by the mind of the part selected, of the attributes which are attended to. A process of abstraction, therefore, formerly signified the taking up of something: now it would signify the neglect of something. (Cf. Logic, present series, pp. 102.) Still, by the "abstraction" of the essence or species from the sensuous representation, the schoolmen did not mean the physical extraction of certain parts of the latter, but the reproduction of its essential features in an abstract manner in a higher form of consciousness. Thus, Suarez: "Observandum est, speciem non dici abstrahibilem, vel abstrahi, a phantasmatibus, quasi ipsa species prius esset immixta phantasmatibus, unde postea separetur ab intellectu agente, ac transferatur in possibilem; hoc enim puerile esset cogitare. . . . Intellectum ergo abstrahere speciem, nil est aliud quam virtute sua efficere speciem spiritualem repraesentantem eandem naturam, quam phantasme repraesentat, modo tamen quodam spirituali; illaque. elevatio a materiali repraesentatione phantasmatis ad spiritualem repraesentationem speciei intelligibilis dicitur abstractio; ex quo aperte constat abstractionem non esse actionem distinctam a productione speciei." (De Anima, Lib. IV. c. 2, § 18. Cf. Sum. 1. q. 85, a. 1, ad 3, 4.)

{12} Cf. Kleutgen, op. cit. § 18-32, 45-49, 776, 777; also Peillaube, op. cit. pp. 294-300.

{13} The different functions ascribed to the intellectus agens and patiens illustrate the scholastic distinction between an active and a passive faculty. Both together constitute the actually intelligent mind; but the former actuates its object, makes it pass from a potential or virtual condition to one of actualization, whilst the latter is actuated by its object.

{14} "Intellectus agens realiter a passibili non distinguitur. Nam intellectus dicitur agens, quatenus actionem cognoscitivam producit; patiens vero, quatenus banc ipsam actionem in se recipit hmc autem duo munera ad unam et eandem potentiam pertinent." (J. Mendive, S.J., Psychologia, § 514. Cf. Boedder, op. cit. §§ 162, 163; Pesch, op. cit. § 838.)

{15} The allusions of modern writers to the verbum mentale of the schoolmen exhibit an amusing ignorance of the meaning of the term. The phrase simply signifies with medinval writers, the mental act corresponding to a common noun -- e.g., triangle, man, responsibility. These words, it may be presumed, have a meaning or connotation. The thought by which the mind comprehends that meaning is the verbum mentale, just as the vocal sound by which it communicates this thought to another mind is the verbum orale.

{16} The reader must be careful to distinguish two forms of "abstraction in the scholastic account of the process. The first consists of the initial act spontaneously exerted by the intellectus agess. It is instinctive being preceded by sensuous but not by intellectual cognition. It is called "abstraction," because it effects the abstract representation of the concrete object. It is not preceded by but productive of the abstract concept. In the second stage the intellect already in possession of this representation consciously adverts to the essential features contained in it, whilst it deliberately ignores or withholds attention from concomitant accidents. The first stage is an act of instinctive election by the intellect, the second is one of conscious selection. (Cf. Peillaube, ibid. pp. 293-300, also Boedder, Op. cit. §§ 159-563.)

{17} Mercier formulates the scholastic doctrine in the three following propositions (1) "L'intelligence est originairement en puissance à l'égard de son acte de pensée: pour quelle soit en état d'accomplir son acte, il faut quelle soit informée par une espèce intelligible (species intelligibilis), substitut de l'objet à connaitre. Aussi l'entendement, sappelait-il. dans l'école, intellect possible ou potentiel. (2) La formation de l'espèce intelligible demande une double cause, l'image (le phantasma) fournie par l'acte de l'imagination, et une force d'abstraction appelée intellect actif or intellect agent, capable de dégager l'image de ses charact&grav;res d'individuation et de rendre ainsi l'objet assimilable par la puissance cognitive de l'entendement. L'image est ainsi la cause instrumentale -- i.e. la cause efficiente subordonnée; l'intellect actif, la cause principale de la production de l'espèce intelligible. (3) Lorsque la puissance intellectuelle est informée par une espèce intelligible appropriée à sa nature et qui lui rend l'objet present, elle passe de la puissance à l'acte, elle se dit à elle-même ce que la chose est (quod quid est); en un mot, elle connait. La connaissance on la pensée n'est pas, en effet, autre chose que cette parole mentale qui nous dit ce que quelque chose est." (Psychologie, pp. 321, 322.) The phantasma is rather causa formalis vel exemplaris than efficiens. The true causa principalis is the soul, or rather the man; but the intellectus agens may fairly be described as the chief active energy (agens principalis) in the process. (Cf. Boedder, op. cit. §§ 167.)

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