11/27/10

-We note that intellectual knowledge is universal for any number of important reasons: to establish its spirituality; to separate it from sense; to explain the puzzles of Parmenides, etc. Nevertheless, it is accidental to intellectual knowledge that it be universal. Separated intellects do not make predicable universals to know.

-There is a dangerous ambiguity in the claim that sense is of particulars and intellection is of universals- for “particular” means either a.) the mode in which sense knows or b.) the concrete existence of things. a.) describes a way in which sense attains something intellect does not, b.) does not. Confounding the two makes sensation the sole judge of reality, and intellect a mere power of fabrication. In fact, what we have is one and the same concrete reality known by two modes, but with a certain order.

-What exactly divides intellect from sensation, if it not universality? Perhaps the best answer is that intellection subsists of itself. I’m reminded of St. Thomas’s explanation of the obscure saying in the Liber de causis that “every intellect returns to itself by a complete return”

Return to its own essence means only that a thing subsists in itself. Inasmuch as the form perfects the matter by giving it existence, it is in a certain way diffused in it; and it returns to itself inasmuch as it has existence in itself. Therefore those cognitive faculties which are not subsisting, but are the acts of organs, do not know themselves, as in the case of each of the senses; whereas those cognitive faculties which are subsisting, know themselves (ST. I q. 14 a 2. ad 1 cf. Q.d. de veritate 1. 9  co.)

-Intellect is more objective than sense. So far as sensation involves the physical modification of an organ, it is not knowledge – indeed, this kind of modification is subjectivity.

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2 Comments

  1. December 1, 2010 at 7:46 am

    The mystic Bernadette Roberts (no relation) says that the senses only perceive universals, that it takes intellect to observe particulars in the sensed world. Animals live in a world of universals (instincts).

  2. Ilíon said,

    December 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    What exactly divides intellect from sensation, if it not universality? Perhaps the best answer is that intellection subsists of itself.

    Or, as I tend to put it, “mind is mind” (or, “mind is itself”). That is, just as ‘truth’ (or ‘love,’ etc) is not reducible to anything else or “more basic,” but is rather itself, so too, ‘mind’ is not reducible to anything else or “more basic,” it is itself.


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