Knowledge as opposed to other vital activities

 The human soul does not just give being to this body, but it gives being to another as other by its knowledge.

Given that the soul causes knowledge, why do we say that knowledge is being to another as other? Knowledge differs from eating and digestion in this: eating destroys the distinct existence of the other when it assimilates it to ourselves; knowledge preserves the distinct existence of something when it assimilate it into ourselves. To be eaten an digested involves being another as itself; to be known is to be another as another. The cow within me as eaten is me, the cow within me as known is a cow.

Knowledge differs from reproduction in this: the child who is conceived is the material unity of his two parents, and so is partly from one source and partly from another the way that a rose is part stem and part flower. But the known is not from the object and the mind in this way. Mind is wholly within the known just as the known is wholly within mind. The mind is wholly caused by the object even while the object can have no existence apart from mind as an object.   Reproduction happens when the living thing acts on another in virtue of conjoined material principles in both, but knowledge happens according to a conjoining of immaterial principles.


  1. Phil said,

    June 25, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Hmm, “Mind is wholly within the known…” Wholly makes me think simpliciter. Perhaps “Mind is within the known in the act of knowing…” But then the second part wouldn’t hold either. Seems like knowing a chair would be really painful if it were wholly within the mind.

    Metaphor? or am I being niggardly?

    known and knower are one in knowing formally, but not simpliciter. Or is there an argument that the form is what is really/wholly known?

  2. a thomist said,

    June 25, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Thanks for pointing that out because I think it belongs to a third consideration of mind that opposes it to sensation. Mind is within the known as opposed to sensation, which only knows the exteriors of things- even though mere sensation cannot even see the exteriors as exteriors. A dog doesn’t know that it lives only on the surface of things- in the mere exterior accidents of being.

  3. Peter said,

    June 25, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Yeah, I was tripped up the meaning of ‘wholly’, too.

    I also wonder how it would make sense when we consider the mind as knowing itself. Trying to get a handle on that one tends to make my brain hurt. 🙂

    In a similar vein, I have been wondering how we reconcile the idea that “all our knowledge originates from sense” (I q. 1, a. 9) with “as the intellect understands itself,…, so also it understands its act of understanding.” (I, q. 79, a. 6, ad. 2). Of course, it depends what you mean by “knowledge” and “understanding”, but at first glance it seems irksome.
    This seems to touch on that stale controversy among Thomists over the “intuition of being”, the “start of metaphysics” and all that. In fact, I just saw that this was brought up on the thomist-yahoo-group in connection with De Koninck’s recently published writings.

  4. a thomist said,

    June 25, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Why did I write that? The whole goal of the argument in that paragraph was to show the difference between knowledge and reproduction: reproduction is from two principles which coalesce to form one new form which is like them both; knowledge is certainly like this, but it is not from a conjoined material principle, like reproduction, but from a conjoined immaterial principle. Briefly, knoweldge is immaterial reproduction.

  5. a thomist said,

    June 25, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Why did I write that? The whole goal of the argument in that paragraph was to show the difference between knowledge and reproduction: reproduction is from two principles which coalesce to form one new form which is like them both; knowledge is certainly like this, but it is not from a conjoined material principle, like reproduction, but from a conjoined immaterial principle. Briefly, knoweldge is immaterial reproduction.

  6. Phil said,

    June 25, 2008 at 11:35 am

    well, since I’m on a roll, I’ll leave another comment – the first sentence strikes me as unfelicitous, for lack of a better word. I can’t tell if it’s the wording or the meaning that irks my spidey sense.

    I guess it’s this: The soul doesn’t give life to the body except in a metaphorical sense. It IS the life of the body, which is to say also that it IS the being of the body. To follow through on the analogy, the mind doesn’t give being to a thought, it is the being of the thought, ie it IS thought. Thought and thing are one in the act of thinking as thought. Quidquid recipitur and all that.

    That also speaks somewhat to Peter’s point – that the mind cannot reflect on itself until it has reflected on the world around it. It does not begin thinking of itself until it thinks of other things and then reflects on itself thinking on these things.

    “intuition of being” smacks of Marechal, Rahner, and Lonergan; they start with that and end up speaking of being “open to the infinite”, whatever that means. .

  7. Phil said,

    June 25, 2008 at 11:43 am

    But Thomist, doesn’t reproduction imply producing again? And if so, doesn’t that precisely imply that what is known is not thing, but something produced from thing? Maybe that’s the drift of my thought.

  8. Phil said,

    June 25, 2008 at 11:53 am

    reproduce – to lead forth again
    I guess my image of knowledge is more of a settling in to the being of the thing, conforming the mind. Like in knowing something, you’re not really producing anything.

    No nit too small to pick.

  9. a thomist said,

    June 25, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    The soul doesn’t give life in the sense of a transitive action, that’s certainly correct, nevertheless, the intellectual soul is that by which we live, and that by which the body is a living body, and in this sense it gives it existence. “Give” is borrowed from transitive actions, but it is not limited to them, and when I speak of the soul giving life there will always be an implicit negation of the sort of giving we know best.

    Similar concerns apply for everything I’m trying to do here. What I’m going for here is the idea that soul is a ground for another by knowledge. It’s not merely the souce of the self, but of the existence of the other-than-the-self thorugh knowledge. The nexus of this soul-causality is the act of knowledge, which presupposes (for us anyway) the immaterial coalescing of the world and mind. What does this mean? Mind elevates the world to a higher level of exitence when it knows it, yet it still knows it according to its lower order of existence.

    Agent intellect does something to the world which still allows it to remain the world. Thomism 101 tells us that this process involves “illuminating the phantasm”. This is a necessary first step in knowing Ag. Intel., but when we turn over the word “illuminate” we see it means only “to make something known”. So the agent intellect acts on phantasms to make them known in an intellectual way. Very well, but what does this process consist in? While all knowledge, even sensation, is immaterial, a phantasm has a very material counterpart. It exists in neurons in a wholly immersed way. What does intellect do to that thing? Can we say more?

    Yes, by negating the pictures that our mind forms when it thinks about illumination.The intellect illumines the thing “within” because it shows the interior, but not because it is coterminous with the verious parts of the body known, and the intellect shines down upon the thing known, but not in such a way that it is outside of it as opposed to being inside of it. Our knowledge of our own knowledge must always use pictures, but it must always negate their pictoral quality.

  10. Phil said,

    June 25, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Hope your not paying for webspace by the comment.
    For A, first part of the analogy:
    “if to perceive by sight is just to see, and what is seen is colour (or the coloured), then if we are to see that which sees, that which sees originally must be coloured. It is clear therefore that ‘to perceive by sight’ has more than one meaning; for even when we are not seeing, it is by sight that we discriminate darkness from light, though not in the same way as we distinguish one colour from another. Further, in a sense even that which sees is coloured; for in each case the sense-organ is capable of receiving the sensible object without its matter. That is why even when the sensible objects are gone the sensings and imaginings continue to exist in the sense-organs.”

    “The thinking part of the soul must therefore be, while impassible, capable of receiving the form of an object; that is, must be potentially identical in character with its object without being the object. ”

    And addressing Peter’s point above:
    “Thus that in the soul which is called mind (by mind I mean that whereby the soul thinks and judges) is, before it thinks, not actually any real thing.”

    Also addresses his other point:
    “After strong stimulation of a sense we are less able to exercise it than before, as e.g. in the case of a loud sound we cannot hear easily immediately after, or in the case of a bright colour or a powerful odour we cannot see or smell, but in the case of mind thought about an object that is highly intelligible renders it more and not less able afterwards to think objects that are less intelligible: the reason is that while the faculty of sensation is dependent upon the body, mind is separable from it.”

    When I read that third book, sometimes I cry because it is just so beautiful. It absolutely amazes me how dead on A is. The magnitude of that!

  11. Phil said,

    June 25, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Sorry sorry, I got excited. Yes, we can all cut and paste Aristotle and Thomas, and so I failed to grasp your intention with this post. I am being reductive, while you are trying to build.

    I’d love to be a Thomist, thomism opens doors. I’ll sit in the back and not bother anybody.

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