Bonaventure and St. Thomas on sources of knowledge

St. Bonaventure lays down three principles of mind, that is, three sources or gates through which the mind draws information:

Our mind has three sources: one is from corporeal, exterior things, by which [mind] is called animality or sensuality; another between [its parts] and in itself, by which it is called spirit; and a third above itself, by which it is called mind.

mens nostra tres habet principales. Unus est ad corporalia exteriora, secundum quem vocatur animalitas seu sensualitas: alius intra se et in se, secundum quem dicitur spiritus; tertius supra se, secundum quem dicitur mens.

St. Thomas never quite denies such a claim outright: there are always suggestions in his thought that the human mind has more than one source of information, but it is practically impossible to read him as affirming what Bonaventure says here. This makes St. Thomas either more nuanced or more muddled, depending on how one reads texts like, say this one, or whether one accepts the coherence of the “middle course” that St. Thomas tries to draw between materialism and dualism. Even if one accepts it, there are times where St. Thomas can be evasive, as when he answers the objection that, if we knew only by sense, there could be no metaphysics by saying:

Sensitive knowledge is not the entire cause of intellectual knowledge. And therefore it is not strange that intellectual knowledge should extend further than sensitive knowledge.

(objection 3 to the nearest link)

One is left only shouting at the text: COULD YOU SAY MORE?!?!?! We might, in fact, be running up against the conceptual problems of understanding a knower that is a hylemorphic composite. My head hurts.

%d bloggers like this: