Sunday, July 15, 2012

Avicenna and Albert

Avicenna and Albert

Having become fairly familiar with st. Thomas' position on individuals and how we know them, I decided to seek out an opinion contrary to his. I first tried Leibniz, who discusses the individual substances in his Discourse on Metaphysics, but I had trouble finding the argument for his position. It seemed to be reducible to the objection on Thomas about how we can make the statement "Socrates is a man." therefore, both of the terms must be intelligible. (and then some...)

So then I happened to pick up Scotus' Quaestiones super De Anima, of which question 22 is whether individuals are per se intelligible to our intellect. Basically the exact the question I was asking. I had trouble reading parts of it, but his answer was basically yes. Two things were most of all hard to understand: what is a vague individual? And on what basis does he differ from Thomas on the principle of individuation?

The first question led me to an article by Deborah Black explaining the history of the phrase vague individual. Very helpful! Avicenna takes the position quite opposite Scotus saying that the individual is in no way the object of the intellect, even denying that the Lord knows them. Yet he begins to give an account of how the vague individual is grasped by the interior sense powers. Albert develops this and I'm excited to read more of him. It seems that since our knowledge of individuals is tied up with sense, the interior senses will be key to understanding. Albert wrote extensively on this in his De Anima and De homine. Hopefully, I will not find any great conflict with st. Thomas but rather an elucidation and expansion. I knw he disagrees on the number of interior senses, but beyond that we shall see.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Imaginationem continui

Imaginationem continui

My new favorite text for studying my thesis topic is De Veritate. I've found that the principle Aristotle lays down in the first book of the Physics is always true for men: sense of the particular, understanding is of the universal. A consequence of this is that the intellect and the imagination are bound up in such a way that the former never acts at all without using the latter.

There is one point where st. Thomas says the imagination is necessary to know things. For it is of the nature of things to exist in particular rather than in the universal, thus the intellect does not hold things most truly and completely. Thus the imagination is at work providing the here and now which accompanies every nature in reality. He makes the simpler argument tha whenever we want some to understand something, we provide them with examples that their imagination can grasp.

Although all of this is a it complicated, it seems consistent and proportionate to the way we know. For this reason I wonder why others have posited that individuals are the object of the intellect. I still haven't completely answered how it is that we propositions about singulars but I think I'm approaching it.

This is turning out to be a response not only to Leibniz, but really to all of the philosophers who fail to distinguish the imagination and the intellect. Still much more to understand.

It is wonderful to see that all of these considerations in De Veritate are ordered to understanding and loving the Triune God without whom all is in vain.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Individuals as the object

Individuals as the object of the intellect

This question (the only one approved by my advisor so far) is rather broad in its scope. One could consider the individual's intelligibility in itself, to us, to angels, to God, and so on. Thus for my thesis it seems wise to narrow the scope of my question to refuting the position of Leibniz, or at lead separate out the true and the false that are present in it.

[small problem: I don't have the Leibniz text. We can fix that. ]

He basically takes a proposition such as "Socrates is a man." he makes the claim that every predicate is contained within its subject. Thus "Socrates" is some idea of the individual within which is contained all that ever has happened, is happening, or will happen to him.

After this it seems I can take two approaches: point out what is right and point out what is wrong. I recently read a section in De Veritate where st Thomas says that God certainly has ideas about every particular thing in this universe for it all falls under his providence. He says this wouldn't be the case if God were only the cause of our form, bt since God is the cause of matter (the principle of individuality in bodies) he thus has a knowledge of particulars. Thus Leibniz' thought that there is some immaterial form corresponding to individuals ceases to be so far fetched.

Then one must look at the fact that this is not how we know. All our knowledge takes its beginning from the senses. From the senses which terminate in one central sense organ, images are formed from which intelligible forms are abstracted. These intelligible forms of bodies are the object of the intellect and are universal, belonging to many.

When propositions are formed about singulars, we are referring to our senses.

One difficulty arises here. It seems that we must always use our imagination when using our intellect, thus there is always some reference to the sense powers when understanding. So why is this especially noted for thoughts about particulars?

I guess I need to read Leibniz, De Trinitate on abstraction, Summa on need of sense powers to understand, and more on divine ideas. No worries.

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