“Are You Jacob Marley?

The Apprehension of Substance Considered

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Thomas Aquinas College in Partial Fulfillment of the Degree of Bachelor of Arts

Author: Edward Langley
Advisor: Dr. Christopher Decaen March 11, 2012

"You don’t believe in me," observed the Ghost. “I don’t,” said Scrooge. “What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?” “I don’t know,” said Scrooge. “Why do you doubt your senses?” “Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” —–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

When discussing how Berkeley’s philosophy appeared to be self-evidently false, but impossible to refute, Dr. Johnson kicked out at a nearby stone, exclaiming “I refute it thus!” —–Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson

Contents 1 Objections: Mistakes about substance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sense qualities can change while the substance remains . . . . . . . . . . . Substance cannot change the sense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sense does not comprehend substance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To be sensed per accidens is not really to be sensed . . . . . . . . . . . . . Does the brute sense substance? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sensation of an image . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i 2 Sed Contra: Aristotle and Others on the Sensation of Substance . . . . . . . . . . . . . Twofold Division of Sensible Per Accidens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sense is of Particulars, Understanding of Universals . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 10 12 14 i 6 6 6 7 7 8 8 9

3 Response: Substance as sensed by each sense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Mediated Action in Sensation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Union of knower with known . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Substance as Sensed Per Se . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Responses to Objections: Mistakes about substance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sensible qualities can change while the substance remains . . . . . . . . . . Substance cannot change sense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sense does not comprehend substance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To be sensed per accidens is not really to be sensed . . . . . . . . . . . . . Does the brute sense substance? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sensation of an image . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A St Albert, “digressio declarans gradus abstractionis et modum” Prooemium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Grades of Abstraction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Distinction between “intentio rei” and “forma rei” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . B On Sense as compared to intellect Why sense is of singulars and intellect of universals . . . . . . . . . . . . . How the universal is in the soul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C John of St. Thomas on Accidental Sensibles.

17 17 17 23 28 36 36 38 39 40 41 42 42 47 47 47 48 49 49 50 51


D Descartes’ Wax Experiment Bibliography

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When someone sees a chicken crossing the road, he sees the chicken and not its colors alone. He would only doubt his vision of the chicken if he suspected that he suffered from some disorder, such as hallucinations, or was a philosopher with preconceived notions on the subject. The philosophers in the perennial tradition would agree with this hypothetical man: it seems self-evident that the chicken is sensed. In fact, Aristotle thought this so manifest that he spends very little time on the question in the De Anima, not saying much more than that the “son of Diares” is sensed accidentally.1 The Angelic Doctor and his teacher, St. Albert, concur with him, but they spend more time elaborating the subtleties. All these seem to hold that sense knows more than what imprints itself upon the external senses: a coyote watching our hypothetical chicken would see a tasty dinner, which seems slightly different from a portmanteau of colors, odors and sounds. Thus, those who hold that substance is not sensed–whether they think it is or not—deny a self-evident proposition. The self-evident of this truth is attested by the very fact that it is difficult to

Aristotle, De Anima II. 6


refute those who deny it: Boswell illustrates this in the opening quotation from his Life of Samuel Johnson: Dr. Johnson could not see a defect in Berkeley’s arguments even though he remained adamantly opposed to his conclusions. This difficulty arises because the more fundamental a proposition is, the harder it is to see what it relies upon. For example, it is difficult to know whether one can demonstrate Euclid’s fourth proposition because there are few middle terms through which a demonstration could be made and, at this stage in the science, each is known relatively indistinctly. But, if the proposition really is self-evident, it seems odd to argue at length about it: to do this seems to admit the subject of inquiry to be doubtful. This appearance deceives, for it neglects the human condition as knowers whose intellect is among knowers as the oculus vespertilionis 2—not only must a proposition be intrinsically self-evident, but it must present its evidence to our intellect. That is, since a selfevident proposition is one in which the understanding of the subject includes the predicate,3 one grasps the proposition in proportion to one’s comprehension of the terms. Now, various impediments can limit one’s comprehension of the terms: some impediments come from the natures signified, while others from extrinsic factors. Thus, since God’s existence is his essence, the proposition “God exists” is self-evident: nevertheless, due to his incorporeality men require an argument to see it. Here, the problem is fundamentally the proportion of the human intellect to bodily essences:4
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II.1 co. ibid. 4 ST I.84 a.7
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since God is not a body, his nature hides in “unapproachable light.” (1 Τιμ. 6:16) In other cases, extrinsic factors limit our understanding. Sometimes this is because the one deceived has not yet considered the principle’s subject. So, one may think incorporeal substances to be in place because one has not reflected on the nature of place5 or, as is frequently held, that one infinite is larger than another insofar as it is infinite (the claim that there are “more” real numbers than rational ones is one instance of this). In both cases the impediment is some lack of understanding: those making the claims overlook the contradiction between subject and predicate. Since place is the limit of a body, it cannot be predicated of something without one. In the mistake about the infinite, one has not yet noticed that the limits of the lesser fall within the greater; consequently, the lesser must have limits which is against the notion of the infinite—i.e. the unlimited. Furthermore, understanding can be impeded by a bad will: someone who wonders whether he ought to love his parents or whether the good is to be sought can only do so through some willful defect. Thus, in speaking about these sources of error, Aristotle says in the Topics: Not every problem, nor every thesis, should be examined, but only one which might puzzle one of those who need argument, not punishment or sensation. For people who are puzzled to know whether one ought to honour the gods and love one’s parents or not need punishment, while [those who are puzzled to know] whether snow is white or not need sensation.6
From Boethius’ De Hebdomadibus quoted in ST Q.2 a.1 Οὐ δεῖ δὲ πᾶν πρόβλημα οὐδὲ πᾶσαν θέσιν ἐπισκοπεῖν, ἀλλ΄ ἣν ἀπορήσειεν ἄν τις τῶν λόγου δεομένων καὶ μὴ κολάσεως ἢ αἰσθήσεως• οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀποροῦντες πότερον δεῖ τοὺς θεοὺς τιμᾶν καὶ τοὺς γονέας ἀγαπᾶν ἢ οὒ κολαάσεως δέονται, ὁι δὲ πότερον ἡ χιὼν λευκὴ ἢ οὒ αἰσθήσεως. (Aristotle, Topics 105a5)
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Thus, Aristotle holds that some problems should not be argued about, since the willingness to doubt them is a moral defect deserving punishment. There is also a third case, between the preceding ones: because of prior convictions, one denies what is self-evident. Here, the principle is denied because one cannot see how it can be held without contradiction. Since the principle is clear, however, this denial can only occur through an act of the will. Thus, Dedekind’s claim that “a set can be a part of itself” follows necessarily from his definition of ’part.’7 This mistake is particularly dangerous in philosophy: for the sake of a theory which appeals to one’s imagination or other habits of thought, one might abandon less appealing truths. The unwarranted assumption of the truth of the Aristotelian cosmos, for example, led many to wrongly reject the system proposed by Copernicus as Kepler developed it. Popular conceptions, such as those of the Church’s role in the Galileo trial, and other forms of prejudice are other sources of such errors. Whether substance is sensed seems to fall in this last category: most people think they see their dog. Some philosophers, due to various prior considerations, lost sight of this basic truth. Thus Descartes, committed to the proposition that philosophy starts with what is clear and distinct,8 held that substance was only known by the mind because one knows that it remains despite many sensible changes.9 Berkeley and Hume deny the very existence of substance because of a misapplication of the principle that nothing is known which has not been sensed.10 These thinkers seem
The Nature and Meaning of Numbers, I.3: “A system A is said to be ’part’ of a system S when every element of A is also element of S ” 8 Cf. Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditation 2 9 Ibid., Meditation 2 quoted as Appendix D below 10 Find Citations


to deny that substance is sensed because they cannot see how it would happen: if Berkeley and Hume had seen that the substance is in the sense through its accidents or Descartes had noticed the sensible unity of the changing object, perhaps they would not have made these mistakes. In such a case, since the controversy is over something self-evident, it is necessary to go through objections in order to get a firm grasp of the difficulties involved. For, unless one sees the difficulties, the arguments given will seem vain as proving something which need not be proved. Consequently, I will begin by articulating seven objections.




Mistakes about substance
The first of these is that substance does not seem to be sensed because, if it were, one would not mistake it. One often finds oneself mistaken about the substance of a thing: one takes salt to be sugar and one person to be another. He who is mistaken, however, does not know that about which he is mistaken. Now, since the reason for making such mistakes is similarities of sensible qualities (salt and sugar are both white, two people have similar features), sensation does not seem to know substance.

Sense qualities can change while the substance remains
Descartes raises a second objection in his Meditations.1 If one takes a piece of beeswax and examines it, one notices many sensible qualities: its yellowish color, the

Meditation 3


scent of honey, the noise it makes when struck, the slight sweetness, its temperature and its shape. When it melts, however, all of these change: it becomes clear, odorless, and tasteless; it does not sound when struck; it is hot and has no particular shape. Yet, everyone thinks it to be the same substance and very few would deny this. Since all the sensible qualities have changed, however, sense cannot be the basis for thinking this. Moreover, for any sensible, there is a situation in which it changes while the substance remains: one-legged men, three-legged dogs, grey hair, etc. Consequently, it seems that substance cannot be sensed since none of the sensibles is a reliable indicator of the substance.

Substance cannot change the sense
A third objection to the sensation of substance is that sensing “consists in a certain suffering or being changed,” 2 whereas substance does not appear to change the sense:3 not the paper but the whiteness in the paper seems to change the sense. For this reason, then, one might suppose that substance is not an object of the sense power.

Sense does not comprehend substance
A fourth objection could be raised from St. Thomas’ assertion that “the sensitive powers do not reach all the way to comprehension of the substance.” 4 Thus, we
“Sentire consistit in quodam pati et alterari.” (Sentencia Libri II De Anima l. 13, all Latin translations are my own) 3 Cf. Aristotle, De Anima II.6: “For it senses this thing accidentally, because it happens to the white, which is sensed. Whence, the sense suffers nothing from this sensible as such.” 4 “Sensitivae potentiae non pertingunt usque ad substantiae comprehensionem.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Super De Trinitate V.3)


cannot distinguish nitrogen and oxygen simply by sensing them attentively:5 they have neither distinctive colors, smells, sounds, tastes, nor do they differ tangibly. Yet, since it is commonly held that they are different substances, it seems that substance cannot be known by sense.

To be sensed per accidens is not really to be sensed
A fifth objection admits that substance is sensed per accidens, but urges that for something to be sensed per accidens requires that it is sensed per se by some other power. Thus, someone might object that substance is not actually sensed by the external senses and that the one saying it to be sensed speaks metaphorically, as Christ is when he says: “I saw Satan falling like lightning.” (Lk. 10:18) For, Christ did not literally see Satan, a spirit, fall, but rather called knowledge of that fall, sight.

Does the brute sense substance?
A sixth objection might be raised as follows: since man knows substance according to sense, it seems that the brute animals can sense substance also. But, the substance of a thing is what it is to be that thing, that is, the essence. But it belongs to intellect to know the essence of a thing. Consequently, since the brutes lack intellect, they seem to be unable to sense substance.
Ignoring, for the moment, the sensible effects they have such as causing a smoldering match to flare up.


Sensation of an image
Finally, if it is said that the exterior senses only sense substance insofar as they sense its accidents, this seems insufficient. For, those accidents can be duplicated in an image: for example, a painting or a CD. In an image, however, the image rather than the substance underlies the sensibles. Consequently, it seems odd to claim that sensation is of the substance since it does not matter whether the proper subject is really present.




Sed Contra:
Aristotle and Others on the Sensation of Substance
Against these objections, several authorities may be cited. Aristotle holds that substance is sensible per accidens in the following text: A sensible is called accidental, e.g., if a white thing is the son of Diare. For it senses this thing accidentally, because it happens to the white, which is sensed.1 Note that to say that something is sensible per accidens does not imply that it is not sensed, just as to say that digging for oil is a cause per accidens of finding gold is not to say that the digging was not a cause: rather, to hold this is to hold that the digging is not a cause of the finding insofar as it was for the sake of oil; similarly, to say that “son of Diares” is sensed per accidens does not that he is sensed. Commenting on
Κατὰ συμβεβηκὸς δὲ λέγεται αἰσθητόν, οἷον εἰ τὸ λευκὸν εἴη Διάρους υἱός• κατὰ συμβεβηκὸς γὰρ τούτου αἰσθάνεται, ὅτι τῷ λευκῷ συμβέβηκε τοῦτο, οὗ αἰσθάνεται. (De Anima II.6 tr. Glen Coughlin)


this passage, St. Thomas makes an interesting excursus into distinctions between interior senses. First he considers how man knows this man or this wood: If it {the accidental sensible} is apprehended in the singular (such as, when I see a colored [thing], I perceive this man or this animal) this apprehension comes to be in man through the vis cogitativa, which is also called “particular reason” in that it collects individual intentions just as universal reason collects universal notions. Nevertheless, this power is in the sensitive part; since the sensitive power in its highest participates [in] something of the intellective power in man, in which the sense is joined to the intellect. 2 Thus, St. Thomas holds that the singular is apprehended, in man, by a power known as the cogitative power. This power is a sensitive power which collects “individual intentions” and is the sensitive soul’s participation in intellect. He goes on to consider the corresponding power in animals and how it differs from man’s power: But in the irrational animal the apprehension of the individual intentions comes to be through natural estimation. . . The estimative and cogitative [powers] stand differently in relation to this. For the cogitative apprehends the individual as existing under a common nature; which pertains to it insofar as it is joined to the intellective [power] in the same subject; whence it knows this man insofar as it is this man and this insofar as it is this wood. The estimative, however, does not apprehend some individual as under a common nature, but only as a term or principle of some action or passion.3
Si apprehendatur in singulari, utputa cum video coloratum, percipio hunc hominem vel hoc animal, huiusmodi quidem apprehensio in homine fit per vim cogitativam, quae dicitur etiam ratio particularis, eo quod est collativa intentionum individualium, sicut ratio universalis est collativa rationum universalium. Nihilominus tamen haec vis est in parte sensitiva; quia vis sensitiva in sui supremo participat aliquid de vi intellectiva in homine, in quo sensus intellectui coniungitur. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Setencia Libri De Anima II.13) 3 In animali vero irrationali fit apprehensio intentionis individualis per aestimativam naturalem. . .


Thus, while the cogitative power can extend to sensing this under a common nature through its cooperation with reason, the estimative only senses this as a “principle or term” of an individual action to be done immediately. Thus, by this power, the sheep sees “this wolf” as a principle of impending harm. Of particular importance, St. Thomas does not deny that the animal senses substance by this power, but he denies that it senses it under a common nature. Since the sensible accidents before me are not necessarily fearful as sensible accidents, there is no necessity that these proper or common sensibles arouse fear as such; rather, one is afraid that to which these accidents belong.

A Twofold Division of the Sensible Per Accidens Suggested by John of St. Thomas
John of St. Thomas goes into more detail about the various ways in which something is an accidental sensible. The first sense he gives, however, is how substance is such: The sensible per accidens is the substance to which as an object the proper and common sensibles inhere. And the sensible per accidens is distinguished from the sensible per se, since the sensible per accidens pertains to the object of sense only insofar as it is the subject of the sense’s object, whence it is drawn subjectively to the notion of the sense’s object, and thus it is truly and properly attained by sense, not as a formal
Differenter tamen circa hoc se habet cogitativa, et aestimativa. Nam cogitativa apprehendit individuum, ut existens sub natura communi; quod contingit ei, inquantum unitur intellectivae in eodem subiecto; unde cognoscit hunc hominem prout est hic homo, et hoc lignum prout est hoc lignum. Aestimativa autem non apprehendit aliquod individuum, secundum quod est sub natura communi, sed solum secundum quod est terminus aut principium alicuius actionis vel passionis. (Sentencia Libri II De Anima, l.13)


notion changing the sense, but as the subject to which such a notion is present per accidens.4 Later in the same text he expands the notion of the accidentally sensible to include more of the formalities of the thing sensed; in this, he follows the distinctions made by St. Thomas in his commentary:5 St. Thomas adds below two other conditions of the sensible per accidens: First, that it happens to that which is sensible per se. Second, that is is apprehended by the sentient being by some power so that it does not wholly hide and is apprehended either through an imaginative [power] or through intellect.6 The order of exposition followed here seems to be important: first he points out that substance, as the root of existence for the proper sensibles, is a per accidens sensible in its own peculiar way and then he shows to us a more general notion. This suggests that the sensitive power has a relation to the underlying substance different from the relation it has to the other per accidens sensibles.
Sensibile per accidens est substantia, cui tamquam obiecto inhaerent sensibilia propria et communia. Et distinguitur sensibile per accidens a sensibili per se, quia sensibile per accidens non pertinet ad obiectum sensus, nisi in quantum est subiectum obiecti sensus, unde subiective trahitur ad rationem obiecti sensus, et sic vere et proprie attingitur a sensu, non ut ratio formalis immutans sensum, sed ut subiectum, cui per accidens inest talis ratio. (Cursus Philosophicus Thomisticus: L. III Q.4, A.2) 5 Prima, quod accidat ei, quod per se est sensibile. Secunda, quod sit apprehensum a sentiente per aliam potentiam, ita quod non omnino lateat ipsum. (lectio 13) 6 Addit infra S. Thomas alias duas conditiones sensibilis per accidens: Prima, quod accidat ei, quod per se est sensibile. Secunda, quod sit apprehensum a sentiente per aliam potentiam, ita quod non omnino lateat ipsum, apprehendaturque vel per imaginativam vel per intellectum.(Cursus Philosophicus Thomisticus: L. III Q.4, A.2)


Sense is of Particulars, Understanding of Universals
In this line, the Philosopher says in the Physics that “Understanding is of the universal, while sense is of the particular.” 7 First substance is particular and gives existence to all other particulars. Consequently, if sense is of particular colors, even more so is it of first substance. St. Albert goes into more detail about this passage in his commentary: And this is what Aristotle says excellently in the second book of the De Anima, that the senses are of particulars, and he does not say that they are only of some form, but of the whole particular, as also understanding is of the universals, which is an acquaintance and species not of the part, but of the whole; and therefore it makes one acquainted with the whole.8 St. Thomas also states in many places that sense knows the singular, that is the substance; for example: As the Philosopher says in the De Anima, book three, “Phantasms stand to our intellect as sensibles to sense”, as colors, which are outside the soul, stand to sight. Whence, just as the species which is in sense is abstracted from things themselves and through it the knowledge of sense is continued to sensible things themselves, so our intellect abstracts the species from phantasms and through it knowledge is continued in a certain way to phantasms. But, nevertheless, there is this difference: the similitude which is in sense is abstracted from a thing as from a knowable object, and therefore through that similitude the thing itself is known per se, directly, but the similitude that is in intellect is not abstracted from phantasms as from a knowable object, but as from a medium of knowledge, through the mode in which our sense receives a
ὁ μὲν γὰρ λόγος τοῦ καθόλου, ἡ δ᾿αἲσθησις τοῦ κατὰ μέρος (Aristotle, Physics I.5) Et hoc est, quod egregie dicit Aristoteles in secundo libro suo de anima, quod sensus sunt particularium, et non dicit, quod sint formae alicuius tantum, sed totius particularis, sicut et intellectus est universalium, quod non est notitia et species partis, sed totius; et ideo notitiam facit detoto. (Liber II De Anima, Tract. III C. IV, Cited at length as Appendix A on page 47)
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similitude of a thing which is in a mirror, while it is born into it not as into a certain thing, but as into the similitude of a thing.9 Thus, Aristotle, St. Thomas and St. Albert all seem to agree that sensation is of the particular substance as such and not merely of its accidents. John of St. Thomas speaks in more detail about how substance is attained in the action of the external senses: Substance is said to be in sense, not per se separately from the proper sensible, but under it and as clothed by that outward sensibility, and so it can come to the intellect. Nor is it required that something that is in the intellect be in sense as it is in intellect, but [that it be in sense] through its effects and accidents.10 This conclusion that substance is present “through its effects and accidents” shows at least this much: the substance is present in the sense by power, but not by its essence and accordingly, it is sensed per accidens and not per se. Finally, we should remember Pre-Socratic maxim, “Nature loves to hide”:11 whatever else may be true about the way substance is sensed, these quotes establish that
Ut philosophus dicit in III de anima, phantasmata se habent ad intellectum nostrum sicut sensibilia ad sensum, ut colores, qui sunt extra animam, ad visum; unde, sicut species quae est in sensu, abstrahitur a rebus ipsis, et per eam cognitio sensus continuatur ad ipsas res sensibiles; ita intellectus noster abstrahit speciem a phantasmatibus, et per eam eius cognitio quodammodo ad phantasmata continuatur. Sed tamen tantum interest; quod similitudo quae est in sensu, abstrahitur a re ut ab obiecto cognoscibili, et ideo per illam similitudinem res ipsa per se directe cognoscitur; similitudo autem quae est in intellectu, non abstrahitur a phantasmate sicut ab obiecto cognoscibili, sed sicut a medio cognitionis, per modum quo sensus noster accipit similitudinem rei quae est in speculo, dum fertur in eam non ut in rem quamdam, sed ut in similitudinem rei. (De veritate, q. 2 a. 6 co.) 10 Dicitur autem substantia esse in sensu, non per se seorsum a sensibili proprio, sed sub illo et ut induta externa illa sensibilitate, sicque potest ad intellectum pervenire. Nec requiritur, ut aliquid, quod sit in intellectu, sit in sensu sicut in intellectu, sed per effectus et accidentia sua. (Ioahannes de Sancto Thomae, Cursus Philosophicus Thomisticus III Q.4 A.2) 11 Heraclitus, DK 123


the this-ness of the thing sensed is hidden from the external senses as such and, as we will see, the what-ness is hidden from animals, yet it is achieved to some degree by men.




When one peruses the works of the scholastics, one is struck by this fact: none argues that substance is sensed, rather they all take that it is sensed as self-evident and consider the implications for the sensitive faculty. If this is a self-evident principle, the natural philosopher cannot argue demonstratively about it, but must consider the question dialectically. Bearing this firmly in mind, I will try to show how this principle accords with the nature of a sensitive being.

Substance as sensed by each sense
The Mediated Action in Sensation
The act of sensation To prove the position, one ought to begin by carefully distinguishing what changes the sense per se from what does so per accidens. Preparatory to articulating this distinction, the act of sensation’s twofold nature must be observed. In order for any 17

sensation to happen, the sense must first be perfected by receiving the sensible form and then the animal senses its object by it.1 Aristotle points enigmatically to this distinction at the very end of Book Two of the De Anima: What, therefore, is smelling except suffering something? Or is not smelling also sensing, while the air, suffering quickly, becomes sensible?2 As he says, smelling is not merely suffering but is also sensing. There is a transitive action of the sense object impressing itself upon the sense power; but, unlike in the medium, the animal brings forth the immanent action of sensation which proceeds from the perfected sense power.3
As St. Albert points out in his commentary on the De Anima, a passive power is not sufficient to bring forth its own action, but must be perfected in order to act (Cf. St. Albertus Magnus, Liber II De Anima Tractatus III, Caput I). 2 De Anima, 424b15ff. St. Thomas’ Commentary on this passage: Saying, that if something suffers from odor Dicens, quod si aliquid patitur ab odore, which does, then what is to smell besides to quod non odorat, quid est odorare, nisi pati alisuffer something from odor? And he responds, quid ab odore? Et respondet, quod odorare, est that to smell is so to suffer from odor that one sic aliquid pati ab odore, quod sentiat odorem. senses the odor. Air, however, does not suffer so Aer autem non sic patitur ut sentiat, quia non that it senses, since it does not have a sensitive habet potentiam sensitivam; sed sic patitur ut power; but it so suffer that is sensible, insofar sit sensibilis, inquantum scilicet est medium in as it is a medium in sense. sensu. (St. Thomas Aquinas Sentencia De anima II l. 24) St. Albert’s commentary: And to this we say that to smell is not to Et ad hoc dicimus quod odorare non est absuffer something from the sensible, but rather solute pati aliquid a sensibili, sed potius odorare to smell is to sense and judge the odor which est sentire et judicare odorem quod est secunda is the second perfection of sense: and it is not sensus perfectio: et non est tantum pati, sed only to suffer, but to do something: and the operari aliquid: et hoc modo sensibile ad opesensible does not act to the operation of sense rationem sensus non agit in id quod est inaniin this way in that which is inanimate. matum. (St. Albert the Great, Liber II De Anima, Tract. IV C. II) There is a striking analogy with any created being here: when the form is impressed upon the matter, the nature composed of this form and this matter brings forth a proper operation which is the proper operation of that substance; similarly, when sense is impressed with the sensible form, it brings forth the operation proper to the reception of that sensible.
3 1


Now, in the first part of this action, the power becomes what it will know. This happens in virtue of the sensible qualities inhering in the object. Nevertheless, although the sense is changed by these qualities, they are insufficient to accomplish the change of the sense by themselves. Rather, just as the sense does not sense but the animal senses by the sense, so the sensible quality is not what acts upon the sense but the means by which a substance acts upon it. The dependency of the sensibles in being This can be seen by considering the way the sensible qualities are rooted in the substance. Red, for example, can only affect the sense by inhering in the surface of some body. This is manifest in experience: the smaller the red surface is, the harder the red is to see. Thus, redness depends on the extension of the surface for its ability to affect the sense. Because of this dependency, the quantitative characteristics of the surface, the common sensibles, are sensed as well. Similarly, the surface depends on the substance for its existence, since a surface is a limit of a substance. Thus, because a surface depends on its substance for its existence, the redness depending on the surface will as well. This is sufficient to argue the point: for, the definition of an accident includes its subject. Thus, since infinite regress is impossible, there must be a first subject. But such a subject, as a first cause in the order of subjects, makes all posterior subjects to be subjects. Consequently, the surface is a fit subject for the sensible quality. Thus, if the surface characteristics are sensed because the proper sensibles depend upon them, a fortiori the substance is as well.


The principle of the action of the sensible on the sense The substance, however, is not sensed separately from the proper and common sensibles. Rather, the act of the sensible quality upon the sense is more properly the act of the substance on the sense: for substances are the principles of action through the qualities inhering in them.4 Thus, a substance impresses itself upon sense through its sensible qualities. Since, in transitive action, the act of the agent and patient is one and is in the patient from the agent, the sense becomes the sensible quality impressed by the substance. Then, the animal senses the impressed quality. Therefore, to sense this quality is to sense the substance: to see someone’s color and shape, for example, is to see him. The sensible qualities, then, mediate the action of the substance by making the substance able to produce a certain affection (a species of quality) in another substance apt to receive it. Consequently, substance really changes the sense. Since whatever changes the sense is sensed,5 the substance acting is sensed. Nevertheless, since it does not change the sense as such, it is not sensed per se. Rather, it is sensed through the per se sensibles6 as the agent impressing them upon the sense. Thus, one could say that it is sensed per aliud, that is, through the proper and common sensibles.7
St. Thomas Aquinas, Quaestiones De Trinitate, Q.5 A.3: Accidents come upon a substance in a certain Accidentia superveniunt substantiae quodam order. For quantity comes first, then quality, ordine. Nam primo advenit ei quantitas, deinde then passions and motions qualitas, deinde passiones et motus. Sentencia Libri De Anima II l.13 In what follows, I use the term ’per se sensible’ (as distinct from ’proper sensible’) to refer to both the common and proper sensibles since they are both sensed per se. 7 For a parallel account in the intelligible order see St. Thomas Aquinas, In Boethii De Trinitate: Each thing is intelligible insofar as it is in Unaquaeque res sit intelligibilis, secundum
6 5 4


So, when the eyes sees a piece of paper, the paper rather than the color, is the first efficient cause of the impression upon the sense; The paper, however, is not sensed by the eye as paper, but as colored. Consequently, one attends to color in the underlying without a distinct attention to the underlying. Lacking a distinct attention to the underlying is not the same as not attending to the underlying: rather to attend to the underlying in this way is to know the composite through what stands to it as act. Now, in this case, to be sensed per aliud is to be sensed per accidens since substance is not the proper object of any external sense and it is accidental that this or that sensible quality correspond to this particular substance; here, then to be sensed per accidens is to be the unnoticed cause of what is sensed: thus the paper is not noticed by sight but is nevertheless seen through its whiteness. There is, however, another way that something is a sensible per accidens; that is, when something which does not change the sense in question, is apprehended per se by another power: for example, if we say that “we see someone is alive” 8 because we see him to be moving: for, seeing the motion we perceive by intellect that he is alive. Here is St. Thomas’s account of how something is called a sensible per accidens: Therefore it ought to be known that for something to be sensible per accidens, first it is required that it happen to that which is sensible per
act. . . whether insofar as it is a certain act. . . or according to that which its act. . . or according to that which is to it in the place of act. quod est in actu. . . vel secundum quod est actus quidam. . . vel secundum id quod est actus eius. . . vel secundum id quod est ei loco actus. (Q.V a.3) Here St. Thomas points out that a composite of act and potency is understood because what is actual in it has been received; analogously, the reception of the sensible in act is the sensation of the composite of the sensible form and its proper subject. 8 Example from St. Thomas Aquinas, Sentencia De anima, II l. 13


se, as being a man happens to the white as does being sweet. Second, it is required that it is apprehended by the sentient being: for if it should happen to the sensible that it were hidden from the sentient being, it would not be said to be sensed per accidens. It is necessary, therefore, that it is known per se by some other knowing power of the sentient being.9 Substance is sensed per accidens in this way as the proper object of intellect (at least) but, even if this were not so, it could be said to be sensed insofar as the per se sensibles make it known.10 The way in which these sensibles make known the substance is a particular case of the general principle that form desires to communicate itself. This principle can be substantiated from experience: a shovel’s purpose can be deduced from its shape; blushing indicates shame; a man’s speech makes him known; higher beings like to reproduce; knowers enjoy teaching; the highest goods are common.11 This can be more definitely illustrated as follows: sensation is clearly of something existing outside since the sense organ is not itself sensed.12 That thing acts upon the sense, assimilating the sense to itself like any good agent. That which asSciendum est igitur, quod ad hoc quod aliquid sit sensibile per accidens, primo requiritur quod accidat ei quod per se est sensibile, sicut accidit albo esse hominem, et accidit ei esse dulce. Secundo requiritur, quod sit apprehensum a sentiente: si enim accideret sensibili, quod lateret sentientem, non diceretur per accidens sentiri. Oportet igitur quod per se cognoscatur ab aliqua alia potentia cognoscitiva sentientis. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Sentencia De Anima, lib. 2 l. 13 n. 13) 10 See, for example Ioannes a Sancto Thomae, Cursus Philosophicus Thomisticus L.6 C.3: But substance is said to be in sense, not per Dicitur autem substantia esse in sensu, non se, distinct from the proper sensible, but under per se seorsum a sensibili proprio, sed sub illo it a as clother by that external sensibility, and et ut induta externa illa sensibilitate, sicque thus it can come to intellect. Nor is it required, potest ad intellectum pervenire. Nec requiritur, that something, which is in intellect, be in sense ut aliquid, quod sit in intellectu, sit in sensu sias [it is] in intellect, but [that it be in sense] cut in intellectu, sed per effectus et accidentia through its effects and accidents. sua.
11 12 9

Cf. Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics I.2 A sign of this is that one cannot sense when one wills.


similates cannot be merely an accident because, properly speaking, accidents do not act anymore than they exist: it would be sheer insanity to say “the brown bit me” or “the hard stabbed me” without also admitting that it is primarily the “dog” or the “spear” that does it. In fact, those first statements sound plausible only because of the concrete mode of signifying which includes the underlying substance. If one uses the abstract noun, which signifies the form by itself, the sentences are even stranger: “brownness bit me,” “hardness stabbed me.” Since what assimilates cannot be an accident, it must be a substance. But, since it produces the accidents in the sense, these must be produced as instruments of its own self communication.13

Union of knower with known
Begins with joining to sense The self-communication of substance suggests a second mode of argument on the side of the second action in sensation. For this second act is perceiving that which has become one with the knower in the first act. For, as Aristotle says in the De Anima, “The act of the sensible and the sense is one and the same, yet their being is not the same.” 14 Thus, taking this with the self-communication of substance, the knower becomes one with the substance when he knows. Thus, generally speaking,
13 An instrumental cause is one which produces an effect to which it is disproportioned. For example, a pen is an instrumental cause of an essay because, while it can explain the color and size of the lines on the paper, it cannot explain the shape or order among the lines. Consequently, it must be a means by which some prior cause writes an essay. The color, even so, is an instrument only analogously: rather than being a defective agent acting by its own form, it is itself the form by which the agent acts. 14 ἡ δὲ τοῦ αἰσθητοῦ ἐνέργεια καὶ τῆς αἰσθήσεως ἡ αὐτὴ μέν ἐϛι καὶ μία τὸ δ᾿εἶναι οὐ ταὐτὸν αὐταῖς. (De Anima 425b, tr. Edward Langley)


the object of the knower as such is substance:15 all the powers of the knower are means by which it unifies itself with substance. Differences between powers are from their objects Now, if there were only one knowing power, such an account of knowledge would be sufficient. If the knower has many knowing powers, it has been shown that the knower has substance as his object. Thus, right away it is given that sense knows substance, since it is a knowing power. But an obvious difficulty arises: since powers differ which have different objects, the number of powers corresponds to the number of objects. There is one object, substance; consequently there is only one power. Yet, no one thinks that sight and hearing are one and the same power. To solve this difficulty, it is necessary to distinguish between what is known and how it is known: knowing Socrates is knowing the teacher of Plato, but these are two different ways of knowing him. Thus, powers are not distinguished by what is known but by how it is known. Consequently, if a knower has many powers, it must perceive substance in many different ways. A sign of this is the division of the power’s objects: one does not divide them by what the sensible thing is, but by how it is. For example, one does not divide the objects of sight into animate and inanimate but rather into white and black or red, green and blue.
This, if true, would indicate a fundamental unity to the act of the knower: namely, the knower is always knowing “this” by means of its powers. This strikes me as a Thomistic/Aristotelian counterpart to Kant’s “Synthetic Unity of Apperception” on the side of the thing known rather than on the side of the knower: i.e. that which accounts for the unity of each experience as this experience.


That this account is true can be verified from the unity of experience: when I perceive “this thing,” my perception is one and involves at once many different aspects of the thing: I hear it, imagine it, et cetera. Consequently, it is necessary that there is some one thing is common to every sensation by which experience can be unified in such a way: thus, it must be able to be common in some way to color and pitch, to taste and texture, and to each of these and the common sensibles. This is the underlying substance which shares its subsistence, individuating the various accidents in it.16 Consequently, each power knows substance under some accident. In this way all perception seems to be a particular case of the general rule that “whatever is received, is received in the mode of the receiver” 17 Another consideration illustrating this point is that every sense senses one which seems to be closely connected to the sensation of substance. For, to perceive something as one is to perceive its undivided existence18 as distinct from its surroundings; to perceive this way is to go beyond sensing positive accidents of the thing (color, shape, etc.) and to touch its very substance: thus, we can be misled by trompe l’œil painting to think something painted is a separate object from the painting. This deception about the number of substances is a result of the illusion produced by skillful use of color Thus, collecting from the preceding, substance can be called the material object of each power and how it is apprehended is the formal object. Now, as has been seen,
To lay this out more clearly, a substance is what does not exist through another but through itself (Posterior Analytics 73b5); thus, since what exists through another must be founded upon what exists through itself, the existence of accidents is founded upon substance (Metaphysics 1003b1ff). 17 Summa Theologiae, I q. 75 a. 5, corpus 18 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae Q.11 A.1


diversity of formal objects corresponds to diversity of powers:19 thus, since color is different from smell, one power corresponds to each. Now, it might be objected that this is not sufficient: after all, the common sensibles differ in account from the proper sensibles, yet they do not diversify the power. Notice, however, that the sensibles such as color seem to be prior to the common sensibles in the order of sensation: one cannot see a particular shape without seeing color, but one can see color without seeing that particular shape.20 Furthermore, one common sensible is sensed by different senses: both sight and touch sense shape. Since that by which something differs must be proper to it, the common senses cannot be principles of differentiation. Differences and order of powers in particular Now, if this account is true, we should be able to distinguish and order the given powers (external senses, sensus communis, imagination, vis cogitativa and intellect) by their formal objects. Thus, in first place, are the external senses: they achieve some formality of the thing apprehended (color, pitch, odor, taste, texture), but are limited to a present object. Thus, for example, we see this colored thing here and, when it leaves or we look away, we cease to see it. The common sense differs from this because it not only perceives the particular sensible qualities, it discerns between them and integrates them into one senseCf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I Q1 a3 co. Cf. Sentencia De Anima II, lectio 13. Descartes seems think that since the common sensibles are prior according to nature, they are also prior in sensation; thus, he speculates that differences of color are the result of unnoticed patterns being seen. This seems to be one case among many where he confuses the order of knowing with that of being.
20 19


experience. Thus, its object is substance as sensible: that is, not insofar as it is colored or odiferous, but as the formalities of the different senses in a higher, more unified mode. Thus it relates to the proper senses as a “limit”: i.e. as common to many distinct things. This is to say, in the common sense, the present singular is reconstructed “intentionally” to the degree that its sensible qualities permits: any new formality must result either from removing some condition of matter21 or by comparing it with experience or instinct. The first such formality is absence. Thus, the imagination can recall anything which has been sensed: a mathematical diagram, a face, etc. Thus, imagination differs from the previous powers because through it substance is perceived as sensible without being perceived as present. This formality implies that this power is more active: the animal or some other agent can summon or compose an image in the imagination22 without requiring something beyond the power and past experience. One interesting result of this is that this power perfects the knowledge of motion because it is capable of presenting motion as a whole. Because they will be treated in more detail below, I pass over the details of the cogitativa or aestimativa: suffice it to say that they are the highest powers of the sensitive part through which it is apt to be joined to an intellect, whether one’s own or another’s (e.g. when a dog is trained). As such, they grasp the singular as far to the degree that it is possible for the animal in question. Intellect, finally, knows the
Compare this with Kant: he seems to think of experience as built up by the interior powers whereas St. Thomas and Aristotle seem to think of it as pared down by excluding the accidental characteristics from the impressions upon the senses. 22 Whether this is always done consciously is hard to see: perhaps some rudimentary animals have images brought forth reflexively or instinctually.


common nature predicable of the singular. Since my thesis is restricted to the way substance is known by the senses, I will not consider the intellect in any great detail. Thus we can see that sensation (in man) is part of an order leading to a full knowledge of substance. Seen this way, the order can be seen as increasing degrees of unification between the soul and that which it knows: since each step receives its impression from the one before,23 the process is not always to something different, but rather to an increasingly intimate union with something one.

Substance as sensed by cogitativa/aestimativa (per se)
Up to this point we have considered three powers of the sensitive soul which do not formally consider anything beyond the per se sensibles: the proper senses, the common sense and the imagination. Generally, these can be divided into two groups: the receptive powers which are the common and proper senses and the retentive power, imagination. These powers cannot be a sufficient account of perception: for otherwise the animal would only achieve its good per accidens, since a good or bad disposition of the per se sensibles is not a necessary indicator of the helpful and harmful. For example, the color and shape of a wolf are not harmful to a sheep as color and shape; rather, the wolf which preys upon sheep is harmful. Thus, for a sheep to perceive a wolf as an enemy differs from perceiving it as having one of the per se sensibles. Such sensibles are called “particular intentions.”

Cf. Aristotle De Anima 431b20


Before continuing, notice the word “intention”; St. Thomas uses this word but does not define it in a context applicable to knowing powers. St. Albert, in his Commentary on the De Anima, however, has a particularly enlightening text on what it means: Intention, however, names that through which a thing is signified individually or universally under diverse grades of abstraction; and this does not give being to anything, neither the sense, when it is in it; nor even the intellect, when it is in it, but [the intention] makes a sign of the thing and an acquaintance [with it]. And, therefore, intention is not a part of the thing as a form, but is rather the species of [one’s] whole acquaintance with a thing.24 Thus, any power which apprehends an object has a received intention of that object. In the case of the intentions at hand, they must be qualified as “unsensed” intentions: that is, they are not per se objects of an external sense. Now, St. Thomas posits two such powers in man: the cogitative perceives the particular intentions and the memory retains them. The argument he gives for the diversity of principles, however, seems weak in light of modern science: he argues that they must be different because, in corporeal things, what receives a form easily, the wet and fluid, is not what retains its form easily, the dry and hard.25 Whether or not this is a sufficient account does not seem to matter since memory, which retains the particular intentions, presupposes the estimative power, which senses them. Consequently, in what follows we need not consider memory
St. Albert the Great, Liber II De Anima, Tractatus III Caput IV quoted as Appendix A below. 25 Cf. Summa Theologiae I.78


Continuing to restrict our consideration to man, the need for the cogitative power can be seen as follows. Formally, what is apprehend by the other powers is different from what our intellect can understand: sense attains to the sensibles per se (color, sound, etc.), yet we know substance (man, dog, etc.). Not only do we know substance, we know it universally. Thus, without some mediating power which can associate the experiences of per se sensibles with universals, the intellect would form the concepts of substance de novo. For, all the sensible qualities are accidents and are, as such, not necessary indicators of the essence.26 Thus, it seems necessary that a sensible power exist in man which perceives per se the substance under the accidents. If we consider action, the need for such a power is also clear: Our intellect knows what is good universally but can not, of itself know which singulars fulfill the criteria. Consequently, if there were not some power applying the universal notion to particulars, and thus it would be impossible to form the practical syllogism: Every B is good, This is a B; ∴ This is good. since the minor premise requires a composition of a singular and a universal. ConThis seems to be a position similar to Descartes’ and, in a different way, to Locke’s: substance would be perceived by direct intellectual inspection alone and would merely signify what underlies these without any notion of existing per se or as the principle acting through the sensible accidents. Alternatively, one might think, with Kant, that apprehension of the underlying substance is first apprehended by an inference from change. This route seems to make substance a matter of appearances; for, if to sense the primary and secondary qualities is not to sense the substance and everything known is first in sense, how can the idea of substance be something impressed? Rather, it is necessary that if this is sensed as under the universal substance, the concept of substance come from the structure of the receiver rather than the thing impressed: for, what is sensed is particular and substance is universal.


sequently, unless there were a power able to see the singular under the universal, the will could not command action. Since one universal in the intellect is substance, then this power must perceive this as a substance. Thus, such a power would have substance as its formal object. To illustrate in more detail how this might happen, consider how Aristotle manifests the underlying of change in the Physics.27 He shows that in every coming to be, there must be something which is able to be other, namely matter, and that which it is able to become, form. Furthermore, the matter must lack the form coming to be, for otherwise it would have changed already. Thus, change shows us that everything which changes must be composed of an underlying and either a lack of a form (before the change) or a form (after the change). Perhaps the substance underlying the accidents is sensed by the vis cogitativa in an analogous way: motion is presented to it by the imagination, and it automatically “infers” the existence of an underlying substance.28 This seems to fit with experience in several ways. First, one only questions the substantial unity of ordinary substances after reflection: no one is an atomist by nature. Rather, as the history of philosophy shows, people tend to think that what presents itself as one substance, is so: without reflection one might think a glass of water to be one substance. Second, in dreams one experiences odd occurrences: one person (call him Cyril) assumes the appearance of another (perhaps Methodius) while remaining himself. A description of such experiences will involve expressions like “I met Syril who looked like Methodius.” In both these cases, what changes is
Aristotle, Physics I.7 This language is slightly misleading: just as the intellect does not need an argument (except as a pedagogical device) to see the matter-form composition of changing things so one need not reflect upon one’s experience to sense the substance underlying the accidental change.
28 27


judged to have an underlying substance which remains throughout the change. This perceived unity, then, would be a sign of the existence of the vis cogitativa. In considering whether the irrational animals have a faculty which senses substance per se, one must consider both how the brutes are like man and how they differ. Since in men differ by intellect, their senses should differ through their connection to intellect. Thus, to see if the irrational animals sense substance per se, one must seek the differences in the sensitive faculties arising from the presence of intellect. If we consider the order of beings from the inanimate to man, a certain relation is seen to hold: the higher beings have indeterminately what the lower ones have determinately. One example of this is the presence of the various kinds of bodies. A rock, insofar as it is present, is only present to what is immediately in contact with it: it only acts on such things and such things only act upon it.29 Next comes plants: because they grow, they are less bound to the place they are in; one sign of this is that, unlike rocks which only move in one direction by nature, the head of the plant grows up and its roots down. Nevertheless, they always remain, to the degree possible, where they have been. Animals, since they can apprehend qualities transmitted through a medium, generally have a greater presence: that is, they are aware of things near and far and can pursue or avoid things necessary for life. The means by which they achieve their ends and the ends themselves are largely determinate, as is clear from Fabre. For example, the Languedocian Sphex will continue to wall up its nest even when the larva is removed from the nest and, consequently, the task at
Even if these are indeterminate in some sense due to the motion of the earth or the complications surrounding the notion of “surface,” they are still more determinate here than elsewhere.


hand is vain.30 In humans, this determination is removed: they perceive the natures not only of the surrounding things but of all bodies by intellect and consequently can set themselves means and ends appropriate to the current situation. This implies that a man’s sensitive powers and appetites are influenced by intellect both insofar as they provide the material to be understood and the means for the person to achieve his ends. Thus, the higher, more authoritative powers should be more determinate in an animal than they are in a man. Through reflection on the nature of the intellect, the nature of the expected determination can be made more precise: if animals lacking intellect sense substance per se, they will sense this as a substance without knowing what it is. For, properly speaking, to know what something is belongs to intellect; once the common nature is apprehended, the cogitative power can apply it to the particular things sensed. Thus, sensing the substance under a common nature is possible per aliud that is, through intellect. Since the perceiving subject perceives by virtue of the powers it has, and not those had by another: the blind man, for example, cannot know color by another’s power of sight. Consequently, the animal lacking intellect will not sense the singular under a common nature, because it lacks the ability to see the common nature by which the singular could be seen. Thus, the meaning of the statement “substance is sensed” must be elaborated to see if it can mean something applicable to a brute animal. In Aristotle’s Categories, he points out the analogy of the word substance: it always means “what exists not in another,” but sometimes it names what exists in such a way and some30

Jean Henri Fabre, The Wonders of Instinct


times that which is said of this. What is common to the notion of substance is that it is per se: what differs is whether it names what exists per se or the nature of what is apt to so exist. In the former sense only singular substances are substances (this man, this horse, this dog); in the latter, the nature is a substance. Aristotle indicates the priority of one to the other by calling the singular “first substance” and the nature “second substance.” Thus, if an animal senses substance, it is not as second substance, since this requires intellect which can grasp the nature common to many individuals. Consequently, the question is: can an animal perceive first substance? Every animals acts for its own good: for the first appetite of nature is selfpreservation.31 Consequently, whatever is necessary to an animal’s self-preservation must be given to it by nature, otherwise such a natural appetite would be vain. Now, usefulness and harmfulness to the animal are not the proper objects of any of the preceding powers (besides the vis cogitativa), as is clear from the account given above. For, even if sight will “avoid” by its natural inclination what destroys it, it can only perceive this as harmful to the power rather than the nature, simply speaking. Now, what is pursued as useful and harmful for an animal goes beyond the inclination of any natural appetite of the faculties because such inclinations seek the well-being of that faculty, to which may be opposed to the animal’s well-being: the lizard sheds its tail to save its life. Thus, since desire follows knowledge, there must be an apprehensive power that sees the good for the animal and not simply for this or that faculty. Moreover, since this faculty must see it as harmful to the animal’s nature, it cannot simply perceive the sensibles as such, since the harmfulness does

Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II Q.94 a.2, co.


not come from these principally, but rather from the underlying nature. Thus, since a good which is sought on the basis of the accidental is not reliably obtained, the animal must be able to instinctually distinguish the harmful and the useful. But, in order to do this, it must grasp substance in some way as the “subject” of the judgment “this is harmful.”




Responses to Objections:
Having established that substance is sensed, it is necessary to answer the objections presented. This done, not only will the fact be established, but doubts one might have will also be laid to rest.

Mistakes about substance
Thus, in response to the first objection about confusing salt and sugar, the following may be urged. To make a mistake about substance is contingent upon the ability to perceive it. This is a result of evil being a privation: blindness is an evil consisting in a lack of sight. Consequently, the man deceived about particular substance (thinking that salt is sugar, for example), is deceived because sugar and salt both form white cubical crystals and so, when such crystals are seen, he thinks it is either salt or sugar. It is this very inclination to think it one or the other that shows substance to be sensed: for only a power capable of perceiving correctly can make a mistake.


In fact, insofar as each of the external senses grasps substance, they cannot be mistaken. For the external senses are only actualized by a present sensible and such a sensible is a mean proportioning a substance to a sense-power. Consequently, insofar as the sense cannot be deceived about whether or not the proper sensible is present, it cannot be deceived about whether some substance is present. This does not mean that the animal cannot be mistaken in its distinct grasp of substance (i.e. where it is, whether it is this color or that, whether it is salt or sugar, etc.) because these depend upon further judgments beyond the simple recognition of presence. This deception can even be about the number of substances present (e.g. sight does not distinguish the salt and water in a glass of salt-water) yet, since the well-disposed power cannot be deceived in its judgments about its proper object and this object is some actuality received from another, it cannot be deceived about the presence of another substance. Perhaps the idea that truth and falsity are only in combination and separation illuminates this point: in its fundamental grasp of the sensible, all that is known is the presence of an agent having a particular quality, and this conception does not imply any positive aspect of the substance besides the proper sensibles. Thus, the particular color is apprehended in something, even if it appears where it is not due to a mistake about either accidental or common sensibles or both.


Sensible qualities can change while the substance remains
To the next objection, that if substance is perceived, something sensed should remain throughout the various changes the following should be said: first, since the per se sensibles are accidents on Aristotle’s account, it is not surprising that nothing similar is perceived through all accidental changes: rather, the sensation of substance will be of the unity underlying such changes. Thus, substance is not sensed as what sense notices, but insofar as a perceived intention makes known the whole substance. St. Thomas speaks this way about the intelligible form when he says: “the intelligible form is the quiddity of the thing.” 1 In that passage, he simply equates the intelligible form and the essence because, as he had indicated earlier in that article, potency is known through its relation to act; consequently, knowing the essence, one knows the ens. St. Albert speaks more generally about this when he distinguishes intention and form and uses the colors in the eye as an example: An intention is not a part of the thing as a form, but is rather the species of one’s whole acquaintance with the thing. . . For the intention of the colored [i.e. the sensible form] which is in the eye makes known the whole thing.2 St. Albert distinguishes here the meaning of forma from that of intentio; St.

Thomas, on the other hand, seems to ignore the distinction of the names or, perhaps,
Forma intelligibilis [i.e. intentio universalis] est quidditas rei. (Super De Trinitate, pars 3 q. 5 a. 2 ad 2) 2 Intentio non est pars rei sicut forma, sed potius est species totius notitiae rei. . . Intentio enim colorati [i.e. forma sensibilis], quae est in oculo, totam rem notificat. (St. Albert the Great, Liber II De Anima, Tractatus III Caput IV, Quoted at length as Appendix F below)


is considering the intentio not as belonging to another but as informing the intellect. He seems to imply St. Albert’s distinction in this text: It is manifest, therefore, that the similitude of the thing received in sense represents the thing insofar as it is singular.3 He does not say that it represents the thing’s sensible aspect, but that it represents the thing. Thus, it seems that these thinkers are teaching the same thing: the species impressed upon an knowing power makes known the whole thing and not merely an accident.

Substance cannot change sense
The third objection about substance not changing the sense fails to consider the nature of the proper sensibles. These are qualities of the third species, affective qualities. The notion of a quality is determination,4 in this case of determination to action. The color of a body, therefore, determines that body to act upon surrounding objects. Consequently, since to sense is to be changed by such a quality, it is receiving the action of an exterior substance. Consequently, since the action of the substance and the sensible quality are one, sensation, being of that action, is of the substance under a sensible quality. Another way to see this is to consider the sense’s power to abstract. As was pointed out above, all the sensibles depend upon the substance for their activity.
3 Manifestum est igitur, quod similitudo rei recepta in sensu repraesentat rem secundum quod est singularis. (Sentencia libri De anima, II l.12, quoted as appendix B below) 4 Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics 1020a35ff.


In a similar way, the proper sensibles depend upon the common sensibles. Consequently, it is impossible to know a proper sensible without knowing its surface, and, similarly, it is impossible to separate knowledge of the per se sensibles from that of the substance. From this it follows that substance is prior to its surface and surface to the sensibles in the surface by the second sense of prior. In such an order, as St. Thomas points out, the prior can be known without the posterior5 but not conversely: this abstraction makes mathematics possible. Sense, however, seems unable to make the last separation completely because it is limited to perceiving the singular: since the principle by which this singular is this singular is intimately bound with extension, only a power capable of abstracting from singularity will be able to wholly distinguish the notion of substance from that of extension.

Sense does not comprehend substance
In response to the fourth objection from St. Thomas’ position that sense does not comprehend substance, one ought to distinguish knowing from comprehending: the latter indicates a full grasp of the thing known6 while the former may be more or less
Super Boethium De Trinitate Q.5 A.2 While comprehension most properly implies an exhaustive grasp of the thing known, it seems reasonable to say that intellectual knowledge comprehends insofar as it involves a greater unity with the thing known than sense-knowledge. This usage seems to be implicit in the passage quoted in the object, as is clear from its context: But accidents come to substance in a certain Sed accidentia superveniunt substantiae quoorder. For first comes quantity, next quality, dam ordine. Nam primo advenit ei quantitas, next passions and motions. Whence quantity deinde qualitas, deinde passiones et motus. Uncan be understood in its subject matter before de quantitas potest intelligi in materia subiecta, the sensible qualities by which it is called sensiantequam intelligantur in ea qualitates sensibible matter are understood in it. And thus, acles, a quibus dicitur materia sensibilis. Et sic cording to the notion of its substance, quantity secundum rationem suae substantiae non dedoes not depend upon sensible matter but on pendet quantitas a materia sensibili, sed solum
6 5


superficial: one can point out triangles without being a geometer. The geometer, however, can not only identify a triangle, but he can also demonstrate its causes and properties. Similarly, although sense may be able to apprehend some particular substance, it cannot apprehend the account of some substance in itself: for example, seeing that “this man” and that “this woman,” it cannot form a wholly unified conception of man applicable to each.

To be sensed per accidens is not really to be sensed
Two answers can be provided for the objection that what is sensed per accidens is not truly sensed. The first is to point out that the sensibles per accidens are first received while a sensible per se is being sensed: one does not know what a dog is until a dog has been seen. Thus, the what-ness of a dog can be called sensible insofar as it is acquired through sensation. Further, the relation of substance to the per se sensibles provides a more particular reason to say that substance is sensed per accidens: sensation is noticing an actuality common to both the sensing and the sensed substance. Since the existence of such an actuality in the sensed substance is its making that substance able to act upon the sense, sensation of that actuality is also sensation of substance.
intelligible matter alone. For substance, having a materia intelligibili. Substantia enim remoremoved these accidents, remains comprehensitis accidentibus non manet nisi intellectu comble only to intellect insofar as the sensitive powprehensibilis, eo quod sensitivae potentiae non ers do not attain all the way to comprehension pertingunt usque ad substantiae comprehensioof substance. nem. (Super De Trinitate, Q.5 A.3) Here, St. Thomas is primarily concerned with what the powers can attain and consequently he seems to use the word “comprehensio” to indicate a universal grasp as opposed to grasping the particular.


Does the brute sense substance?
A proper understanding of substance as the brute apprehends it, will answer the objection about brutes sensing substance. Having noted the analogy of the term “substance” and distinguished it into first and second substance, the adequacy of the brute’s powers for such an object can be seen. Notice that, while second substances are taken from three of the five universals of Porphyry’s Isagogue (genus, species and difference), first substances are not universal: in fact to be a first substance, to be this man, this dog, this rock is relatively opposed to being a universal; for, as the species is to the genus, so is the singular to the species. Because of this, the human intellect, which knows by means of universals, cannot apprehend such things except through reflection on sensation.7 In fact, it is precisely the intentional character of sensation, the necessity that it be sensation of something other, that allows for the intellect’s knowledge to extend to singulars. Since sensing something outside belongs to the sensitive soul as such, all animals can be said to sense substance.

Sensation of an image
In relation to the objection about images two things should be noted. First, since substance is not the proper object of the power, the power need not judge about it accurately. In fact, insofar as it is sensed accidentally, the sense cannot attain distinct awareness of the substance at all. Rather it attains a knowledge of it insofar as it is a subject proportioned to the sense’s proper object. Consequently, if the proper sensible can be deceptive about its subject, the sense can be deceived; some

Cf. Aristotle, De Anima, 429b10ff.


animals turn this to their advantage by mimicking a predator or the surrounding environment. Additionally, it should be noticed that an image is an image. That is, that an image insofar as it is an image refers to something other than itself.8 Thus for it to be sensed as an image is for that of which it is an image to be sensed. Consequently the substance represented is sensed. This is not, however, for it to be sensed immediately: rather, it is sensed as mediated by a representation of it. This is similar to the way St. Thomas treats the phantasm’s role in intellectual knowing in this quote:
(Check this footnote) Cf. Aristotle, On Memory and Reminiscence 450b15: Granted that there is in us something like εἴ τ΄ ἐστὶν ὅμοιον ὥσπερ τύπος ἢ γραφὴ an impression of picture, why should the perἐν ἡμῖν͵ἡ τούτου αἴσθησις διὰ τί ἂν εἴη μνήμη ception of the mere impression be memory of ἑτέρου͵ἀλλ΄ οὐκ αὐτοῦ τούτου· ὁ γὰρ ἐνεργῶν something else instead of being related to this τῇ μνήμῃ θεωρεῖ τὸ πάθος τοῦτο καὶ αἰσθάνεται impression alone? For when one actually reτούτου. πῶς οὖν τὸ μὴ παρὸν μνημονεύσει· εἴη members, this impression is what he contemγὰρ ἂν καὶ ὁρᾶν τὸ μὴ παρὸν καὶ ἀκούειν. ἢ plates, and this is what he perceives. How then ἔστιν ὡς ἐνδέχεται καὶ συμβαίνειν τοῦτο· οἷον does he remember what is not present? One γὰρ τὸ ἐν πίνακι γεγραμμένον ζῷον καὶ ζῷόν might as well suppose it possible also to see or ἐστι καὶ εἰκών͵καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ καὶ ἓν τοῦτ΄ ἐστὶν hear that which is not present. In reply, we sugἄμφω͵τὸ μέντοι εἶναι οὐ ταὐτὸν ἀμφοῖν͵καὶ ἔστι gest that this very thing is quite conceivable, θεωρεῖν καὶ ὡς ζῷον καὶ ὡς εἰκόνα͵οὕτω καὶ τὸ nay, actually occurs in experience. A picture ἐν ἡμῖν φάντασμα δεῖ ὑπολαβεῖν καὶ αὐτό τι καθ΄ painted on a panel is at once a picture and a αὑτὸ εἶναι καὶ ἄλλου [φάντασμα]. ᾗ μὲν οὖν καθ΄ likeness: that is, while one and the same, it is αὑτό͵θεώρημα ἢ φάντασμά ἐστιν͵ᾗ δ΄ ἄλλου͵οἷον both of these, although the ’being’ of both is not εἰκὼν καὶ μνημόνευμα. the same, and one may contemplate it either as a picture, or as a likeness. Just in the same way we have to conceive that the mnemonic presentation within us is something which by itself is merely an object of contemplation, while, in relation to something else, it is also a presentation of that other thing. In so far as it is regarded in itself, it is only an object of contemplation, or a presentation; but when considered as relative to something else, e.g. as its likeness, it is also a mnemonic token.


The likeness which is in sense is abstracted from the thing as from a knowable object and therefore through that likeness the thing itself is known per se and directly; the likeness which is in the intellect, however, is not abstracted from the phantasms as from a knowable object but as from a mean of knowledge through the way in which our sense takes a likeness of a thing which is in a mirror while it is born into it not as into a certain thing, but as into a likeness of a thing.9 This is instructive because it shows us that St. Thomas considers images as similitudes of things. It also shows us that, since he does want to say that the intellect knows things through their likeness, that to know a likeness is in some way to know that of which it is a likeness.

Similitudo quae est in sensu, abstrahitur a re ut ab obiecto cognoscibili, et ideo per illam similitudinem res ipsa per se directe cognoscitur; similitudo autem quae est in intellectu, non abstrahitur a phantasmate sicut ab obiecto cognoscibili, sed sicut a medio cognitionis, per modum quo sensus noster accipit similitudinem rei quae est in speculo, dum fertur in eam non ut in rem quamdam, sed ut in similitudinem rei. (Thomas Aquinas, Quaestiones De Veritate, q. 2 a. 6 co.)



From what has been said, it is self-evident that sensation is of substance. In the two ways which apply to sense in general, the common opinion has been defended and in this way it seems to be a principle knowable by all. The first of these, that the very essence of an affective quality is to be a quality making a substance able to act in a certain way, shows that sensation is a suffering from a substance as under some accident. Similarly, the second way shows sensation to be intrinsically part of a process of uniting the knower to the substance known: whether this union is for the sake of practical action alone as in animals, or for both practical action and human contemplation. Thus, in both cases, if the subject, sensation, is analyzed, the predicate is found to be in its notion: substance is sensed either because sensation is receiving the action of a substance or because it is an action by which the sentient being is united to the thing sensed. This truth is readily acknowledged by those lacking philosophical prejudices as is attested by the initial quotes: Jacob Marley asks Scrooge to give a reason why he should doubt his senses; immediately after the interchange quoted, he manages to convince Scrooge by a ghostly howl. Similarly,


Dr. Johnson’s proposed refutation of Berkeley illustrates how the man of common sense would react to someone who denies this proposition: he appeals to his own senses as showing the manifest falsity of the claim. Insofar as the proper object of the vis cogitativa or aestimativa is substance, however, the proposition seems self-evident to the wise; for, these powers are rather obscure and, to be seen, they require philosophical training and careful reflection on the experience of sensation: yet, when they have been discovered, it is clear that they know first substance since they consider unsensed intentions which must be truly predicated of the individual rather than the per se sensibles. Thus, it has been shown that the statement “sensation is of first substance” is self-evident.




St Albert, “digressio declarans gradus abstractionis et modum”
Antequam nos loquamur de sensibilius singulariter, oportet nos loqui de sensibili generaliter, quia, sicut diximus, obiecta sunt priora actibus et actus potentiis secundum rationem. Et quia de communibus etiam quoad nos: debemus primo loqui de sensibili in communi. Se ad faciliorem intellectum eorum quae dicturi sumus, faciemus capitulum breve de modo apprehensonis potentiarum apprehansivarum omnium; hoc enim perutile erit ad omnium sequentium notitiam faciliorem. Dicimus igitur, quod omne apprehendere est accipere formam apprehensi, non secundum esse, quod habet in eo quod apprehenditur, sed secundum quod est intentio ipsius et species, sub qua aliqua sensibilis vel intellectualis notitia apprehensi habetur. Haec autem apprehensio, ut universaliter loquendo, quattuor habet gradus.

Grades of Abstraction
Quorum primus et infimus est, quod abstrahitur et separatur forma a materia, sed non ab eius praesentia nec ab eius appendiciis; et hanc facit vis apprehensiva deforis, quae est sensus. Secundus autem gradus est, quod separatur forma a materia et a praesentia materiae, sed non ab appendiciis materiae sive condicionibus materiae; et hanc apprehensionem facit imaginativa potentia, quae etiam singularibus non praesentibus retinet formas sensibilium, sed non denudat eas a materiae appendiciis. Dico autem appendicias materiae condiciones et proprietates, quas habet subiectum formae, secundum quod est in tali vel tali materia, sicut verbi gratia talis membrorum situs vel talis color faciei vel talis aetas vel talis figura capitis vel talis locus generationis. Haec enim sunt quaedam indivuantia formam, quae sic sunt in uno individuo unius speciei, quod non sunt in alio. Et hac apprehensione saepe non praesentem imaginamur crispum et album et senem vel iuvenem et cum longis digitis vel brevibus, quorum nullum accidit ei, inquantum est homo. Haec igitur est secunda apprehensio.


Tertius autem gradus apprehensionis est, quo accipimus non tantum sensibilia, sed etiam quasdam intentiones quae non imprimuntur sensibus, sed tamen sine sensibilibus numquam nobis innotescunt, sicut est esse socialem et amicum et delectabilem in convictu et affabilem et his contraria, quae quidem cum sensibilibus accipimus, et tamen eorum nullum sensibus imprimitur. Et tale est, quod accipimus hunc esse filium Deonis et esse agnum vel hominem, aliud autem esse lupum vel leonem, secundum quod substantiales formae mediantibus sensibilibus et non separatae ab ipsis apprehenduntur. Et iste gradus propinquus est cognitioni et numquam est sine aestimatione et collatione. Quartus autem et ultimus gradus est, qui apprehendit rerum quidditates denudatas ab omnibus appendiciis materiae nec accipit ipsas cum sensibilium intentionibus, sed potius simplices et separatas ab eis. Et ista apprehensio solius est intellectus, sicut est intellectus hominis per hoc quod convenit omni homini, vel intellectus substantiae et, ut universaliter dicatur, intellectus quidditates universalis omnis rei, secundum quod est quidditas ipsius, et non per hoc quod convenit isti et non illi. Hoc enim quod convenit uni et non alii, proprium est et singulare, et est aliquid de materialibus et individuantibus. Quaecumque autem sunt communia et ita uni sicut alii et eodem modo convenientia, absque dubio sunt universalia, quae solus accipit intellectus. Secundum autem hos gradus abstractionis sive separationis distinguentur inferius vires apprehensivae.

Distinction between “intentio rei” and “forma rei”
Adhuc autem notandum est, quod differunt forma rei et intentio rei; forma enim proprie est, quae informando dat esse actu materiae et composito ex materia et forma. Intentio autem vocatur id per quod significatur res individualiter vel universaliter secundum diversos gradus abstractionis; et haec non dat esse alicui nec sensui, quando est in ipso, nec etiam intellectui, quando est in illo, sed signum facit de re et notitiam. Et ideo intentio non est pars rei sicut forma, set potius est species totius notitiae rei; et ideo intentio, quia abstrahitur de toto et est significatio totius, de re praedicatur; intentio enim colorati, quae est in oculo, totam rem notificat, sicut et intentio, quae est in imaginatione particulari non praesente. Et hoc est, quod egregie dicit Aristoteles in secundo libro suo de anima, quod sensus sunt particularium, et non dicit, quod sint formae alicuius tantum, sed totius particularis, sicut et intellectus est universalium, quod non est notitia et species partis, sed totius; et ideo notitiam facit detoto. Non enim accipitur per visum notitia coloris tantum, sed colorati, et species eius in visu species est colorati, secundum quod colaratum est, et iudicium fit de colorato, secundum quod coloratum est. Et sic est de aliis intentionibus, in quocumque gradu abstractionis accipiantur. Similiter autem est, quando dicitur, quod abstractio fit, intelligitur, quod materia est quoddam particulare quod particularitatem suam habet a materia. Hoc enim est primum subiectum formae, et per ipsam substat particulare et naturae communi, quae abstrahitur universaliter ab intellectu, et individuantibus formis, quarum intentiones ab aliis gradibus apprehensionis abstrahuntur. Sicut autem in principio physicorum dictum est, communis natura aliquando accipitur ut confusa in particularibus et non separata ab eis; et tunc scientia talis est singularium et exigit singulare sicut etiam sensus, sicut in praehabito capitulo diximus.1

1 2

St. Albert the Great, Liber II De Anima, Tractatus III Caput IV Otto Jespersen, The Philosophy of Grammar, pg. 75




On Sense as compared to intellect
Deinde cum dicit differunt tamen quia posuerat similitudinem inter sentire in actu et considerare, vult ostendere differentiam inter ea: cuius quidem differentiae causam assignare incipit ex differentia obiectorum, scilicet sensibilium, et intelligibilium, quae sentiuntur et considerantur in actu. Sensibilia enim quae sunt activa operationis sensitivae, scilicet visibile et audibile, et alia huiusmodi, sunt extra animam. Cuius causa est, quia sensus secundum actum, sunt singularium quae sunt extra animam, sed scientia est universalium quae quodammodo sunt in anima. Ex quo patet, quod ille qui iam habet scientiam, non oportet quod quaerat extra sua obiecta, sed habet ea in se; unde potest considerare ea cum vult, nisi forte per accidens impediatur. Sed sentire non potest aliquis cum vult; quia sensibilia non habet in se, sed oportet quod adsint ei extra. Et sicut est de operatione sensuum, ita est in scientiis sensibilium; quia etiam sensibilia sunt de numero singularium, et eorum quae sunt extra animam. Unde homo non potest considerare secundum scientiam, omnia sensibilia quae vult, sed illa tantum, quae sensu percipit. Sed secundum certitudinem determinare de his, iterum erit tempus, scilicet in tertio, ubi agetur de intellectu, et de comparatione intellectus ad sensum.

Why sense is of singulars and intellect of universals
Circa ea vero quae hic dicuntur, considerandum est, quare sensus sit singularium, scientia vero universalium; et quomodo universalia sint in anima. Sciendum est igitur circa primum, quod sensus est virtus in organo corporali; intellectus vero est virtus immaterialis, quae non est actus alicuius organi corporalis. Unumquodque autem recipitur in aliquo per modum sui. Cognitio autem omnis fit per hoc, quod cognitum est aliquo modo in cognoscente, scilicet secundum similitudinem. Nam cognoscens in actu, est ipsum cognitum in actu. Oportet igitur quod sensus corporaliter et materialiter recipiat similitudinem rei quae sentitur. Intellectus autem recipit similitudinem eius quod intelligitur, incorporaliter et immaterialiter. Individuatio autem naturae communis in rebus corporalibus et materialibus, est ex materia corporali, sub determinatis dimensionibus contenta: universale autem est per abstractionem ab huiusmodi materia, et materialibus conditionibus individuantibus. Manifestum est igitur, quod similitudo rei recepta in sensu repraesentat rem secundum


quod est singularis; recepta autem in intellectu, repraesentat rem secundum rationem universalis naturae: et inde est, quod sensus cognoscit singularia, intellectus vero universalia, et horum sunt scientiae.

How the universal is in the soul
Circa secundum vero considerandum est, quod universale potest accipi dupliciter. Uno modo potest dici universale ipsa natura communis, prout subiacet intentioni universalitatis. Alio modo secundum se. Sicut et album potest accipi dupliciter: vel id, cui accidit esse album, vel ipsummet, secundum quod subest albedini. Ista autem natura, cui advenit intentio universalitatis, puta natura hominis, habet duplex esse: unum quidem materiale, secundum quod est in materia naturali; aliud autem immateriale, secundum quod est in intellectu. Secundum igitur quod habet esse in materia naturali, non potest ei advenire intentio universalitatis, quia per materiam individuatur. Advenit igitur ei universalitatis intentio, secundum quod abstrahitur a materia individuali. Non est autem possibile, quod abstrahatur a materia individuali realiter, sicut Platonici posuerunt. Non enim est homo naturalis, id est realis, nisi in his carnibus, et in his ossibus, sicut probat philosophus in septimo metaphysicae. Relinquitur igitur, quod natura humana non habet esse praeter principia individuantia, nisi tantum in intellectu. Nec tamen intellectus est falsus, dum apprehendit naturam communem praeter principia individuantia, sine quibus esse non potest in rerum natura. Non enim apprehendit hoc intellectus, scilicet quod natura communis sit sine principiis individuantibus; sed apprehendit naturam communem non apprehendendo principia individuantia; et hoc non est falsum. Primum autem esset falsum: sicut si ab homine albo separarem albedinem hoc modo, quod intelligerem eum non esse album: esset enim tunc apprehensio falsa. Si autem sic separarem albedinem ab homine, quod apprehenderem hominem nihil apprehendendo de albedine eius, non esset apprehensio falsa. Non enim exigitur ad veritatem apprehensionis, ut quia apprehendit rem aliquam, apprehendat omnia quae insunt ei. Sic igitur intellectus absque falsitate abstrahit genus a speciebus, inquantum intelligit naturam generis non intelligendo differentias. Et similiter abstrahit speciem ab individuis, inquantum intelligit naturam speciei, non intelligendo individualia principia. Sic igitur patet, quod naturae communi non potest attribui intentio universalitatis nisi secundum esse quod habet in intellectu: sic enim solum est unum de multis, prout intelligitur praeter principia, quibus unum in multa dividitur: unde relinquitur, quod universalia, secundum quod sunt universalia, non sunt nisi in anima. Ipsae autem naturae, quibus accidit intentio universalitatis, sunt in rebus. Et propter hoc, nomina communia significantia naturas ipsas, praedicantur de individuis; non autem nomina significantia intentiones. Socrates enim est homo, sed non est species, quamvis homo sit species.1


St. Thomas Aquinas Sentencia De Anima, II l.12 nn.1-8




John of St. Thomas on Accidental Sensibles.
Dico ULTIMO: Sensibile per accidens est substantia, cui tamquam obiecto inhaerent sensibilia propria et communia. Et distinguitur sensibile per accidens a sensibili per se, quia sensibile per accidens non pertinet ad obiectum sensus, nisi in quantum est subiectum obiecti sensus, unde subiective trahitur ad rationem obiecti sensus, et sic vere et proprie attingitur a sensu, non ut ratio formalis immutans sensum, sed ut subiectum, cui per accidens inest talis ratio. Haec conclusio sumitur ex Divo Thoma in hoc 2. libro de Anima lect. 13., ubi docet ex Philosopho, "quod secundum accidens sensibile dicitur, ut si dicamus, quod Socrates est sensibile per accidens, quia accidit ei esse album. Hoc enim sentitur per accidens, quod accidit ei, quod sentitur per se. Unde nihil patitur sensus ab hoc, in quantum huiusmodi". Addit infra S. Thomas alias duas conditiones sensibilis per accidens: Prima, quod accidat ei, quod per se est sensibile. Secunda, quod sit apprehensum a sentiente per aliam potentiam, ita quod non omnino lateat ipsum, apprehendaturque vel per imaginativam vel per intellectum. Quod vero sensus externus etiam aliquam notitiam habeat ipsius sensibilis per accidens, licet ab eo non immutetur per se, sed mediante sensibili proprio, manifeste dicit S. Thomas 1. p. q. 17. art. 2. Attingit enim sensus externus totum illud, quod ei obicitur, v. g. corpus coloratum. Et ita colligendo ex his rationem sensibilis per accidens dicemus, quod sensibile per accidens generaliter potest dici omne illud, quod accidit sensibili per se, ita quod nec quoad substantiam nec quoad modificationem per se respiciatur ab illo sensu. Et hac generali ratione non solum substantia dicitur sensibile per accidens sed etiam quodcumque sensibile proprium unius sensus comparatum ad alium sensum erit ei sensibile per accidens, sicut album dulce per accidens attingitur a visu, in quantum dulce. Sed hoc non facit, quod dulce sit sensibile per accidens, sed quod sit visibile per accidens, sentiri autem potest etiam per alium sensum. Ut autem sit sensibile per accidens absolute et respectu omnium sensuum requiritur, quod a nullo sensu percipiatur per se. Et hoc solum potest esse substantia seu subiectum ipsum, cui inest ratio obiectiva sensus. Sentitur enim, non quia per se constituat aut conducat ad rationem obiecti, sive tamquam specificans sive tamquam modificans, sed quia sustinet et recipit id, quod praebet rationem obiectivam visus vel alterius sensus, et sic percipitur ut coniunctum obiecto, non


ut constituens obiectum vel conducens ad lineam obiecti, licet conducat ad sustentationem obiecti in suo esse. Cuius signum manifestum est, quia mutato subiecto vel etiam omnino remoto, ut si accidens separetur ab omni subiecto, eodem modo poterit movere sensum illud accidens separatum atque coniunctum, mutato subiecto vel non mutato, dummodo maneat sensibile illud proprium cum sensibilibus communibus, quae sunt modificationes per se requisitae ad exercendam sensationem. Unde non obstat, quod subiectum ipsum seu substantia non minus videatur debere pertinere ad circumstantias modificantes sensibile proprium quam ea, quae quantitatis sunt, cum constet non minus requiri ad individuationem accidentis substantiam quam quantitatem; singularitas autem requiritur ad hoc, ut sentiri possit ipsum sensibile. Hoc, inquam, non obstat, quia sustentatio subiecti, qua substantia recipit accidens, requiritur ad ipsum sensibile non sub speciali ratione, qua sensibile est et obiectum, sed generali ratione, qua est accidens inhaerens et in linea seu genere entitativo, quatenus illa inhaerentia et ordo ad subiectum requiritur ad existendum et ad ipsam individuationem in genere entis. Et sic quia obiectum non potest movere obiective et in linea cognoscibilis, nisi supponatur habere existentiam, ideo requiritur substantia seu subiectum tamquam sensibile per accidens et ut aliquid praesuppositum in alia linea et genere, scilicet in genere entitativo, non tamen formaliter constituens aut conducens ad rationem ipsam obiecti et motionem eius in sensu, sicut sensibile proprium vel commune, siquidem si sine subiecto conservetur sensibile, eodem modo movebit sensum, non autem si mutetur sensibile proprium vel commune. ... Per accidens enim concurrit quantitatis et qualitatis coniunctio in uno subiectio, per se tamen requiritur et per se modificat in esse obiecti sensibilis, ut movere possit sensibili modo potentiam. At vero substantia per se requiritur ad sustentandum in esse et in genere entis sensibile proprium, non tamen ut per se modificans et conducens in ratione et modo sensibilis obiecti. Et ratio est, quia sensibile externum est aliquid apparens externe, substantia autem est interna quidditas et de se latens. Unde licet requiratur tamquam radix et sustentans ipsa accidentia externa ea generali ratione, qua omnia accidentia dependent a substantia, non tamen ut formaliter modificans aut pertinens ad ipsam sensibilem et externam apparentiam et rationem obiecti sensibilis ut sensibilis seu apparentis externe. Ad quod tamen conducit quantitas seu ea, quae ad quantitatem pertinent, quia quantitas extendit quoad locum externum; et ea, quae quantitatis sunt, ad externam modificationem pertinent, et ita sensibilem apparentiam et motionem per se afficere et modificare possunt. Substantia autem ex eo, quod latens, et ex eo, quod radix est, non conducit sensibiliter et externe, sed entitative, sicut etiam relationes coniunctae sunt ipsi sensibili, sed non per se conducunt, quia occultae sunt. Et licet requiratur, quod sit accidens in concreto, ut sentiri possit, tamen non id requiritur formaliter ex vi conducentiae ad sensibilitatem externam et apparentem, sed generali ratione ad omnia accidentium munera et entitativam existentiam. Et ita substantia non requiritur per se formaliter ad rationem obiecti sensibilis, sed per se radicaliter et in ratione entis. Ad confirmationem respondetur ex dictis, quod sensibile commune etiam convenit cum sensibili per accidens, quod neutrum emittit per se et seorsum a sensibili proprio distinctam speciem. Sed in ratione modificandi speciem sensibilis proprii valde differunt sensibile commune et per accidens, quia sensibile commune per se modificat perseitate ipsius sensibilis ut externe apparentis, sensibile autem per accidens non, licet in genere entis et per modum radicaliter continentis et sustentantis sensibile requiratur substantia, et tamquam quid occultum non sensibiliter movens externe aut modificans. Unde ex eo, quod substantia sit prima radix et primum principium accidentium et virtutis movendi sensibiliter, non sequitur, quod per se conducat perseitate formali sensibilitatis externae, et ut requiritur ad motionem externam, sed perseitate radicali, ut generaliter requiritur ad omnia accidentia in ratione entis et cuiuscumque operationis, et sic ipsum obiective movere rad-


icatur in substantia, non ut in obiecto, sed ut in subiecto, ac proinde licet per se requiratur, ut in re existant talia accidentia, non tamen per se obiective, sed per se subiective. . . RESPONDETUR, quod una et eadem species repraesentat obiectum et modificationem eius, non tamquam duo obiecta, sed ut unum. Non enim species praesertim rei singularis et materialis, quae praecisiva non est, potest repraesentare rem aliquam ita abstractam a modis et circumstantiis, quod nihil de modificatione repraesentet. Nec pro illa parte, qua repraesentatur ille modus, dici potest, quod est distincta species et directa repraesentatio saltem illius modi. Dicitur enim, quod species repraesentans aliquid cum aliqua modificatione non respicit modificationem illam ut distinctum repraesentabile directe nec per distinctam repraesentationem, sed per eandem ut modificatam. Sicut enim modificatio illa non est proprio obiectum, sed modus obiecti, ita nec eius repraesentatio est directa repraesentatio, sed repraesentationis modus, quod aliqui explicant dicentes, quod non repraesentat, sed exercet. Revera tamen licet repraesentet, non tamen ut per se directe repraesentabile, sed ut modi eius, quod per se repraesentatur. Nec inconvenit, quod idem sensibile commune diversis repraesentationibus repraesentatur, v. g. colore, sono etc., quia hoc ipso, quod est commune, accommodatur singulis iuxta eorum capacitatem ibique diversimode modificat. Quod vero dicitur non posse unam speciem repraesentare plura per modum unius, nisi sit eminens, ut in angelis, respondetur, quod eminentia requiritur ad repraesentandum plura obiecta per modum obiectorum sub ratione aliqua superiori uniente et manifestante illa. Ad repraesentandum autem plura, quorum unum sit obiectum, aliud modificatio eius, non requiritur eminentia, sed potius quanto species est magis materialis et imperfecta, tanto minus abstrahit ab istis modificationibus eaque concernit. Dicitur autem substantia esse in sensu, non per se seorsum a sensibili proprio, sed sub illo et ut induta externa illa sensibilitate, sicque potest ad intellectum pervenire. Nec requiritur, ut aliquid, quod sit in intellectu, sit in sensu sicut in intellectu, sed per effectus et accidentia sua. Ad primam confirmationem respondetur, quod invariato colore quoad substantiam et modum non variatur sensatio. Variato autem colore quoad modificationem, v. g. quoad figuram, situm etc., variatur diversa sensatio etiam modificative, nec est necesse variari specificative ex parte obiecti directi. Illa autem modificatio sufficiet fortasse ad variandum accidentaliter intrinsece visionem et individualiter, sicut de notitia abstractiva et intuitiva diximus in Logica q. 23. Et in hoc differt sensibile commune a sensibill per accidens, quod sensibile per accidens nec etiam modificative modificatione obiectiva variat sensationem, sensibile autem commune, licet non imprimat speciem condistinctam simpliciter a proprio, bene tamen modificationem distinctam, ut ex D. Thoma explicatum est. Ad secundam confirmationem respondetur, quod attinet ad coelum, posse dici, quod habeat qualitates tangibiles positive et per se, si admittamus, quod qualitates per se sensibiles non solum sunt calidum et frigidam et aliae primae qualitates, sed etiam durum et molle, asperum et lene, sive oriantur ex primis qualitatibus, sive ex alia causa proveniant, de quo q. 7. dicemus. Coelum autem durum est et solidum et tersum, et sic sentiri potest, sicut sentitur fluidum et molle etc. Si autem istae qualitates non sunt per se primo tangibiles, aut ita se habent in coelo, quod non possunt agere actione reali in tactum, sicut requiritur ad sentiendum per illam, tunc solum negative sentietur durities in coelo, quatenus ibi resistentiam aliquam experitur, sicut cum ab angelo aliquis impeditur seu detinetur, non sentit aliquam qualitatem tangibilem in angelo, sed resistentiam aliquam negativam. Quando autem infligitur alicui vulnus aut verberatur, id quod sentitur, est durities corporis aut dividentis in vulnere ac comprimentis in verbere. Ex ipsa autem divisione sentitur dolor, quia etiam pertinet ad tactum, ut dicemus quaest. seq. art. ult., durities vero qualitas tangibilis est, ut ibi dicemus. Denique quando oculis clausis aliquod opacum sentitur, ideo est, quia palpebrae claudentes oculos aliquid transparentiae habent, per quam admittitur


aliquid lucis, et sic apposito corpore opaco lux ipsa magis impeditur, et sic sentitur opacitas.1


Ioannes a Sancto Thoma, Cursus Philosophicus Thomisticus L.6 C.3




Descartes’ Wax Experiment
Let us now accordingly consider the objects that are commonly thought to be [the most easily, and likewise] the most distinctly known, viz., the bodies we touch and see; not, indeed, bodies in general, for these general notions are usually somewhat more confused, but one body in particular. Take, for example, this piece of wax; it is quite fresh, having been but recently taken from the beehive; it has not yet lost the sweetness of the honey it contained; it still retains somewhat of the odor of the flowers from which it was gathered; its color, figure, size, are apparent ( to the sight); it is hard, cold, easily handled; and sounds when struck upon with the finger. In fine, all that contributes to make a body as distinctly known as possible, is found in the one before us. But, while I am speaking, let it be placed near the fire–what remained of the taste exhales, the smell evaporates, the color changes, its figure is destroyed, its size increases, it becomes liquid, it grows hot, it can hardly be handled, and, although struck upon, it emits no sound. Does the same wax still remain after this change? It must be admitted that it does remain; no one doubts it, or judges otherwise. What, then, was it I knew with so much distinctness in the piece of wax? Assuredly, it could be nothing of all that I observed by means of the senses, since all the things that fell under taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing are changed, and yet the same wax remains. 12. It was perhaps what I now think, viz., that this wax was neither the sweetness of honey, the pleasant odor of flowers, the whiteness, the figure, nor the sound, but only a body that a little before appeared to me conspicuous under these forms, and which is now perceived under others. But, to speak precisely, what is it that I imagine when I think of it in this way? Let it be attentively considered, and, retrenching all that does not belong to the wax, let us see what remains. There certainly remains nothing, except something extended, flexible, and movable. But what is meant by flexible and movable? Is it not that I imagine that the piece of wax, being round, is capable of becoming square, or of passing from a square into a triangular figure ? Assuredly such is not the case, because I conceive that it admits of an infinity of similar changes; and I am, moreover, unable to compass this infinity by imagination, and consequently this conception which I have of the wax is not the product of the faculty of imagination. But what now is this extension? Is it not also unknown? for it becomes greater when the wax is melted, greater when it is boiled, and greater still when the heat increases; and I should not conceive [clearly and] according to truth, the wax as it is, if I did not suppose that the piece we are considering admitted even of a wider


variety of extension than I ever imagined, I must, therefore, admit that I cannot even comprehend by imagination what the piece of wax is, and that it is the mind alone which perceives it. I speak of one piece in particular; for as to wax in general, this is still more evident. But what is the piece of wax that can be perceived only by the [understanding or] mind? It is certainly the same which I see, touch, imagine; and, in fine, it is the same which, from the beginning, I believed it to be. But (and this it is of moment to observe) the perception of it is neither an act of sight, of touch, nor of imagination, and never was either of these, though it might formerly seem so, but is simply an intuition (inspectio) of the mind, which may be imperfect and confused, as it formerly was, or very clear and distinct, as it is at present, according as the attention is more or less directed to the elements which it contains, and of which it is composed. 13. But, meanwhile, I feel greatly astonished when I observe [the weakness of my mind, and] its proneness to error. For although, without at all giving expression to what I think, I consider all this in my own mind, words yet occasionally impede my progress, and I am almost led into error by the terms of ordinary language. We say, for example, that we see the same wax when it is before us, and not that we judge it to be the same from its retaining the same color and figure: whence I should forthwith be disposed to conclude that the wax is known by the act of sight, and not by the intuition of the mind alone, were it not for the analogous instance of human beings passing on in the street below, as observed from a window. In this case I do not fail to say that I see the men themselves, just as I say that I see the wax; and yet what do I see from the window beyond hats and cloaks that might cover artificial machines, whose motions might be determined by springs ? But I judge that there are human beings from these appearances, and thus I comprehend, by the faculty of judgment alone which is in the mind, what I believed I saw with my eyes.


[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] St. Albert the Great, De Anima from Opera Omnia (ed. A. Borgnet) t.5. Paris: Vivez, 1904 Aristotle, Topics from Aristoteles Graece (ed. E. Bekker) v.1. Berlin: Georgium Reimerum, 1831 Aristotle, Topics from The Basic Works of Aristotle. (ed. R. McKeon). New York: Random House, 1941 ——, De Anima. Trans. R. Glen Coughlin. California: Thomas Aquinas College (unpublished, 2011) ——, De Anima from Aristoteles Graece (ed. E. Bekker) v.1. Berlin: Georgium Reimerum, 1831 ——, Metaphysics. Trans. Hippocrates G. Apostle. Iowa: The Peripatetic Press, 1979 ——, Nichomachean Ethics from The Basic Works of Aristotle. (ed. R. McKeon). New York: Random House, 1941 ——, On Memory and Reminiscence from Aristoteles Graece (ed. E. Bekker) v.1. Berlin: Georgium Reimerum, 1831 ——, Physics. Trans. Glen Coughlin. California: St. Augustine Press, 2005

[10] ——, Posterior Analytics. California: Thomas Aquinas College (unpublished) [11] St. Thomas Aquinas, In Boethii De Trinitate (http://www.corpusthomisticum.org) viewed: 2012 [12] ——, Sentencia Libri De Anima (http://www.corpusthomisticum.org) viewed: 2012 from Corpus Corpus Thomisticum Thomisticum


[13] ——, Summa Theologiae from Corpus Thomisticum (http://www.corpusthomisticum.org) viewed: 2012 15


[14] ——, Q. D. De Veritate from Corpus Thomisticum (http://www.corpusthomisticum.org) viewed: 2012 [15] Boethius, De Hebdomadibus cited in [13] [16] Richard Dedekind, “The Nature and Meaning of Numbers” in Essays on the Theory of Numbers. Trans. Wooster Woodruff Beman. New York: Dover Publications, 1963 [17] René Descartes, Meditationes de Prima Philosophia. Trans. myself. Leipzig: C. Grumbach 1913 [18] David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (ed. L.A. Selby-Bigge). Oxford: 1902 [19] John of St. Thomas, Cursus Philosophicus Thomisticus. ed. Ludovicus Vives. Paris: 1883


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