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THE INTELLECTUAL COGNITION OF PARTICULARS EVERY philosophical system has problems which belong only to itself and which are either non-existent or quite peripheral in othel" systems. Absolute Idealism, for instance, does not have to explain the" affinity" that thecategories have for transcendent reality, a question of central importance in the Kantian critique of knowledge. Similarly, the problem of individuation does not exist within a nomalistic philosophy as the latter considers individuals the only reality and universals pure products of the mind or even as " operational " indications. In like manner, Thomism has some problems which are meaningful only within the totality of Thomistic conceptions. One of these prob1ems regards the manner in which the human intellect becomes cognizant of material particulars. This problem is of pivotal importance. Though, at first sight, it may seem that the intellectual cognition of particulars represents but a minor detail-one meriting attention only for the sake of completing Thomistic psychology-it is in fact a problem that must be analyzed and solved if it is not to become a serious stumbling-block for Thomistic philosophy. This danger becomes apparent when one considers the principles involved: the principle of individuation by matter, the immateriality of the intellect, and the origin of knowledge in sensecognition . Nobody can deny that these principles are inde~d fundamental to Thomistic philosophy. If we are to retain them, it behooves us to explain more clearly how intellectual cognition of particulars takes place. To that elucidation the following pages aspire to contribute. During the last thirty years experimental psychology has accumulated a number of facts apparently irreconcilable with the Thomistic principles of intellectual cognition. There are, 95 96 RUDOLF ALLERS of course, facts of which St. Thomas was absolutely ignorantthey were discovered only many centuries after his time-and some of them present certain problems to Thomistic philosophy . One may try to apply the principles of his philosophy and to devise a theory of the facts based on his principles, but one cannot expect to find a ready-made solution in the writings of Aquinas. There are other problems, however, of which St. Thomas was perfectly aware, but which have taken on another aspect since his time by reason of more recent discoveries. In these cases one has to ask whether the ideas of St. Thomas can be preserved without modification, or whether they have to be adapted-without however abandoning basic principles-to the new facts. Finally there are problems which arise within the system of Thomism itself. Some of these problems result from certain obscurities in the texts, or their problematic character may be due to some incompleteness and indecision of the author. The problem of how the intellect comes to know the material particular seems to be one of these problems for which St. Thomas himself did not discover a thoroughly satisfactory solution. That this may be the case seems to be indicated by a noteworthy mode of expression: when speaking of the intellect gaining knowledge of singulars through what he calls " reflexion on or upon the phantasm" (reflexio in vel super phantasma), St. Thomas never omits to qualify his term by calling it a "kind of" (quaedam) reflexion, while he mentions other ideas closely related to this one without any such restriction; thus, he speaks of the " complete " return (reditio completa) of the intellect to itself. It seems as if Aquinas himself was not quite satisfied with the solution he proposed and by adding the qualification, " a kind of," he meant to indicate the necessity of a further elucidation. The problem and the solution proposed by St. Thomas are well known. A brief recapitulation will be enough. The intellect evidently has a knowledge of material particulars. This is evident, since judging is an achievement of the intellect and since among judgments there are some whose subject is a particular and whose predicate is a universal: Socrates is a man. THE INTELLECTUAL COGNITION OF PARTICULARS 97 Furthermore there are syllogisms in which the minor concerns a particular, as in the classical example for the mode barbara: All men are mortal, Caius is a man, Caius is mortal. To these frequently cited examples one may add another case. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 95-163
Launched on MUSE
2017-06-15
Open Access
No
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