Aquinas's Theory of Perception: An Analytic Reconstruction

ISBN : 9780198777908

Anthony J. Lisska
384 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jun 2016
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Anthony J. Lisska presents a new analysis of Thomas Aquinas's theory of perception. While much work has been undertaken on Aquinas's texts, little has been devoted principally to his theory of perception and less still on a discussion of inner sense. The thesis of intentionality serves as the philosophical backdrop of this analysis while incorporating insights from Brentano and from recent scholarship. The principal thrust is on the importance of inner sense, a much-overlooked area of Aquinas's philosophy of mind, with special reference to the vis cogitativa. Approaching the texts of Aquinas from contemporary analytic philosophy, Lisska suggests a modest 'innate' or 'structured' interpretation for the role of this inner sense faculty. Dorothea Frede suggests that this faculty is an 'embarrassment' for Aquinas; to the contrary, the analysis offered in this book argues that were it not for the vis cogitativa, Aquinas's philosophy of mind would be an embarrassment. By means of this faculty of inner sense, Aquinas offers an account of a direct awareness of individuals of natural kinds-referred to by Aquinas as incidental objects of sense-which comprise the principal ontological categories in Aquinas's metaphysics. By using this awareness of individuals of a natural kind, Aquinas can make better sense out of the process of abstraction using the active intellect (intellectus agens). Were it not for the vis cogitativa, Aquinas would be unable to account for an awareness of the principal ontological category in his metaphysics.


Introduction: On Reconstructing Thomas Aquinas's Theory of Perception
1 Setting the Problem: History and Context: Aquinas's Realist Theory of Perception
2 Aquinas on Intentionality
3 Aquinas and Empiricism: From Aquinas to Brentano and Beyond
4 Epistemological Dispositions: Causal Powers and the Human Person
5 Objects and Faculties: Teleology and Sensation
6 Preconditions for Visual Awareness: Object and Medium
7 The Necessary Conditions for Perception: A Triadic Relation
8 The Sensus Communis: The First of the Internal Sense Faculties
9 The Imagination and Phantasia: An Historical Muddle
10 The Vis Cogitativa: On Perceiving the Individual Primary Substance
11 The Role of Phantasms in Inner Sense: Part One
12 The Role of Phantasms in Inner Sense: Part Two

About the author: 

Anthony J. Lisska is Maria Theresa Barney Professor of Philosophy at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. His work in medieval philosophy focuses on natural law theory and the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. The Clarendon Press published his Aquinas's Theory of Natural Law. Recent essays on natural law theory appeared in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Philosophy, Reason, Religion and Natural Law, and The Routledge Companion to Ethics. In 2006, he served as national president of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. He received the Carnegie Foundation United States Baccalaureate Colleges National Professor of the Year Award in 1994. He served as Academic Dean of the College and the Founding Director of Denison's Honors Program.

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