The Philosophy and Psychology of Pietro Pomponazzi/Chapter VII

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THE great schoolmen, and especially Albert and St Thomas, had made an effort to relate Sense and Reason, arbitrarily sundered by Averroism. The Aristotelian doctrine of imagination in its relation to sense lent itself to this endeavour. So did the notion of a "cogitative faculty" (virtus cogitative) by which the Arabians had sought to cover the nakedness of the non- rational soul.

Pomponazzi in his psychological enquiries had the same interest at heart. We shall find him on the one hand drawing as close as possible the relations of sensus exterior (i.e. sense proper) and sensus interior (imagination, memory, cogitativii); and on the other exalting the functions of the natural faculty of cogitativa, so as to bring it nearer to intellectus, which the Averroists separated from man and the Thomists detached from the body, but which he himself sought to see in an integral relation to both.

In his analysis of sense-perception Pomponazzi accepts with a certain hesitation the orthodox Aristotelian doctrine of the "passivity" or "receptivity" of the mind in sensation. At first sight it appears as if he adopted it simpliciter, as it was adopted by St Thomas. But at the close of each of two elaborate discussions we find him looking with favour upon the theory which assigned a certain contribution from the mind itself even to the simple sensation. As at the same time he does not deny the


passivity of sense, we may conclude that he was influenced by a regard to the wider psychological question raised by sense- perception the question of the relations of sense and thought but intended to hold a view of sensation in its cognitive aspect which did not involve the abandonment of the Aristotelian position with regard to sensation as such. And as a matter of fact we shall find him explaining, on each occasion, in his last word upon the doctrine of Albert, the place that was reserved in it for the passive reception of impressions.

He begins then, by expressly adhering to the authority of Aristotle. Sense " receives," he says, the sensible impression (species sensibilis), which again is produced by the really existing object 1 .

He seems at first clearly to distinguish the psychological from the physical aspect of sense. He does not deny to the sense-organ, he says, its own physical relations what he calls its (physical) agency. The question is a different one: "Whether in perceiving it is passive and acted on 2 ."

This question, then, Pomponazzi discusses in two sections of his Commentary on the De Anima* and also in a section of the Supplementa*. He defends the Aristotelian position doubtless in good faith, against various alternative hypotheses, which set up in one form or other the theory of an " activity " in sense. In the first Quaestio, whether sense is active, he is occupied with theories of a metaphysical or, as we should say, mythological character, professed in the Averroist schools; in the second, whether the sensible form and the sensation are identical 5 in existence (" Utrum species sensibilis et sensatio sint idem realiter"), with psychological constructions, of which that of Albert is regarded as the most favourable example.

1 " Dico quod (sensus) est passivus. ...Videndum est modo quid recipiant sensus ut puta oculus aut auris. Peripatetic! antiqui dicunt quod recipit speciem sensibilem, quae est repraesentativa objecti, de qua...dicit Aristoteles quod sensus est susceptivus

specierum sine materia Viso quod sensus recipiat speciem sensibilem, videndum est

modo quid sit illud quod producit speciem sensibilem, et brevi dicendum est quod objecta sunt quae producunt species sensibiles." Comm. de An. ff. 83 v., 84 r. Cf. ff. 88 v., 89 r.: "Sensus exterior non potest moveri nisi ab eo quod actu existit. ...Mover! est pati; omne autem quod patitur, patitur ab eo quod est in actu." Cf. also f. 22 r r.

- " Sed quaestio est utrum in sentiendo patiatur vel agatur." Op. cit. f. 83 v.

3 Ff. 8387. 4 Ff. 257, 258. 5 Or, "inseparable."


The doctrine of the passivity of the soul in sensation presented great difficulties to the mediaeval mind. The essential correlativity, from the Aristotelian point of view, of alaQ^v^ and alcrOrfrov having been lost sight of, great difficulty was felt in relating the physical object, regarded as the occasion or cause of sensation, with the psychic fact of sensation itself. And especially was it repugnant to the ideas then in vogue, that a material cause the sensible thing should produce a "spiritual" effect, the sensation 1 .

This difficulty was increased by a confusion between the physical object of sense-perception and the physical cause of sensation, illustrated by the peculiar scholastic use of the term species sensibilis (sensible form or impression). The early interpreters of Aristotle had soon translated his doctrine of the impression of the forms of sensible things upon sensitive soul 2 into a notion of a physical impression by the sensible thing on the physical organ of sense; and where the species sensibilis did not actually mean a certain quasi-physical something between the sensible thing and the sensitive soul, it was in most cases understood to stand for this physical impression on the sense- organ, corresponding to the sensible thing which " caused " the sensation 3 . At a later period, after Averroes and St Thomas and their schools had recovered some apprehension of the logical intention of Aristotle's original language, the phrase species sensibilis might be employed in both senses at once to denote

1 Thus, f. 84 r.: "Tune est dubitatio quae est mota ab Averroe...quomodo est possibile ut sensibile ad extra, quod habet esse in materia, producat speciem sensi- bilem, quae est perfectior objecto: cum tamen nihil producat aliquid perfectius se." Again in f. 851.: "Quod sentit est perfectius eo quod non sentit....Si ergo sensus concurrit passive ad sensationem creandam, et objectum active, quum sit nobilius concurrere active quam passive, tune sensibile erit perfectius."

2 Aristotle, De Anit/ia, n. xii. 424 a 1719: Ka96\ov de irepl Trcunjs alffff-f/fffw 3e? \afieiv &TI i] fj.tv afoffrjcris e<m rb SfKTiKbv T&V alffByruv dS&v avev T^S iiXijs, olov 6

K1)p6s, K.T.X.

3 Speaking generally of these species intentionales (whether sensibiles or intelligi- biles) it may be said with Hamilton that they involved an hypothesis of representative perception in which "the immediate object was something different from the mind," in contrast with the modern idea of representative perception "in which the vicarious object was held only for a modification of the mind itself" (Hamilton, Reid, pp. 95 1 960). The distinction, however, does not hold good for St Thomas and the later schoolmen generally, to whom the species was something in the mind itself.


a physical or a mental fact with a somewhat confusing effect. We find this in Pomponazzi. Thus on the one hand, following Averroes, he asks: " How is it possible that an external object of sense, which has a material existence, should produce a sensible form, which has a higher mode of existence than its object 1?" species sensibilis being thus regarded as a mental fact. But, again, in describing the case in which the object of sense is present to the sense-organ, and yet there is no sensation, he speaks of the species sensibilis as being then present 2 . Now on Aristotelian principles where there is no sensation there is no species sensibilis, and can be none 3 . But species sensibilis meant in this case the physical impression on the sense-organ 4 . And we have the twofold interpretation of species sensibilis, almost in so many words, in the doctrine ascribed to Albert and adopted by Pomponazzi: "Albert would seem to hold that every form, in so far as it is form, acts spiritually, but that in so far as it is in matter, it acts physically. This opinion, rightly understood, has truth, as, I think, the sensible form effects an alteration in the medium, and acts on the eye "

The survival of the old misinterpretation in a physical sense of the species sensibilis explains the peculiar terms in which, in his second Qnaestio*, Pomponazzi states the question as to the passivity of sense: " Whether the sensible form and the sensation are identical in existence." This was really intended as a re statement of the main question, whether the sensible thing be

1 " Quomodo est possibile ut sensibile ad extra, quod habet esse in materia, producat speciem sensibilem, quae est perfectior objecto." Comm. de An. f. 84 r.

2 "Aliquando in sensu est species sensibilis, non tamen tune sentimus; aliquando enim delata sub oculis non videmus...nec tamen est credendum tune speciem non esse in sensu, quum istae species agunt mere materialiter. " Op. cit. f. 85 r. This indeed is not put forward as Pomponazzi's own view; but in a subsequent criticism of the point, he says in his own name "Si species sensibilis sit in sensu depauperate spiritibus, tune non est cognitio. " Op. cit. f. 86 v.

3 See De Anima, III. ii. 425 b 26:

4 " Credendum tune speciem esse in sensu, quum istae species agunt mere materialiter." Comm. de An. f. 85 r.

5 " Albertus videretur tenere quod omnis forma, ut forma est, agit spiritualiter; ut vero est in materia, realiter agit. Quae opinio bene intellecta habet veritatem quum, ego puto, species sensibilis alteret medium et agat in oculum." Op. at. f. 84 v.

6 Op. cit. ff. 8587.


the "cause" of the sensation. Is the species sensibilis, he asks, a sufficient cause of the mental fact of sensation, or must some other cause also intervene? In these words he paraphrases his original question: " The question is whether for sensation there is needed some other thing in addition to the organ and the form: and this is to ask whether the sensible form and the sensation are identical in existence 1 ."

That he intends in this new formula to ask the old question appears plainly when he treats the "causation" of sensation by organum et species as synonymous with its causation by objcctum or sensibile*.

But it is evident that what he here means by species sensibilis is not the sensible thing in its relation to sensation as a mental fact the sensible thing as object of sense-perception (alaQijTov) but the physical impression of the thing on the organ of sense.

For on the other, the Aristotelian, understanding of species sensibilis, there could be no meaning in the question, " Whether for sensation there is needed some other thing in addition to the organ and the form": the species sensibilis would imply sensation; and nothing further could conceivably be required in order that there should be sensation, if -the species sensibilis were there. Nor, in that sense, could there be any question of the identity of sensatio and species sensibilis; for neither existed, in reality, apart from the other. Nor certainly in the case supposed, where there was no cognition, could the species sensibilis in the Aristotelian sense, the mental sense, be present as was alleged:i .

1 "Quaeritur utrum ad talem sensationem requiratur aliquid alterum praeter organum et speciem; et hoc est quaerere utrum species sensibilis et sensatio sint idem realiter." Op. cit. f. 85 r.

2 " Si solae species cum sensu (i.e. in this connection, the organ of sense) essent sufficientes causae sensationis, tune sensibile esset perfectius sensu. ...Si sensus con- currit passive ad sensationem creandam, et objectum active," etc. Ibid.

3 Cf. Arist. DC Anima, II. v. 417 a 6:


But it has already been shewn that when Pomponazzi speaks of species sensibilis in his second Quaestio he has in his mind the physical effect of the object first on the medium and then on the organ of sense. This meaning was implied in his assertion that formae act realiter as well as spiritualiter. It is necessarily understood in his talk of a species sensibilis present in sense where there is by hypothesis no cognition; and if he speaks of the species sensibilis at one time as that in the tiling which affects the medium and the organ of sense 1 , at another as the effect produced in the organ 2 , the order of existence ascribed to it is the same: it is the physical nexus between the thing and the organ. Above all, the mere statement of the question: " Whether for sensation something is needed in addition to the organ and the form " declares that the species in question is not the correlative of sensation as such, in the mental relation; and is of the order of organum, the physical order.

We shall see that Pomponazzi does something to distinguish the physical conditions of sensation from the object of sensation, the effect of the sensible thing as a physical cause from its apprehension through sensation in mind: and so to extricate the real problem of sensation as a mental fact.

Meanwhile, in spite of his employment of the Peripatetic terminology, he is so far only restating the mediaeval problem of the "causation" by a material thing, the object, of a psychical fact, the sensation. And it is curious to notice as a final illustration of the confusion that had come into the use of species sensibilis, that while species sensibilis is spoken of as the mental fact, the fact of sensation, which cannot be attributed to a physical cause 3 , it is also the name given to that very physical agency (the effect, namely, in the sense organ) whose adequacy to the production of sensation is being denied 4 .

1 "Species sensibilis alterat medium et agit in oculum." Comm. de An. f. 84 v.

2 " Speciem esse in sensu " i.e. in the organ (e.g. "in sensu depauperate spiritibus ").

3 " Est dubitatio quae est mota ab Averroe...quomodo est possibile ut sensibile ad extra, quod habet esse in materia, producat speciem sensibilem, quae est perfectior objecto. " Op. cit. f. 84 r.

4 "Si solae species cum sensu essent sufficientes causae sensationis, tune sensibile (scil. objectum) esset perfectius sensu." Op. cit. f. 85 r.


Doubtless, also, the perversion of the phrase species sensibilis from its true meaning did something to hinder the correct apprehension of sensation as a mental fact. The Aristotelian conception of the relation between sensation and the object of sense-perception being thus lost, the meaning of Aristotle's assertion of the passivity of sense was altogether misunderstood. What was intended as a psychological account of the mental fact of the receptivity, or passivity, of sense in the perception of the sensible object was read as an assertion of physical causation. Aristotle's description of the relation of sense to the sensible thing in cognition was similarly mis-read as affirming a physical equivalence, and in that sense denied. The truth of course was that this time-honoured and hackneyed phrase, " the identity of the perception and the thing perceived," had become meaningless on the lips of those who had missed the point of view of its original author. And certainly if the species sensibilis was the physical effect of an object on the organ of sense, or the qualities in the object causing that particular effect, sensatio and species sensibilis were not identical in existence. It was in this sense that the Aristotelian formula was denied by Albert and others, and a new " cause " required to account for sensation. But finally those who denied the sufficiency of the physical and organic nexus as an explanation of sensation as such, but yet moved within the physical circle of thought and failed to raise the psychological problem in psychological terms, introduced a really physical conception of the " agency " of the faculty of sense of sense acting, in combination with the physical causality of the object and the effects on the medium and organ of sense, to produce the result, sensation.

It must be regarded as a considerable achievement, if Pomponazzi, out of so much confusion of thought, and such unconsidered blending of the physical and psychological points of view, emerges with something like a coherent physical history of the conditions of sensation on the one hand, and on the other a recognition of the distinctive peculiarity of the cognitive relation as such.

I have said that Pomponazzi examines in these two Quaestiones the alternatives to the Aristotelian doctrine of the passivity of sense in perception, and that in each he is occupied with a


distinct type of theory. There were two ways in which it might be asserted that sense is active. It might be done by postulating in the operations of sense some metaphysical power, some "agency" in the special meaning in which the term was then understood; or by devising a psychology, an account of the operation of the soul itself in sense, which introduced some specific agency of sense and contradicted its supposed purely passive and receptive character. The former alternative to the orthodox doctrine Pomponazzi dismisses in a few words; the latter he discusses more at length, giving special attention to the theory of Albert; and while he criticises adversely the arguments that had been employed in its favour, developing the while his own understanding of the Aristotelian position, he ends by the practical admission that there is more to be said on the subject, as a matter of psychology, than simply that sense is passive.

In view of the difficulty 1 of attributing a mental fact like sensation to the agency of a material cause the sensible thing Averroes and his school postulated the action of a higher Intelligence. According to some this was the Deity who, in relation to the activity of intellect, was called intellectus agens, in relation to sense, sensus agens; others identified the sensus agens with some lower Intelligence postulated for this special purpose; others again attributed to the organ of sense a power to produce the sensible presentation of which, says Pomponazzi, there is and can be no evidence 2 .

Pomponazzi, following Albert and St Thomas, dismisses these hypothetical intermediary powers, and explains the possibility of sensation, as caused by a sensible object, simply by reference to "spiritual action," and to the proved nature and powers of the human mind. There is, he says, such a thing as " spiritual " action as well as physical; that is to say, there is a cognitive relation, between mind and its object, besides the physical rela-

1 "Quomodo est possibile ut sensibile ad extra, quod habet esse in materia, producat speciem sensibilem." Comm. de An. f. 84 r.

2 "Aliqui dixerunt propter dictum Averrois, quod quum objectum...producit speciem sensibilem, quod producit in virtute unius intelligentiae appropriatae ad hoc. ...Aliqui dixerunt esse Deum, qui est idem quod intellectus agens Aliqui tenuerunt quod sit una virtus quae sit in organo, et per illud organum agat...P]go quaero, quae sit ista actio. " Ibid.


tion between one material thing and another 1 . The production of sensation is an instance of such mental action of a "spiritual" action of an object on the mind. The soul need not be the active member of this relation; nor need it on the other hand be argued that because the soul is passive in sensation there is therefore no activity in thought: for it is the distinguishing characteristic of soul in man to combine an active and a passive element 2 .

It is true that Pomponazzi traces in the occurrence of this spiritual action, this sensation, the influence of the celestial powers. For him, as for the ordinary mind of his time, such influence accompanied and governed every action and every event 3 . The point however is, that he dismisses the specific agency of sensus agens; and teaches that, subject to the co operation of the higher powers, the object and the mind have a natural relation, and that in this relation, in the case of sense, the mind is passive 4 . " Every form, in so far as it is form, acts

spiritually Objects act spiritually by virtue of the higher powers It should not excite wonder that the object produces the form by virtue of the higher powers."

In the second Quaestio, "Whether the sensible form and sensation are identical in existence," Pomponazzi alludes again to the metaphysical explanations of an "agency" in sense 5 , but he does no more than mention them, and devotes his attention now to theories of a different character. He refers here, and also in the Supplemental, to attempts that had been made on more psychological lines to ascribe an agency to sense, psychological constructions of sense-perception inconsistent with the passive

1 "Albertus videretur tenere quod omnis forma, ut forma est, agit spiritualiter; ut vero in materia, realiter agit Sed tune est dubitatio quum res imperfecta producit rem perfectiorem se; Thomas et Aegidius dicunt quod in virtute superiorum agunt spiritualiter; ut vero sunt entia realia agunt realiter Quare non est mirandum objectum producere species in virtute superiorum." Comm. de An. f. 84 v.

2 "Si replicatur: Pariter non dabitur intellectus agens, quum ego dicam objectum in virtute superiorum producere species intelligibiles; respondeo quod ex perfect ione hominis est ut activum sit conjunctum passivo." Ibid.

3 "In virtute superiorum agunt spiritualiter... non tamen nego quod in virtute corporum coelestium agant (res) actione reali." Ibid.

4 "Omnis forma, ut forma est, agit spiritualiter In virtute superiorum agunt (objecta) spiritualiter.... Non est mirandum objectum producere species in virtute superiorum." Ibid.

5 Op. dt. f. 85 v. 6 Op. cit. ff. 257, 258.


and receptive character assigned to sense by orthodox Aristotelianism. He distinguishes clearly himself, in the course of this discussion, between the two types of theory, which had this only in common that both denied the passivity of sense: "Some say that a sensus agens of this kind is the primary concurrent cause of sensation, whether it be God or some other Intelligence, or a power in sense. Others do not accept this view because it would not explain how sensation should be an immanent activity, if the mind is not a concurrent cause of sensation: so others give a different account (and among them is Albert) to the effect that sensation is produced by sense through the mediation of the sensible form 1 ." Albert had already, in the previous section, been quoted in opposition to the metaphysical sensus agens 2; and is now named among those who had definitely rejected that hypothesis in favour of another sort of " agency " in sense. The ground on which he and those who thought with him rejected sensus agens, in the Averroist sense, is also clearly stated to have been that upon such an hypothesis sensation would be no longer an act of the soul itself at all. While holding still, that is to say, the necessity for an " agency " in sensation, they aimed at giving a psychological account of it; they required that it should be an agency of the soul itself. Albert accordingly suggested (and others propounded the same theory, in various modifications of it) that the sense itself as a power of the soul was, after a fashion which he tried to explain, the cause of its own sensations: " The sensation is produced by sense through the mediation of the sensible form, for the form is received in sense and the form thus received and the sense together cause sensation. And he holds this view in order to explain how the mind concurs as an efficient cause in its operations, and how sensation itself is an immanent activity 3 ."

1 "Aliqui dicunt...quod talis sensus agens principaliter concurrit ad sensationem, sive modo illud sit Deus, aut aliqua alia intelligent, aut una virtus in sensu. Aliis non placet hoc, quia tune non solveretur, si anima non concurrit ad sensationem, quomodo sensatio sit actus immanens; ideo alii aliter dicunt, et (inter eos) est Albertus, quod sensatio producitur a sensu, mediante specie sensibili." Comm. de An. f. 85 v.

2 "Albertus videretur tenere quod omnis forma, ut forma est, agit spiritualiter." Op. cit. f. 84 v.

3 "Sensatio producitur a sensu, mediante specie sensibili: in sensu enim


Such then was the theory of Albert, in which Pomponazzi found at least the strong suggestion of a truth. Albert had considered the standing question of the relation of sensation to the sensible thing. Not content with Aristotle's psychological solution of the question in its psychological aspect, he turned aside into the enquiry as to the physical cause of sensation, and the physical relations of the sensation to its object. He then mixed the two aspects of the question, misled by the physical interpretation of species sensibilis. Failing to see that the physical history was one thing and the psychical fact another, and that the psychical fact was only to be accounted for by the analysis of the cognitive act as such, and of the relation of sensation to the sensible therein he was yet unable to regard sensation as the result of a chain of physical causes. This was why in answer to the question, " Whether the sensible form and sensation are inseparable in existence," which Pomponazzi paraphrases to mean, " Whether for sensation something is needed in addition to the organ and the form," Albert answered that something more was required. The physical nexus, starting from the external object and proceeding (by the production of the species sensibilis as physically understood) through the medium and the organ of sense, was not a sufficient cause of sensation. Something more was required, which Albert declared to be the " action " of the mental faculty of sense itself concomitant, with the effects of the object upon the organ of sense 1 . In this way was avoided the incongruity of attributing the psychical fact to a material cause ("to explain how the mind concurs as an efficient cause in its operations") while still sensation was essentially a psychical fact (an immanent activity).

Pomponazzi mentions two attempts to improve upon Albert's theory that of John of Jandun, who supposed " two powers " in

recipitur species, quae species recepta et sensus causant sensationem; et hoc dicit ut solvet quomodo anima concurrat effective ad operationes suas, et quomodo est actio immanens ipsa sensatio." Comm. de An. f. 85 v.

1 Cf. op. fit. f. 87 r.: " Sensus ut nudus concurrit passive ad sensationem: ut informatus specie sensibili concurrit active": and f. 258 v.: "Quod species sensibilis disponat animam sensitivam ut reducat se de potentia ad actum Sensibile solummodo dispositive concurrit, sensus autem est principale efficiens. "


sense, one passive, to receive sensations, the other active, to cause them 1 , and that of a Thomist of his own day, who tried to distinguish the species as species from the species as cognitio, assigning the former to the causality of the sensible thing, but finding in the latter an activity of the mind itself 2 . The former suggestion Pomponazzi estimates at its true value and briefly dismisses. The second distinction he treats with more respect and criticises at some length; the substance of his criticism being that if the two " actions " specified are distinct, then either the mental action is the controlling element, and sensible things are under the control of the human senses, which is absurd: or the effect of the sensible thing governs the senses, which is the doctrine disputed; (besides that in sensation there are certainly not two successive acts of the kind supposed); while if the two are not distinct there is no difference between this new doctrine and the old position of Albert "The sensible form modifies the sentient soul so that it transforms itself from potentiality to actuality 3 ."

Pomponazzi seems to have attached some weight to the suggestion of these theories, that there is more in sensation than mere passivity. At the same time he does not accept the arguments by which they are supported: nor is he prepared to abandon the essential point of the Aristotelian position.

The mediaeval mind did not, indeed, easily accept the idea of the passivity of the soul. One of its ruling conceptions was that of the " agency " of intelligence; and accordingly we find the advocates of an agency in sense appealing to the analogy of intelligence 4 , or again claiming the authority of Aristotle for the canon that the soul is the cause of all its own operations in the body. Specially did they lay stress on the consideration

1 "Quod in omni sensu sunt duae potentiae, una passiva et altera activa, et quod per passivam recipit sensationem, et per activam earn causal." Op. dt. f. 86 r.

2 "Quod species, ut species, producitur effective a sensibili; ut autem ista species est cognitio, producitur ab anima: et sic objectum concurrit mere effective ad sensa tionem, anima vero active producendo cognitionem et passive recipiendo speciem. " Op. at. f. 257 r.

3 " Species sensibilis disponat animam sensitivam ut reducat se de potentia ad actum." Op. dt. f. 258 v. Cf. ff. 257, 258.

4 "Ad creandam intellectionem requiritur aliquid alterum praeter intellectual et speciem intelligibilem; ergo ita est in sensu." Op. cit. f. 85 r.


that what feels is higher (perfectiiis) than what does not feel; and therefore, they argued, the thing felt cannot " act upon " the feeling mind, cannot produce feeling 1 .

The other main argument against the passivity of sense was that the sensible object the supposed cause of sensation may be present to the sense organ, acting physically upon it (and producing there the species sensibilis), while yet sensation does not take place. The inference was that in order to produce sensation there is needed some specific action of the power of sense, which in the case supposed has not come into play hence the absence of sensation.

In answer to these arguments Pomponazzi first denies the analogy between sense and intelligence. He does so on the ground, characteristic of mediaeval thought, that sense has for its object a real thing, intellect only the presentation of a thing 2; and whatever may be thought of this conception of intellect and of its relation to sense, the answer is to the point as regards sense-perception itself.

The case of an object present to the sense-organ without sensation is capable, Pomponazzi goes on, of explanation without recourse to the supposition of an intermittent " agency " in sense. The occurrence or non-occurrence of cognition by the senses is to be explained by the presence or absence of attention*.

What is particularly interesting is that Pomponazzi proposes a physical explanation of this case, and of the facts of attention generally. We saw that Albert, following a physical line of

1 Comm. de An. f. 85 r.

2 " Aliter potest dici negando similitudinem, et ratio est quia sensatio est cognitio quae immediate terminatur ad rem; sed intellectio terminatur ad aliquid alterum a re, scilicet ad speciem intelligibilem." Op. cit. f. 86 r.

3 "Beatus Augustinus dicit hoc esse quia ad sentiendum oportet ut intentio sit copulata cum virtute; id est oportet ut anima advertat et velit sentire objectum." Ibid. Pomponazzi offers the same explanation in the Supplementa: " Item multoties est imaginatio in oculo, et tamen non est visio, scilicet cum non est intentio ad illud, sed ad aliquid aliud; cum vero advertis subito fit cognitio et sensatio." The senses, he goes on, do not determine attention; nor, on the theory he is examining, do they alter the object as presented (simulacrum); therefore the change from non- cognition is not due to an agency in sense: " Aut ergo aliquid est genitum de novo in imagine, vel intentio ipsius simulacri, vel aliquid aliud. Non intentionem imaginis nee aliquid aliud general sensus in simulacro: quomodo ergo concurrit effective sensus ad sensationem, cum recepto simulacro nihil in eo generet?" Op. cit. f. 258 v.


enquiry into the relations of sensation and the sensible thing (illustrated by his reading of species sensibilis as an effect upon the medium and the organ of sense), inserted a non-physical cause (sensus) into the sequence in order to explain the fact of sensation. Pomponazzi offers a complete account in physical terms of the whole mental process, both of the occurrence and of the non-occurrence of sensation. When it is added that he immediately goes on to distinguish the physical from the cognitive relation, to disclaim the categories of actio and passio in reference to a mental fact as irrelevant, and in short to define the act of cognition as, in comparison with physical relations, something sui generis we are in a position to estimate Pomponazzi's contribution to the problem of sense-perception.

Pomponazzi attempts a physical account of the phenomena of attention, and of the fact that cognition sometimes occurs and sometimes does not occur when the organ of sense is equally affected. He does so, it need hardly be said, in terms of the physiology of his own day, such as it was.

There is, he says, a limited amount of physical energy (for this is the nearest possible equivalent for what Pomponazzi meant by spiritus) upon which the various powers of the mind have to draw 1 . In this way he explains the fact that when the attention of the mind is fixed in one direction it is removed from another, and when one faculty is in active operation others are at rest 2 .

Thus when the attention of the mind is fixed elsewhere, the sensible object may be present to the senses, and yet sensation does not take place. Pomponazzi explains the presence or absence of sensation by the supply or deficiency of spiritus for the sensitive powers: " For if the sensible form is in sense when it is depleted of energy, there is no cognition, and this because the recipient is not in the right condition 3 ." It will be noticed

1 " Omnes virtutes habent spiritus determinatos per quos operantur." Com in. de An. f. 86 v.

2 "Virtutes interiores sunt rectae, et una operante altera non operari potest." Op. cit. f. 86 v.

3 " Si enim species sensibilis sit in sensu depauperate spiritihus, tune non est cognitio, et hoc quia subjectum non est bene depositum." Ibid. Cf. Op. cit.


that he is still embarrassed by the physical conception of species sensibilis; for referring to the case where there is no cognitio (no ai(rdr)(ri<), and therefore in Aristotle's sense no alaOijTov) he says "The sensible form is in sense which is depleted of energy"; and speaks of the effect of the object upon the organ, unperceived, as a kind of sentire: " I say that the sensible form is not the same as sensation, howsoever the sensible form may be felt 1 ." But this only serves to emphasise the fact that he intends to follow out, more thoroughly than Albert, a physical view of the facts, and to give a complete physical history of the different processes in question, both where there is a mental cognitio, and where there is not.

We have also to notice, in striking contrast with this, and as complementary to it, Pomponazzi's answer to the argument against the "action" of matter upon mind. He disarms this objection, in effect, by pointing out the peculiar and unique character of the cognitive relation. The categories of actio and passio, he says, are irrelevant to cognition; the relation of the mind to its object (thus clearly distinguished from the physical cause or condition of mental action) is not to be considered under those terms or under the physical ideas they represent. And if there be a sense in which cognition may be considered under the analogy of " passivity," and the material object called the " cause " of knowledge, in this case what " receives " is the superior and what "acts" the inferior element.

All this calls for little in the way of explanation or commentary. " We note that sensation, in the aspect in which it is cognition, does not mean activity or passivity; but it is an accident of sensation that it is accompanied by activity or passivity 2 ." This is Pomponazzi's true answer to all the questions about sensation. Knowledge as such, he explains, knowledge properly regarded, is neither action nor passion: it is knowledge.

f. 221 r.: " Sensatio nihil aliud est quam illud simulacrum existens in potentia sensitiva debite et sufficienter dispositum (Pdisposita) per sanguinem et per spiritus. "

1 There are cases, i.e., where species sensibilis sentitur, and yet there is no sensatio which is contrary to Aristotle and plainly implies that species sensibilis is physically conceived. See Comni. de An. f. 86 v.

2 " Notamus quod sensatio ex ea parte qua est cognitio non dicit actionem aut passionem; sed accidit cognition! quod sit cum actione aut passione. Ibid.


He refers to the Divine knowledge as the perfection or type of knowledge. " The intellection of God is not accompanied by activity or passivity: nor is the intellection of God in its essential nature activity 1 ."

There is, it is true, an aspect of human knowledge in which it may be considered under the category of actio and passio*; and from this point of view our knowledge is to be considered rather under the analogy of passio. " Granted that it is supposed that intellection and sensation are activities grammatically speaking, nevertheless philosophically speaking they are rather passivities; and this because what receives sensation or intellection is said to be sentient or intelligent, not what effects it 3 ." The soul, accordingly, if the cause of its own operations, is not the efficient cause of them and need not be 4 . " Sensation is not activity, it is rather passivity than activity: though in its essential nature it is neither*"

If in this sense the mind is passive, it by no means follows that it is inferior to that which, in this sense, acts upon it; nor is there, in this view of sensation and of knowledge generally, any contradiction of the canon that " what feels is superior to what does not feel." Nay, as he had just said, in cognition that which " receives " sensation or thought is the " sentient " or " intelligent "; and not that which " causes " them. Accordingly he adopts the dictum of St Thomas: " TJiougJi the object of sense acts on sense, nevertheless it is not more perfect than it, for sense

1 "Intellectio Dei non est cum actione aut passione, nee intellectio Dei formaliter est actio." Op. cit. f. 86 v.

2 " Accidit cognitioni quod sit cum actione aut passione.... In nobis qui de novo intelligimus, accidit quod nostra cognitio sit cum actione aut passione." Ibid.

3 "Licet existimetur quod intellectio et sensatio sint actiones grammatice lo- quendo, philosophice tamen loquendo sunt magis passiones, et quia ita est quod illud quod recipit sensationem aut intellectionem dicatur sentiens vel intelligens, non autem illud quod efficit illam." Ibid.

4 " Stante ergo hoc, quod intellectio formaliter non dicat actionem vel passionem, dico quod revera est ita quod anima non est causa effectiva omnium suarum opera- tionum....Existimatur quod sit causa suarum operationum, non tamen est ita quod sit causa effectiva earum." Ibid.

5 "Sensatio non est actio, imo potius est passio, quam actio; licet formaliter nullum horum sit." Op. cit. f. 87 v.


has a more perfect mode of operation than the object 1 ": and adds a statement of his own which concludes and sums up his argument: " When it is said the object concurs actively to produce the sensation, I reply that sensation, qua cognition, does not essentially mean activity or passivity: and granted that the object, in so far as it acts, is more perfect than sense, which is acted on, nevertheless it is not more perfect without qualification, because sense perceives, whereas the object does not: but what perceives is more perfect than what does not perceive 2 ."

This, then, was Pomponazzi's final answer to the arguments against the "passivity" of the mind in sense-experience. He asks that the question should be treated not as physical, but as psychological 3 . But while the act of knowledge is essentially removed from the categories of "active" and "passive," or, as we should say, of cause and effect, there is a relative or analogical sense in which the human mind is passive in sensation; yet without prejudice to the characteristic superiority of consciousness to the unconscious.

We have still, however, to notice the fact that Pomponazzi refers favourably to Albert's theory of something in sensation

1 "Licet sensibile agat in sensum, non tamen est eo perfectius, quia (habet?) tarn (?) perfectiorem operationem quam ipsum sensibile." Op. cit. f. 87 r.

" Quando dicitur objectum concurrit active ad sensationem dico quod sensatio, prout est cognitio, non dicit formaliter actionem aut passionem; et licet objectum, in quantum agit, sit perfectius sensu, qui patitur, non tamen absolute est perfectius, quia sensus sentit, objectum autem non sentit; quod autem sentit est perfectius eo quod non sentit." It ought to be added, that Pomponazzi also supplements St Thomas by another argument not so convincing to the modern mind, but too characteristic of himself to be omitted. We shall see (below, Chapter xi.) how he was accustomed to invoke the celestial powers, much as a modern scientific thinker refers to the order or the laws of nature, on behalf of the data of experience; how by this sanction he defended the possibility of all things acting according to their own nature, and as they are actually found to do: and thus, in a curious chapter of the history of the human mind, what seemed to be an appeal beyond the court of reason altogether was in its real intention an appeal from a priori and dogmatic views of nature to the "nature of things "; and the most baseless superstition became a shelter of intellectual progress, and an excuse and argument for the scientific observation of facts. Here accordingly, in defence of an empirical psychology, Pomponazzi appeals in the language of astrology from a dogmatic prepossession to the illimitable possibilities of nature: " Licet sensibile agat in sensum, non tamen est eo nobilius, quum non agit in sensum in virtute ejus; sed in virtute superiorum." Comnt. de An. f. 87 r.

3 "Sensatio ex ea parte qua est cognitio non dicit actionem aut passionem." Op. cit. f. 86 v.


over and above passivity, even after he has seemed to dispose of the arguments on which that view was based: " The opinion of Albert is commonly held, and anyone who wishes to adopt it can easily reply to the objections brought forward 1 ." Again, at the close of the re-discussion in the Supplementa, he hints at the possibility of Aristotle's being in error 2 .

Ferri 3 interprets these expressions of Pomponazzi as implying " a concession to those who would make the mind sole author of its own operations," and recalls the names of " Leibnitz, Herbart, and Wolf." But this is an exaggeration, and Pomponazzi belongs, in the spirit of his theory, to quite another school.

To perceive this we have only to notice two points. One is the precise nature of that correction of Aristotle, the suggestion of which is the extreme limit of Pomponazzi's movement in this direction. Aristotle, he says, makes the sensible thing the primary cause of sensation. Albert, on the other hand, or the theory identified with his name, makes the mind's power of sense the primary, and the sensible thing the disposing, cause. And, says Pomponazzi, Aristotle may here be in the wrong: " Nevertheless Aristotle had often erred in this way in attributing operation to an efficient disposing cause instead of to an efficient primary cause 4 ." We can thus measure exactly the extent of Pomponazzi's self-contradiction: in arguing for the passivity of sense he had defined the part of the mind in sensation in the words, " It is thought that the mind is the cause of its operations, but not in the sense that it is the efficient cause of them 5 "; while here he leans so far to the more transcendental philosophy of Albert as to suggest that the mind may be the primary and the object the disposing cause of sensation. The object thus still remains a cause.

1 He refers, however, here only to the arguments brought against Albert by John of Jandun, and his attempted improvement of the theory. Op. cit. f. 87 r.

2 Op. cit. f. 258 v. 8 Introd. p. 28.

4 " Ita tamen saepe errasset Aristoteles in attribuendo operationes efficienti dis- ponenti quae debebant attribui efficienti principal!." Op. cit. f. 258 v.

5 "Existimatur quod (anima) sit causa suarum actionum, non tamen est ita quod sit causa effectiva earum." Comm. de An. f. 86 v.


Secondly, Pomponazzi is careful to insist that on Albert's theory, even if it were to be adopted, the mind is in a real sense passive in sensation. There is no need, he argues, for John's invention of a passive and an active power in sense: " For sense as unmodified concurs passively in the production of sensation, as modified by the sensible form it concurs actively 1 ." And again: " The form (i.e. in this case the object) concurs effectively not as a primary, but as a disposing, cause 2 .

Thus on the one hand Pomponazzi keeps room, even on the more idealistic theory, for a passivity in sense (in so far, he stipulates, as " passivity " can be attributed to a cognitive act). On the other hand he is certainly inclined to find more in sense- perception than mere passivity, and hints, as above, at a mental factor in the constitution of sense-experience.

As so stated by him, Pomponazzi's doctrine seems only the combination of two inconsistent positions, or even an attitude of indecision between them. It may, however, fairly be assumed that he had a purpose in taking up this two-sided position.

In leaning towards the theory of a "concurrency" and constitutive activity of the mind, he probably had an eye to the relation between sense and thought, and the part of thought in sense-perception. We have already seen how attention was, for Pomponazzi, a factor in the occurrence of the simplest sensation: " But when you attend, suddenly there arises cognition and sensation 3 ." And if Pomponazzi did not distinguish " sensation " from " perception," the words in which he states the theory of mental action almost correspond to that distinction, and at any rate express his final conclusion, as nearly as we can discover it, on the passivity of sensation and the part of the mind in sense- experience: " Sense as unmodified concurs passively in the production of sensation, as modified by the sensible form it concurs actively."

"Sense as unmodified concurs passively": this interpretation of Albert ought not to have been for him irreconcilable with

1 "Sensus enim, ut nudus, concurrit passive ad sensationem, ut informatus specie sensibili concurrit active." Comm. de An. f. 87 v.

2 " Species concurrit effective non principaliter sed dispositive." Op. cit. f. 87 r.

3 " Cum vero advertis, subito fit cognitio et sensatio. " Op. cit. f. 258 v.


the Aristotelian, " Sense receives the sensible form," and we need not assume that Pomponazzi departed from his deliberate finding that "sensation is not an activity, rather it is passivity; in its essential nature, it is neither."

Omitting what Pomponazzi, following Aristotle, had to say about the special senses, we may pass to his discussion of communia sensibilia (KOIIHZ alaO^rd 1 ).

In tracing the intellectual activity of the human soul from its foundations in sense, Pomponazzi dwells upon the "common sensibles" those qualities, namely, which are perceived by the different senses and at the same time are not the direct object of any one of them as the first objects which lie beyond the pure particularity of mere sensation. He quotes the Aristotelian enumeration of motion, rest, number, figure, and magnitude.

The first question which Pomponazzi asks about the " common sensibles " is: " How many, and which, are they? " Aristotle's enumeration of them is well known: was it to be accepted? Are all the communia sensibilia enumerated by him true communia sensibilia, in the sense that they are common to all the senses alike? By this mark of being a common element in the sensation of all the senses is the true commune sensibile to be determined. The question accordingly, Which are the common elements in sense-experience? is expressed by Pomponazzi by allusion to the enumeration of Aristotle, in this form: " Whether the common sensibles (i.e. Aristotle s) are apprehended by all the senses 2 ."

In the section bearing this title, he discusses two questions. First, he seeks to vindicate the claim of two disputed items of Aristotle's list, viz. magnitude and figure, to rank as common sensibles; then, secondly, in the case of the other three (number, motion, rest) he raises the whole question of the nature of common sensibles as such, which he then follows out in the succeeding section 3 .

1 See Aristotle, De Anima, II. cap. vi.; in. capp. i., ii.

" " Utrum sensibilia communia comprehendantur ab omnibus sensibus." Cotntn, de An. ff. 87 r. 89 r.

3 Op. cit. ff. 89 r. 90 r.


The right of magnitude and figure to a place among common sensibles had been questioned. Averroes, says Pomponazzi, had found fault with the Aristotelian scheme in the reproduction of it by Themistius, on the ground that magnitude and figure are only apprehended by sight and touch. He proceeds to contest this point 1 .

He enters therefore upon the question whether the "lower senses," hearing and smelling, have any apprehension of magnitude 2 . He first weighs the argument from their apprehension of number: "It seems first that they do apprehend magnitude, because number is perceived by hearing, and number results from division of the continuous: therefore if hearing apprehends number, it seems that it apprehends the continuous, namely magnitude 3 ."

He finds, however, two objections against this argument. First: " Granted that number which is perceived by hearing results from the division of the continuous, nevertheless it does not result from the division of magnitude; for number which results from the division of the continuous that persists is not perceived by hearing, though certainly number which results from the division of the continuous which is successive, e.g. of

1 Prof. Ferri has here rather seriously misrepresented the position of the parties. By a curious blunder he has altogether overlooked the mention of Averroes, and assigns the Arabian's criticism to Themistius himself (Introd. pp. 30, 31), thus precisely reversing the historical situation. In support of the misinterpretation of Themistius he quotes (p. 30, note) a passage from the translation by Hermolaus Barbaras as the probable source of Pomponazzi's information. But in that passage Themistius only says "Magnitude et figura visui et tactui praecipua sunt"; which is no more than Pomponazzi himself allows just below "Aristoteles videtur appro- priare comprehensionem figurae tactui et visui, non tamen ita, quod alii non compre- hendant." (Comm. de An. f. 88 r.) It is really the divergence of Averroes from Aristotle and Themistius with which Pomponazzi sets himself to deal: "Averroes in commento sexagesimoquarto reprehendit Themistium dicentem ab omnibus sensibus comprehendi, et dicit ipse quod tria eorum, motus, quies, et numerus, ab omnibus comprehenduntur, alia vero duo, scil. magnitudo et figura, a visu tantum et tactu " (f. 87v.); and again: "Dicit Arist. quod omnia sensibilia communia sunt omnibus sensibus communia, ut bene dixit ibi Themistius " (f. 88 r.).

2 An analysis of taste is found in the Commentary on the Third Book, ff. 224 v. 229 r.

3 "Videtur primo quod sic, quia numerus percipitur ab auditu, et numerus causatur ex divisione continui; ergo, si auditus comprehendit numerum, videtur etiam quod comprehendat continuum scil. magnituclinem." Comm. de An. f. 87 r.


motion, is perceived by hearing 1 ." The second objection rests on the part played by memory, by " internal " as distinct from external sense, in the perception of number: to which he presently returns as affecting the general question of the nature of communia sensibilia: " If anyone perceives number which results from the division of the continuous, this is not to be credited to hearing, but is due to internal sense, namely the faculty of memory.... But to this extent it is called a common sensible, because memory, through the mediation of hearing, apprehends number of this kind: but then the question arises, how number as such is perceived 2 ." So too in the case of smelling: "The question arises whether smell apprehends number. It seems that it does not. For if smell apprehends two odours in the same time it seems to apprehend them in combination, not as two: but if it apprehends them in different times, this does not seem to be the work of smell, but of memory which retains what is past 3 ."

Pomponazzi relies rather on the proof that by hearing and smell we can distinguish direction, implying the apprehension of space: " Hearing apprehends whether a sound comes from the right or the left, from before or behind, from above or below 4 ." And the additional remark is worthy of quotation: "And if it be said that in this it deceives, I concede the point: nevertheless it does not follow that it does not apprehend those distinctions 5 ." In general, position in space is a condition of all

1 "Numerus qui sentitur ab auditu, licet causetur ex divisione continui, non tamen causatur ex divisione magnitudinis; numerus enim qui causatur ex divisione continui permanentis non sentitur ab auditu, sed bene numerus qui causatur ex divisione continui successivi, ut puta motus, sentitur ab auditu." Op. cit. f. 87 v.

2 " Si quis sentit numerum qui est ex divisione continui hoc non est merito auditus, sed est propter sensum interiorem, scil. propter memorativam Sed pro tanto dicitur sensibile commune quia memorativa, mediante auditu, cognoscit talem numerum; sed tune est dubitatio, quomodo numerus per se sentitur." Ibid.

i "Est dubitatio utrum olfactus cognoscat numerum: et videtur quod non: si enim olfactus cognoscat duos odores in eodem tempore videtur quod cognoscat eos ut unum non autem duo; si vero cognoscat eos in diversis temporibus, hoc non videtur officium olfactus sed memorativae, quae recordatur praeteritorum." Ibid.

4 "Cognoscit utrum sonus veniat a dextris vel a sinistris, ab ante vel a retro, a sursum vel deorsum." Ibid.

5 "Et si dicitur decipere circa hoc, concedo; non tamen sequitur ut non cognoscat istas differentias." Ibid.


sense-experience: "Sense perceives only under the conditions here and now: but magnitude involves these conditions 1 ." So too for smelling: "A similar argument is made about smell, that the sense itself apprehends magnitude 2 ."

Therefore, " In this view it seems necessary to say that all the senses apprehend magnitude: and therefore Aristotle says that all the common sensibles are common to all the senses, as Themistius has well said in this place 3 ."

Yet only touch and sight apprehend magnitude perfectly: " But I think, as is said in the De Sensu et Sensato, that magnitude is completely apprehended by touch and by sight: for they apprehend with certainty what the magnitude is, and how great it is. The other senses have not this faculty: and therefore Aristotle seems to assign the apprehension of figure specially to touch and sight, but nevertheless not in the sense that the others do not apprehend it at all 4 ."

Having disposed of the difficulty felt, in the case of the lower senses, about magnitude and figure, Pomponazzi turns to the three other common sensibles in Aristotle's enumeration, namely number, motion, rest. Now even here, he says, there seems to be a difficulty in affirming that these are " apprehended by all the senses." On the contrary, it might be maintained that none of them is apprehended by the senses at all. In regard to number, for example, he had already shewn in the case of hearing and smelling how it is only apprehended through the action of memory 5 . As for motion: the senses only apprehend what is here and now, and cannot of their own power

1 "Sensus non cognoscit nisi cum hie et nunc; magnitude autem est cum hie et nunc." Ibid.

2 "Similiter etiam arguitur de olfactu quod ipse cognoscit magnitudinem." Ibid.

3 "In ista positione videtur esse necessarium dicere quod omnes sensus cognoscant magnitudinem; et ideo dicit Aristoteles quod omnia sensibilia communia sunt omnibus sensibus communia, ut bene dixit ibi Themistius." Op. cit. f. 88 r.

4 " Sed puto, ut dicitur in De Sensu et Sensato, quod magnitude perfecte cognoscitur a tactu et a visu; certitudinaliter enim comprehendant quae et quanta sit magnitudo; alii autem sensus non habent hoc: et ideo Aristoteles videtur appropriare comprehensionem figurae tactui et visui, non tamen ita quod alii non comprehendant." Ibid.

6 "Non merito (sensus) exterioris sed propter sensum interiorem, scil. propter memorativam." Op. cit. f. 87 v.


grasp the succession involved in motion 1 . Lastly of rest he says: " A similar account may be given of rest, since rest is measured by time, but the time as a whole is not simultaneous 2 ."

But these difficulties raise the whole question as to the nature of the common sensibles. In what meaning of the word are they "sensible"? The argument against their being direct objects of perception by the senses is, says Pomponazzi, perfectly valid: they are not so: " The arguments prove the truth of the view that external sense in its essential and special nature cannot apprehend motion or rest 3 ."

Thus the result is that all sense-perceptions are accompanied by apprehensions which are not the work of sense. This is the outcome of the first step in the analysis of sense-experience.

He had noticed the fact in relation to hearing and the apprehension of number: memory was observed coming into play: "To that extent (number) is called a common sensible, because memory, by the mediation of hearing, apprehends number of this kind: but then the question arises how number per se is perceived 4 ." It is exactly the same with respect to motion and rest: " The fact that I see a man in this or that place, and then in another place, is apprehended by sense: but what compares being in this place with being in that is the inner faculty. Similarly in the case of rest: to know that this thing is at present not moved, belongs to external sense: to compare its previous state with its present belongs to the inner faculty 5 ."

1 "Motus est de numero successivorum; sed successiva non possunt a sensu com- prehendi." For "sensus exterior non potest moveri nisi ab eo quod actu existit "; for "moveri est pati; omne autem quod patitur, patitur ab eo quod est in actu." But "successiva non actu existunt"; for " de ratione successivorum est quod pars sit praeterita, parsque futura sit; si ergo sic est, totum non poterit esse simul in actu; quare non poterit movere sensum." Op. cil. f. 88.

2 "Similiter etiam dicatur de quiete, quum quies mensuratur tempore, tempus autem non totum simul est." Ibid.

3 "Argumenta concludunt veritatem, quod sensus exterior formaliter et proprie non potest cognoscere motum aut quietem." Ibid.

4 " Pro tanto dicitur (numerus) sensibile commune, quia memorativa, mediante auditu, cognoscit talem numerum; sed tune est dubitatio quomodo numerus per se sentitur." Op. at. f. 87 v.

5 "Quod video hunc esse in tali vel tali loco, deinde in alio esse loco, com- prehenditur a sensu; quod autem componit esse in hoc loco cum esse in alio loco,


All that Aristotle meant in calling magnitude, motion, rest, sensibilia per se, was that no sensible quality is perceptible apart from magnitude, motion, rest. They are in short the inseparable conditions of sense-perception, and belong to every sensible object. "When you say that Aristotle numbers them among things that are sensible per se, I reply that they are so in the sense that internal sense cannot apprehend what is sensible per se apart from motion and rest 1 ."

He describes in the case of number the psychological process by which the indeterminate data of sense are determined in the form of number (or, it might be, of magnitude or shape, or motion or rest): "A complete and perfect apprehension of number belongs to internal sense, but it originates in external sense. Hence boys and slow people who have bad memories perceive correctly the passage of the hours, but nevertheless cannot count them 2 ."

Thus the communia sensibilia are not real things, peculiar objects of sense-perception, impressing themselves by their own qualities on the senses.

Nor was it to be maintained, as by Alexander, and many mediaeval Aristotelians, that "common sense" was a faculty directly perceiving the " common sensibles," as the special senses perceive particular sensible qualities.

The relation of the common sensibles to particular objects of sense-perception depends on the answer to two questions: the first, whether the common sensibles have any way of impressing themselves directly upon sense 3; and the second, which is really the same in another form, whether there can be an apprehension

est virtus interior. Similiter etiam et quies; cognoscere enim quod hoc nunc non moveatur, est sensus exterioris: componere autem prius cum posteriori pertinet ad virtutem interiorem." Of. cit. f. 88 v.

1 " Cum dicis, Aristoteles numeral ea inter sensibilia per se, dico quod sunt per se ad mine sensum, quia sensus interior non potest ea (sell, sensibilia per se) cognoscere sine motu et quiete." Ibid.

2 "Completa et perfecta comprehensio numeri est virtutis interioris, sed initiative est in sensu exteriori: unde pueri et lethargici, qui non habent bonam memoriam, bene sentiunt horas, non tamen possunt eas numerare. " Op. cit. f. 88 r.

3 " Utrum sensibilia communia comprebendantur per proprias species." Op. cit f. 8qr.


of magnitude, motion, etc., without the medium of particular sensible qualities 1 .

On the first question, which concerns the view of Alexander above referred to, " The common sensibles belong specially to common sense, just as the special sensibles belong specially to the separate senses 2 ," Pomponazzi adds nothing to the arguments of St Thomas or to his conclusion that the " common sensibles" are concerned with the mode and not with the contents of sense-perception "Sensible qualities affect sense in a material and spatial way: hence they affect it in different ways according as they are in a larger or smaller body, and according to their different positions, namely at a distance or near, in the same or a different place:) " except that he suggests a possible discrimination between magnitude and figure on the one hand, which are certainly in some sense simpler, and number, motion, and rest on the other, as more complex and more abstractly conceived.

The companion question introduces an investigation of certain alleged instances of the perception of magnitude or movement without specific sensations. In disposing of them Pomponazzi combats the notion that those general characteristics of sensible objects, which in an abstract analysis figure as magnitude, motion, number, are real independent objects of sense-perception. Thus if one grasps a hand at precisely the same temperature as his own he does not perceive heat or cold in the hand, yet he perceives magnitude. Again, if a man be cut with a sword he may not perceive the coldness or other qualities of the steel; yet " he perceives division of the continuous which is number, and number is a common sensible 4 ." The answer of course is that some specific quality must be perceived before there can be perception of size or motion as the consistency or hardness of

1 " Utrum sensibilia communia percipiantur non percepto sensibili proprio." Op. cit. ff. 89, 90.

2 "Sensibilia communia sunt propria sensui communi, sicut sensibilia propria sunt propria singulis sensibus." St Thomas quoted by Ferri, Introduction, p. 32.

3 " Qualitates enim sensibiles movent sensum corporaliter et situaliter: unde aliter movent, secundum quod sunt in majori vel minori et secundum quod sunt in diverso situ, scil. vel propinquo vel remote, vel eodem vel diverso." Ibid.

4 "Iste sentit solutionem continui, quae est numerus; numerus autem est sensibile commune." Comin, de An. f. 89 v.


the hand or of the sword, or possibly the visible and palpable effects of the blow 1 .

In another place he refutes Averroes's idea that the impressions of weight and lightness are derived from an idea of motion, which would imply that the perception of motion in the abstract came before, and not in dependence on, the specific sense-impressions. Not so, says Pomponazzi; the impressions in question are preceded by a motion, it is true, in nature; but not by a perception of motion, in us 2 .

We have already seen in what sense alone Pomponazzi assigns to sensus communis the apprehension of the common sensibles. He does so, but not in Alexander's sense that the common sensibles are apprehensible by interior sense as particular sensible qualities by exterior sense. He is aware that Aristotle had described them as perceptible in themselves by common sense (___), whereas the special senses only perceive them incidentally (___). But he regards the apprehension of the common sensibles as part of a general synthetic function (conipositio) which belongs to interior sense. Without pronouncing an opinion upon the vexed question of what precisely Aristotle meant by ____, it may be said that the mediaeval thinkers had extended its signification.

Pomponazzi, in particular, assigns to this synthetic faculty a function which Aristotle had been content to assign to the particular senses namely, that of distinguishing between the contrasts in each particular form of sensible quality, for example, in colour, sound, or tangible quality. It is with respect to touch that he makes this point, but he extends the view to the other senses as well. He has been anxious to prove that "touch" cannot be properly described as a single sense, since it perceives so many

1 "Cum dicitur non percipitur sensibile proprium nego; imo percipitur darkies quia est proprium sensibile a sensu tactus; ex eo enim quod percipio quod manus non cedit tangenti sentitur durities; et ex consequent! sentitur quantitas." (Ibid.) Again "Non sentitur solutio continui nisi prius sentiamus duritiem et compressionem ensis " (op. (it. f. 90 v.) which is, however, not quite accurate.

2 "Licet motus sit prior natura quam perceptio illarum qualitatum, prius tamen illae a sensu cognoscuntur quam talis motus." Op. cit. f. 231 v.


different qualities and different contrasts as hot and cold, rough and smooth, wet and dry. But the answer was made that, if a sense can distinguish one contrast and remain a single faculty, it may equally well, as a single sense, distinguish among various contrasts. To which Pomponazzi replied that it is not the special sense, touch, which apprehends any contrast of tangible qualities, but the common sense acting on occasion of touch. " To this we may reply that it is not touch which declares the difference between the contrarieties of tangible things, nor is there any single tactual faculty which pronounces judgment on more than a single contrariety of tangible things, but it is common sense which judges all those objects. But we are deceived and think that what judges all those objects is the sense of touch, since tactual faculties concur as the initiating causes, though not as the primary causes, of this judgment. For since each faculty perceives its own contrariety, they act as the occasions on which common sense, comprehending all tJiese contrarieties, pronounces judgment on them 1! He then applies this principle to the senses generally, though not without hesitation: " But again one of our disputants will object to my statement that it is not sight which judges of those colours, but that it is common sense that makes the judgment, and declares the difference between the one colour and the other.... But according to the general opinion, it is sight that judges those colours, therefore also touch will judge... and thus we shall hold that it is a single faculty of touch which etc. ...One could reply first by conceding that it is not sight which judges of colours, but common sense: sight only concurs as the initiatory condition of this judgment, as was said about touch. Or otherwise you may reply that... there is a difference between the case of sight and the case of touch: but do you reflect on this 2 ."

1 " Ad hoc dicatur quod non est tactus qui ponit differentiam inter tangibilium contrarietates, neque est una aliqua potentia tactiva, quae afferat judicium de pluribus quam de una contrarietate tangibilium, sed sensus communis est qui de omnibus illis judicat. Decipimur autem nos et credimus quod sit sensus tactus (illud) quod de omnibus illis judicet, quum potentiae tactivae concurrunt initiative, sed non prin- cipaliter, ad hoc judicium. Cum enim unaquaeque potentia percipit suam contrarie- tatem, sunt occasiones sensui communi ut omnes illas contrarietates comprehendens de illis judicat." Op. cit. f. 237 r.

2 "Sed nirsus instabit quis nostrum, quando ita dicam quod visus non est qui judicat de istis coloribus, sed dicam quod est sensus communis qui affert hoc judicium


Thus, developing the suggestion of the Aristotelian doctrine, Pomponazzi carries the synthetic function of sensus communis down to the simplest act of sensation.

The importance of the emphasis thus laid on sensus communis, and of the essential part assigned to it in the simplest sense- perception, appears when we consider all that was then included in sensus interior. Aristotle had explained the representative or reproductive powers, imagination and memory, as the sequel of sensation, and attributed them to the sensitive soul. And the mediaeval interpreters of Aristotle's doctrine of reason, having confined the name of reason to the formation of abstract notions, were compelled by this psychological scheme to assign all the other powers and activities of the mind to its sensuous part. Imagination, memory, and that virtus cogitativa to which was attributed a certain apprehension of universals, and (as we should say) a true though imperfect power of thought all were ascribed to the sensitive soul and to sensus interior. " By the external senses we apprehend only the particular and that only when the sensible object is present at least by the direct action of those senses; but by the internal senses we apprehend in some sort the universal; for though we cannot reach abstract universality by the internal senses, yet we can reach a certain indeterminate knowledge, intermediate as it were between particular and universal, which is called knowledge of the vague individual 1 ."

It will fall to us later to observe the relation between " indeterminate knowledge " and " universal knowledge," between cogitativa and intellcctus. Meanwhile, in illustration of the suggestion that we may find in Pomponazzi a systematic psychology, and an endeavour to regard human mental life as

et ponit differentiam inter unum colorem et alterum...sed secundum communem existimationem visus est quod judicat de istis coloribus; ergo et tactus judicabit... et sic tenebimits quod sit una potentia tactiva quae. ...Dici possit primo concedendo quod verum est quod non est visus qui judicat de coloribus sed est sensus communis; visus autem solum initiative concurrit ad hoc judicium sicut quod dicebatur de tactu. Vel aliter dicatis quod... est aliqua differentia in visit et tactu: sed super hoc considera tu." Ibid.

1 Apol. I. iii. f. 58 d: "Per sensus exteriores cognoscimus tantum singulare et in praesentia sensibilis, saltern actione directa; per sensus vero interiores quoquo modo universale cognoscimus; nam licet ad universalitatem puram per sensus interiores devenire non possumus, ad quandam tamen indeterminatam cognitionem pervenimus, quasi median! inter singulare et universale, quae individui vagi cognitio nuncupatur."


having a certain unity, we record his recognition of a synthetic power at the bottom of the mental scale, in the simplest unit of conscious life the direct perception by the special sense of the sensible quality appropriate to it.

Pomponazzi's conception of a synthetic element in sensation, or (to come nearer to his own way of thinking) a synthetic power in sense, is further illustrated by the manner in which, following a suggestion of Aristotle s, he attributes to a " faculty of sense," namely sensus commitnis, the consciousness of sensation. It is, I think, doubtful whether Aristotle so far represented common sense as a " faculty " as to assign to it this function; he certainly did not do so with any distinctness in the De Anima (Book in. Ch. 2). He noticed however the fact of a conscious ness of sensation, and ascribed it in some way to sense. " For certainly it is not with sight in the strict sense that the mind sees that it sees... but with some organ common to all the sensoria 1 " And Pomponazzi follows this language pretty closely, except that he identifies the " faculty of sense " expressly with sensus communis: " For the sensitive soul is conscious of itself, wherefore by one part it is conscious of another part, and by common sense is aware of the external senses 2 ."

Now in attributing this particular fact of the consciousness of sensation to sensus communis, Pomponazzi definitely implied that sensus communis was a power beyond and above mere sensation. For to sense as such (sensus exterior) he denies the possible capacity of such a consciousness on the ground that it is not spiritualis. The power of self-reflection is outside of the nature of the physical: it is a power of thought. Consequently, in so far as it is possessed by sensus communis, that name must designate something spiritualis, " The characteristic of repre senting both itself and its object implies a high degree of spirituality... but sense (i.e. external), just because it is least spiritual and very imperfect, cannot be conscious of itself V

1 Aristotle, De Somno, 455 a 17.

2 " Anima enim sensitiva cognoscit se ipsam, quare per unam partem cognoscit etiam aliam partem et per sensum communem exteriores." Comiii, de An. f. isov.

3 "Quod repraesentat se et suum objectum, hoc arguit magnam spiritualitatem... sed sensus (scil. exterior) eo quia est minime spiritualis et multum imperfectus, ideo non potest se ipsum cognoscere." Op. cit. f.


Accordingly that " part " of the sensitive soul which gives the consciousness in question is more than a merely physical power. In sensus communis Pomponazzi arrives at the first of those stages by which in his psychology he bridges the distance between sense and " reason " in the strict meaning of abstraction. Already in the simplest act of sensation, in the consciousness which accompanies every perception, he discovers the first of the intermediate powers.