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Home arrow Economics arrow Aquinas’s theory of perception: an analytic reconstruction


Phantasm-3 is nothing more than a stored Phantasm-2. Textual evidence indicates that for Aquinas the function of this faculty of inner sense is to store the intentional objects known by the vis cogitativa. The following passage supports the relation between the vis cogitativa and the sense memory: ‘Moreover, for the apprehension of intentions, which are not directly perceivable by the external sensorium, the vis aesti- mativa [in human perceivers, the vis cogitativa] is needed. For the preservation of these intentions, the vis memorativa is needed. This faculty is a storehouse [thesaurus] for this kind of intention’ (Summa Theologiae, I q. 78 a. 4).

If Phantasm-2 is the conditioned awareness of the vis cogitativa, then Phantasm-3 must be closely related to Phantasm-2. The sense memory is the faculty, which ‘dates’ or characterizes temporarily a perception of an individual. Thus, a perceiver can remember the 2014 family picnic during which cousin Stash fell into the lake. This is accomplished by means of Phantasm-3. The difference between Phantasm-2 and Phantasm-3 is that the latter has a temporal characteristic of ‘pastness’ in addition to the characteristic of a conditioned awareness. In effect, the above claim proposes that human perceivers have a special cognitive ability that stores their direct awarenesses of individuals. Thus, one’s perceptual experience is not limited to past bundles of sensations but also includes the remembered perceived content of individuals of a kind.

A distinction analogous to Phantasm-1 and idolum is appropriate to Phantasm-3. When one has a direct awareness of an individual thing perceived in the past, then Phantasm-3 is functioning as a species expressa. This could be classified as a Phantasm-3a. Furthermore, this would be a special type of idolum belonging to the sense memory. Yet this additional act of awareness is not a necessary condition for the existence of Phantasm-3. Phantasm-3, as is the case with Phantasm-1, can just ‘be there, as it were, functioning as a residue or remnant of a perceptual act of the vis cogitativa. It is Phantasm-3 that plays an important role in the process of abstraction through the intellectus agens.[1]

  • [1] This connection will be discussed at the conclusion of this chapter.
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