Index of Texts on the Vis Cogitativa

The following is a fairly extensive collection of references to the cogitative power and similar notion in Thomas Aquinas.  I have slightly altered and added to the following list given by Klubertanz.  What follows is taken from his book on the topic.

The Discursive Power: sources and doctrine of the vis cogitativa according to St. Thomas Aquinas
By George P. Klubertanz
Part II. Chapter 5

Introduction to Thomistic Texts

In St. Thomas, the “key” texts are very brief, but there is a very large number of shorter references to the same problem.
Almost all the modern authors who have touched on this problem in St. Thomas agree that the main texts are five:

  1. Commentary on the Sentences, bk. 3, d. 26, q. 1, a.2;
  2. Contra Gentiles, bk. 2, 60, 73,76;
  3. Commentary on the De Anima, bk. 2, lect. 13;
  4. Summa Theologiae I. 78. 4, 81. 3;
  5. Quaestio Disputata de Anima, a. 13.

These five texts are very brief; almost astonishingly so in comparison with the discussions of St. Albert. The one extended discussion, that in the Contra Gentiles, really contains very little positive doctrine, as we shall see; it is almost entirely concerned with the refutation of a particular Averroes’s theory.

  It is obvious that some of these references will overlap, since these terms naturally combine and contract among themselves. It should also be stated that this list does not pretend to be exhaustive, except in the sense that all the important passages are considered.

  Another point to be noted is that some very important texts do not explicitly refer to any of these terms. For example, the long and very important discussion on prudence in Summa Theologiae II-II, qq. 47 and 49, is shown to concern our problem only by means of St. Thomas’s own reference to the sixth book of Aristotle’s Ethics, and by means of St. Thomas’s own development of the Aristotelian doctrine.

  The chapter divisions on this part follow almost naturally from the chronology of the works. A glance at the “key” texts shows a division into three groups: the first comprising of Commentary on the Sentences, the De Veritate, and the Contra Gentiles, which precede most if not all of the commentaries on Aristotle; the second group will take in the passages occurring in commentaries on Aristotelian works; the third including the Summa Theologiae and the Quaestio Disputata de Anima.


Again, the main vis cogitativa texts are five: Commentary on the Sentences, bk. 3, d. 26, q. 1, a.2; Contra Gentiles, bk. 2, 60, 73,76; Commentary on the De Anima, bk. 2, lect. 13; Summa Theologiae I. 78. 4, 81. 3; Quaestio Disputata de  Anima, a. 13.

Additional direct references to the vis cogitativa occur in the Commentary on the Sentences,[1] De Veritate,[2] Contra Gentiles,[3] Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics,[4] Summa Theologiae,[5] Quaestio Disputata de Anima,[6] and in the doubtful work De Principio Individuationis.[7]

Ratio particularis is spoken of in Commentary on the Sentences,[8] De Veritate,[9] Contra Gentiles,[10] Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics,[11] Commentary on the De Anima,[12] De Principio Individuationis, and Summa Theologiae.[13]

Vis aestimativa is discussed in Commentary on the Sentences,[14]  De Veritate,[15] Contra Gentiles,[16] Commentary on the Ethics,[17] Commentary on De Sensu et Sensato,[18] and Commentary on De Memoria et Reminiscentia,[19] and in Summa Theologiae.[20]

Instinctus is mentioned with reference to the actions of animals in Commentary on the Sentences,[21] Contra Gentiles,[22] Commentary on the Metaphysics,[23] Commentary on De Memoria et Reminiscentia,[24]  Summa Theologiae,[25] and Quaestio Disputata de Anima.[26]

Vis apprehensiva[27] is often used as a generic term to signify any one or many cognitive faculties, but in a few place Aquinas specifically is referring to the cogitative Commentary on the Sentences, Commentary on Ephesians.

[1] Loci in the Commentary on the Sentences: III d. 23, q. 2, a. 2, q. 1 ad 3; IV d. 7 q. 3, a. 3, q. 2, obj. 1 and ad 1; III d. 26, q. 1, a. 2; IV d. 23, q. 2, a. 2, q. 1 ad 3; d. 49, q. 22, a. 2, sol.; d. 50, q. 1, a.1 ad 3; a. 3 ad 3 in contrar.

[2] De Veritate: I. 11, X. 5, XV. 1 ad 9, XV. 1, XVIII. 7 ad 5.

[3] Contra Gentiles: II. 60, 73, 76, 80, 81; III. 84.

[4] Commentary on the Ethics: VI, lect. 1, 7, 9.

[5] Summa Theologiae, I. 85.7, 111.2 ad 2, 115.3, 79.2; I-II. 50.3 ad 3, 51.3, 30.3 ad 3, 74.3 ad 1; II-II. 2.1 ad 2; III. 72 11, arg. 3 and ad 3.

[6] Quaestio Disputata de Anima: XX ad 1 in contrar.

[7] De Principio Individuationis: a medio.

[8] Commentary on the Sentences: II d. 24, q. 2, a. 1 ad 3; IV d. 50, q. 1, a. 1 ad 3; a. 3 ad 3 in contrar.

[9] De Veritate: II. 6, X. 5, XIV. 1 ad 9, XV. 1.

[10] Contra Gentiles: II. 60.

[11] Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics: VI, lect. 1, 7, 9.

[12] Commentary on the De Anima: II, lect. 16.

[13] Summa Theologiae: I. 20, 1 ad 1, ?19. 2 ad 2?; 80. 2 ad 3; I-II. 51. 3, 30. 3 ad 3.

[14] Commentary on the Sentences: II. d. 20, q. 2, a. 2 ad 5; II d. 24, q. 2, a. 1 and ad 2; d. 25, q. 1, a. 1 ad 7; III d. 17, q. 1, a. 1, q. 3 ad 2; d. 15, q. 2, a. 2, q. 3 ad 3; d. 35, q. 1, a 2, q. 2 ad 1; IV d. 49, q. 2, a. 2.

[15] De Veritate: 1. 11; 15. 1; 18. 7 and ad 7; 24. 2; 25. 2.

[16] Contra Gentiles: II. 47, 48, 60.

[17] Commentary on the Ethics: VI, lect. 7, 9.

[18] Commentary on De Sensu et Sensato: lect. 1.

[19] Commentary on De Memoria et Reminiscentia: lect. 2.

[20] Summa Theologiae: I. 81.2 ad 2; I-II. 6.2, 77.1

[21] Commentary on the Sentences: II d. 20, q. 2, a. 2 ad 5.

[22] Contra Gentiles: II. 47; III. 131.

[23] Commentary on Metaphysics: I. Lect. 1.

[24] Commentary on De Memoria et Reminiscentia: lect. 1, 8.

[25] Summa Theologiae: I. 18. 3, 83.1; I-II. 3. 6, 9. 1 ad 2, 11. 2, 12. 5 and ad 3, 15. 2, 17. 2

ad 3, 40. 3 and ad 1, 46. 4 ad 2, 50. 3 and ad 2.

[26] Quaestio Disputata de Anima: XIII.

[27] In Eph., c. 4 lt. 6: “Sed vita gentilium non est talis, imo deficit in praedictis tribus; quia, primo, deficit a ratione iudicante, quia ambulant in vanitate sensus sui. Sensus autem est vis apprehensiva, per quam iudicamus singularia. Unde aliquis homo rectus dicitur quando bene iudicat de agendis.”  I must thank Eric Mabry for pointing out this reference for me.  Mr. Mabry discovered this reference by virtue of a footnote in Matthew Lamb’s translation of Aquinas’ commentary on Ephesians.

This entry was posted in Cogitative, Thomas Aquinas, Uncategorized and tagged by Daniel D. De Haan. Bookmark the permalink.

About Daniel D. De Haan

I am a graduate student at the Center for Thomistic Studies in Houston, TX, working on my doctorate in Medieval philosophy. My historical research focuses on the inner sense psychology of Thomas Aquinas, Avicenna, and Averroes, the commentary tradition on Aristotle's de Anima up to Aquinas, and the metaphysics of Avicenna and Thomas Aquinas. My research in contemporary issues has focused on attempts to integrate Thomistic philosophical anthropology with the insights of phenomenology and Wittgenstein, like one finds in the work of Karol Wojtyła, David Braine, Peter Geach, and Elizabeth Anscombe. I am also interested in philosophical problems prompted by neuroscience, especially concerning the compatibility of hylomorphism with neuroplasticity. I will be taking my doctoral comprehensive exams in the Spring of 2012 and I should be submitting my dissertation proposal by April 2012. I will be writing on the doctrine of being within Avicenna's Metaphysics of the Shifā and the introduction of modal logic into Aristotelian metaphysics. In 2010 I presented conference papers at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, MI, at the University of Marquette, University of St. Thomas, and the Annual Conference of American Catholic Philosophical Association in Baltimore, MD. In March, 2011 I presented a paper on Addiction and Thomistic Anthropology at The Catholic University of America. This summer I will participating in the eight week University of Wisconsin-Madison's Intensive Arabic program, and the 2011 Thomistic Seminar hosted by the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton University. I will also be presenting a paper on the demonstrations for God's existence in Avicenna's Metaphysics of the Shifā' for the the Aquinas and the "Arabs" satellite session at the Annual ACPA meeting. I received the 2010 American Catholic Philosophical Association's Young Scholars Award for my paper: "Linguistic Apprehension as Incidental Sensation in Thomas Aquinas". This paper will be published in the Forthcoming: 2011, American Catholic Philosophical Association, Proceedings of the ACPA, Vol. 84.

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