Handout. “Incidental Sensibles and the Duck-Rabbit”

Threefold Division of Sensibles according to Thomas Aquinas  [1]

  1. Essential sensibles:
    1. Proper sensibles: color, sound, odor, flavor, tactile qualities
    2. Common sensibles: motion/rest, shape, dimension, number
  2. Incidental sensibles:
    1. Particular intentions: this man, this chair
    2. Universal intentions: man, chair

Example: Threefold division of sensibles in the duck-rabbit[2]

  1. Proper sensible: color – black, white (vision)
  2. Common sensibles: shape, dimension (vision)
  3. Incidental sensibles: this duck; this rabbit (cogitative)[3]

[1] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, In IV Sent. d. 49, q. 2, a. 2c; In de Anima II. lt. 13; ST I. 17. 2; 78. 3c & ad 2. Cf. In Sensu, I, lt. 1.

[2] Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, xl, 194′.

[3] In relation to sensation, these particular intentions – this duck and this rabbit – are incidental sensibles, however, as proper to the cogitative they could be called essential perceptibles, which would distinguish them from sensibles and intelligibles.  To be more specific still, they are factual percepts as distinct from actional or action-oriented percepts, like this object as amiable, desirable, harmful, terrifying, etc.  (cf. In de Anima III. lt. 4; ST I-II. 9.1 ad2)“We should distinguish between the object of fear and the cause of fear.  Thus a face which inspires fear or delight (the object of fear or delight), is not on that account its cause, but – one might say – its target.” Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations §476.  I owe the distinction between factual and action-oriented intentions or percepts to Mark Barker, The Cogitative Power: Objects and Terminology. unpublished doctoral dissertation; Houston, TX: University of ST. Thomas Center for Thomistic Studies, 2007.

This entry was posted in Cogitative, External Sensorium, Incidental Sensibles, Internal Sensorium, Principle of Faculty Differentiation, Thomas Aquinas 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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