The aim of this blog is to present, in a somewhat orderly fashion, a variety of resources related to the vis cogitativa in the philosophical anthropology of Thomas Aquinas and his Medieval predecessors and contemporaries.

Most the posts will be rather ad hoc in character, but should provide some insights into certain problems.  Many of them were composed in response to specific questions which I have received from others.

There are two posts that I believe will be especially valuable to those interested in the cogitative power.  The first provides a fairly extensive textual index of all of Aquinas’ references to the cogitative power.  In the future I hope to post quotations of the most recent Latin Critical editions of these texts accompanied by an English translation and/or my own commentaries on these texts.

Second, I have provided a bibliography of articles which directly or indirectly pertain to the cogitative power in Aquinas.  I also hope in the future to provide an annotated bibliography of what I believe are some of the more valuable secondary resources on the cogitative power.

The cogitative power is at least mentioned more frequently in recent Thomistic scholarship. This may in part have to do with John Haldane’s remark in 1999:

What is now needed, however, is a fully perspicuous philosophical account… of the nature and operations of what in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition are spoken of as the “cogitative power” and the “active intellect.”  That might be one of our tasks for the next century.[1]

Nevertheless, most treatments of the cogitative power remain on the surface and tend to simply repeat Aquinas’ basic doctrine, without working out the details or integrating it into contemporary issues. As far as I know, there have only been available in English three dissertations on the cogitative power.

  • Mark Barker, The Cogitative Power: Objects and Terminology, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Houston, University of ST, Thomas Center for Thomistic Studies, 2007.
  • Leo A. White, The Experience of Individual Objects in Aquinas, Diss. CUA, 1997 (Ann Arbor: UMI [Microforms], 1997.
  • George P. Klubertanz, The Discursive Power: Sources and Doctrine of the Vis Cogitativa According to St. Thomas Aquinas (St. Louis, Mo.: Modern Schoolman, 1952).

Hopefully Mark Barker’s excellent dissertation on the cogitative power will be published soon as a monograph.  I know Tony Lisska has also been working on a monograph on perception and the cogitative.   These latter two works should help stimulate discussion, assimilation, and integration of the cogitative power into contemporary Thomistic philosophical anthropology.

[1] John Haldane, “Insight, Inference and Intellection,” in American Catholic Philosophical Association, Proceedings of the ACPA: Insight and Inference, Vol. 75, 1999 (Bronx, NY: Fordham University, 2000), p. 43.


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