Notes to Chapter 2 of the Translation of Zabarella’s De Mente Agente

Main Topics Covered: the intellect and its relationship to images, forms and images, De Anima III.7, outline of primary theses covered in Averroes account of the Intellect with textual references, the influence of Themistius upon Averroes

Note 1: It might be wondered whether a broader term than “images” should be required here.  After all, the mind forms its concepts on the basis of mental content besides images. However, the phrase nequaquam sine phantasmate intelligit anima, (“the soul never understands without an image”) as a translation of Aristotle’s De Anima III.7, 431a15, was often commented on and understood in terms of the mind having the productions of the imagination as its objects of contemplation (For Scotus’ text, Quaestiones de Anima on this topic, click here).  In De Anima III.7, Aristotle distinguishes images from sense perceptions (cf. 431a14) in describing images as the proper objects of the mind. Aristotle may have had a case in mind such as the way a student of geometry might imagine various shapes in forming ideas about them.  An idea of importance to Thomists was that, in doing so, the student might be able to transcend images and attain pure ideas.  A clue that Aristotle may have had something like the latter in mind is when he says at the end of De Anima III.7 that the mind “thinks the forms in images,” and goes on to describe different types of images: natural (a snub nose presumably belonging to Socrates) and mathematical (the curvature of the nose). In commenting on this in his commentary on the De Anima Thomas writes:

Abstrahit tamen circa naturalia intellectus universale a particulari simili modo, inquantum intelligit naturam speciei sine principiis individuantibus, quæ non cadunt in definitione speciei (cf. the full text here)

The term “species” in Aquinas’ commentary refers to the form the intellect receives from the image having universal content.

Note 2: The text of Comment 5 contains the textual source for Averroes’ thesis that the material intellect (1) does not have a material form; (2) is conjoined with the agent intellect; and (3) is one for all humans. He can be seen attributing the first opinion to Themistius on pdf page 413 in the Crawford edition of the Long Commentary. Brief textual sources for all three are presented here for convenience:

Et hoc idem induxit Theofrastum et Themistium et
plures expositores ad opinandum quod intellectus materialis
est substantia neque generabilis neque corruptibilis.
60 Omne enim generabile et corruptibile est hoc; sed iam
demonstratum est quod iste non est hoc, neque corpus neque forma in
corpore. Et induxit eos ad opinandum, cum hoc, quod ista est sententia

The second reads as follows:

Et ideo opinatus est Themistius quod nos sumus intellectus
agens, et quod intellectus speculativus nichil est aliud
nisi continuatio intellectus agentis cum intellectu materiali
tantum. Et non est sicut existimavit, sed opinandum est quod in
anima sunt tres partes intellectus, quarum una est intellectus 570
recipiens, secunda autem est efficiens, tertia autem factum.
Et due istarum trium sunt eterne, scilicet agens et recipiens;
tertia autem est generabilis et corruptibilis uno
modo, eterna alio modo (cf. pdf pg. 430)

Finally, the third opinion (not attributed directly to Themistius) is here:

Quoniam, quia opinati sumus ex hoc sermone quod 575
intellectus materialis est unicus omnibus hominibus, et etiam                                          ex hoc sumus opinati quod species humana est eterna, ut
declaratum est in aliis locis, necesse est ut intellectus
materialis non sit denudatus a principiis naturalibus communibus
580 toti speciei humane, scilicet primis propositionibus
et formationibus singularibus communibus omnibus; hec enim
intellecta sunt unica secundum recipiens, et multa secundum
intentionem receptam. (cf. pdf pp. 430-431)

For further discussion on the relationship between Themistius and Averroes on the intellect, see “Themistius and the Development of Averroes Noetics,” by Richard C. Taylor.

Note 3: See pp. 461ff. in Crawford.


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