Main topics covered: that one and the same intellect cannot be said to have both active and passive powers, the nature of intellectus in habitu, why Philopponus might have been tempted to attribute the capacity of knowing to the agent intellect, the platonism of Simplicius’ view, that Aquinas was mistaken in conflating the agent intellect with one of the two powers of the passive intellect
Confutatio omnium opiniorum eorum, qui dicunt intellectum agens, & intellectum patientem esse vnam & eandem substantiam. Cap. X. [1022 D]
Refutation of the opinions of all those who say that the agent intellect and the patient intellect are one and the same substance. Chapter 10
H AE omnes sententiae, quibus statuitur hos duos intellectus vnam esse substantiam, falsae sunt, & cum principiis Arift. minime conuenire possunt: quod prius communiter aduersus omnes ostendemus, postea vero etiam singillatim eas considerando proprios cuiusq; errores patefaciemus.
Imprimis certum est, Arist. [E] existimasse nullum simplex posse mouere seipsum, sed quicquid mouetur, ab alio moueri; hoc enim legimus ab eo fuse demonftratum in 7. & 8. Phys. idq; in ipsa quoq; anima impossibile effe docuit in 1.libr. de Anima, quando confutauit illorum sententiam, qui dicebant animam mouere seipfam:
non potest igitur eadem humanae mentis substantia, quum sit forma simplex, esse simul agens, & patiens respectu sui ipsius; nec satis est distinctio secundum rationem, quia si hoc sufficeret, [F] de omni re simplici hoc idem dicere possemus, eam habere facultatem agendi, & facultatem patiendi, & ita agere in seipsam ratione diuersarum virium; hoc tamen absurdum est, nec secundum Ariftot. concedendum: ergo similiter in intellectu est absurdum, qui, quum sit simplex, non potest simul esse perfectus, &imperfectus, potestate & actu, & in seipsum agere, & seipsum ducere de potestate ad actum, [1023 A] de imperfectione ad perfectionem:
patet autem Ariftotelem in contex. 17. libri 3 de Anima inuenisse intellectum agentem propter patientem, & vt in ipsam agat, sicut antea demonstrauimus, ergo non possunt esse vnus & idem intellectus secundum substantiam; potest quidem eadem res habere & agendi, & patiendi facultatem respectu diuersorum, ita vt ab vno patiatur, & in aliud agat, sed non respectu sui ipsius, nempe vt in se agat, & a se patiatur, nisi [B] habeat in se ipsa partes secundum substantiam distinctas, quibus hae duae contrariae vires attribuantur.
Exempla quoque ab Aristotele adducta in contex. 17, & 18, libri 3. de Anima hoc ideam demonstrant, in tota enim natura videmus semper agens distinctum esse secundum substantiam a patiente, sic omnis ars agens distincta est essentialiter a materia patiente; Aristoteles autem dixit intellectum agentem ita se habere ad intellectum patientem, vt ars se habet ad materiam, [C] ergo voluit eos secundum substantiam este distinctos: hoc idem significat exemplum luminis; lumen enim est essentialtter distinctum & a colore, cui iungitur & à visu, in quem agit; putauit autem Aristoteles quem locum habet lumen in visione, eundem habere intellectum agentem in intellectione; censuit igitur hunc esse distinctum essentialiter & ab intellectu patiente, & ab obiectis intelligibilibus.
Ipsa quoque ratio, qua Aristoteles ad ostendendum intellectum agentem vsus est, [D] hoc idem demonstrat;* probat enim dari intellectum agentem, eo quod datur intellectus patiens, eos igitur statuit tanquam duos, non tanquam vnam substantiam, quoniam argumento illo hoc non ostenditur: nam si Aristotel. id, quod isti comminiscuntur, ostendere voluisset, probare non debuisset dari intellectum agentem, quia detur intellectus patiens, sed solum ostendere eundem intellectum patientem, [E] de quo antea loquutus erat, actiuam quoque vim habere, ratione cuius dicitur etiam agens: hoc tamen neque dixit, neque significauit modo vllo Aristotel. sed omnia, quae ibi dicit, contrarium indicant, vt modo dicebamus.
Hoc idem declarant illa, quae ibidem dicuntur postea ab Aristotele in contextu 19. & 20 inquit enim agens еssе honorabilius patiente, inquit intellectum agentem esse actionem secundum substantiam; inquit ipsum nil aliud esse, quam id, quod est, [F] nempe puram quidditatem, & purum actum, imo ipsummet esse; at in contextu 5. dixerat intellectum patibilem nihil esse, nisi puram potestatem; quomodo igitur sunt essentialiter idem, si alterius natura , & essentia est actus purus; ita vt sit idem essentialiter cum sua operatione, alterius vero est pura potestas? dixit etiam intellectum agentem semper intelligere, [A 1024] patientem vero non semper intelligere, quod manifeste denotauit eos esse duas distinctas substantias, nam eadem substantia dici non potest simul intelligens, & non intelligens. Quoniam igitur Aristot. nihil unquam dixit, quod significare potuerit vnam esse horum duorum intellectuum substantiam, immo omnia eius verba denotant eorum differentiam substantialem, & ratio quoque Aristot. hoc demonstrat, vanae & falsae sunt omnes sententitiae, [B] quibus quouis modo statuatur vnam & eandem horum duorum intellectuum esse substantiam.
Si vero singulas praedictas opiniones seorsum considerare velimus, opinio Simplicii ab Aristotele alienissima est: nam secundum Simplicium non est essentiale intellectui esse potestate sed id per accidens ei contingit, nempe quatenus progreditur in corpus; Aristotel. tamen vult illud ei essentiale esse, inquit enim nullam elle aliam eius naturam, nisi meram potestatem; atsi sequamur Simplicium , intellectus essentialiter est purus actus, per accidens vero est pura potestas: igitur haec sententia est contraria opinioni Aristotelis, & est potius Platonica, quam Peripatetica; vnde colligere possumus, eam nec Themtstio, nec Auerrei adscribendam esse; hi namque in Aristotele interpretando non solent vti dogmatibus Platonicorum, quod Simplicius vbique fecit.
Alia quoque opinio eorum, [D] qui dixerunt intellectum agentem esse ipsummet intellectum patibilem, vt habentem principiorum habitus, vel etiam habitus conclusionum, vt Ioannes Grammaticus existimauit, non est opinio Aristotelis quoniam Aristoteles intellectum in habitu manifeste distinxit ab intellectu agente, quum de vtrisque separatim egerit, & intellectum in habitu considerauit in ipso tractatu, qui est de intellectu patibili : dixit etiam intellectum in habitu non semper [E] esse actu intelligentem, sed quandoque etiam potestate, agentem vero dixit semper esse intelligentem:
denique si illa omnia, quae intellectu agente in contextu 19.&20. dicuntur, consideremus, manifestissimum est ea non posse accommodari intellectu in habitu; illud praesertim, quod dixit, intellectum agentem esse per essentiam suam actionem; nam intellectus in habitu, quum [*editio postrema has qum] quandoque non intelligat actu, non est per essentiam [F] sua opertio:
alia quoque multa in ea parte dicuntur ab Ariftot. ex quibus hoc ostenditur, quae missa facio vt in re manifesta.
Neque suffragantur huic sententiae verba Ariftotelis in contextu 18. dicentis intellectum agentem esse habitum quendam: non enim quemlibet habitum significauit, neque illum, quem isti respexerunt, sed talem, quale est lumen; lumen vero [1025 A] non est habitus ipse videndi, neque est species coloris in oculo recepta, sed est quoddam externum, ab externo principio adueniens, distinctum à visione, & ab obiectis; à facultate visiua, ab ipsa habilitate videndi: talis igitur habitus est intellectus agens, qui extrinsecus accedens producit in intellectus patibili scientiarum habitus, à quibus ipse patibilis intellectus vocatur in habitu: quare intellectus agens non est talis habitus, à quo dicatur intellectus in habitu.
Opinio quoque D.Thomae non eft Aristoteli consentanea, & proprias patitur difficultates: nam quum in intellectu patibili cognouerit & vim patiendi, & vim agendi, in ambiguitatem lapsus est, credens vim actiuam, quam patibilis intellectus habet, esse intellectum agentem, quod minime verum est; quia intellectus agens debet agere in intellectum patibilem, vt antea demonstrauimus; igitur si esset vis illa actiua, quam habet intellectus patibilis, idem ageret in seipsum, quod minime dicendum est.
Nos vero iam diximus, quae sit vis actiua, quam habet intellectus patibilis, est enim vis iudicatiua obiecti recepti: quae non est dicenda intellectus agens ; quia non est vis agendi in ipsummet intellectum patibilem, sed potius in obiecta quodammodo, dum ea iudicat. Thomas igitur non in hoc errauit, quod posuerit in intellectu patibili vim passiuam, & vim actiuam, hoc est, & vim recipiendi, & vim iudicandi, etenim nos quoque vtramque concedimus; sed in eо errauit, quod putauit vim hanc actiuam ab Atiftotele vocari intellectum agentem: sed mox ostendemus D.Thomam proxime omnium ad mentem Ariftotelis accessisse, neque in ipsa re, sed in sola ferme appellatione aberrasse.
*Note on the text: the editio postrema of 1607 has “.”
First, it is certain that Aristotle held that nothing can, simply speaking, without qualification, move itself, but that whatever is moved, is moved by another. We read him demonstrating this point demonstrated thoughout books 7 and 8 of the Physics and he showed the same to be impossible in the first book of the De Anima in the case of the soul itself, when he disproved the opinion of others who said that the soul moves itself.
Therefore, since it is a simple, unqualified form, the substance of the same human mind cannot be, at once, an agent and patient with respect to itself. Nor even is a rational or “logical” distinction sufficient, since if it were, we could say the same about any simple, unqualified thing, that it has an active faculty and a passive faculty, and therefore that it may act upon itself by reason of a diversity of powers. But this is absurd and should not be conceded to be Aristotle’s opinion. Therefore, it is in the same way absurd in the case of the intellect, which, since it is simple, cannot be at the same time complete and imcomplete, in a state of potentiality and in a state of actuality, act upon itself and direct itself from potency to act, from a state of perfection to one of imperfection.
Moreover, it is evident that in Contextus 17, Book 3, Aristotle discovered the agent intellect because of the nature of the passive intellect, and that it acts upon it (as we demonstrated earlier): therefore, they cannot be one and the same intellect in substance. The same thing can, in fact, have both an active and passive faculty with respect to diverse things, so that it is passive in relation to one thing and acts on another, but not with respect to itself, or so that, in other words, it acts on itself and is passive in relation to itself, unless it has [B], in itself, distinct substantial parts, to which these two contrary powers it may be attributed.
Besides, an examples drawn from Aristotle, found in contextus 17 and 18 of Book 3 of the De Anima demonstrate this same thing: for, in the whole of nature we see that an agent is always distinct in substance from the passive element and thus, [in* (the text appears to be corrupt here)] every art, the agent is is essentially distinct from the material, passive element. Aristotle, however, said that the agent intellect is related to the patient intellect in the way an art is related to its material; [C] therefore, he intended them to be distinct in susbtance. The example of light indicates the same thing: for, light is essentially distinct from color, to which it is joined, and from sight, on which it acts. Moreover, Aristotle thought that whatever role light plays in vision, the same is also played by the agent intellect in understanding. Therefore, he thought that it was essentially distinct both from the patient intellect and from its intelligible objects.
Furthermore, Aristotle used the same reasoning to prove the agent intellect, demonstrates this same point. For, it shows that an agent intellect is present by the fact that a passive intellect is present. Therefore, he concludes that they exist as two, not as one substance, since this is not indicated by that argument. Since, if Aristotle intended to show what they are contending, he would not prove that the existence of the agent intellect is shown by the fact that the passive intellect is present. Rather, he would only show that the same passive intellect, which he had spoken of earlier, has an active power, by reason of which it is furthermore called an agent. However, Aristotle did not say this and did not indicate it in any other way; rather, everything he says in that contextus indicates the contrary, as we have just shown.
Aristtotle’s words later in the same place and in Contexts 19 and 20 express the same idea: he says that an agent is more honorable than a passive element; that it is nothing other than that which is [F], namely, a pure quiddity and pure actuality, and indeed, being itself. But in context 5 he said that the passive intellect was nothing other than pure potency. How, therefore, are they essentially the same, if one of the two is pure actuality by its nature and essence, so that its is essentially one with its activity, while the other is pure potency? Moreover, he said that the agent intellect always understands [A 1024], while the patient does not always understand, which clearly indicated that these are two distinct substances: for, the same substance cannot be said to be at the same time in a state of understanding and of not understanding. Since, therefore, Aristotle never gave any indication that it might be the case that these two intellects were one substance, but, to the contrary, all his words indicate a substantial difference between the two and even his reasoning demonstrates this, all opinions are false and in vain [B], whereby it is in any way concluded that these two intellects are one and the same susbtance.
But if we wish to consider the aforesaid opinions one at a time, the opinion of Simplicius is the furthest removed from Aristotle. For, according to Simplicius it is not essential to the intellect that it be in a state of potency, but such a state pertains to it accidentally, that is, insofar as it arises in the body. Aristotle, however, intended that it should be essential to it, for he says that no other nature belongs to it besides pure potentiality. But if we follow Simplicius, the intellect is essentially pure actuality, but accidentally pure potentiality. Therefore, this view is contrary to the the opinion of Aristotle and is more a Platonic than a Peripatetic view. Therefore, we may conclude that it should not be ascribed either to Themistius nor to Averroes, for, in fact, they are not accustomed to use the teaching of the Platonists in the intepretation of Aristotle, as Simplicius widely does.
Another opinion of those [D], who said that the agent intellect was one and the same thing as the passive intellect, such that, having a disposition for first principles, or even a disposition for drawing a conclusion, as John Philopponus believed, is not Aristotle’s view: Aristotle clearly distinguished the intellect when it is disposed or capable of understanding from the agent intellect, since he speaks about each separately and considered the intellect regarded as capable of understanding in that same part of the De Anima which is concerned with the passive intellect. He also said that the intellect, when it has acquired a disposition or power to know, is not always actually understanding, but whenever it is, it is also in a state of potentiality, although the agent is always in a state of understanding.
Finally, if we consider everything which is said about the agent intellect in contexts 19 and 20, it is quite clear that this cannot be adapted to the agent intellect when it is disposed to understand, and in particular, that passage which said that the agent intellect is in its very essence, activity: for, when it is disposed to understand, since it is sometimes not actively understanding, it is not essentially its proper activity. [F] Aristotle says many other things in this part of the De Anima, by which this is shown to be the case, which, when located, I regard as evident in the text.
Nor do Aristotle’s words in Contextus 18, where he says that the agent intellect is a kind of disposition or power to act, support this view: for he does not mean any kind of disposition, nor the one that they have in mind, but one like light. But light [1025 A] is not the disposition or power to act of sight itself, nor is it the form of color received upon the eye, but is something external, which is present by an external principle, distinct both from vision and from its object; from the visual faculty and from its disposition or power of sight. Therefore, the agent intellect is the sort of disposition or power, that, being extrinsically present, produces in the passive intellect the power or disposition for knowledge, whereby the passive intellect itself is said to be disposed to know. For that reason, the agent intellect is not the sort of disposition whereby it might be called an intellect capable of knowing.
Also, the opinion of St. Thomas is not consistent with Aristotle’s text, and suffers from its own proper difficulties. For, since he recognized both a passive and an active power in the passive intellect, he lapsed into ambiguity, believeing the active power, which the passive intellet has, to be the agent intellect, which is hardly the case, since the agent intellect ought to act on the passive intellect. Therefore, if tit were the case that the passive intellect had this active power, one and the same thing would act upon itself, which should not at all be claimed.
We have, however, already said what the active power is that the passive intellect has: it is a judging or decisive power in relation to the received object, which should not be called the agent intellect, since it is not a power of acting in the passive intellect itself, but rather, on an object when it judges it. Therefore, Thomas did not go astray when he attributed active and passive powers to the passive intellect, which is to say, a power of recieving and an adjudicating power, for we in fact concede both of these. However, he was mistaken in this: he thought Aristotle called this active power the agent intellect. But we shall soon show St. Thomas had most nearly of all approached the mind of Aristotle, and not even in this matter, but to have merely gone astray in terminology alone.