Main Topics Covered: The role of the agent intellect with regard to the imagination vs. the intellect; what role the object plays regarding intellection vs. sensation; formal and objective senses of reception distinguished; whether the light of the agent intellect shines upon the imagination, the sensory object, or the possible intellect; the interpretation of De Anima III.4 where Aristotle uses the image of “curved lines.”
An Intellectus Agens iugatur phantasmatibus in phantasia existentibus, an in intellectu patibili receptis. Cap V.
Whether the agent intellect in conjoined with images residing in the imagination, or when they are received in the passive intellect
Quaestio explicatu digna est hic oritur, quum intellectus agens iungatur phatasmatibus ut forma, an eis iungatur in phantasia, an postquam in intellectu patibili recepta sunt.
Dicunt aliqui non in phantasia hanc coniunctionem fieri, sed lumen agentis phantasmatibus iungi, & ea perficere in ipso intellectu patibili:
quod probat argumento tali: officium intellectus agentis requiritur propter quidditates, quae in phantasmatibus latent, has enim facit actu intelligibiles; ergo si in phantasia phantasmatibus iungeretur, phantasia cognosceret quidditates, & universalia, quod nemo unquam dixit; non potest igitur intellectus agens munus hoc exercere nisi in phantasmatibus iam in intellectu patibilis receptis.
Confirmant per illa quae in ab Aristotele dicuntur in contextu 10. libri tertii de Anima; ibi enim inquit, intellectum a solo sensitivo recipere carnem, id est, totum compositum singulare, absque ullo auxilio intellectus agentis; ergo phantasmata sunt per se seipsa sufficienter praesentia intellectui patibili:
ut ab eo apprehendantur tanquam confusae quaedam conceptiones singularium, per eas tamen non apprehenduntur quidditates, quia non apparent, sed illis confusis conceptionibus adveniens lumen intellectus agentis resoluit eas in quidditatem, & quidditatem a quidditate distinguit, & facit quidditates de intellectis potestare actu intellectas, quae sunt verum obiectum intellectus agens propter obiectum, hoc est, propter quidditates, ut eas apparere faciat, & hae non cognoscantur nisi ab intellectu, oportet lumen agentis iungi phantasmatibus in intellectu, non in phantasia.
Vtuntur etiam ad hoc declarandum exemplo tali: si velimus in statua cernere aliquas minutissimas lineas, apponimus statuam lumini, vt illustretur, nec quaerimus vt illuminentur oculi, quoniam oculi non egent lumine, sed obiecto illuminato, vt illa, quae confusa erat, appareant,
quia absque illo lumine videret quidem oculus statuam, at minutissimas illas lineas non cerneret: statua igitur potest per se imprimere in oculo speciem confusam, neque lumen illud requirit, sed solum requiritur propter lineas illas, quibus proportione respondent quidditates latentes in phantasmatibus.
Haec sententia mihi probari nulla ratione potest, quum per eam tollatur tota ratio agentis: si enim intellectus agens iungit illis confusis conceptionibus iam receptis in intellectu patibili, iungitur potius vt forma, quam vt agens, quod etiam illi concedere videntur, fatentur enim intellectum agentem respectu obiectorum non habere locum agentis, sed formae tantummodo;
attamen neque respectu intellectus patibilis potest habere locum agentis, hoc enim non potest esse alio modo, nisi quod illae conceptiones ita illuminatae agant in intellectum patibilem, quod nullo pacto dici potest, iam enim inhaerent ipsi intellectui tanquam formae: quare etiam intellectus agens illis iunctus habet locum formae vna cum illis, at forma non agit in subiectum, in quo recepta est; quare intellectus agens nulla ratione haberet locum agentis iuxta illorum opinionem.
Miror etiam, quomodo hoc dicere potuerint, quum omnino negaverint species in intellectu imprimi; id enim si verum est, quomodo possint phantasmata & confusae illae conceptiones in intellectu recipi? Sic enim reciperentur in intellenctu tanquam species distinctae a phantasmatibus, quod ipsi negant, dum negant species impressas.
Ego igitur cogor multorum sententiam sequi, qui dicunt intellectum agentem iungi obiectis nondum in intellectu patibili receptis, sed in phantasia existentibus, quia hoc modo seruatur vera ratio agentis;
phantasmata enim sine lumine agentis essent quidem apta ad imprimendam in intellectu patibili conceptionem rei singularis, at non imprimerent speciem quidditatis, nifi essent illuminata ab intellectu agente, qui dat eis vim motricem, & productricem speciei quidditatis; facit enim vt in phantasmatibus distincte appareant omnes naturae, & quidditates, sicuti lumen Solis in statua facit vt appareant distincte omnes minutissimae lineae, & vt statua sit apta ad imprimendum in oculo non solum totam imaginem confusam, sed etaim omnes partes, & omnia exilia lineamenta: ideo similitudo ab illis adducta manifeste contra ipsos facit, nam minutissimae illae lineae in statua non indigent lumine eas illustrante, quando iam in oculo receptae sunt, sed extra oculum, & in ipsa statua; ipsi enim fatentur oportere statuam illuminari, non oculum:
sic igitur optime seruatur ratio agentis, nam agentis debet esse externum, vt possit agere in patiens, id vero, quod in ipso patiente recipitur, non est vocandum agens, sed forma.
Ad argumenta autem illorum facile est est respondere. Primum erat; si iungeretur phantasmatibus in phantasia, ergo phantasia esset intelligens, & apprehenderet vniuersalia, & quidditates:
ad hoc neganda est consequentia, & ratio negationis sumitur tum a phantasia, tum ab obiecto ipso: a phantasia, quoniam ipsa non est apta cognoscere vniuersale, & quare etiam si haberet in seipsa speciem vniuersalem non eam cognosceret,
quia non est talis facultas, quae ad hanc operationem idonea sit; non potest enim abstrahere vniuersale, & ipsum transferre de gradu in gradum:
hoc possumus confirmare exemplo coloris, & luminis; lumen enim facit ut color parietis fit actu visibilis, partes tamen habens colorem illum illuminatum non est videns, quia vim cognoscendi non habet; quare est quidem color ille visibilis, non tamen a pariete, in quo inest, sed ab oculo, cuius motiuus est: sic etiam in phantasia sunt quidditates in phantasmatibus illuminatae, proinde intelligibiles; non tamen a phantasia, quoniam ipsa hanc vim non habet.
Idem ostenditur ratione obiecti: phantasma enim quantumuis ab intellectu agente illuminatum non est formaliter intelligibile, ideo si fieri posset vt idem formaliter acceptum ad intellectum possibilem transferretur, non intelligeretur ab eo; quia phantasma illuminatum vocatur quidem actu intelligibile, non tamen formaliter, sed obiective,
nam si ipsummet in intellectu poneretur non fieret intellectio; sed ideo vocatur intelligibile, quia potest producere in intellectu possibili speciem intelligibilem, quae dicitur intelligibilis formaliter, quia ipsamet recipitur in intellectu.
Hoc quoque confirmatur eodem exemplo luminis, & coloris: nam color realis, qui in pariete est, licet sit actu illuminatus, & ita actu visibilis, non est tamen visibilis formaliter sed solum obiectiue; quia si idemmet realis color illuminatus posset in oculo poni, non videretur ab eo:
ideo actu visibile sumi potest duobus modis, nam coloris species spiritualis in oculo recepta dicitur visibilis formaliter, sed color realis illuminatus visibilis dicitur obiectiue, sed non formaliter. Leuitas igitur argumenti manifesta est, quia neque phantasia est apta intelligere quidditates, neque phantasia est apta intelligere quidditates, neque phantasma illuminatum in phantasia est actu intelligibile formaliter, sed est formaliter imaginabile; intelligibile autem obiectiue, quatenus est obiectum potens extra phantasiam producere in intellectu speciem intelligibilem.
Alterum argumentum sumebatur ex context. 10. tertij de anima, vbi Arist. dicit in intellectum recipere compositum confusum a solo sensu sine ope intellectus agentis: vult igitur phantasmata in phantasia existentia non egere lumine agentis, ut sint actu motiua,
sed per esse per se motiua absque illo, proinde lumen agentis non requiri nisi postquam illud confusum intellectu patibili receptum est, nempe vt in eo quidditas elucescat.
Ad hoc dicimus obiectum illud posse duabus rationibus dici actu motiuum; nempe vel ita motiuum, vt totius tantum confusi speciem imprimat; vel ita motiuum, vt imprimat etiam speciem quidditatis latentis in eo confuso: priore quidem modo inquit ibi Arist. phantasma esse per se motiuum intellectus agentis, sed non secundo modo; non est enim ex se ita motiuum, vt possit quidditatem imprimere, nisi illuminetur ab intellectu agente:
vult igitur Arist. phantasma illuminari in phantasia, & ita illuminatum imprimere in intellectu speciem quidditatis: quare per hoc argumentum non ostenditur obiectum illuminari in intellectu, sed potius in phantasia; hoc enim demonstrat comparatio quam ibi Aristoteles facit, cum linea flexa; dicit enim cognitionem quidditatis similem esse lineae flexae, quatenus lumen agentis fertur prius ad obiectum in phantasia, deinde cum eo ad intellectum reflectitur.
A question worthy of explication arises here: since since the agent intellect is conjoined to images as a form, is it conjoined to them in the imagination or afterward when it has been received into the passive intellect?
The Opinion of Some (Commentators)
Some say this conjunction does not occur in the imagination, but that the light of the agent intellect is conjoined with images and that it “perfects” them in the passive intellect itself, which is proved by the following argument:
The First Argument
 the proper activity of the agent intellect is required in the case of the quiddities which are latent in the images, since  it makes them into actual intelligibles. Therefore,  if it were conjoined with images in the imagination, the imagination would understand quiddities and universals, which no one ever said. Therefore,  the agent intellect cannot perform this function unless the images are already received in the passive intellect.
The Second Argument
They support their view by those notorious words given us by Aristotle in Contextus 10, Book III of his De Anima. There he says that the intellect receives “flesh” sensation alone: that is, the total singular composite without any assisstance from the agent intellect. Therefore, images are themselves, by their own nature, sufficiently present to the passive intellect, so that they might be apprehended by it as though they were confused conceptions of individuals, though their quiddities are not apprehended through them, since they do not appear. But with the arrival of the light of the agent intellect to these confused conceptions, it resolves them into their quiddities and it distinguishes one quiddity from another and makes the quiddities of images that have been understood capable of being actually understood. These are the true object of the agent intellect, that is, for the sake of quiddities, in order that it might make them appear-and they are not understood except by the intellect-it is necessary that the light of the agent be joined to images in the intellect, and not in the imagination.
They also use the following example to make this point clear: if we wished to discern the finest lineaments on a statue, we would bring place the statue under the light so that it would be illuminated. But we do not look for a way to have them illuminated by the eye, since they are not in need of light from the eye (See note 1), but from the illuminating object, that the lines that were “confused” might appear, since without that light the eye may indeed see a statue, but not discern its finest lineaments. Therefore, the statue can, by its own nature, impress upon the eye a confused form and does not require the aforesaid light, but it is only required for the sake of the lineaments to which the quiddities latent in phantasms proportionately respond.
I do not by any means commend this opinion, since the entire reason for the agent is thereby removed. For, if the agent intellect conjoins with the confused conceptions already received in the passive intellect, it is joined to them as a form rather than as an agent. They even seem to concede this, since they admit that the agent intellect does not play the role of agent with respect to its objects, but only of form.
But neither does it play the part of agent with respect to the passive intellect, for this can by no means occur, unless those conceptions, thus illuminated, were to act upon the passive intellect, which can simply cannot be said, since they already inhere in the intellect itself as forms. From thence it also follows that the agent intellect, when it has been conjoined with them, has the role of being one in form with them. But form is not active within the subject in which it is received. Therefore, the agent intellect by in no way plays the part of an agent according to their opinion.
I also wonder how they were able to say this, since they would absolutely deny that forms are impressed upon the intellect. But if this is true, how could images and those confused conceptions be received in the intellect? For, by that reasoning they would be received in the intellect as forms distinct from images, which they themselves deny, as long as they deny impressed forms.
Therefore, I conclude by following the opinion of many, who say that the agent intellect is not conjoined with its objects while it is received in the passive intellect, but to those objects existing in the imagination, since in this way the true nature of the agent is maintained. For images without the light of the agent would indeed be ready to impress upon the passive intellect a conception of an individual thing, but would not impress the form of a quiddity unless they were illuminated by the agent intellect, which gave to them the moving and producing power for quidditative forms. For, it so acts that in images, all natures and quiddities appear distinctly, in the same way that the light of the sun upon a statue acts so that all the smallest lineaments may appear distinctly and so that the statue is made ready to impress upon the eye not only the whole confused image, but all its parts as well, and all its finest lineaments. Therefore, similitude they adduce works absolutely against them: for, the finest lines on a statue do not require an illuminating light upon them when they have already been received in the eye, but outside the eye and on the statue itself. They themselves, in fact, admit that the statue needs to be illuminated, not the eye.
Thus, it follows that the nature of the agent is best maintained in this way, for it should be external to the agent so that it can act upon the patient, but that which is received in the patient itself should not be called “agent,” but form.
The First Argument
It is easy to respond to the arguments of the remaining commentators. The first was:  if it were joined to images in the imagination, then the imagination would be intelligent and  would apprehend universals and quiddities.
In this case, the consequent should be denied. The reason for the negation is taken both from [both the nature of the] imagination and from the object itself: from the [nature of the imagination] because it is not itself capable of apprehending the universal. Therefore, if it were to have within itself a universal form, it would not apprehend it, since it is not the sort of faculty that would be suited to this operation, since it cannot abstract universally and transfer itself from one step to the next.
We can confirm this using the example of color and light: for light acts so that the color of a wall becomes actually visible, although, since it does not have the power of apprehension, the illuminated area does not see the parts having color. Therefore, the color is indeed visible, but not to the wall on which it is, but is to the eye it is capable of moving. By the same token, quiddities in the imagination are illuminated in images, and are for that reason intelligible, though not by the imagination, since it does not itself have that capacity.
The same is shown by the nature of the object: for a phantasm is not formally intelligible by the mere fact that it is illuminated by the agent intellect. So, if it were to happen that it was transferred to the possible intellect (so that it was recieved formally), it would not be understood by the possible intellect-since, an illuminated phantasm is, in fact, said to be actually intelligible, though not with regard to its form, but only insofar as it is considered as an object. For, if the object itself were put in the intellect, intellection would not occur; nevertheless, by the same token, it is called “intelligible” since it is able to produce an intelligible form in the possible intellect, whose form is called formally intelligible because it is itself received in the intellect.
This is also shown by the same example involving light and color. For the real color which is on the wall, though actually illuminated and hence actually visible, is not, for all that, formally, but only objectively visible, since, if the real, illuminated color could itself put in the eye, it would not thereby be seen by the eye.
Therefore, “actually visible” can be understood in two ways, for  the spiritual form of color is said to be formally visible, while  the real, illuminated color is called visible in an objective sense, but not in a formal one. The levity of the argument is therefore evident, since the imagination is neither capable of understanding quiddities; nor is the illuminated phantasm in the imagination actually intelligible with regard to its form, though it is formally imaginable. Finally, it is objectively intelligible insofar as it is an object with the capacity to produce an intelligible species out of the imagination in the intellect.
The remaining argument was taken from Contextus 10, in Book III of the De Anima, where Aristotle says that a confused composite is received in the intellect by the sense faculty alone without the assistance of the agent intellect: therefore, Aristotle intends that for images, existence in the imagination does not require the light of the agent so that may be actually moved; by the very fact of their existence they are, by their very nature, moveable by it. Accordingly, the light of the agent intellect is not required unless the confused idea is received by the passive intellect, namely, so that its quiddity might shine forth.
Concerning this, we say that such an object can be called “actually moveable” in two senses: namely,  as moveable, in the sense that it impresses the entire confused form; or  as moveable in the sense that it also impresses the form of the latent quiddity in a confused state in it. Indeed, in the prior sense Aristotle says there (in Contextus 10) that phantasms are by their very nature moveable by the agent intellect, but not in the second one: for it is not moveable from from its current state in such a way that it can impress a quiddity unless it is illuminated by the agent intellect.
Therefore, Aristotle intends that images should be illuminated in the imagination and illuminated so as to impress upon the intellect the form of its quiddity: wherefore, the text does not show that the object is illuminated in the intellect, but rather in the imagination. Accrodingly, Aristotle demonstrates this by a comparison he makes in Context 10 with curved lines: for he says that the mental recognition of a quiddity is similar to a curved line, inasmuch as the light of an agent first shines upon its object in the imagination, but afterward it is reflected upon the intellect through that image.