Volume 88, Issue 3, Summer 2014
Daniel D. De Haan
Perception and the Vis Cogitativa
A Thomistic Analysis of Aspectual, Actional, and Affectional Percepts
This paper aims to establish some of the taxonomical groundwork required for developing a robust philosophy of perception on the basis of the Thomistic doctrine of the cogitative power (vis cogitativa). The formal object of the cogitative power will be divided into aspectual, actional, and affectional percepts. Accordingly, the paper contends that there is an internal sense power capable of a non-conceptual and pre-linguistic perceptual estimation of what some particular is, what could be done with respect to it, and what is to be done with respect to it. The argument begins with a synopsis of Thomas Aquinas’s philosophical anthropology. It then presents an extensive taxonomical analysis of three different kinds of cogitative percepts. This analysis is followed by a short exegetical defense of the threefold division of percepts. Finally, the essay concludes with a comparison of the Thomistic doctrine of the cogitative power with recent work in the philosophy of perception.