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Peter Olivi on Internal Senses


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To cite this Article: Toivanen, Juhana , (2007) 'Peter Olivi on Internal Senses', British
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British Journal for the History of Philosophy 15(3) 2007: 427 454

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ARTICLE

PETER OLIVI ON INTERNAL SENSES


Juhana Toivanen

1. INTRODUCTION
In this paper I shall analyse Peter of John Olivis (124898) conception of
the internal senses. I shall make two claims, the rst one of which is
historical. Already in antiquity there was a discussion concerning the
number of the internal senses and the psychological functions they were
supposed to explain.1 Augustine postulates only one internal sense that is
responsible for all the psychological functions; virtually all other philosophers put forward pluralistic theories, in which there are many faculties
responsible for the dierent functions. It has been argued that pluralistic
theories prevailed throughout the Middle Ages, and that it was not until the
seventeenth century that they fell into disfavour and were simplied.2 This
historical picture, however, seems to be somewhat inaccurate. The roots of
the simplication of the theory of internal senses can be traced back to the
thirteenth century. Olivi is a good representative of this movement. He
explicitly denies the plurality of the faculties and adheres to an Augustinian
model, in which there is one internal sense that has many psychological
functions. Even though Olivis works were condemned by the Franciscan

Harry Austryn Wolfson, The Internal Senses in Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew Philosophical
Texts, in Studies in the History of Philosophy and Religion, edited by Twersky and Williams
(Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973) 25074. The term internal sense was not
widely in use in antiquity.
2
Wolfson, Internal Senses, 30710. Wolfson presents only one medieval exception to pluralistic
theories, namely that of Moses Maimonides (ibid. 2912.) In addition, he argues that Thomas
Aquinas uses the expression internal sense in the Augustinian sense once (ibid. 303; The
passage in question is in Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, edited by P. Caramello (Turin:
Marietti, 194850) (hereafter ST), II-2.47.3 ad 3.) However, I would not lay much weight on the
passage, rst, since it is not intended to provide an analysis of the internal senses, and second,
because in the passage, Aquinas considers whether prudence is in the external senses, the
internal sense or in the intellect, and argues that it is chiey in the intellect. He does not need to
name explicitly the dierent internal senses in that context.

British Journal for the History of Philosophy


ISSN 0960-8788 print/ISSN 1469-3526 online 2007 BSHP
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JUHANA TOIVANEN

authorities in 1299, and again in 1319,3 they had an inuence among the
Franciscan philosophers in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth
centuries.4 Olivis inuence in the matter now at hand, is of course hard
to prove, but his argumentation against the plurality of the internal senses
may have had some inuence. Be that as it may, it is interesting to see that
there were critical voices towards pluralistic theories of the internal senses
even in their heyday.
My other point is of a more philosophical nature. Olivi argues that there
is only one internal sense. His view is based on a conviction that the only
explanation for the phenomenal unity of a beings psychological acts is an
ontological unity of the dierent faculties of the soul: a subject experiences
all acts it performs as its own. Olivi seems to think that there is a unitary self
that is the phenomenal subject of all diverse acts and psychological
functions. Even non-human animals have a unitary self, to which all the
psychological acts appear. According to Olivi, a being is aware of all its acts,
and this is only possible with an ontological unity between the internal
senses. The internal senses turn out to be dierent functions of the sole
internal sense, the common sense (sensus communis). By analysing Olivis
theory of the internal senses, I shall clarify his concept of the unitary self, as
it exists at the sensitive level.
I shall begin by making some general remarks on the focus of the discussion of internal senses during the thirteenth century, and by bringing
forth some central themes in Olivis theory. Then, in Section 3, I shall
discuss the details of what I mean by the unitary self and phenomenal
awareness. That section also reveals how Olivi bases the phenomenal unity
of the self, as it exists at the sensitive level, on an ontological unity,
and shows why Olivi thinks it is necessary to ascribe ontological unity to
internal senses. Finally, in Section 4, I shall analyse Olivis understanding of
the psychological functions and I shall discuss his argumentation, by which
he attributes the psychological functions to the common sense.

2. FOCUS OF THE DISCUSSION IN THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY


It has been widely accepted that Avicenna is one of the most important
gures in the history of the theory of the internal senses. According to Harry
Austryn Wolfson, Avicenna completes the classication of the internal
senses, and his theory comprises all the psychological functions that are
thereafter attributed to the internal senses.5 The list of these functions
remains relatively unchanged after Avicenna, even though it is perhaps not
3
David Burr, The Persecution of Peter Olivi, Transactions of the American Philosophical
Society, 66 (1976) 74, 85.
4
The inuence continued at least to the 1330s. See Burr, The Persecution of Peter Olivi, 8890.
5
Wolfson, The Internal Senses, 277.

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429

universally agreed on. The functions are as follows: (1) combining and
comparing information provided by the external senses, (2) retaining
information provided by the external senses, (3) imagining absent objects,
(4) compositive imagining of unreal objects, (5) apprehending intentions,6
(6) retaining intentions, (7) remembering past events and objects, and (8)
combining all the preceding. Most items on this list were discussed in
antiquity, but Avicenna brings them all together in his theory. On the other
hand, there were debates, before and after Avicenna, about how these
functions should be classied, to which faculties they should be attributed,
and especially, about how many internal senses there should be. Augustine,
who coined the Latin term internal sense (sensus interior)7 thought that
there should be only one internal sense, which would synthesize all the
functions. Avicenna, on the other hand, postulates ve dierent internal
senses and ascribes to them the aforementioned psychological functions.8
There were other pluralistic theories of the internal senses, but at least
most of them incorporated the psychological functions from within
Avicennas theory. Wolfson argues that after Avicenna there were
discussions concerning details of the theory of internal senses, but the
pluralistic idea, according to which there are many distinct faculties, was
not challenged during the Middle Ages.9 Finally, pluralistic theories fell
into disfavour, were simplied, and dissolved on account of their
complexity. Wolfson dates the dissolution to the seventeenth century
and associates it with names such as Eustachius a Sancto Paulo and Rene
Descartes. A little later, Wolfson notes, John Locke and Immanuel Kant
return to the Augustinian view of only one internal sense, perhaps without
realizing their indebtedness to him.10
Deborah Black, on the other hand, has argued that it is impossible to
isolate any universal features that are common to all medieval exponents of
the philosophical doctrine of internal senses.11 She claims that there was no
consensus and that Avicennas ideas were not accepted as such. I think that
Blacks point should be taken seriously. Moreover, Rega Wood points out,
in her article concerning Richard Rufus and Roger Bacon, that in addition
to Arabic sources, thirteenth-century authors invoked Augustine (in the
early thirteenth century the pseudo-Augustinian De spiritu et anima) and

6
There were particularly vast dierences between conceptions of intentions. In this article, the
most important feature of intentions was their relation to usefulness and harmfulness of
external objects.
7
Wolfson, The Internal Senses, 252.
8
Avicenna, Avicenna Latinus. Liber de anima seu Sextus de naturalibus, edited by S. van Riet
(Louvain/Leiden: E. Peeters/E. J. Brill, 1972) (hereafter Shif
a De an.), I.5, 8590.
9
Wolfson, The Internal Senses, 295307.
10
Wolfson, The Internal Senses, 30710.
11
Deborah L. Black, Imagination and Estimation: Arabic Paradigms and Western
Transformations, Topoi, 19 (2000) 68.

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JUHANA TOIVANEN

John Damascene.12 As a result, strikingly non-Avicennian theories were


presented. It is clear, therefore, that there was no consensus in the thirteenth
century regarding a theory of the internal senses.
Even pluralism was contested. Contrary to Wolfsons view, pluralistic
theories of the internal senses were challenged also during the thirteenth
century. One of the earliest medieval denials of pluralism can be found in a
work titled Lectura in librum De anima, which dates from c.124550, and
contains reported lectures of an anonymous master of the faculty of arts of
Paris. It states that
philosophers distinguish between the apprehensive powers in another way.
According to them, one should say that the powers of sense, phantasy,
imagination, estimation, particular opinion and memory are substantially the
same (secundum substanciam) and that they dier from each other by denition
(secundum rationem). So all these powers are substantially the same as common sense and have the same organ, but they dier by denition.13

The major point in this text is to deny the ontological dierence between
the faculties of the sensitive soul. This describes the focus of discussion
concerning the internal senses well. There was a relatively wide consensus
about the functions of the sensitive soul. Instead, discussions focused on the
ontological basis of the functions. In fact, the thirteenth century appears
to be a time of lively debating rather than polishing minor details.14
Ontological questions concerning the number of the faculties, the attribution of functions to the faculties, and the relation of dierent faculties to
each other, etc. were the focus of the time.
As the previous paragraph shows, there were tendencies to emphasize a
more unied conception of the faculties of the soul even before Olivi, but
Olivi dedicates quite a lot of thought to this topic. He departs from the
pluralistic tradition by claiming that it is not necessary to posit several
internal senses in order to explain the functions of the sensitive soul. Olivis
12

Rega Wood, Imagination and Experience in the Sensory Soul and Beyond: Richard Rufus,
Roger Bacon & Their Contemporaries, in Forming the Mind: Conceptions of Body and Soul in
Medieval and Early Modern Thought, edited by H. Lagerlund and O. Pluta (Dordrecht: Springer
Verlag, forthcoming).
13
Aliter autem distinguunt philosophi uirtutes apprehensiuas. Et secundum eos dicendum
est sic quod iste uirtutes, sensus, fantasia, ymaginatio, estimatio, opinio particularis et
memoria sunt idem secundum substanciam, dierunt autem secundum rationem; unde
omnes ille uirtutes sunt idem secundum substanciam cum sensu communi et idem est
organum eorum et sensus communis, dierunt autem secundum rationem.
Anonymi Magistri Artium, Lectura in librum De anima, edited by R. A. Gauthier, Spicilegium
Bonaventurianum XXIV (Grottaferrata: Collegium S. Bonaventurae ad Claras Aquas,
1985), 441.
14
For example, Wood, in Imagination and Experience, shows that in the early thirteenth
century one can hardly speak about the theory of internal senses. The variety of proposed
theories was striking, and various sources were used.

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431

main argument, which he develops through questions 636 of the second


part of his question-commentary on the Sentences,15 is that there is only one
internal sense, namely the common sense (sensus communis), and it is
responsible for all the dierent functions that were previously explained by
the existence of many dierent faculties. He refers to Augustine, especially
De Genesi ad litteram, to support his view, and takes his basic insight from
him, but Olivi construes a far more elaborate theory, since, unlike
Augustine, he had to challenge sophisticated pluralistic theories.
Olivi argues against philosophers (quaedam philosophantes) who favour a
pluralistic theory of the internal senses. One gets the impression that Olivi
has Thomas Aquinas and his followers in mind,16 but he does not directly
refer to them, so they cannot be positively identied. Whosoever the disparaged philosophers may be, the theory Olivi challenges contains four or
ve separate faculties: (1) common sense brings together and compares
information acquired from dierent external senses; (2) imagination
(potentia imaginativa) retains sensible species that are received in the
common sense, and apprehends absent objects;17 (3) estimation (potentia
aestimativa) apprehends intentions that are related to the usefulness and
harmfulness of objects,18 (4) memory (potentia memorativa) retains intentions and apprehends the notion of the past (intentio praeteriti);19
(5) cogitation (potentia cogitativa) synthesizes all the information provided
by the other four internal senses.20 Some of the philosophers attribute the
function of cogitation to estimation or to reason, and as a result, there are
four separate faculties.
The theory Olivi challenges also contains two criteria, by which the
internal senses are commonly distinguished from each other. First, faculties
are considered related to, and therefore distinguished by, dierent kinds of
object namely sensible species and intentions. Second, receptive faculties
are considered distinct from retentive faculties.21 Olivi does not accept either
of these criteria. He discards the rst by pointing out that even if dierent
psychological functions of the sensitive soul concern dierent kinds of
15

In addition, questions 44, 58 and 74 contain valuable passages.


Even though Olivis adversaries posit ve internal senses, the fth (cogitation) is identied
with either reason or estimation, which results in four separate faculties in each being. Aquinas
approved this view. In addition, the criteria for separating the faculties are those which Aquinas
used.
17
Petrus Ioannis Olivi, Quaestiones in secundum librum sententiarum, edited by B. Jansen,
Bibliotheca franciscana scholastica medii aevi IVVI (Florence: Collegii S. Bonaventurae,
192226) (hereafter II Sent.) q. 63, vol. II, pp. 5967.
18
II Sent. q. 64, vol. II, pp. 6023.
19
II Sent. q. 65, vol. II, pp. 6078.
20
II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, pp. 609.
21
For example, Avicenna (Shif
a De an. I.5, 85, 889.) and Thomas Aquinas (ST I.78.4.) used
these criteria. Avicenna also used a third criterion and distinguished active faculties from
passive ones, thus separating compositive imagination from the rest (Black, Imagination and
Estimation, 59.). Olivi does not mention this criterion.
16

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JUHANA TOIVANEN

object, . . . the diversity of objects does not suciently prove a diversity of


powers . . ..22 One faculty can apprehend dierent kinds of object by performing a variety of acts. Olivi discards the other criterion, according to
which receptive and retentive faculties must be separated:
The reception and conservation of species belong to the very same subject and
power; for it is impossible for a species that is numerically one to have two
subjects or to have the ability to inform two powers at the same time.23

Thus, Olivi criticizes the criteria of separation of the faculties, but he


does not stop there. He also discards the whole division of the internal
senses, and proclaims that there is only one internal sense, the common
sense.
Before moving on to Olivis arguments for the ontological unity between
the internal senses, I shall consider one of the reasons, why Olivi simplies
the theory. This brings us to my philosophical thesis regarding the unity of
self.

3. PHENOMENAL AND ONTOLOGICAL UNITY OF THE SELF


Unitary Self and Awareness
Olivi thinks that ones experience of oneself is unitary. Despite the variety
of psychological acts and experiences we live through, there is only one
self that is the subject of all acts.24 Olivi accounts for the unitary self by
claiming that, within every sensitive or intellectual being, there is one
22
. . . diversitas obiectorum non est suciens ratio ad probandum diversitatem potentiarum . . .
(II Sent. q. 54, vol. II, p. 275.)
23
Quia eiusdem subiecti et potentiae est speciem recipere et eandem conservare; impossibile est
enim quod species eadem numero habeat duo subiecta aut quod duas potentias simul informet
(II Sent. q. 63, vol. II, p. 599); Olivi also ridicules reasoning which is based on physiology,
according to which the organs of receptive faculties are wetter than those of the preserving
faculties. He wrote: Ad primam igitur rationem aliorum dicendum quod valde est ridiculosa;
tum quia spirituales formationes et conservationes specierum vitalium et intentionalium reducit
ad solas potentias qualitatum elementarium humidi et sicci. (II Sent. q. 63, vol. II, p. 601.)
Olivis criticism may be aimed at Aquinas, who claimed:
Recipere autem et retinere reducuntur in corporalibus ad diversa principia, nam
humida bene recipiunt, et male retinent; e contrario autem est de siccis. Unde, cum
potentia sensitiva sit actus organi corporalis, oportet esse aliam potentiam quae
recipiat species sensibilium, et quae conservet.
(ST I.78.4 resp.)
24
Medieval Latin does not have a word for the English self. Yet we cannot infer from this that
medieval philosophers and theologians did not have an idea of the self or that they did not ask
philosophical questions concerning the self. For example, the reexive pronoun se was
commonly used in discussing the self (se cognoscere for self-knowledge, se apprehendere for selfapprehension, etc.).

PETER OLIVI ON INTERNAL SENSES

433

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faculty that brings together all the psychological functions and acts. He
writes:
In addition, as soon as an inferior power apprehends something, a superior
power apprehends its act in such a way that it perceives the act to originate
from its own subject. The superior power perceives this in the case of the
act of the inferior power almost in the same way as it does in the case of its
own act. This is why we say by the intellect: I see or hear, just as I
understand.25

It is very important to note that Olivis idea is not limited to the intellect.
The passage provides a general claim, according to which the relation of any
inferior faculty to a superior faculty is such that the superior holds the acts
of the inferior as its own, whatever the faculties are. It is only after
presenting this general idea, that Olivi applies it to human experience,
and argues that the acts attributed to the intellectual and sensitive
faculties are experienced as acts of a single self, since the intellect holds
both types as its own even though the intellect is a separate faculty from
the sensitive faculties. Non-human animals experience a unitary self by a
similar process: a superior faculty holds all the acts of the other faculties as
belonging to the same text.
The unity of the self in question is of a phenomenal nature. A creature is
aware of all its acts as if they belong to a single self. What is this awareness?
An example pertaining to perception will make this clearer. Strictly
speaking, the external senses do not perceive external objects or sensible
qualities of objects. Rather, they are the means by which the common sense
perceives objects and qualities.26 My eyes do not see; I see with my eyes. The
external senses do sense their objects, but these objects do not appear to
them, i.e. the external senses are not aware of the objects they sense. Olivis
basic idea is that perception, understood as awareness of the object of

25

Praeterea, statim cum una potentia inferior aliquid apprehendit, statim superior
potentia apprehendit actum illius et hoc modo quod sentit illum actum exire a suo
supposito, ita quod fere hoc ita sentit de actu inferioris potentiae sicut et de suo
proprio actu. Unde ita dicimus per intellectum: ego video vel audio sicut ego intelligo.
(II Sent. q. 58, vol. II, p. 464)
Other passages with a similar idea: II Sent. q. 51, vol. II, p. 122; ibid., q. 59, vol. II, 540.
26
Quod autem sensus particulares non possint esse uigiles, seu in suo actu, nisi sensus
communis sit in actu respectu illorum actuum et obiectorum sensus particularis . . . Huius autem signum est quia, cum nostra interior intentio totaliter ad aliqua est
intenta et conuersa, tunc nostri sensus particulares etiam suis obiectis patuli et aperti
nihil penitus de illis percipiunt quod nos sciamus. Vnde nec de illis postmodum
recordamur nisi alias uiderimus aut senserimus illa.
(Petrus Ioannis Olivi, Quodlibeta quinque, edited by S. Defraia, Collectio Oliviana VII
(Grottaferrata: Collegium S. Bonaventurae ad Claras Aquas, 2002) I.7, 256)
See also II Sent. q. 62, vol. II, pp. 58990; ibid. q. 72, vol. III, p. 9; ibid. q. 73, vol. III, p. 89.

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JUHANA TOIVANEN

sensation, requires that attention be directed towards the senses and their
objects:27 if my eyes are accidentally directed toward an object, but I am
concentrating on some philosophical question, the object does not appear to
me. Or, as Olivi remarks, if I am asleep or daydreaming, I do not perceive
the objects that are before my eyes, even if my eyes are wide open:
frequently, there are many passions in our senses that do not appear to us.
This is patent when someone sleeps with his eyes, ears and nostrils wide open.
Passions that take place in the senses are not then actual perceptions, even
though they are specically (secundum speciem) the same passions that take
place in those who are awake.28

Olivi claims, therefore, that only one faculty can yield awareness. In sensory
perception, this faculty is the common sense, and this entails phenomenal
awareness of sensations: the common sense turns sensations into perceptions, so to speak. I am not aware of the objects of my senses, unless the
common sense directs its attention towards them. The contents of other
psychological acts appear to the subject in the same way: the common sense
apprehends the objects of all the internal senses. Both intellectual and
sensitive creatures have a single faculty to which all the acts appear. Olivi
acknowledges the need to explain how it is that the intellect can apprehend
all acts: the intellect is distinct from the sensitive faculties; therefore, the acts
of the common sense are not acts of the intellect. Olivi resolves: the intellect
holds and perceives the acts of the common sense as belonging to the same
self as itself, regardless of the fact that, ontologically, they are not its own.29
On the contrary, unity, as it exists at the sensitive level, does not need
additional explanation since, Olivi argues, the common sense is also the
ontological subject of all the sensitive acts. Phenomenal unity of the self is
therefore based on the idea, according to which only one faculty is aware of
the contents of dierent acts. Thus, phenomenal unity is based on
ontological unity. I shall now proceed towards this theme.

27
See, for example, Robert Pasnau, Theories of Cognition in the Later Middle-Ages (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1997) 1304.
28
frequenter multae passiones unt in nostris sensibus quae nobis non apparent, sicut
patet in dormiente apertis oculis et auribus et naribus. Passiones enim quae tunc unt
in sensibus non sunt actuales sensus, quamvis sint eaedem passiones secundum
speciem cum illis quae unt in vigilantibus.
(II Sent. q. 58, vol. II, p. 484)
29
Intellectus noster non potest advertere actus sensuum particularium et eorum actualia
obiecta, in quantum eorum, nisi per intermedium actum sensus communis (II Sent. q. 63,
vol. II, p. 600.) Intellect needs the common sense in order to be able to apprehend the acts and
objects of particular senses. The common sense is, therefore, responsible for the unity at the
sensitive level of human beings.

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Ontological Basis of Unity


If we concede that phenomenal unity becomes possible only if there is one
faculty that is the ontological or phenomenal subject of all the psychological
acts, then we have two possible ways of understanding the relation between
the internal senses. Either there are separate internal senses, and one of them
is the phenomenal, though not the ontological, subject of the others acts; or
there is only one internal sense that is both the ontological and phenomenal subject. The rst option, which is used by Olivis adversaries, I call a
pluralistic model. In pluralistic theories the internal senses are understood as separate faculties; therefore, those theories have to answer two
problems.
The rst problem is related to awareness and unity of the self. If the
internal senses were separate from each other and provided the subject with
awareness of the content of their own acts, then, in a way, every internal
sense is aware of the contents of its acts. In this way, every faculty would be
an experiencing subject, and this would result in a fragmentary self, or at
least in fragmentary experiences. Therefore, if the faculties are separate,
then the fact that their acts appear to a unitary self must be explained. The
other problem is related to the interconnectedness of the acts. Separate
external senses are conjoined in the common sense, and this accounts for a
unitary perception of an object. But what about the internal senses? What
accounts for the interconnection between the apprehension of an intention
and the object to which the intention belongs, or, for that matter, an object
and its pastness in remembering a past object? If the faculties are separate,
there must be an explanation for the fact that their acts are interconnected.
Pluralistic theories solve these problems by claiming that there is a single
faculty that is above the others and combines their acts.30 This superior
faculty governs the others and apprehends their acts. The contents of the
acts of other faculties appear to the governing faculty, which combines the
intentions and the sensible species, if needed. In dierent theories, the
governing faculty varies,31 but the overall idea remains the same.
The other solution to the problems regarding the relation between the
internal senses is that to which Olivi adheres. According to him, instead of
several internal senses, there is only one, and it is the ontological subject of
dierent kinds of act that realize all the psychological functions. Olivi thinks
that the sole faculty is the common sense. He creates a model in which all the
functions that the pluralistic theories attribute to dierent internal senses
are understood as the functions of the common sense. At the sensitive level
30
Thus, they attribute the function (8) to one of the internal senses (see Section 2 for the list of
functions); For example, Avicenna seems to use this strategy (Shif
a De an. IV.1, 11; ibid. IV.3,
35).
31
For example, in Avicenna, the governing faculty was estimation, in Albertus Magnus,
phantasy (Black, Imagination and Estimation, 61, 64).

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the unity of awareness happens thus: the common sense is the subject of all
the dierent functions of the internal senses, and it is aware of the
experiences brought about by the dierent kinds of act that represent the
psychological functions. Therefore, his theory neatly explains not only
the phenomenal unity of experience, but also the interconnectedness of
the dierent functions.
It is notable that Olivi does not deny the existence of the psychological
functions that pluralistic theories attribute to the faculties. He attributes
all the aforementioned functions that were previously explained by
dierent internal senses to both human beings and animals. He merely
denies the existence of such a complex organization within the soul as the
pluralistic theories require, and argues in favour of a simpler view. Olivis
point is, therefore, similar to that found in the lectures of the anonymous
master of the faculty of arts, cited in the beginning of this article: the
project of simplifying the theory of the internal senses is ontological rather
than psychological.32 Still, to my mind, the reasons for simplifying the
theory are clearly psychological. As I have already emphasized, the
experience of the unity of the self is for Olivi an important notion. Olivi
uses the simplied model because he lays emphasis on the phenomenal
unity of the self, which is based on an ontological unity of the faculties.
The case of humans, however, raises a question. Olivi thinks that the
intellect is also the phenomenal subject of the acts of the common sense. It
seems that, in principle, Olivi could have explained the sensitive level also
in this way, since ontological unity is not required for the phenomenal
unity in all cases. I think that two things should be noted here. First, for
Olivi, it is more important to separate the intellect from the sensitive
faculties than to prove an ontological unity. As we have seen, Olivi needs
to emphasize that, despite the ontological separation of the intellect and
the sensitive faculties, the intellect apprehends the sensitive acts as
belonging to the same subject as itself. There are no compelling reasons
for separating the internal senses from each other, and so it should not be
done the principle of parsimony seems to be at work here. Second, from
one point of view, the intellect and the sensitive faculties are ontologically
unied: they have a common material basis, since they are both actualized
in the spiritual matter.33 As a result, an act of a sensitive faculty agitates

32

This also explains the fact that Olivi repeatedly uses expressions such as an act of
imagination and the like; by using them, he does not mean that the faculties are distinct. Olivi
accepts the existence of dierent functions, and uses these expressions in contexts where he does
not deal with their identity. The expressions are just an easy way of talking about dierent
functions. He could have used expressions such as an imaginative act of the common sense,
but this would have been quite a complicated way of speaking.
33
Robert Pasnau, Olivi on the Metaphysics of Soul, Medieval Philosophy and Theology 6
(1997) 123125; II Sent. q. 59, vol. II, p. 540; ibid. q. 51 app., vol. II, p. 184; ibid. q. 51, vol. II,
p. 134.

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34

the intellect to act a phenomenon that does not take place between
separate sensitive faculties, as, for instance, between ears and eyes.
Another reason for simplifying the theory was Olivis conviction that
dierent psychological functions are so essentially interconnected that
separate faculties cannot actualize them. The ability to combine the acts
cannot be attributed solely to the intellect, since non-human animals also
have this ability.35 In addition, Olivi thinks it is unnecessary, and even
unacceptable, to postulate several separate faculties, if they cannot perform
their functions alone. Faculties must be considered in relation to their acts,
and they are not separable in reality if their acts come together to constitute
a single act. If the internal senses were separate, then they should be able to
act on their own. This would result, for instance, in apprehending an
intention without apprehending any object to which the intention could
belong.36 As we shall see, the psychological functions mentioned above are
not separable from each other but come together to constitute single acts.
For instance, when I see an apple and estimate it as good, there is only
one act, an estimative apprehension of the apple. This idea serves as a
foundation for Olivis arguments in favour of the unity of the internal
senses.
Finally, our own experience shows that there cannot be several separate
faculties: Certainly, when we do this [sc. execute dierent psychological
functions], we do not perceive ourselves now operating with one power and
34
Acts of sensitive faculties are not ecient causes of acts of intellect, but because of the
colligantia potentiarum (which, in turn, is based on the common material basis of intellectual
and sensitive parts of the soul), intellectual and sensitive acts are conjoined. See Francois-Xavier
Putallaz, La connaissance de soi au XIIe siecle. De Matthieu dAquasparta a` Thierry de Freiberg,
Etudes de philosophie medievale LXVII (Paris: Vrin, 1991) 99105.
35
This can be seen throughout Olivis exposition of the internal senses. See, for example, II Sent.
q. 63, vol. II, 600, where Olivi explicitly states that intellect cannot be the only faculty able to
compare dierent acts to each other, since beasts are also able to do so.
36
Olivi argues that the faculties of the soul are constitutive parts of the soul and that they dier
from the substance of the soul only by being as parts are to the whole. He continues:
Si quis vero ex his vellet inferre quod qua ratione ex diversis formis potentiarum
integratur una totalis forma animae, eadem ratione ex eis integratur una totalis
potentia: dicendum quod si actiones diversarum partium eiusdem totius sic
concurrerent in unam actionem constituendam sicut ipsae partes concurrunt ad
unum totum constituendum, tunc qua ratione integrant unam totalem rationem entis,
integrarent rationem unius principii activi. Quod quia non est sic, ideo non sequitur
quod sic integrent unam rationem potentiae sicut integrant unum ens. Potentia enim
dicitur per respectum ad agere, forma vero vel essentia per respectum ad esse; ac tum,
si tota congeries actionum sumatur pro una plena actione, tunc et totum collegium
potentiarum sumetur pro uno pleno posse, iuxta quod et communiter dicitur quod
integrant unum totum virtuale seu potestativum.
(II Sent. q. 54, vol. II, p. 259)
Here Olivi gives a principle, according to which one can judge whether there is a single faculty
or several that are separate from each other. He has in mind the separation of intellectual
faculties from sensitive ones and perhaps the separation of external senses from the internal
sense, not the unity of the internal senses.

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JUHANA TOIVANEN

now with another, but rather we perceive that the act and attention of
the same power changes in many ways.37 Olivi seems to think that our
experience would be dierent if the internal senses were separate from each
other. When we use external senses, we get a feeling that we use separate
faculties (power of vision or power of hearing, for example), but in the case
of internal senses there is, according to Olivi, no such experience. Again,
Olivi lays much weight on phenomenal experiences.
I shall now analyse Olivis understanding of the ontology of the psychological functions, and his argumentation, according to which all the
functions of the internal senses must in fact be functions of the common
sense.

4. PSYCHOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS AND THE COMMON SENSE


Basic Functions of the Common Sense
The internal senses were often arranged in ascending order, depending on
how far their operations were thought to take place from the operations of
the external senses. The rst in order, after the external senses, was the
common sense. There were two functions traditionally attributed to the
common sense: it brought together information provided by the dierent
external senses, and it discerned between objects of the dierent external
senses. The rst function explained the fact that we are able to perceive
objects of the dierent external senses as one. For instance, when I see a frog
and hear its croaking, I perceive the visible qualities (colour, shape) and the
audible qualities (croaking) as belonging to the same creature. Since my eyes
cannot hear the croaking and my ears are not able to see the colour and the
shape of the frog, the ability to combine these qualities must be attributed to
a faculty that apprehends the information provided by both eyes and ears.
This is the rst basic function of the common sense. The other basic function
of the common sense was to distinguish between objects of the dierent
external senses. We are able to distinguish white from black. In principle,
this can be done with the eyes, since they sense all the colours. However, we
are also able to distinguish, say, white from sweet. These qualities, being
objects of dierent external senses, cannot be distinguished from each other
by any external sense whatsoever.
The unity of perceptual experience was, therefore, one main reason to
ascribe the common sense to creatures that are animated by a sensitive soul,
i.e. animals and human beings. It was thought to explain the fact that our
experiences of the external world are not fragmentary, but united. Dierent
37
Et certe, quando hoc facimus, non sentimus nos nunc operari cum una potentia et nunc cum
alia, sed potius eiusdem potentiae actus et aspectus multiformiter variare (II Sent. q. 66, vol. II,
p. 614).

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external senses are brought together in the common sense a higher faculty
that observes the external senses.
Olivi accepts the existence of these two traditional functions and that they
are attributed to the common sense.38 However, as we shall see, he extends
the idea further and stresses that there is unity, not only in perception, but
also between other psychological functions that were traditionally attributed
to dierent internal senses; and that this unity is provided by the fact that
the common sense is the subject of all the other functions. Furthermore, he
emphasizes the role of the common sense as the provider of awareness, as we
have seen. A being becomes aware of its sensations by turning its attention
to the external senses and their objects, and this turning of attention takes
place in the common sense.

Imagination
The next faculty Olivi introduces is the imagination. In the Avicennian
tradition, the imagination was thought to be a faculty that retains sensible
species, i.e. impressions that the common sense receives from the external
senses. Olivi, however, attributes this function to the memory. Therefore, he
places two psychological functions within the category of the imagination:
the imagination apprehends absent objects, and it combines retained
species into fantastic images of unreal objects, such as a golden mountain or
a chimera. In both functions, the basic idea is that a being is able to
apprehend an object even if there is no such object present to the external
senses.
Olivi attributes both functions of imagination to the common sense.39 The
underlying principle behind the identication of these two faculties is that
receptive and retentive faculties should not be separated from each other.
The rst function, i.e. to apprehend absent yet real objects, must be a function of the common sense, since apprehension is interconnected to the basic
functions of the common sense. Olivi accepts that there is a phenomenal
dierence between apprehending present objects and absent objects: it is a
dierent thing to perceive a frog, than to imagine one. However, Olivi does
38

[Sensus communis] obiecta diversorum sensuum in simul apprehendit et diiudicat (II Sent.
q. 62, vol. II, p. 587.);
sensus communis iudicat actum auditionis et sonum auditum dierre a visione lucis.
Actus enim iste ex tribus actibus est conatus. Quorum duo sunt quasi materiales
respectu tertii; nam oportet quod sensus communis apprehendat utraque obiecta, visus
scilicet et auditus, et actus eorum . . . Et praeter hoc est ibi apprehensio seu diiudicatio
diversitatis quae est inter ea.
(II Sent. q. 79, vol. III, p. 162)
39
Ergo species memorialis seu imaginaria per ipsum facta conservatur in sola potentia sensus
communis aut in eius organo, in quantum est eius. Ergo eius subsequens inspectio et cogitatio
est eiusdem potentiae, in quantum est activa (II Sent. q. 63, vol. II, p. 599).

440

JUHANA TOIVANEN

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not accept that there is an ontological dierence between the faculties. He


stresses that we are normally able to notice a dierence between perception
and imagination:
For the act of discerning that an imaginary species is not an external object
but something else, is nobler than just imagining the object. But the
discernment happens through the common sense, because this [viz. the
dierence between an imagined and a real object] is discerned only while
awake, and it takes place thus: the one who discerns, notices that the image
of the absent objects is not situated outside the particular senses and neither
is it apprehended by them. Therefore, it is necessary that the very same
power then compares the act of imagining to the acts of the external senses,
and perceives and judges there to be a perceptible (sensibilis) dierence
between them. However, it is clear that to apprehend the acts of the senses
when they take place and to make judgements of them, belongs only to the
common sense. Therefore, to apprehend the acts of the imagination and to
make judgements of them also belong to it. This is, to my mind, the most
powerful argument among the aforementioned, because it is also proved by
internal and frequent experience.40

Olivis argument is that the act by which we apprehend that an object


is imagined, and not perceived, must be an act of the common sense. This is
because only the common sense can apprehend whether the external senses
are active or inactive. Some claimed that the faculty that makes this comparison is the intellect, but Olivi rejects this claim by arguing that animals
are also able to make the distinction.41
Even though there is a phenomenal dierence between imagining an
absent object and apprehending a present one, there is no ontological
dierence on the level of faculties: the same faculty, the common sense,
which acts in both cases, performs both functions. While perceiving a

40

41

Quia actus, quo species imaginaria discernitur non esse ipsa res extra, sed esse aliud ab
ipsa, est altior quam sola imaginatio eius. Sed illa discretio t per sensum communem,
quia haec non discernitur nisi in vigilia, tque per hoc quod discernens advertit illam
imaginem rerum absentium non obici extra ipsis particularibus sensibus nec per eos
apprehendi. Ergo oportet quod eadem potentia comparet tunc actum imaginandi ad
actus exteriorum sensuum et quod sensibilem diversitatem sentiat et iudicet inter illos.
Constat autem quod solius sensus communis est apprehendere actus sensuum, dum
unt, et iudicare de eis. Ergo et eius est apprehendere actus imaginationis et iudicare
de eis. Et haec ratio meo iudicio est inter praedictas fortissima, quia et experimento
interno et assiduo comprobatur.
(II Sent. q. 63, vol. II, pp. 599600)
Quodsi dicas hoc non eri per potentiam sensitivam, sed solum per intellectum: contra
hoc est duplex ratio. . . . Secunda est: Quia quando canis praefert os visibile et praesens
alteri ossi meliori memorato et etiam desiderato, quia videt illud sibi non sic adesse:
utique tunc sensibiliter discernit inter absens et praesens.
(II Sent. q. 63, vol. II, p. 600)

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present external object, the common sense apprehends the object through
the external senses. The common sense also acts when imagining an absent
object, but the object of its act, in this case, is a species that represents an
external object, which is preserved in the memory. I will return to this point
later. Now it suces to note that species are not means by which acts take
place. Rather, they serve as terminative objects of the imaginative acts of the
common sense.42 Therefore, two dierent kinds of object external objects
and species suce to explain the dierence between the psychological
processes of perception and imagination. There is no need to postulate two
dierent faculties to explain these functions, and in Olivis view, this would
lead to unwanted results.
The other function commonly attributed to the imagination was that of
combining retained species in order to make new ones. It was thought that
at least human beings were able to imagine things they had never seen or
perceived otherwise. Combining retained species explained the ability to
imagine, say, a golden mountain. Olivi attributes this function to the
common sense. According to him, only humans are able to merge species
with each other and in that way imagine a golden mountain.43 This ability is
denied to other animals, since they lack intellectual capacities. Reason can
govern the imaginative operations, and when it does, two species can be
apprehended together in a way that makes them appear as one species.44
Characteristically, this view reveals that Olivi understands that the
operation of the composition of species takes place in the active faculty,
i.e. in the common sense. The species of a mountain and the species of
gold are not actually merged but they both function simultaneously
42

See Section 4.4 for more details.


Experimur enim in nobis quod quasi innitis modis possumus unam speciem cum
altera componere et sic innitas compositiones imaginum quas nunquam foris vidimus
intra nos formare et cogitare, sicut patet, quando imaginamur montes aureos vel
chimaeram et sic de aliis et quando imaginantes unum integrum lapidem vel montem
subito imaginamur eum frangi in multas partes et multis modis aut quando modo
imaginamur eum stantem modo fortiter currentem quasi coram oculis nostris.
(II Sent. q. 58, vol. II, pp. 5045)
44
Et secundum hanc viam possunt secundum Augustinum aliquando apparere nova visa
et nova somnia animalibus, probans hoc quod hac de causa aliquando, dum dormiunt,
subito latrant, quia aliquid apparet eis quod eos commovet ad latrandum. In homine
autem ultra hoc contingit istud, pro eo quod imaginatio ducitur ab intellectu seu a
voluntate per intellectum, sequitur enim imaginatio conversiones intellectus et e
contrario. Sicut autem, si cera haberet virtutem applicandi se ad diversa sigilla,
quando sic varie se applicaret, commoveret et convolveret varie inter se invicem partes
cerae et per consequens guras permanentes ipsarum partium, sicque erent novae
compositiones gurarum in ea praeter illas quas susciperet a sigillis . . . Unde et in
huiusmodi compositionibus videtur homini quod aspectus seu acies cogitantis accipiat
unam speciem seu unam rem et ponat eam super alteram, quamvis aliquando hoc ita
subito at quod nullus motus videtur ibi praecessisse, sed ipsa compositio seu imago
sic composita subito videtur ante conspectum cogitantis apparuisse.
(II Sent. q. 58, vol. II, pp. 5067)
43

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JUHANA TOIVANEN

(or in such a way that there is only an imperceptible interval) as objects of an


act of the common sense.45 The two species remain separate, but the act is
directed at both, resulting in the imaginative act of a golden mountain. The
argument, which Olivi uses to prove that imagining absent objects is a
function of the common sense, is also suited to prove that composition of
species belongs to the common sense.
The imagination, therefore, is not a separate faculty from the common
sense in either of its functions. When a being imagines an absent thing, there
is an act of the common sense, which has a species as its object. When a
human being imagines an object that does not exist in reality or at least
one that the person in question has never seen there is an act of the
common sense that has more than one species as its object. In both cases, the
faculty at work is the same.

Estimation
Animals are able to ee from harmful things and can strive towards those
that are useful. A traditional example, which was continually repeated, is a
sheep eeing a wolf. Many pluralistic theories explained this ability by
attributing a special faculty to animals: estimation. This faculty was thought
to be responsible for estimating external objects as harmful or useful. Again,
Olivi admits that there is an estimative function, but he attributes it to the
common sense. Contrary to the traditional view, Olivi thinks that estimation
can be explained by a special kind of apprehension of external objects.46 An
estimative act of apprehension, brought out by the common sense, suces
to explain the apprehension of harmfulness and usefulness of objects. How
does this type of act occur?
According to Olivi, the common sense does not only perceive external
objects, but also pleasures, pains and the overall well-being of the body: he
writes that the apprehension of that which is pleasurable or painful to the
senses, and the apprehension of the perfection or destruction of the body,
belong only to the common sense, with the ve [external] senses attached
to it.47 This idea is based on Olivis view, according to which the sense of

45

In II Sent. q. 74, vol. III, pp. 1212, Olivi also presents an alternative view, according to which
memory species are in fact merged, but he remains unconcerned about the truth of these two
views. The passage from q. 58 suggests that he prefers the view that is based on turning of
attention, not to the view based on merging of the species, since in that passage he does not
mention the other option.
46
Traditionally, this function was explained by postulating a special kind of object, intention
(intentio), which external senses and the common sense were not able to perceive.
47
Sed solius sensus communis cum quinque sensibus sibi connexis est apprehendere delectabile
sensui vel poenale et perfectionem sui corporis vel consumptionem (II Sent. q. 64, vol. II,
p. 604).

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48

touch is able to feel dierent conditions and dispositions of the body. All
the information from the external senses is actualized in the common sense,
and, therefore, the common sense also apprehends the pains and pleasures
of the body.49
The ability to apprehend actual pains and pleasures, however, does not
explain the estimative function. The sheep does not suer pain from a vision
of a wolf. In order to see how the apprehension of pain and the estimative
act of the common sense are related to each other, let us take another
example, which Olivi mentions in passing: a hand that burns in re. When
re burns a childs hand, she perceives the pain immediately, and pulls her
hand away. The common sense perceives the burning of the hand and
apprehends that the re is harmful to the hand and to the well-being of the
child:50 the common sense estimates that re is harmful. The child hopefully
learns that one should not play with re, and it is precisely this learning that
is important, since only someone who has learnt that re is harmful
estimates it as such. How does this type of learning happen? Olivi argues
that there can be habitus in the common sense (or even in the external
senses).51 When the child perceives that re is harmful, the perception
generates a habitus in the common sense, and this habitus aects the
subsequent perceptions of re. Olivi simply regards estimation as a habitus
of the common sense: . . . estimation does not add anything over the
common sense and the imagination, except some habitual estimations or
some dispositions, which determine or incline to estimate in one way or
another.52 This means that when the child learns to perceive that the re is
harmful, there is a corresponding habitus in her common sense. This habitus
accounts for the estimative function, which is present in the perception itself.

48

Yrjonsuuri, Perceiving Ones Own Body, in Theories of Perception in Medieval and Early
Modern Thought, edited by S. Knuuttila and P. Karkkainen (forthcoming).
49
II Sent. q. 58, vol. II, pp. 5023; ibid. q. 64, vol. II, pp. 6045.
50
Praeterea, quando sensus communis sentit dolorem in manu ex eius adustione
causatum: nunquid tunc dictat appetitui illum ignem esse sibi fugiendum tanquam
poenalem et consumptivum? . . . Et e contra, quando canis per sensum communem
sentit se valde delectari et reci ex tali cibo: nunquid tunc dictat et iudicat illum esse
comedendum?
(II Sent. q. 64, vol. II, pp. 6045)
51
Si vero contra quaedam praedictorum obicias quod sensus communis non est
susceptivus alicuius habitus vel habitualis dispositionis: contra hoc est primo
Augustinus, VI Musicae, dicens et experimentis probans quod aliqui ex frequenti
usu probandi et gustandi vina acquirunt maiorem peritiam faciliter iudicandi
bonitatem vel malitiam vinorum ac melioritatem et peioritatem eorum . . . Secundo
probatur hoc ratione: Quia frequens applicatio potentiae ad actus . . . habet aggenerare
in ea aliquam usualem seu consuetudinalem habituationem.
(II Sent. q. 64, vol. II, p. 605)
52
Tertio, quia aestimativa nihil addit supra sensum communen et imaginativam nisi solum
quasdam habituales aestimationes vel quasdam dispositiones determinantes aut inclinantes ad
sic vel sic aestimandum (II Sent. q. 64, vol. II, p. 604).

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A habitus does not necessarily need to be formed through experience. This


is where we join the tradition, and bring the sheep back into the discussion.
Olivi insists that if the sheep is to apprehend the hostility of the wolf, it must
necessarily apprehend the wolf in one way or another:
Namely, when a sheep estimates that a wolf is hostile to it, it is necessary
that it apprehends the thing that it judges to be hostile. For, to apprehend
only the notion of hostility (ratio inimicitiae) is not to apprehend that the
wolf is hostile. It is necessary, that besides the two preceding things, the
sheep at the same time apprehends itself as the end (terminus) of the hostile
relation (respectus). Therefore, when the wolf is absent and the sheep
estimates it by this act, then it must be that the act and the power apprehend
the absent wolf in an imaginative way. On the other hand, when the sheep
estimates and judges the wolf, which it sees or hears to be present, to be
hostile, then the act and the power apprehend the form of the wolf as a
subject of the hostility in way of the common sense. From this, it becomes
clear that the [estimative] power is one and the same with the imagination
and the common sense.53

Olivis idea is that since the other functions of the common sense (perception
or imagination) and the function of estimation are so closely linked to each
other, that they are both needed in the estimative act, they are actually not
acts of two dierent faculties, but of one. It is not the case that one faculty
(the common sense) apprehends an object and another faculty (estimation)
apprehends usefulness or harmfulness, nor is it that these are then somehow
joined together. This would, in Olivis view, lead to a situation in which a
being might apprehend the usefulness or harmfulness, without apprehending
any object whatsoever which, he thinks, is impossible.54 Olivi mentions the
function of imagining an absent object in this context, because he thinks that
it is also possible to estimate an imagined and absent object to be useful or
harmful.

53

Quando enim ovis aestimat lupum sibi esse inimicum, oportet quod apprehendat illam
rem quam sibi iudicat inimicam; apprehendere enim solam rationem inimicitiae non
est apprehendere lupum sibi esse inimicum. Unde etiam ultro duo praedicta oportet
quod simul apprehendat se tanquam terminum illius hostilis respectus. Ergo quando
lupo absente hoc actu aestimat, tunc oportet quod ille actus et eius potentia per
modum imaginativae apprehendant ipsum absentem. Quando vero ipso praesentialiter
viso vel audito ipsum esse sibi inimicum aestimat et iudicat, tunc per modum sensus
communis ille actus et eius potentia apprehendunt formam lupi ut subiectum illius
inimicitiae. Ex quo patet quod illa potentia est una et eadem cum imaginativa et cum
sensu communi.
(II Sent. q. 64, vol. II, pp. 6034)
54
. . . intentiones utilis et inutilis et consimilium non possunt ab aliqua potentia apprehendi, nisi
in simul apprehendat formas sensibiles vel imaginarias quarum sunt huiusmodi intentiones . . .
(II Sent. q. 64, vol. II, p. 603).

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The psychological process is similar both in the case of the sheep who
fears a wolf, and in the case of the child who fears re. The sheep and the
child both perceive an external object by their common senses, and the
objects of these perceptions are intrinsically estimated as harmful because, in
each case, there is a habitus related to the perceived object. The only
dierence is the origin of the habitus. According to Olivi, the habitus of the
common sense can also be innate, and so the habitual estimative perception may be instinctual as well. In Olivis words: in human beings and in
brute animals, there are many habitual estimations generated and bestowed
by both experience and nature.55 There are things that are sought and
shunned instinctually, and there are things whose harmfulness or
usefulness must be learnt before they are actually perceived as harmful or
useful.

Memory
The next faculty that Olivi analyses is the sensitive memory, which is
associated with two dierent functions.56 The rst function is retaining
apprehended things and events, so that they can be later recalled in the
mind. The second function is recalling the retained things in the mind.57 The
latter function can be further divided into two subfunctions; namely,
remembering an absent object, and recognizing a present object as an object
one has apprehended earlier. Olivi sets out to prove that the functions of the
memory belong to the common sense and that, therefore, there is no need
for a separate memorative faculty.
The rst memorative function is retaining apprehended things. The
memory does this by retaining so-called memory species (species memorialis),
which are like images of external objects.58 Olivi diminishes the role of species
in cognitive processes, but he does not deny their existence altogether;59
they have a signicant place in Olivis conception of imaginative and memorative processes. Species are not actions of external objects, which occur on
55
Quod dico, quia tam in homine quam in brutis sunt multae habituales aestimationes tam a
consuetudine quam a natura genitae et inditae. (II Sent. q. 64, vol. II, 603.)
56
Olivi adheres to the Augustinian view on memory, and makes a distinction between sensitive
memory and intellectual memory. I naturally leave the intellectual memory unanalysed in this
context. Being an intellectual faculty, it does not belong to internal senses.
57
Quod autem memorativa ab ipso non dierat probant, et primo, prout memorativa
dicitur illa quae elicit actionem recordandi . . . Secundo probant hoc specialiter de
memoria specierum retentiva. De qua quidem planum est quod ad eam non spectat
nisi solum speciem memorialem recipere et retinere; unde nulla actio sentiendi vel
intelligendi est ab ea, in quantum tali, nisi solum pro quanto fuit de obiecto, id est, de
specie quae tenet locum obiecti.
(II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, pp. 60911)
58
Putallaz, La connaissance de soi, 121; II Sent. q. 36, vol. I, p. 653.
59
Pasnau, Theories of Cognition, 161, 168.

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JUHANA TOIVANEN

passive faculties as an Aristotelian would say.60 Rather, Olivi declares,


. . . every memory species is generated by some actual cognition of an object,
as the gure of a signet ring is generated in wax by an actual imprinting of
wax into the ring or ring into the wax.61 Further, he species that species
that are retained in sensitive memory, are generated in it by an act of the
common sense.62 Olivi explicitly states that a cognitive act of the common
sense generates the species in memory and memory is completely passive in
this process.63
The retentive function is perhaps the most prominent candidate for not
belonging to the common sense, but Olivi makes no exception in this case.
The principle that there is no real dierence between receptive and retentive
faculties, demands that the memory does not dier ontologically from the
other powers of the sensitive soul. Olivi repeats the famous metaphor, which
originates from Platos Theaetetus (the piece of wax and the signet ring) to
illustrate the retentive function, but it becomes clear that he does not think
that the metaphor is felicitous in all respects. The problem with the
metaphor is that the signet ring and the piece of wax are dierent things,
whereas memory species are retained in the very same faculty in which the
acts take place. The metaphor suggests that the common sense (signet ring)
and the retentive memory (piece of wax) are dierent things. Olivi, nevertheless, does not hold them as separate:
As the power that receives an act of perceiving or understanding and receives a
habitus (which is left and caused from the act) is not absolutely (simpliciter)
dierent from the power that eects the act . . . so the power that receives and

60

For example, Aquinas thought that:


Ex hoc enim aliquid in actu sentimus vel intelligimus, quod intellectus noster vel
sensus informatur in actu per speciem sensibilis vel intelligibilis. Et secundum hoc
tantum sensus vel intellectus aliud est a sensibili vel intelligibili, quia utrumque est in
potentia.
(ST I.14.2)
61
. . . omnis species memorialis generatur per aliquam actualem cognitionem obiecti, sicut
sigillaris gura cerae fuit genita per actualem impressionem cerae in sigillo vel sigilli in cera
(II Sent. q. 74, vol. III, p. 116).
62
Praeterea, species retentae in memoria sensuali generantur in ea per actum sensus communis
(II Sent. q. 58, vol. II, p. 509); Also imaginative acts of common sense may generate a species in
memory (II Sent. q. 58, vol. II, p. 505).
63
Dicunt enim quod sicut ad primas impressiones agentium educuntur aliqua in materia
patientis de potentia eius quae remanent post absentiam impressionis, sicut in cera
remanent gurae post actualem impressionem sigilli: sic ad actum sensus communis
educuntur in memoria species quasi de potentia eius . . . et ideo possunt remanere in ea
post absentiam actuum sensus communis. Unde isti memoriam nullo modo ponunt
activam respectu huiusmodi specierum, sed solum passivam, sicut nec cera est respectu
gurarum quas retinet.
(II Sent. q. 58, vol. II, pp. 5078)
It becomes clear from the context that, despite the impersonal expression, this is Olivis view; see
also II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, p. 611.

PETER OLIVI ON INTERNAL SENSES

447

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retains species (which are left from the aforementioned act) is the same power
as the one that eects the act.64

The common sense acts and this act generates a memory species, but the species
is retained in the common sense itself. It is as if the common sense were simultaneously the ring and the piece of wax or, rather, it is as if the common sense
were a curious piece of wax with an ability to form itself into dierent shapes and
then retain those forms.65 Leaving the metaphors aside, Olivi clearly holds that
the retentive memory is nothing but the common sense itself.
Olivi thinks it is necessary to posit memory species (images of external
objects), because of the other function Olivi places under the name of the
sensitive memory, namely that of recollecting previously apprehended objects.
He stresses the intentionality of mental acts: every mental act must have an
object in which it terminates. If one apprehends a present object, the intentional object of the act is the external object that is present. What about when
there is no object present, for instance, when someone imagines something?
Olivi says that
cognitive acts are eected by a power, but not only by its bare essence. Rather,
actual attention, which actually terminates in an object, is required in every
act . . . Therefore, when an external thing is not the object of attention, it is
necessary that some memory species be the object of attention instead of the
thing. The memory species is not a principle of the cognitive act except in a
manner of a terminative and representative object.66
64

Sicut autem potentia receptiva actus sentiendi vel intelligendi et habitus ex illo actu
relictus et causatus non est simpliciter alia a potentia eectiva ipsius actus . . . sic
potentia receptiva et retentiva specierum relictarum ex actu praedicto est eadem cum
potentia eectiva illius actus
(II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, p. 611)
Unde per actum sensus interioris generatur species in sua memoria sensuali, hoc est, in
capaci et materiali sinu eiusdemmet potentiae cuius fuit ipse actus
(II Sent. q. 74, vol. III, p. 116)
65
This metaphor is not, after all, without any support from Olivi. When Olivi presents his idea
of the imaginative act, which combines two or more memory species (II Sent. q. 58, vol. II,
pp. 5067), he uses Platos metaphor in a reversed way: the imaginative act is a piece of wax,
which applies itself to dierent signet rings (in this case, they represent dierent memory
species). Here we have a metaphor by which the common sense is represented by a piece of
wax nay, an active piece of wax. Of course, this reverse metaphor has the same problem as the
traditional: signet rings and pieces of wax are dierent things, whereas, according to Olivi,
memory species are retained in the common sense.
66
dico quod actus cognitivi eciuntur a potentia, non tamen per solam nudam
essentiam eius, immo in omnibus exigitur actualis aspectus super obiectum actualiter
terminatus . . . Et ideo, quando res exterior per se non obicitur aspectui, oportet quod
loco rei obiciatur aspectui aliqua species memorialis, quae non est principium actus
cognitivi nisi solum per modum obiecti terminativi et repraesentativi
(II Sent. q. 74, vol. III, p. 113)
(For more details, see ibid. 11517.) See also II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, p. 613; ibid.
Quaestiones de Deo cognoscendo. q. II, vol. III, p. 507; I follow the practice of Pasnau
in translating aspectus as attention. See Pasnau, Theories of Cognition, 132.

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Every cognitive act must have a terminative object, and that is why Olivi
postulates species in memory. When there is an intentional mental act but
no corresponding external object present, in which the act could be terminated, species that are retained in memory serve as terminative objects of the
act. Memory species are objects of mental acts that are related to absent
objects, i.e. imaginative acts of the common sense.
The third memorative function Olivi analyses is recognition. It is one
thing to remember an absent friend and quite another to see a person and
recognize him, remembering having seen him before. According to Olivi,
recognition is a rather complicated process, and includes many psychological acts. He writes:
For when a dog recognizes its master, it compares the master seen at the
moment to the master as seen before, and the same applies to whatever road it
follows as previously known and familiar to it, dismissing the other roads.67

Recognition presupposes, therefore, that one thing is apprehended simultaneously in two dierent ways: a dog apprehends its master as an external
object that is present, and the very same master as a previously seen object. The
latter is the same thing as remembering the master as an absent object, since
. . . an object can be represented by memory species only as absent, even when
it is being seen as present by another act.68 There are, therefore, three dierent
acts in the mind of the dog: the rst is a perception of the master here and now
by external senses and the common sense; the second is a recollection of the
master, and this takes place by the memory species of the master becoming an
object of an act of the common sense; the third is an act by which the two other
acts are related to each other.69 This should probably not be understood as
meaning that the dog rst sees its master, then searches from memory for an
image that corresponds to the master, and only after nding the right image
recognizes the master; rather, the perception of the master evokes the image of
the master from the memory and these two are then compared. Familiarity
does not presuppose comparison, but comparison is built into recognition, and
recognition happens simultaneously with perception.
These two memorative functions do not dier from the common sense
either. Olivi argues against pluralists who held that apprehending the notion
of the past or pastness (ratio praeteriti, praeteritus) is the proper function
of memory. Olivi interprets this to mean that it is possible to apprehend
pastness without apprehending anything else, and he does not accept this
67

Quia quando canis recognoscit dominum suum, tunc confert ipsum ut nunc visum ad eundem
ut prius visum, et idem est de quacunque via quam reliquis dimissis sequitur tanquam sibi prius
notam et assuetam. (II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, pp. 60910).
68
. . . per species autem memoriales non potest praesentari obiectum nisi ut absens, etiam dum
per alium actum praesentialiter videtur. (II Sent. q. 74, vol. III, p. 119).
69
See II Sent. q. 79, vol. III, p. 162, where Olivi argues that the act that compares two other acts
to each other is necessarily distinct from them.

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449

view. According to him, . . . pastness is not a notion that could be


apprehended without the thing to which it is attributed.70 It is not possible
to apprehend the past as such. Olivi supports his view with arguments that
are very similar to those he uses when he argues that imagination and
estimation are not ontologically dierent from the common sense. The point
of his argument is that pastness is inapprehensible in itself:
In addition, it is impossible to take something as present or past without
apprehending the thing to which the presence or the pastness is attributed.
Therefore, the power that recollects that some thing is past and that it has seen
the thing before, apprehends two things simultaneously, namely, the thing and
the pastness of that thing. But to apprehend a thing as absent belongs to the
imaginative power and to apprehend it as present belongs to the common
sense with some particular sense attached to it. Therefore, etc.71

The apprehension of pastness belongs to the common sense or imagination.


Because Olivi has already shown that these two are inseparable, he is in a
position to argue that there is no such faculty as the memory, even though
there are psychological processes that are memorative.72
This applies both to recollection of absent objects and to recognition
of present objects. The following paragraph shows this in relation to
recollection:
Likewise, not only when a human being, but also when a dog or a wolf
recollects a past spanking or threat that it faced earlier, and it is, because of

70
. . . praeteritio enim non est ratio apprehensibilis absque re ipsa cui attribuitur. (II Sent. q. 66,
vol. II, p. 613).
71
Item, impossibile est aliquid accipi ut praesens vel praeteritum, quin eo ipso
apprehendat id cui attribuit praesentiam vel praeteritionem. Ergo potentia quae recolit
hoc vel illud esse praeteritum et se illud hactenus vidisse apprehendit simul duo,
scilicet, ipsam rem et suam praeteritionem. Sed istam rem ut absentem apprehendere
est potentiae imaginativae, ipsam vero ut praesentem apprehendere est sensus
communis cum aliquo sensu particulari sibi connexo. Ergo et cetera.
(II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, p. 610)
72
Even the ability to remember the intentions (useful, harmful, etc.) is not possible without
apprehending the thing to which they belong, and therefore an imaginative act (which is an act
of the common sense) is needed in remembering that something was useful, harmful or
something akin to them.
Memorari intentionum aestimabilium illasque memoriter retinere non potest eri sine
retentione et memoratione illarum rerum vel formarum quibus huiusmodi intentiones
attribuuntur et quarum sunt respectus . . . Ergo frustra et impossibiliter ponitur alia
esse potentia memorativa et retentiva intentionum aestimabilium et alia formarum
imaginabilium.
(II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, p. 611)
Remembering of intentions must of course be understood in the same way as estimative
imagination no intention is remembered but a habitus corresponds to a memory species and
renders the memorative act estimative.

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this recollection, afraid to do something it would otherwise do; it surely


perceives and discerns by senses that the threat is not present now, but has
taken place earlier. Therefore, the same power that discerns that the menaces
are not taking place at the moment, also recollects that they have taken place
earlier. But the rst power is the common sense. Therefore, etc.73

The basic idea behind this text is Olivis conviction that if two acts can be
compared to each other, they take place in the same faculty. Therefore, if the
dog recollects that it was beaten in the past, and apprehends that it is not
beaten now, it must be able to compare these two experiences to each other.
In other words, it must be able to judge that the memory of the beating is a
memory, and that the beating is not taking place at the moment. Since the
apprehension of not being beaten is achieved through the common sense,
the recollection must also be the act of the common sense.
Finally, recognition also takes place through an act of the common sense.
Olivis argument in favour of attributing this function to the common sense
is based on the same principle as the attribution of recollection to the
common sense: the ability to compare two dierent things to each other
becomes possible only if one and the same faculty apprehends those things.
In Olivis words:
They prove that the memory does not dier from the common sense, rstly, as
far as the memory means that which elicits an act of recollecting. For, when a
dog recognizes its master, it compares the master seen at the moment to the
master as seen before . . . Therefore the power, which compares these to each
other, apprehends them both simultaneously. But the power, which actually
apprehends that it sees the master at the moment, is the common sense.
Therefore, the same power apprehends that it has seen the master before, and
this is the same as to remember.74

As all these instances show, Olivis conviction is that the memorative


functions cannot be separate from the other psychological processes.
73

74

Item, non solum, quando homo, sed etiam quando canis vel lupus recolit praeteritam
percussionem vel comminationem sibi hactenus factam, ita quod propter hanc
recordationem timet aliquid facere quod alias faceret: tunc utique sentit et sensualiter
discernit illam comminationem tunc sibi non eri de praesenti, sed prius factam fuisse.
Ergo eiusdem potentiae cuius est discernere illas minas tunc sibi non eri est et recolere
sibi prius factas fuisse. Sed primum est sensus communis. Ergo et cetera.
(II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, p. 610)
Quod autem memorativa ab ipso non dierat probant, et primo, prout memorativa
dicitur illa quae elicit actionem recordandi: Quia quando canis recognoscit dominum
suum, tunc confert ipsum ut nunc visum ad eundem ut prius visum . . . Ergo potentia
conferens ad invicem illa apprehendit simul utrumque. Sed illa quae actualiter
apprehendit se tunc dominum suum videre est potentia sensus communis. Ergo illa
eadem apprehendit se prius vidisse illum, hoc autem est idem quod memorari.
(II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, pp. 60910)

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451

Both types of recollection are active apprehensions, by which a thing is


apprehended with the notion of the past. Since the notion of the past does
not demand a faculty of its own, apprehension of things under it does not
belong to a special faculty but to the very same faculty, to which all the
other apprehensive acts belong.

Cogitation
Olivi begins his exposition on the identity between the cogitation and the
common sense by presenting a view of his adversaries. The main point in
their view is that the cogitation is a faculty that brings together all information provided by the other internal senses. In Olivis words:
Does the cogitation, which combines and compares all the acts and objects of
the aforementioned powers [dier from them]? It is the opinion of some of
those mentioned earlier, that it diers from the aforementioned powers. . . .
Some of them say that estimation suces for this in beasts, whereas, in human
beings, reason (which moves and governs those other powers completely) is
sucient together with the other powers.75

According to Olivis adversaries, the cogitation is the centre of experience,


where all acts of the dierent faculties are conjoined. It is a function of either
the estimative faculty or reason, depending on whether or not one has
reason.
Olivi rejects the idea, that the cogitation diers from other faculties, nor
does he accept that the function of cogitation is located in estimation or
reason. He argues that the common sense and the cogitation are identical.
To be sure, estimation cannot be the seat of the cogitative function, since,
according to Olivi, there is no such faculty as estimation. In addition, Olivi
claims that the cogitative function cannot be conned solely to reason
either, since, he points out, by experience we discover that brutes, children
and insane people also have all the functions of the sensitive soul.76 Even if
the function of combining acts of dierent faculties and governing the

75

Quantum etiam ad septimum, an scilicet cogitativa quae omnium praedictarum actus


et obiecta componit et confert [dierat a praedictis potentiis]. Est quorundam
praedictorum opinio quod dierat a praedictis . . . Quidam vero ex eis dicunt ad hoc in
brutis sucere aestimativam, in homine vero cum his sucit ratio istas altius movens
et regens.
(II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, p. 609)
76
Et quidem hoc aliqualiter clamat experientia qua in brutis intellectu carentibus videmus
huiusmodi potentias sensitivas et etiam in infantibus et amentibus quod sunt actus earum
absque actu intellectus (II Sent. q. 67, vol. II, p. 616). This can be seen also from several other
passages.

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JUHANA TOIVANEN

faculties may belong to reason in human beings,77 the function must be


attributed to some faculty of the sensitive soul, so that operations of
irrational creatures can be explained. There are not many from which to
pick, so Olivi attributes the function of cogitation to the common sense, and
concludes his exposition on the identity between all the internal senses by
writing:
It becomes patent from the foregoing, that if some sensitive power combines
and compares all the objects of aforementioned [powers] to each other, it is the
common sense. Certainly, it is necessary that the common sense, which combines and compares everything, apprehends and reigns over everything. It is as
able to do this when we actually perceive sensible things as when we imagine
them as absent.78

From this passage we can see that in non-human animals the common sense
has the same role in providing awareness and enabling a unitary
phenomenal self as the intellect in human beings. The common sense is
both the ontological and the phenomenal subject of all the psychological
acts of an irrational creature, and in that way, it produces an experience of a
unitary self.

5. CONCLUSION
Olivi argues in favour of a unity between the internal senses. He thinks that
the psychological functions that the pluralistic theories attributed to
separate faculties can be explained by attributing dierent kinds of act to
the sole internal sense, the common sense. According to Olivi, faculties are
separate from each other only if they can produce their acts alone, without
the co-operation of other faculties. Correspondingly, faculties are one in
reality, if their acts come together to form a single complete act. This is what
happens in the acts of the internal senses.

77
Intellect at least makes judgements concerning the acts of the common sense (II Sent. q. 58,
vol. II, p. 509).
78
Ex praedictis autem patet quod si aliqua potentia sensitiva omnia obiecta
praedictarum ad invicem componit et confert, quod illa est sensus communis. Et
certe, oportet quod illa, quae omnia componit et confert, omnia apprehendat et regat,
nec minus hoc poterit, dum res sensibiles sentimus actu quam dum eas imaginamur
absentes.
(II Sent. q. 66, vol. II, p. 613)
Ergo in sensitiva anima animalium oportet dare unam potentiam omnibus aliis
praesidentem omnesque regentem.
(II Sent. q. 62, vol. II, p. 589)
See also II Sent. q. 62, vol. II, p. 587.

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The ontological unity provides a basis for a phenomenal unity of experience.


By being the ontological subject of all the psychological acts, the common
sense is also the phenomenal subject. The common sense entails awareness, not
only of acts of the external senses, but also of the content of other psychological acts: by having the acts it enables awareness of their contents. As a
result, non-human animals also have a unitary self. The common sense is the
phenomenal subject of all experiences: there is experiential unity of the self,
who has a unitary experience despite the variety of acts.
Olivis theory unquestionably proves that there were critics of pluralistic
theories of the internal senses as early as in the thirteenth century. There
were critical voices even before Olivi, but Olivi gives a comprehensive
analysis and makes insightful arguments, by which he tries to prove that
only one internal sense should be postulated.
University of Jyvaskyla, Finland

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