Sunday, April 25, 2010

Panaccio on Mental Representation

The following is fromf Claude Panaccio's article "Mental Representation" in the new Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy. It took a while, but my local library finally got a copy. Shockinly, Petrus Thomae actually made it into the lengthy bio section at the end of volume 2, as did Antonius Andreae, a definite improvement on the Noone-Gracia volume (though, since we already have the Noone-Gracia volume, I am not convinced we needed another set of bio-bibliographical summaries). But, no Peter of Navarre or Anfredus Gonteri (unless they used a different spelling), and indeed, there seems to be very little on early scotism in the volume, and nothing at all on the neoplatonist rhineland dominicans. But what can one do, when the main inspiration is still the analytic style of studying medieval philosophy. At least there was some interesting material on early ockhamism/terminism. There was even a brief paragraph on intelligible being, which I reproduce below. Oddly, however, the author does not mention esse subiectivum, without which no discussion of esse obiectivum is complete. Nor does he refer to more than the first question of Alnwick's treatise (these volumes go out of their way to point out translations...Alnwick's q.1 has been translated by Pasnau), nor does he refer to Petrus Thomae's treatise on the topic, perhaps unsurprisingly as neither do Dominik Perler nor L.M. De Rijk both of whom have written on intelligible being.

p. 352: "...the conformality thesis: the reduction of intentionality to some identity of form between the knower and the known."


p. 354: "Another medieval idea that is sometimes connected with the conformality thesis is that of "objective being" (esse objectivum), as it is found, saliently, in the work of Scotus. Scotus's writings on this topic are notoriously difficult, yet on one plausible reading - suggested, for instance, by Scotus's close disciple William of Alnwick - the idea of objective being neither depends upon nor favors the conformality thesis. An object x, on this terminology, is said to be objectively in a mind y if and only if x is the object of a cognitive state of y - if and only if, in other words, x is represented in y somehow. Think of a book about Julius Caesar. It could be correctly said, in the relevant sense, that Caesar is objectively in the book, not because he is hidden in the pages in some ghostly way, but simply because he is referred to in the book. Thus understood, the idea of 'objective being' presupposes that of being an object for a cognitive state, and can hardly serve, consequently, as the basis for a satisfactory account of intentionality."

1 comment:

Scott Williams said...

Hmm. Two thoughts:

1. We all know that the technical use of 'esse obiective' is prior to Duns Scotus' use of it. For example, Henry of Ghent uses it fairly extensively. I don't know whether Henry is the source for it, but I've yet to find someone else to use it before Henry.

2. I'd like some clarification on how such an account isn't satisfactory for intentionality. I mean, I understand how it's insufficient as an account of the truth of some mental proposition (that's obvious), but as regards the 'aboutness' of a mental act, I was under the impression that it is supposed to be sufficient. So, my guess is that the concern here is about being intellectually aware of extra-mental singular objects. In this case, 'esse obiective' won't work. However, I don't think the job description for 'esse obiective' was supposed to explain intellectual cognition of singulars. In which case, to criticize a theory for not doing what it doesn't aim to do seems out of place.

So, it seems, the criticism here is a more general one about an Aristotelian approach to intellectual cognition of singular objects. Why assume at the start that intellectual acts have universal mental content, and not singular mental content? Or better, why be an internalist about mental content, rather than an externalist?