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Is intuition possible apart from sense data?

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  • Is intuition possible apart from sense data?

    The scholastic holds that there is nothing in the intellect that is not first in the senses. Does this collapse intuition into the intellect? Should they be seen as two separate faculties? If not, wouldn't the intuitive dimension of the intellect undermine this scholastic epistemological principle by being the locus of innate ideas, concepts we are aware of apart from sense data from which to abstract them?

  • #2
    Originally posted by RomanJoe View Post
    The scholastic holds that there is nothing in the intellect that is not first in the senses. Does this collapse intuition into the intellect? Should they be seen as two separate faculties? If not, wouldn't the intuitive dimension of the intellect undermine this scholastic epistemological principle by being the locus of innate ideas, concepts we are aware of apart from sense data from which to abstract them?
    I would say that rational inuition is developed through sense experience.

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    • #3
      I think this view can be read in a way that is compatible with the intuitive dimension of the intellect. It is not some kind of radical empiricist claim; it is just the observation that our ideas are mediated by sense experience.

      I can have a priori knowledge of a number of things, but I first need to be able to form concepts and for that I need the mediation of the senses. The senses provide the intellect with the phantasmata/mental images from which we can derive concepts, and then by our intellectual contemplation of the concepts we can have intuitions.

      So I don't think this view is in any way incompatible with intuitions.

      That being said, intuitions play less of a role in Aristotle's and Aquinas's philosophies than they do in, say, rationalist philosophies. But that is not to say they don't think we can have intuitive knowledge or come to know self-evident a priori metaphysical truths.

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      • #4
        What is intuition here?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Greg View Post
          What is intuition here?
          Truths we assent to that aren't a product of abstraction from the physical world.

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          • #6
            Ah. Generally scholastics will hold that powers are specified by their formal objects. The formal object of the intellect is truth. Any other power which also had truth as its formal object would be the intellect. So there could not be a distinction between intellect and anything else with the formal object as truth, as you seem to be conceiving intuition.

            Aquinas thinks that the intellect has three acts. The first is simple apprehension of concepts, by which one acquires, e.g., the notion of dog. The second is combination or separation, by which one judges that two concepts go together or come apart, as when one judges that dogs are four-legged (one combines the notions of dog and of four-leggedness). Then there is inference, whereby one syllogizes from judgments one already has made, as when one reasons that because dogs are four-legged, and everything four-legged is an animal, that dogs are animals.

            On the face of it I don't see intuition as providing a counterexample to the scholastic dictum, as I would think that it is either a special way of combining or separating concepts, or else a special way of syllogizing (moving from some knowledge to other knowledge)--that is, some way other than the familiar Aristotelian canons of deductive inference. Or are you supposing that intuition is giving one new concepts, albeit not on the basis of sensation? That would I think be in tension with the scholastic dictum. (The scholastic dictum is just about the normal human way of knowing. The beatific vision would be a case in which an object of the intellect is given but not through sensation. But it exceeds natural human powers.)

            Aristotle and Aquinas thought that the human intellect was fit to know material natures. That raises a question about what knowledge of the soul or of angels could be like. My understanding is that Duns Scotus denied this and held that the human intellect was fit simply to know natures. However I don't know whether he on that basis denied the scholastic dictum.

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