Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Where ideas come from?

Given the fact that the human mind in mature life is in possession of such universal ideas, or concepts, the question arises: How have they been attained? Empiricists and Materialists have endeavoured to explain all our intellectual ideas as refined products of our sensuous faculties. Plato conceives them to be an inheritance through reminiscence from a previous state of existence. Sundry Christian philosophers of ultra-spiritualist tendencies have described them as innate, planted in the soul at its creation by a Deity.
Man has a double set of cognitive faculties - sensuous and intellectual. Aisthesis, the "sense", as a faculty, apprehends changing phenomena, and nous, "thought", "reason", "intellect", is presenting to humans the permanent, abiding being. All knowledge starts from sensuous experience with no innate ideas : external objects stimulate the senses and effect a modification of the sensuous faculties which results in a sensuous percipient act, a sensation or perception by which the mind becomes cognizant of the concrete individual object, e.g., some sensible quality of the thing acting on the sense. Because sense and intellect are powers of the same soul, the latter is now wakened, as it were, into activity, and lays hold of its own proper object in the sensuous presentation. The object is the essence, or nature of the thing, omitting its individualizing conditions. The act by which the intellect thus apprehends the abstract essence, when viewed as a modification of the intellect, was called by the Schoolmen species intelligibilis; when viewed as the realization or utterance of the thought of the object to itself by the intellect, they termed it the verbum mentale. In this first stage it prescinds alike from universality and individuality. But the intellect does not stop there. It recognizes its object as capable of indefinite multiplication. In other words it generalizes the abstract essence and thereby constitutes it a reflex or formally universal concept, or idea. By comparison, reflection, and generalization, the elaboration of the idea is continued until we attain to the distinct and precise concepts, or ideas, which accurate science demands.
It is important to note that in the "Scholastic theory" the immediate object of the intellectual act of perception is not the idea or concept. It is the external reality, the nature or essence of the thing apprehended. The idea, when considered as part of the process of direct perception, is itself the subjective act of cognition, not the thing cognized. It is a vital, immanent operation by which the mind is modified and determined directly to know the object perceived. The psychologist may subsequently reflect upon this intellectual idea and make it the subject of his consideration, or the ordinary man may recall it by memory for purposes of comparison, but in the original act of apprehension it is the means by which the mind knows, not the object which it knows — est id quo res cognoscitur non id quod cognoscitur. This constitutes a fundamental point of difference between the Scholastic doctrine of perception and that held by Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and a very large proportion of modern philosophers. For Locke and Berkeley the object immediately perceived is the idea. The existence of material objects, if we believe in them, can, in their view, only be justified as an inference from effect to cause. Berkeley and idealists generally deny the validity of that inference; and if the theory of immediate perception be altogether abandoned, it seems difficult to warrant the claim of the human mind to a genuine knowledge of external reality. In the Scholastic view, knowledge is essentially of reality, and this reality is not dependent on the (finite) mind which knows it. The knower is something apart from his actualized knowing, and the known object is something apart from its being actually known. The thing must be before it can be known; the act of knowledge does not set up but presupposes the object. It is of the object that we are directly conscious, not of the idea. In popular language we sometimes call the object "an idea", but in such cases it is in a totally different sense, and we recognize the term as signifying a purely mental creation


Wayne World said...


Wayne World said...

I am from the school that believes "an idea" is something separate from an object. In other words, a tire is just a black , bouncy, round object. But to conceive a tire being used in conjunction with three others to enable a car to move is an
"idea" purely separate from any inference that can be drawn from just the observation of a tire. An "idea" is purely the ability of one's brain to take known truths and apply the known with an inference drawn by an individual not bound to the mere fact of what he or she perceives.