Asst. Prof. Dr. Therese Scarpelli Cory
Universität: Seattle University
Mitglied seit 25.06.2012
Medieval theories of cognition, influence of Arabic philosophy in 13th-century Latin authors (especially Thomas Aquinas)
"The Function of Intellectual Light in Aquinas and His Sources" (research project at Würzburg University)
Förderbeginn July 17th, 2012
One of the most prominent features of thirteenth-century theories of cognition is that they posit an “intellectual light” that makes thinking possible, analogous to the physical light that makes vision possible. To contemporary readers, this “light” has often seemed to be the black box of medieval cognition theories, a metaphor substituted for an explanation, providing medieval authors with a convenient way to fill in gaps in their cognition theories. One reason for the difficulty of recapturing the medieval way of thinking about intellectual light is that contemporary readers tend to focus too narrowly on its role in abstraction of universals and judgment of truth. But medieval thinkers took intellectual light to be responsible for a much wider variety of activities, including also attention, cognition of first principles, self-knowledge, and even practical judgment. Thus in my view, one cannot uncover what this intellectual light is, or what its explanatory value is, without establishing what unites these various functions, and why the medievals believed it to be a necessary part of so many intellectual activities.
My current research project seeks to clarify the way in which Arabic theories of physical and intellectual light shaped the theory of cognition in one of the most prominent Latin medieval authors, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). I will be tracing the contribution of the key sources that shaped medieval thought on intellectual light, focusing on the Arabic tradition, in order to uncover what paradigms are behind the different roles that Aquinas assigns to intellectual light in his theory of cognition. In this way, the project seeks to recover what it really means for Aquinas to conceive of “thinking about something” as “shedding light on something.”