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Perception and Experience – Is there a Difference?

1 Leave a comment on Absatz 1 3 The ’non-rational‘ camp in the early modern debate about the Aristotelian conception of experience is represented by the Scotist Antonius Andreas. Also known as Doctor dulcifluus or Scotellus, he was born in the Aragonese city of Tauste (approx. 1280) and seems to have died around 1320. He entered the Franciscan Order at around 1295, studied first at the studium generale in Lérida, later in Paris with Duns Scotus himself. (More detailed biografical information can be found in M. Gensler, “The making of a Doctor Dulcifluus: Antonius Andreae’s contribution to the formation of Scotism”, Anuari de la Societat Catalana de Filosofia 1996, S. 57-67). Andreas’s position is taken into account here, because it provides a reference point for early modern debates on the topic of experience. In the following, I refer the Leipzig edition of his Quaestiones super duodecim libros Metaphysicae Aristotelis published before 1494 (EMTO 43427).

2 Leave a comment on Absatz 2 1 For Andreas, there is no relevant difference between the epistemic roles of experience and sensation:

3 Leave a comment on Absatz 3 1 […] et sit ista prima conclusio quod ad habendam noticiam incomplexam de principiis quae est de terminis simplicibus necessaria est cognitio sensitiva. seu experimentalis.

4 Leave a comment on Absatz 4 1 […] it is my first conclusion that in order to be aware of principles in a non-complex manner, i. e. to be aware of simple terms, sensitive or [my emphasis, S. H.-W.] experiential cognition is required. (fol. 11 v)

5 Leave a comment on Absatz 5 1 Accordingly, Andreas includes in his discussion of experience a lengthy digression on the exact interplay of internal and external senses in the process of knowing in order to explain how knowledge is based on input from the senses (cf. fol. 11 r sq).

6 Leave a comment on Absatz 6 2 Andreas’s Dominican adversary Chrysostomus Javellus argues against this view and assumes a ‚rational‘ relevance for experience in the process of acquiring knowledge. Javellus was born in the Italian city of Casale at c. 1470, and died in Bologna at around 1538. He graduated as bachelor of theology in 1513 and as master in 1515. A student of Cajetan, he gained some notoriety for his controversy with Pomponazzi concerning the status of the rational soul (cf. Jacob Schmutz, „Iavelli (Javelli), Crisostomo“, http://www.scholasticon.fr and the electronic edition of Thomas Uecker, „Javelli, Chrysostomos“ in: Biografisch-Bibliografisches Kirchenlexikon vol. 2, Hamm 1990, col. 1581 sq.).

7 Leave a comment on Absatz 7 0 For Javellus, the perceptual input required for ‚apprehending‘, i. e. grasping the content of concepts cannot be experiential (in this context he refers explicitly to Andreas’s stance):

8 Leave a comment on Absatz 8 0 Quaeritur [sc. Scotistis], si illa cognitio sensitiva necessaria pro habenda cognitione intellectiva incomplexa terminorum, debeat appellari experimentalis. […] Scotistae, ut patet in q. 4. Ant. Andr. in sua prima conclusione, ponunt indifferenter talem cognitionem, esse sensitivam, seu experimentalem, ita quod super hoc non faciunt vim. […] Terminus vero incomplexus, ut incomplexus, cognoscitur cognitione incomplexa, sicut complexus complexa, ergo ibi non cadit experimentum propriae dictum, […] (Javellus, In omnibus metaphysicae libris quaesita testualia metaphysicali modo determinata, Venetiis 1583, fol. 14 v sq.)

9 Leave a comment on Absatz 9 0 It is asked [sc. by Scotists] whether the sensitive cognition which is required for the intellectual cognition of non-complex terms, should be called experiential. […] Scotists, as can be seen in the first conclusion of q. 4 [sc. in] Antonius Andreas, hold that such a [sc. sensitive] cognition can be perceptual or experiential, and they do not see any difference. However, a non-complex term, insofar as it is non-complex, is cognised by a non-complex cognition. The same is true for a complex term which is cognised by a complex [sc. cognition], so in the first case, there is no experience, properly speaking.

10 Leave a comment on Absatz 10 0 So there is a profound qualitative difference between sensation and experience that mirrors the difference between non-complex and complex intellectual cognitions, i. e. the apprehension of simple terms and assent to conjunctions of terms (propositions).

11 Leave a comment on Absatz 11 0 Javellus explains this in some more detail. The input from the senses that is required for the apprehension of (the content of) terms is ‚confused‘. It conveys an awareness of how to apply a term to objects (awareness of the quid nominis), but no insight into essential properties of the objects falling under this term (awareness of the quid rei):

12 Leave a comment on Absatz 12 0 […] cognitio incomplexa terminorum, requisita ad cognoscendum principia complexa, non est notitia perfecta quid rei terminorum, sed est notitia confusa parum excedens cognitionem quid nominis. (Javellus, fol. 15 r)

13 Leave a comment on Absatz 13 0 […] non-complex cognition of terms, which is a requirement in order to cognise complex principles, is not a perfect awareness of the essence of the [sc. objects falling under the] terms, but rather a confused awareness that barely exceeds [sc. the kind of] cognition which must be presupposed for correct usage of the term.

14 Leave a comment on Absatz 14 0 In contrast, experience is a form of complex sensitive cognition. This is the case because it is the cognition of a complex object:

15 Leave a comment on Absatz 15 0 Quantum spectat ad viam nostram, adverte primo, quod experimentum est cognitio sensitiva complexa, eo quod est collatio multorum particularium. Nam dicit philosophus in textu, quod experimentum est cognoscere hanc herbam curasse Socratem, et Caliam, et multos singulares, ergo manifestae patet, quod experimentum est notitia sensitiva, et per consequens deservit notitiae intellectivae complexe, tam principiorum quam conclusionum. (Javellus, fol. 15 r)

16 Leave a comment on Absatz 16 0 In our [sc. the Thomist] way of arguing, take note that an experience is a complex sensitive cognition, because it collates many particulars. The philosophers says in the text [sc. Met. I.1] that an experience consists in the cognition that this herb has cured Socrates, and Calias, and many individuals. Therefore, it is manifestly clear that an experience is [sc. a form of] sensual cognition that serves intellectual cognition insofar as it [sc. experience] is complex, [sc. that is] cognition of principles and conclusions.

17 Leave a comment on Absatz 17 0 Such a complex sense-based cognition is a necessary prerequisite for assent to a given propositional content, because this assent to a propositional content presupposes more than just an awareness of the content of the concepts contained in that proposition.

18 Leave a comment on Absatz 18 0 Quod autem huiusmodi notitia non solum sit utilis, sed et necessaria, probatur. Nam oportet assignare aliquod motivum, et determinativum intellectus, ad formandam hanc universalem propositionem. […] Hoc autem motivum, et determinativum non potest esse sola notitia terminorum incomplexa, cum ut incomplexa non magis determinat intellectum ad hanc complexionem quam ad illam. (Javellus, fol. 15 rfol. 15 r)

19 Leave a comment on Absatz 19 0 It is proven that such awareness [sc. experience] is not merely useful, but necessary [sc. for intellectual cognition of propositions]. We must presuppose something that moves and determines the intellect to form [sc. precisely] this general proposition. […] This something that is capable to move and determine the intellect cannot be non-complex awareness of terms [sc. perception], because its lack of complexity is unapt to determine the intellect to this complexion [sc. of terms. i. e. proposition] rather than to another.

20 Leave a comment on Absatz 20 0 In other words, mere awareness of the content of simple terms, even if it is mediated by input from the senses, does not render us capable to give or withhold assent to the connection of these terms in a proposition. For this, we need input from the senses that does not merely relate to the objects of the respective simple terms. It is the relation of these objects that we must be sensually aware of. So in order to give or withhold assent to propositions, we must have awareness of the fact stated in the proposition, insofar as this awareness is mediated by the senses. This awareness is evidence for the fact that objects really are connected in the way the proposition states:

21 Leave a comment on Absatz 21 0 Nam experimur, quod habentes notitiam terminorum, nisi cognoscamus sensu tales terminos coniungi in re, nescimus formare principium complexum, […](Javellus, fol. 15 r)

22 Leave a comment on Absatz 22 0 As experience shows, we do not know how to form a complex principle, even when being aware of the terms, unless we perceive that these terms are connected to one another in reality.

23 Leave a comment on Absatz 23 0 Experience, however, is not the only requirement. In order to acquire scientific knowledge, the intellect has to play its role as well. Here again, Andreas’s and Javellus’s positions are incompatible.

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