Active Mind vs. Passive MindJune 26, 2021
It is necessary for the mind to make an abstraction in order to bring forth the forms which are its proper object. Reason is in the beginning a potential situation against the knowledge of the physical world.
However, in order to make the abstraction necessary to make the physical world actual in terms of knowledge, the imagination needs to present the mind itself with the material to be abstracted. The images that emerge in the senses as a result of sensation continue to preserve their individuality. The part of the mind, which is a two-part faculty, that performs the act of abstraction is called the active mind. Active mind is like a kind of light. As Aristotle stated in De Anima 430 a15, light makes potential color actual.
In the Aristotelian theory of perception, the colors in the world can only be seen as actual under light. When a comparison is made between the senses and the mind based on light, it is possible to say that the mind has a light that can make physical objects actually intelligible. Thinking light and mind together is not an approach unique to Thomas Aquinas. We know that the entire Neoplatonic tradition is of similar opinion, with different interpretations that may lead to some minor differences in meaning. In particular, we can establish a certain kind of similarity between the Augustinian understanding of enlightenment (illuminatio) and Thomas Aquinas’ approach here.
The active mind creates intelligible objects (concepts) that the passive mind needs to realize the act of understanding. For this, he needs images that maintain their individuality. The image is a structure that would never emerge without sensation. According to Thomas Aquinas, whenever any movement arises due to actual sensation, this movement must resemble the act of sensation (that is, whatever is being felt at the moment), and imagination is such a form of activity. Therefore, in the description of the imagination, it has a mode of action in cooperation with the external senses.
Images have individual characteristics because they still have audible form, and therefore they are not yet in the form that reason needs to realize the act of understanding. In order for them to be transformed into this form, that is, the intelligible form, all their individualizing features must be extracted from them. The process of extracting these individualizing features by the active mind is called abstraction.
According to Thomas Aquinas, imagination is a kind of movement derived from the senses in the actual situation. Therefore, the imagination is a direct mover. Mobility here must be understood in terms of revealing man’s foreknowledge of individual existences. Imagination works like a mind; Through his images, he helps people to determine their attitude towards those objects, even if they are not the objects they point to.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook