Edited by Mark Stahlman, Peter Berkman, and Adam Pugen

Editorial Introduction, i-xii PDF

Mark Stahlman, Peter Berkman, and Adam Pugen

Dianoetikon: A Practical Journal is a publication of the Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL).  We are a strategic research group engaged in educational and advisory services. Our mission includes the commitment to develop a new range of social sciences, with a particular focus on psychology and economics. This first issue explores Faculty Psychology and, in particular, the organization and practical implications of the Inner Senses,” which are the subconscious seat of human perception. This Introduction includes sections on the Center, this Journal, details of the contents of this volume, background on our study of the Inner Senses, our plans for future research.

The Inner Senses and Human Engineering, 1-26 PDF

Mark Stahlman

Knowledge of Faculty Psychology, a topic which describes Western understanding of the psyche from 4th-century BC Aristotle's Peri Psychethrough more than two millennia of commentary and application, was quickly replaced with “experimental” psychology in the 19th-century, a shift that persists through to today.  In this process, many thought that the human “soul” was not suitable for empirical examination, so it was abandoned for this psychological research. As a result, psychology lost its philosophical/theological foundations and instead often turned into an effort to engineer “better” humans.  New “images” of what it meant to be human were proposed and the goal of engineering a new society often became the motivation for psychological inquiry. Our view is that this shift has had mostly negative results, neither making humanity more sane nor more happy, while resulting in a society that increasingly seems consumed by chaos. Accordingly, we believe that a retrieval of Faculty Psychology is urgently needed for our current digital-age.

Psychology Beyond Technocracy: Marshall McLuhan, Magda Arnold, and the "Meaning Crisis", 27-48 PDF

Adam Pugen

The tradition of faculty psychology is brought to bear on contemporary online discourses purveying the sense of a "meaning crisis" in western consciousness. Taking the social media outreach and scholarly research of psychology professors Jordan Peterson and John Vervaeke as some of the most influential commentary on what Vervaeke has popularly labeled the "meaning crisis," this paper offers the media scholarship of Marshall McLuhan and the psychological theory of Magda Arnold as more compelling sources both for defining the so-called "meaning crisis" and for addressing it. Explicating Arnold's retrieval of Thomas Aquinas' discussion of the "cogitative sense" in her psychology of the emotions, this paper uses Arnold's work to shed light on McLuhan's theory of media environments in order to contextualize the "meaning crisis" in relation to the psychic attitudes correlative to electric and digital technologies. 

The McLuhans and the Inner Senses, 49-68 PDF

Peter Berkman

By the time Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) converted to the Catholic Church in 1937, faculty psychology – definitively treated in St. Thomas Aquinas’s commentaries of Aristotle – had been abandoned.  Shaken by technological revolutions, McLuhan was confronted with the question of how different forms of media shape our senses & modes of perception.  He believed that in an age of constant change and mass confusion, new sciences had to be invented to meet this task.  Today, that field is known as “Media Ecology”.  Marshall based his work on St. Thomas’s doctrine of an inner sensory power called the “common sense”, but nowhere does he have an explicit account of the other three inner senses accepted by St. Thomas: the imaginative power, the cogitative power, and the memorative power (each situated in different parts of the brain).  Instead, Marshall’s work treated only with media as altering the balance and ratio among the five exterior senses: with particular media mainly tending toward either a visual or audile-tactile bias.This oversight has left the question of what different technological environments do to the inner senses unanswered, and even unasked by any psychologist. Today many search for a way to make McLuhan relevant to our own technological revolutions, but we can’t hope for a fair or useful account unless we take his basic assumptions along with the deficiencies of his times. McLuhan has never been considered on his own terms, and today he is praised for reasons which would have baffled and annoyed him. We will start with the Catholic Church’s failed effort to revitalize St. Thomas Aquinas’s faculty psychology in the late 19th century, continue with McLuhan’s relationship with his various Thomist mentors as he adapted their assumptions to his own work, and finally discuss the meaning of McLuhan’s explorations in light of a fuller account of the inner senses as understood by St. Thomas Aquinas. In doing so, we hope to establish an adequate “anthropology” with which to contend with the problem of Media Ecology, accounting for human life and activity amidst rapidly changing media environments.

A Forgotten Sense: The Cogitative According to St. Thomas Aquinas, 69-110 PDF

Julien Peghaire

Originally published in 1943, Peghaire’s essay is an in-depth study of the vis cogitativa, a sensory power which had been obscured for centuries by the physicalist bent of experimental psychology. Distinct from, although functioning in concert with, the other internal senses (sensus communis, imagination, and memory), the cogitative power, according to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas, possesses a number of closely related roles in human perception.  As an analog to the animal estimative power, the cogitative power (also called the “particular reason”) apprehends what is useful and harmful in perceptual objects not merely through an inborn instinct but also through a comparison (collatio), informed by reason, of particular cognitive objects or “intentions.”  Accordingly, the cogitative power allows humans to perceive the concrete individual not only in terms of its immediate value or harm, but also in terms of its instantiation of a “common nature” or universal. It is this function of the cogitative to serve as a bridge between the particular data of the senses and the universal concepts of the intellect that allows the cogitative both to prepare the “phantasms” retained by the imagination to be intellectually apprehended as universals, and to conduct abstract understanding back down to its relationship and application to concrete singulars. Since the intellectual virtue of prudence depends upon the application of universal moral principles to concrete situations, the cogitative power, Peghaire notes, is vital to the exercise of this virtue, making the cogitative power key to practical human life.

The Inward Wits: Psychological Theory in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, 111-138 PDF

 E. Ruth Harvey

University of Toronto medievalist E. Ruth Harvey’s 1975 study "The Inward Wits: Psychological Theory in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance" is noteworthy due to its tracing of the doctrine of the inner senses (or “inward wits”) within the context of medieval medicine.  In the 10th century treatise The Royal Book written by the Persian court physician Haly Abbas and translated into Latin in the 12th century as Regalis dispositio, Harvey finds an exemplary instance of the medieval medical concern to foster a working harmony between body and soul in the “hybrid” human disposition.  Correlating bodily functions and organs to the hierarchical formation of three levels of “spirit” – the natural spirit (liver and veins), vital spirit (heart, arteries, respiration, and passions), and animal spirit (brain and nervous system) – Haly holds that it is mens, the highest power of the animal spirit, which comprises phantasiacogitatio, and memoria, each of whose impairment is implicated in distinct bodily and mental conditions.  Haly’s account, Harvey notes, represents the model of human physiology accepted by medieval learning; descriptions of the inner senses of phantasiacogitatio, and memoria (along with the Aristotelian sensus communis), would be taken up, refined, and debated upon, by the Arabian philosopher Avicenna and, later, Thomas Aquinas, the latter of whom would accept much of Avicenna’s commentary, but reject his dissociation of the intellectus agens from material perception. 

The Common Sense: Perfection of the Order of Pure Sensibility, 139-164 PDF

Bernard J. Muller Thym 

Written in 1940 by Marshall McLuhan’s close friend and Thomist mentor Bernard J. Muller Thym, this article differentiates the common sense from the other internal senses in Thomist psychology by arguing that, unlike imagination, cogitation, and memory, the common sense participates neither in the ratio (discursive reasoning) nor in the intellectus (intellective seeing) of human apprehension.  Contrary to what Aquinas’ teacher Albertus Magnus taught, the object of the common sense, Muller Thym asserts, is not the so-called “common sensibles” (such as movement, shape, and number), but rather the unified apprehension or “perfection” of the objects of the external senses.  Just as the intellect is the terminus of the phantasms of the imagination, the common sense is the terminus of the proper sensibles of the external senses.

The Cogitative Power: Aquinas' Development of His Predecessors' Views, 165-174 PDF

Mark J. Barker

Examining the Aristotelian commentaries of Avicenna, Averroes, and Aquinas, Mark J. Barker, a philosophy professor at the Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, details how Aristotle’s “deliberative imagination,” “passive intellect,” and “particular reason” were formulated by these later commentators as the inner sense of the “cogitative power” occupying the middle ventricle of the brain. Integrating Avicenna’s notion of the animal “estimative power” with Averroes’ discussion of the human “cogitative power,” Aquinas emphasized the key role of cogitation – as the embodied medium for apprehending singulars – to all intellectual operations of the human being. Barker lists six functions of the cogitative power, as specified by Aquinas. The more “sense-related” functions Barker defines as the perception of (1) the useful and the harmful and of (2) the particular individual. The more “intellect-related” functions Barker defines as (3) preparing phantasms for abstraction, (4) serving as an instrument for the intellect’s indirect apprehension of the singular, (5) producing the minor premise of the Aristotelian “practical syllogism,” and (6) reasoning from one particular to another.

 The Interior Sensorium in Media Ecology: Justification for Study, 175-186 PDF

Dennis D. Cali

Noting the traditional media ecological study of the impact of media environments on sensory perception and consciousness, professor of communications at the University of Texas Dennis D. Cali looks to Eric McLuhan’s discussion of the four senses of scripture in medieval exegesis as a potential launching pad for an investigation of the “interior sensorium” informed by mystical philosophy. Cali offers four justifications for a media ecological study of the interior sensorium: he proposes that such a study may (1) enrich our knowledge of human consciousness, (2) combat deterministic theories of media through identifying areas of human sensibility potentially unaffected by external sensation, (3) increase philosophical understanding of the human person as a mind-body unit, and (4) promote a holistic theory of knowledge, beyond such historically foundational dualisms as subject-object, inner-outer, mind-reality.

The Cogitative in Cornelio Fabro: For a Non-Dualist Philosophy of Perception, 187-204, PDF

Juan Jose Carlos Sanguineti

This paper considers the relevance of the theory of the cogitative power in Aquinas, as highlighted by Cornelio Fabro during his early research in the fourth decade of the past century, in contemporary neuropsychological studies, and particularly as a specific way of overcoming a dualistic approach in the psychology of perception. The thesis is coherent with an anthropological view based on the substantial unity between soul and body. As a consequence, the capacities of the cogitative faculty (estimative in animals) involve a special account of perception, irreducible to pure thought and to sensations as well, an account that is present in the psychological view of M. Merleau-Ponty and J. J. Gibson.

Faculty Psychology: Bibliography (Selected and Annotated), 205-215, PDF



Mark Stahlman

The Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL) is a not-for-profit strategic research group dedicated to understanding the effects of digital technologies on civilizations -- both East and West.

-Mark Stahlman