Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

South, James B.

Second Advisor

Sweeney, Eileen

Third Advisor

Jones, John D.


This project is guided and motivated by the question concerning the nature of the phantasm as that which mediates between sensation and intellection in John Duns Scotus' account of cognition. Scotus embraces Aristotle's claim that the intellect cannot think without the phantasm. The phantasm is in a corporeal organ, yet the immaterial intellect must act with it to produce an intelligible species. In this project I examine the critical elements of Scotus' cognitive theory in order to understand the nature of the phantasm.

In the first chapter I discuss key elements of Aristotle's metaphysics and give a close, textual reading of De Anima guided by his claim that the relationship of the body and soul is highly specific. I then focus on his claim in De Anima 2.12 that sensation involves the reception of the sensible form without the matter.

In the second chapter, I discuss Scotus' key theological notions that guide and inform his cognitive project. The beatific vision requires the presence of the divine essence in its own existence to the intellect. As the highest cognitive experience, the beatific vision is definitive of all cognitive experience making the presence of the object to the cognitive faculty of central importance. The discussion of the incarnation shows that the world is sacralized and thus, is a worthy object of cognitive attention in itself.

In the third chapter, I discuss Scotus' understanding of the body-soul relationship focusing on his notion of person to both secure the unity of the human being and to ground the mediation between sensation and intellection.

In the fourth chapter, I first discuss Aquinas' claim that sensation requires a spiritual change. While Scotus's account is in many respects the same as Aquinas', Scotus does not maintain that sensation is primarily passive and is thus, able to account for cognitive attention by way of his understanding of the unity of the sense organ, immanent actions, and sensation as intuitive cognition. What emerges in this discussion is Scotus' particular understanding of an intentio by which the nature of the phantasm can be understood.

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