Remarks on Cogitatio in Averroes' Commentarium Magnum in Aristotelis de Anima Libros

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Averroes and the Aristotelian Tradition

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DOI: 10.1163/9789004452756_013


In his seminal 1935 study of the internal senses in medieval2 thought, Harry Austryn Wolfson presented a detailed account of the development of the "classification and terminology" of the Greek, Arabic, Hebrew and Latin traditions on sensory powers which he called, "post-sensationary faculties,"~ that is, powers which are posterior to the five external senses. In explaining the complex development of teachings on the internal senses from Aristotle's texts, Wolfson recounted the Aristotelian understanding of Galen who specifically locates the OHXVOTl'ttKOV or cogitative faculty in the middle ventricle of the brain and John of Damascus whose equally Aristotelian account follows the Stagirite (De Anima III 7, 43lal4-l 7; Metaphysics VI 4, 1027b29-30) in attributing judgments of good
and bad as well as combination and separation of ideas to the omvoTl'ttKTJ 'lfUXTt or the cogitative soul and to ouxvma or cogitation.4 One of the many fruits of Wolfson's discussion was an explanation of the development of the Avicennian doctrine of estimation (wahm, in Latin estimatio, sometimes existimatio) as arising
"out of a desire to supplement a deficiency which seemed to exist in Aristotle's account of the actual motion of pursuit and avoidance which is observed in both man and animal. "5 With wahm used to describe instinctive behavior consequent upon non-rational animal imagination analogous to human reasoning or deliberation (A.oytcr'ttKil, ~OUA£U'ttKll), Wolfson wrote, the Arabic fikr now was to
be associated with imagination and no longer was to be seen as simply the power of combining and separating ideas. "In the case of ouivotcx combined with imagination, it is the combination and separation of images, i.e., the construction out of images of things existent, new composite images of things nonexistent, or the breaking up of images of things existent into images of things nonexistent."6 From this moment on, and not without some foundation in Aristotle's own texts as indicated, fikr/ cogitatio and their related derivative terms are used to characterize human rational powers which are essentially activities involving the body
and bodily instruments insofar as imagination is necessarily bodily.


Averroes and the Aristotelian Tradition, (1999): 217-255. DOI.