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Quaestio 12/2012

Annuario di storia della metafisica

Annuaire d’histoire de la métaphysique
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ISBN 978-2-503-54355-0
ISSN 1379-2547
Quaestio 12/2012
Intentionality and Reality
Intenzionalità e realtà

a cura di Costantino Esposito e Pasquale Porro

Costantino Esposito e Pasquale Porro
Università degli Studi di Bari «Aldo Moro»

Comitato Scientifico / Comité Scientifique /

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Boulnois (École Pratique des Hautes Études - Paris) • Mario Caimi (Buenos Aires) • Vincent
Carraud (Paris-Sorbonne) • Mário Santiago de Carvalho (Coimbra) • Jean-François Courtine
(Paris-Sorbonne) • Alain de Libera (Genève / Collège de France, Paris) • Giulio d’Onofrio
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Premessa IX

Intentionality and Reality

Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 3

Ontologia dei contenuti ideali.
Essere oggettivo e realtà nel dibattito Descartes-Caterus 25

L’intentio animi nella sintesi agostiniana di Cornelis Jansen 79

Locke’s Theory of Ideas and the Myth of the Given 101

L’Ouverture écossaise : Brentano critique de Bain 123

Conoscenza della realtà e realtà come conoscenza.
Il punto di vista di Bernard Bolzano 153


The Road to ideelle Verähnlichung. Anton Marty’s Conception
of Intentionality in the Light of its Brentanian Background 171

Thoughts Concerning Anton Marty’s Early Conception of Intentionality.
Was He Thinking what Brentano Was Thinking? 233
VI Indice

Le réel et ses signes : Brentano et Husserl
sur l’engagement ontologique de l’intentionnalité 243

Husserl: intenzionalità versus realismo? 263

Das historische Apriori bei Husserl und Foucault – Zur philosophischen
Relevanz eines Leitbegriffs der historischen Epistemologie 291

Wittgenstein on Intentionality and Representation 343


Actualidad e intencionalidad en Zubiri 369


To Think Is to Literally Have Something in One’s Thought 395

Idealism, New-Realism and Pragmatism:
The American Debate on Reality from Royce to Lewis 423

Naturalizing Intentionality between Philosophy and Brain Science.
A Survey of Methodological and Metaphysical Issues (1969-2011) 449

New Realism: A Debate

A Few Questions about the New Realism 484

Responses to Quaestio 485

The Two Faces of Realism 503

Truth without Certainty? An Open Question into New Realism 515

New Realism and Scientific Realism 535

Mathematical Realism: What’s New? 551
Indice VII

Da Atene a Baghdad (e oltre).
Ancora sul rapporto tra filosofia araba ed eredità greca 569

Henry of Ghent on Human Knowledge and Its Limits 589

Note Cronache Recensioni

Transzendentalphilosophie zwischen Scholastik und Kritik 617

Gli “altri” Levinas: ontologia, tempo e politica
a colloquio con la pensée nouvelle 620

Indice dei nomi 629

Intentionality and Reality
Intenzionalità e realtà
Jörg Alejandro Tellkamp

Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species

1. Introduction

It has become somewhat customary to approach the Medieval and Early Modern
history of intentionality with a brief characterization of Franz Brentano’s Psy-
chologie vom empirischen Standpunkt1. In doing so it is easy to get the impres-
sion that intentionality is primarily concerned with the phenomenological study
of mental contents2. Although Brentano mentions some of the precursors of his
own theory of intentional inexistence – Aristotle and Aquinas – it seems that his
stance is closer to Aureoli’s3. In this respect, it will be argued in this article that
the Jesuit thinker Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) resembles Aureoli as well as
Brentano and that he could be considered the missing link in the history of theo-
ries of intentionality closing the gap between the 14th and the 19th century.
Historically speaking it is obvious that Medieval and Early Modern concep-
tions of intentionality are derived from the notion of intentio, which has initially
been introduced by the Latin translation of Avicenna’s De anima in the 12th cen-
tury. According to Avicenna perceptual as well as intellectual content is said to
be intentional, when it points at a set of complex states of affairs, which cannot
be grasped by the exterior senses. Therefore he thinks that intentiones have to
be grasped not by the external senses, but by the inner senses, mainly the esti-
mative power4. Intentiones have ultimately the purpose of clarifying a host of

1 Recent examples are T. AHO, Suárez on Cognitive Intentions, in P. BAKKER / J.M.M.H. THIJSEN (eds.),

Mind, Cognition and Representation: the Tradition of Commentaries on Aristotle’s De anima, Ashgate,
Aldershot 2007, pp. 179-203; D. PERLER, Theorien der Intentionalität im Mittelalter, Klostermann, Frank-
furt am Main 2002, pp. 1-11 and pp. 399-411 and K. HEDWIG, Intention: Outlines for the History of a Phe-
nomenological Concept, in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 39 (1979), pp. 326-340.
2 Cf. F. BRENTANO, Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt, vol. 1, ed. O. Kraus, Meiner, Hamburg

1973 [reprint of the edition of 1924], p. 125.

3 As for instance in Peter Aureol’s theory of intentionality, cf. PERLER, Theorien der Intentionalität cit.,

pp. 253-294.
4 AVICENNA, De anima, I, 5, vol. 1, ed. S. van Riet, Peeters, Louvain / Brill, Leiden 1972, p. 89:

«Quaestio», 12 (2012), 3-23 • 10.1484/J.QUAESTIO.1.103609

4 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

problems associated with the description of mental processes and contents and
their relation to the material world5. Yet it has recently been vividly discussed
what ontological status the intentiones have. Are they features of the material ob-
ject?6 Are they produced by the sensible mind?7 If so, do they reveal anything
relevant about the material world after all or should they be regarded only inso-
far as they are present in the cognizing subject? To those questions Suárez offers
an account of how intentional knowledge comes actively about in the mind, while
still pointing at the material world through a causal theory of his own.
Suárez’s work is thought to be at very junction of Scholasticism and Modern
Philosophy. While his style and method still shows his reliance on the traditional
way of academic work, he nevertheless begins to adopt a different attitude, which
can best be appreciated in the fact that he considers himself a philosopher. No
medieval or later scholastic theologian dared to do so. His most important work,
the Disputationes Metaphysicae, is not only an impressive monument to his
thought, but it also went far beyond his own time influencing modern meta-
physics8. There are, however, aspects of his thought that did not immediately
transcend confessional and philosophical barriers, as the Disputationes Meta-
physicae did, especially his psychology. In fact, his commentary on Aristotle’s
De anima, although written in his early years as scholar was not published un-
til 1621, four years after his death. In what follows, I shall focus mainly on this

“Deinde est vis aestimationis; quae est vis ordinata in summo mediae concavitatis cerebri, apprehendens
intentiones non sensatas quae suret in singulis sensibilibus, sicut vis quae est in ove diiudicans quod ab
hoc lupo est fugiendum, et quod huius agni est miserendum; videtur etiam haec vis operari in imaginatis
compositionem et divisionem”. As will be shown below, Suárez dismisses the idea of sensibilia non sen-
sata; cf. F. SUÁREZ, De anima, III, 30, 15, ed. D.M. André, Vivés, Paris 1856 (Francisco Suárez Opera Om-
nia 3), p. 708.
5 D.N. HASSE, Avicenna’s ‘De anima’ in the Latin West. The Formation of a Peripatetic Philosophy of

the Soul 1160-1300, The Warburg Institute, London / Nino Aragno, Turin 2000.
6 Regarding Avicenna’s theory, Hasse has interpreted the intentiones as features of material objects,

which have to be conceived as existing independently from the mind, thus coining the expression “con-
notational attributes”; cf. HASSE, Avicenna’s ‘De anima’ in the Latin West cit., pp. 132 sqq.
7 Albert the Great, for instance, thinks that the intentiones are brought about (elicitur) by the cogni-

tive apparatus in particular by the estimative power; cf. ALBERTUS MAGNUS, De anima, II, 4, 8, ed. C.
Stroick, Aschendorff, Münster 1968 (Opera Omnia, 7/1), p. 158, 17-20: “In prima autem parte mediae
cellae cerebri, quae calida est ex motu multi spiritus ad ipsam, posuerunt aestimativam, quae elicitiva et
activa est intentionum”.
8 On Suárez, see J. GRACIA, Francisco Suárez: The Man in History, in American Catholic Philosophi-

cal Quarterly, 65 (1991), pp. 259-266; R. MINER, Suárez as Founder of Modernity: Reflections in a Topos
in Recent Historiography, in History of Philosophy Quarterly, 18 (2001), pp. 17-36.
9 C. LEIJENHORST, Cajetan and Suárez on agent sense: Metaphysics and epistemology in late Aristote-

lean thought, in H. LAGERLUND (ed.), Forming the Mind: Essays on the Internal Senses and the Mind/Body
Problem from Avicenna to the Medical Enlightment, Springer, Dordrecht 2007, p. 250, note 31, notes that
the differences between the Vivès edition and the newer critical edition prepared by Salvador Castellote
texts are considerable. And although the Vivès edition is based on the first print of 1621, being the ver-
Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 5

The Commentary on De anima is not what the reader of medieval texts would
expect of a commentary. Rather than commenting ad litteram Aristotle’s text, he
uses it as a platform in order to shed light on a series of problems regarding the
nature of the soul, perception and intellectual knowledge. In this respect his
Commentary resembles much more Avicenna’s De anima than, for instance, Al-
bert the Great’s Commentary on De anima. Yet the point of departure of many of
the topics Suárez discusses is not only medieval, but there are also many writ-
ers of the Italian Renaissance and the Spanish Humanism to whom he refers as
well as to many Dominican and Jesuit contemporaries, such as Francisco Tole-
do and Domingo Bañez. He copiously quotes the likes of Augustine, Thomas
Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, Durandus of St. Pourçain, Thomas de Vio (Cajetan),
and also Agostino Nifo, Marcantonio Zimara y Juan Luis Vives.
Although his commentary denotes the fresh attitude towards philosophical
sources typical of someone at the beginning of his academic career, it is a noto-
riously difficult text, mainly because it preserves the formal characteristics wor-
thy of any Scholastic text, but also because of the sheer number of citations and
references inserted in it. Also does Suárez’s own sometimes cumbersome style
impede an easy access, being a far cry, for instance, from Descartes’ fluid prose.

In this article, I intend to draw a picture of Suárez’s epistemology in which it will

be crucial to assess his point of view regarding realism, causality and the role of
the intentional species. The key issue, which Suárez takes from medieval dis-
cussions, consists in asking what mental content is and how it refers to the ex-
ternal world. This question, however, entails a description of the relationship be-
tween the mental powers, i.e. the inner senses and the intellectual powers. Al-
though those questions seem to have a quite medieval tone to it, they lead to so-
lutions, which already seem to be modern. At the core of Suárez’s debate re-
garding the nature of perception and intellection is his notion of intentional
species that helps explaining the following thesis, which shall be addressed in
the present article:
(1) The senses, external as well as internal, and the intellect are active po-
tencies; the mental content they produce is not necessarily, yet sufficiently de-
pendent upon external causes.
(2) The intellect, which in the hierarchy of cognitive powers is supreme, de-
pends formally, although not causally on the imagination.
(3) A brief account of Suárez’s theory of accidental causality paves the way

sion that has been historically received, I will cite Castellote’s edition in full and indicate in brackets the
corresponding passage of the Vivès edition whenever both texts coincide.
6 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

for a proper understanding of the relation between the material objects and the
external senses and also as to how the inner senses and the intellect are con-
joined with the experience of particular sense objects. Since Suárez rejects the
passivity of the senses and the intellect on ontological grounds, he offers a nov-
el causal explanation for the acquisition of knowledge, suggesting that the con-
junction of material objects and cognitive processes is brought about by an in-
trinsic congruence (sympathia, consensus) of both.
In the first place I will give a sketch of the historical background for Suárez’s
theory of the intentional species, in which the Dominican Durandus of St.
Pourçain plays a fundamental role. Secondly, I will dwell on Suárez’s own theo-
ry of the intentional species examining (a) its meaning, then (b) the causal con-
ditions for the production of the intentional species, (c) the role of the inner sens-
es and (d) of the intellect. All this should ultimately show that Suárez sustains a
realist theory of cognition, which, however, is based on his peculiar way of ac-
counting for causality, with which he set himself apart from the 13th century par-
adigm regarding the efficacy of the species in medio.

2. Species intentionalis

The concept of species has many meanings not only in metaphysical contexts, but
also in relation with epistemological concerns. In the medieval tradition the term
species is generally used to clarify how the intellect does refer to particular or
universal properties of material objects10. In introducing the term species inten-
tionalis, Suárez not only is keen to show that the content of sense knowledge is
about something, but that it also plays a fundamental role in the explanation of
how sense knowledge is produced. This is the main sense Suárez prefers to con-
fer it, i.e., as explaining the cognitive content human beings acquire when they
know something. Hence, according to the medieval tradition species can be de-
fined functionally as that by which the process of knowing leads to the knowl-
edge of individual or universal substances11. Insofar as the species is the mental
representation of a cognitive content, its function consists in being the quo of
knowledge, and not the quod. This means that the species are the means of know-
ing the external world under particular or universal aspects, but they are not
themselves the objects known. It seems that Suárez agrees with this traditional

10 Cf. L. SPRUIT, Species Intelligibilis. From Perception to Knowledge; vol. 1: Classical Roots and Me-

dieval Discussions, Brill, Leiden 1994, p. 4.

11 SPRUIT, Classical Roots and Medieval Discussions cit., p. 6.
Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 7

Thomasian assumption. It has to be noted that in the following I will not always
make a clear distinction between sensible and intelligible species, mainly be-
cause both types of species are comparable insofar they are intentional in na-

a. The species intentionalis according to Durandus of St.-Pourçain

In order to adequately understand Suárez’s theory of the intentional species, it

proves to be useful to go back to one of his main sources on this matter, Duran-
dus of St.-Pourçain (c. 1270-1332)13. His influence on Suárez is obvious due to
the continuous mentions he makes of the Dominican’s Commentary on the Sen-
tences; he considers him a valuable source even when he disagrees with him.
Nevertheless, on the issue of the intentional species, Durandus is Suárez’s main
source, with whom he disagrees only occasionally. Also is his stance more con-
cise than Suárez’s, and given his relevance a short analysis of his theory of the
intentional species will be given14.
According to Durandus, the concept species generally stands for representa-
tions or images; yet the question has to be answered as to why and how repre-
sentations can lead to the knowledge of that which is represented. In order to
produce knowledge, the species need to reflect in a significant way that which
is being represented. The assumption, however, that the representation achieved
by the species is a sufficient condition for producing knowledge is rejected by
Durandus, since no representation does in itself imply knowledge15. It seems
more plausible to assume that knowledge of an object is achieved on the basis

12 F. SUÁREZ, De anima, vol. 2, d. 5, q. 1, ed. S. Castellote, Editorial Labor, Madrid 1981, p. 286, ll.

51-54: “Haec est fere communis omnium philosophorum et theologorum qui in potentiis cognoscitivis po-
nunt similitudines [quasdam] objectorum, ut per [illas] objecta [uniantur] potentiis; et eas vocant species
intentionales” [SUÁREZ, De anima, III, 1, ed. Vivès, p. 314]. See also SPRUIT, Classical Roots and Medieval
Discussions cit., p. 297.
13 The edition referred to here is: DURANDI A SANCTO PORCIANO, Petri Lombardi Sententias Theologicas

Commentariorum Libri IIII, ex Typographia Guerreae, Venetiis 1571. Recently the volumes II/1 (ed. Re-
tucci) and IV/4 (ed. Jeschke) of the critical edition of Durandus’s Commentary on the Sentences have been
published; DURANDI A SANCTO PORCIANO, Scriptum super IV Libros Sententiarum, editio curandae praesidet
Andreas Speer, Peeters, Leuven-Paris-Walpole 2012. Unfortunately the tome containing the theory of the
intentional species is still being prepared.
14 Cf. SPRUIT, Classical Roots and Medieval Discussions cit., pp. 281-283.

15 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 6, q. 6, n. 11, ed. Venetiis, f. 139va: “Item talis species si duceret in cog-

nitionem alterius hoc faceret ratio similitudinis. Unde communiter vocatur similitudo rei, et sic haberet
rationem imaginis, imago autem ducens in cognitionem illius cuius est imago est primo cognita quod non
potest dici de tali specie, ergo etc. Et sine dubio de se videtur absurdum quod potentia cognitiva ducatur
in cognitionem alicuius per tale repreaesentativum, quod est sibi totaliter incognitum”.
8 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

of a previously acquired knowledge of what the object grasped is16. No species,

which according to Durandus has to have an esse reale, has per se an intrinsic
property such as to represent in a significant way an exterior object; this can on-
ly be achieved when the species contains a certain directionality, which he iden-
tifies with the notion of intentional being (esse intentionale).
There are two aspects, which imply a distinction between the real and the in-
tentional being of a species17. In all this Durandus quite consciously sets forth
an interpretation of the intentional being that differs from that of his fellow Do-
minican Thomas Aquinas18.
The intentional being of the species has a primary meaning, which is based
on the way the intellect works (per operationem intellectus)19. In this regard, Du-
randus thinks of logical intentiones, like genus, species, etc. This meaning of in-
tentional being, however, does not bear any significance on the acquisition of
The notion of species intentionalis also refers to something with a diminished
or imperfect being (esse imperfectum)20. This imperfect being allows for three dif-
ferent interpretations21. (a) It means that it does not have to have a permanent
being (esse permanens) very much like movements and, generally, events in time
that are not permanent22. (b) It can also refer to things which, in order to exist,
require a proximate natural cause (causa proxima naturalis)23. Durandus notes,
however, that these two meanings of esse imperfectum do not explain how knowl-
edge is acquired and constituted. (c) Its third meaning does, insofar as the
species’ imperfect being not only refers to the proximate natural cause, but also
to that which perfects it. Hence it could be said that light or the species in medio
have somehow (aliquo modo) an intentional being24. Since no species has the in-

16 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 6, q. 6, n. 11, ed. Venetiis, f. 139va: “Contrarium enim verissimum est,

videlicet quod per notum ducitur in cognitionem ignoti”.

17 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155rb: “Esse intentionale potest dupliciter accipi.

Uno modo prout distinguitur contra esse reale [...]”.

18 See J. TELLKAMP, Aquinas on Intentions in the Medium and in the Mind, in Proceedings of the Amer-

ican Catholic Philosophical Association, 80 (2006), pp. 275-289.

19 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155rb: “[...] Propius modus accipiendi intentionem,

et esse intentionale”.
20 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155va: “Esse autem intentionale est esse imper-

21 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155rb: “Alio modo dicitur aliquid habere esse in-

tentionale large, quia habet esse debile adhuc tripliciter”.

22 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155rb: “[...] Quia non habent suum esse simul sive

permanens, sed in successione ut motus et tempus [...]”.

23 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155va: “[...] Quia ad sui existentiam requirunt

prae-sentiam suae causae proximae naturalis [...]”.

24 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155va: “[...] Dicitur aliquid habere esse debile
Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 9

trinsic property of referring to something exterior, it seems that Durandus has to

deny the existence of species in medio as having intentional content. This forces
him to emphasize the fact that the intentional being of the species is not inde-
pendent from the mind25. Light and the species in medio are thus described ac-
cording to the function they accomplish: they are the quo whereby the soul tends
towards an object of cognition26. This functional characterization of the species
as the quo of knowledge also indicates that an intentional content has to be at-
tached to them, and in this regard they can produce material change in the world,
i.e., in the cognitive apparatus, because species with such a intentional content
are truly natural things (cum sint vere res naturales)27.
To say that the intentional species are truly natural things seems to be at odds
with Durandus’ emphasis on the complete dependence of the intentional species
on the functioning of the mind. But it has to be kept in mind that the intention-
al species play a causal role in the mind’s directing itself to exterior objects. It
what follows the influence of Durandus on Suárez should be pretty obvious.

3. The species intentionalis according to Francisco Suárez

In medieval discussions about the nature of knowledge, usually a great deal of

en-ergy has been used to show how human beings and animals are able to cog-
nize the exterior world. Whereas during the first half of the 13th century differ-
ent forms of direct realism dominated the discussion, it is not until the end of
that century that the assumptions of that realism, mainly its recurrence to the
species in medio are criticized by thinkers like Henry of Ghent, and later on, by
Aureoli and Ockham28.
Direct realism is understood as “the view that physical objects are after all
themselves directly or immediately perceived in a way that allegedly avoids the
need for any sort of justificatory inference from sensory experience to physical

non solum per comparationem ad causam proximam, sed quia deficit a perfectione propriae speciei. Et
sic lumen et species in medio habent esse debile quod etiam potest dici aliquo modo intentionale”.
25 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155va: “Istud autem potest dici aliqualiter inten-

tionale, sicut enim dictum est prius intentio propriissime ad actum animae pertinet, illud igitur potest ali-
qualiter dici intentionale quo anima tendit in alterum. Hoc etiam alludit nomini”.
26 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155va: “Intentionale enim dicitur quo in alterum

tenditur, sed lumen in medio, et species coloris sunt huiusmodi, ratione enim imperfecti non terminant
actum animae, sed sunt illud quo anima tendit in obiectum”.
27 DURANDUS, In Sent. II, d. 13, q. 2, ed. Venetiis, f. 155vb: “[...] Mediantibus eis [v.g. intentiones-J.T.]

tendit anima in obiectum. Tales autem formae intentionales cum sint vere res naturales possunt esse prin-
cipium realium actionum, non solum animalium, sed etiam naturalium. Nam et animales actiones sunt”.
28 See again PERLER, Theorien der Intentionalität cit.
10 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

reality”29. If we add the causal explanation, as it is set forth by authors like

Thomas Aquinas, then it might be concluded that sense knowledge and even in-
tellectual knowledge depicts the exterior world ceteris paribus exactly as it is.
Furthermore, the qualitative features of the material objects are the cause for
their being represented in the mind. Those representations, which are located in
the inner senses (fantasy, memory and cogitativa or aestimativa), are individual,
but through the activity of the agent intellect their material features – Aquinas
calls them appendices materiae – can be abstracted from their individuality, thus
becoming universals. Having this traditional 13th century view in mind, Suárez
goes about distinguishing four aspects.
(1) Matter individualizes extramental things.
(2) The mental representations (phantasmata) of individual objects are ma-
terial in nature. Since those objects are, ontologically speaking, of an inferior
kind, they are not capable of having a causal influence upon the intellect30.
(3) The universal representations, of which Suárez occasionally talks of as in-
telligible species, do not have material properties and they refer to the substan-
tial core of material objects.
(4) Sensible or intelligible species exert a certain causality in the sense that,
generally speaking, a representation Y causes a representation Y’.
The concept of species helps to characterize mental representations general-
ly. The species, however, have to be distinguished from the raw sense data (col-
ors, sounds, etc.), since those data are the immediate result of organic changes
(e.g., in the eyes or ears). Yet intelligible species are not concomitant with or-
ganic change and do not depend on it31. Accordingly the intelligible species can-
not be related to the qualitative and quantitative properties of material objects,
despite the fact that the sensible species share certain properties of material ob-
jects, insofar as they are perishable, divisible and material. By contrast, the in-
telligible species are indivisible and spiritual, i.e., immaterial in nature32.

29 L. BONJOUR, Epistemological Problems of Perception, in E.N. ZALTA (ed.), The Stanford Ency-

clopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition),

30 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 1, ed. S. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 294, ll. 169-175: “Quia phantasma cum

sit quid materiale et [in] inferiori potentia existens, non potest esse sufficiens ad operationem spiritualem
potentiae superioris. Item phantasma non potest determinare intellectum, ut forma inhaerens illi, quia est
materiale, neque etiam ut objectum, quia intellectus non cognoscit rem in phantasmate, neque denique
ut cooperans intellectui, quia cum sit materiale non posset cooperari ad actum spiritualem: ergo” [De an-
ima, III, 1, 9, ed. Vivès, p. 615]. Here, I take it that sensible intentional species and phantasmata are syn-
31 Cf. SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 1, ed. Castellote, vol. 2., p. 294 [SUÁREZ, De anima, III, 1, 9, ed.

Vivès, p. 616].
32 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 2, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 316, ll. 295-297: “Species intentionales in
Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 11

It is an essential property of the intentional species to represent an object un-

der the aspect of its formal similitude in such a way as to complete the object it-
self (ut suppleat vicem obiecti)33. Yet this preliminary characterization of the in-
tentional species gives way to two questions: (1) If the intentional species con-
tains the similitude of a material object, then it has to be less perfect than the
object itself, since it would be a copy of its accidental features; but then how can
the intentional species lead to perfect intellectual knowledge?34 (2) If those
species have an essentially formal mode of existence, how is it possible to con-
ceive of them as similitudes of material objects?
Suárez answers these questions emphasizing that the intentional species are
accidental in nature and that they represent the qualitative features of material
objects35. Here it has to be taken for granted that a definite description of the
qualitative features allow for a complete account of the object, just in the same
way someone answers the question regarding the nature of a tiger by saying that
it is furry, orange with black stripes, fast, etc.
Apart from its function of representing material objects, the intentional
species explain how a known object is conjoined with its respective mental con-
tent36. According to Suárez the conjunction (unio) of cognitive power and object
is a fact, and both are being “glued” together by the intentional species. Here
the influence of Durandus is obvious: since the intentional species display an
intermediary function, they do not have an existence independent from the cog-
nitive powers, but they rather depend on them37.
The intentional species mirror the accidental properties of material objects,
but not their substance, because no substance can be represented on the senso-
ry level38. Although the conjunction of species and sensory power is acciden-

solo intellectu sunt spirituales et indivisibiles: in aliis autem potentiis cognoscitivis sunt materiales et di-
visibiles” [De anima, III, 2, 16, ed. Vivès, p. 619].
33 The critical edition states this issue boldly; see SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 2, ed. Castellote, vol. 2,

p. 322, l. 374 sqq.: “[...] Istae species intentionales sunt similitudines formales obiectorum”. There is no
paral-lel text to this one in the Vivès edition.
34 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 2, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 322, ll. 382-384.

35 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 2, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 324, l. 411 sqq.; L. SPRUIT, Species Intelligi-

bilis. From Perception to Knowledge; vol. 2: Renaissance Controversies, Later Scholasticism, and the Elim-
ination of the Intelligible Species in Modern Philosophy, Brill, Leiden 1995, p. 297.
36 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 1, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 290, ll. 116-118: “Constat ergo dari in om-

nibus potentiis species rerum cognoscibilium, et hoc non alia ratione, nisi ut obiectum cognoscibile
uniatur potentiae; ergo haec unio necessaria est” [De anima, III, 1, 6, ed. Vivès, p. 615].
37 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 1, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 292, ll. 136-138: “Quando obiectum unitur

potentiae, media specie, necesse est ipsam speciem esse intrinsece in potentia cognoscente” [De anima,
III, 1, 8, ed. Vivès, p. 615]; cf. also SPRUIT, Renaissance Controversies, Later Scholasticism cit., p. 296.
38 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 2, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 298, ll. 15-18: “Item, quia fingi non potest

quae [substantia] sint, nec est necesse quod sint substantiae ad munus ad quod ordinantur nempe ad
12 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

tal39, it appears that the species depend necessarily on the sensory powers, so
that no intentional species exists if no corresponding sensory power existed as
well. The intentional species are, then, accidents regarding the substance of a
corresponding sensory power. The fact that the intentional species qua accidents
depend essentially on the cognitive powers of the soul qua substances will be of
particular importance, because it shows the reasons Suárez has to hold, on Aris-
totelian grounds, that the intentional species are more intrinsically related to the
sensory powers than to the material objects themselves.
The results thus far are: (a) intentional species are directed towards materi-
al objects and state of affairs; (b) they contain a formal, though no material si-
militude with the object and (c) they necessarily, but not sufficiently depend on
the material object represented. Yet if the intentional species does not com-
pletely depend on the material objects they represent, it will be crucial to scru-
tinize the exact nature of their relation with the material world.

4. How are the intentional species acquired?

During the 13th century most theories of cognition followed a realistic stance in-
sofar as the senses and the intellect are passive powers that necessarily require
an external object to impinge on them, so that it is grasped in the same way as it
exists. The qualitative properties of a material object, e.g. the color red, are
causally responsible for the experience of red in the outer and inner senses.
Thomas Aquinas, for instance, follows the Aristotelian tenets in that the senses
and the intellect have to be seen as passive powers. The vocabulary to describe
the process of knowledge includes words like, alteratio, immutatio, motio etc.,
all of which indicate that the recipient of an accidental or substantial form is pas-
sive40. Says Aquinas in his Commentary on the Physics:

“All change is brought about by a sensible quality, which is the third species of the
quality. The bodies are changed according to what differentiates the bodies from each
other in the first place, i.e. the sensible qualities [...]. Being changed according to those
qualities is common to all sensible bodies, animate as well as inanimate. And since in
an animate body some parts are animate, i.e. sensitive, such as the eye and the hand,

movendum [sensum] et actuandum illum, sed satis est quod sint qualitates” [De anima, III, 2, 2, ed. Vivès,
p. 616].
39 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 2, ed. Castellote, vol. 2 p. 300, l. 62 sqq: “[...] Unio inter potentiam et

speciem intentionalem est accidentalis […]” [De anima, III, 1, 8, ed. Vivès, p. 615].
40 See J. TELLKAMP, Sinne, Gegenstände und Sensibilia. Zur Wahrnehmungstheorie des Thomas von

Aquin, Brill, Leiden 1999, pp. 37-55.

Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 13

others are, however, inanimate, i.e. not sensitive, as hair and bones. Therefore passion
and alteration are more properly said of the senses than of the intellect, whose opera-
tion is not that of a bodily organ [...]”41.

In a very contracted fashion, Aquinas acknowledges that the sensible quali-

ties inherent in material objects bring about change in living and in non-living
bodies. In this sense it seems to account for a necessary condition, which is on-
ly actualized as the knowledge of something if a sensory power intervenes. It is
well known that this stance regarding the passivity of the cognitive powers and
the role of intermediary species or qualities has been severely criticized mainly
due to the objection that entities such as species in medio lead into a conceptu-
al muddle. Ockham, for instance, contends that

“If you say that everything that is seen per se and which has real being is light and col-
or, but if it has intentional being it is not necessary, as it is in the proposition, then [one
might] say against: this species is in the genus of quality either per se or per reduc-
tionem. It is not per reductionem, because it is not an essential part of something that
essentially is in a genus. Therefore it is per se in a genus and in the third species
[of quality], and consequently it is a passion and a passible quality, therefore having
truly real being. It is strange how it is a true material and bodily quality and truly
extended in matter and having, however, only spiritual or intentional being”42.

It will be shown that Suárez, though following the critique regarding the
causal role of the species, intends at least to preserve their core function of point-
ing at something that is objectively the case, i.e. independently from the mind.

41 THOMAS DE AQUINO, In octo libros Physicorum Aristotelis, lib. 7, l. 4, n. 2, Typographia Polyglotta,

Rome 1884 (Opera Omnia, 2), p. 335: “Omnis alteratio fit secundum qualitatem sensibilem, quae est ter-
tia species qualitatis. Secundum illa enim alterantur corpora, quibus primo corpora ab invicem differunt;
quae sunt sensibiles qualitates [...]. Alterari autem secundum huiusmodi qualitates, est omnium corpo-
rum sensibilium, tam animatorum quam inanimatorum. Et quia in corporibus animatis quaedam partes
sunt animatae, idest sensitivae, ut oculus et manus, quaedam autem inanimatae, idest non sensitivae, ut
capilli et ossa [...]. Unde passio et alteratio magis proprie dicitur in sensu quam in intellectu, cuius oper-
atio non est per aliquod organum corporeum [...]”.
42 GUILLELMUS DE OCKHAM, Quaestiones in librum tertium Sententiarum (Reportatio), ed. F. Kelley / G.

Etzkorn, St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure 1982 (Opera Theologica, 6), pp. 56-57: “Si dicas
quod omne quod videtur per se et habet esse reale est lux vel color, sed si habeat esse intentionale non
oportet; sic est in proposito, igitur etc., contra: haec species est in genere qualitatis. Aut igitur per se, aut
per reductionem. Non per reductionem, quia non est pars essentialis alicuius quod est per se in genere.
Igitur est per se in genere, et in tertia specie, et per consequens est passio vel passibilis qualitas, igitur
habet verum esse reale. Mirum est quomodo illud est vera qualitas materialis et corporalis et vere exten-
sa in materia, tamen solum habet esse spirituale sive intentionale”. See also C. PANACCIO, Ockham on Con-
cepts, Ashgate, Aldershot 2004, p. 27.
14 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

5. The role of causality

Although the species-in-medio-model and its causal role had historically fallen
into disrepute, it is striking to note that Suárez employs precisely the criticized
vocabulary. While in his Commentary on De anima he repeatedly goes into de-
tails regarding the causal relation between object and cognizing subject, it is on-
ly in his mature Disputationes Metaphysicae that he establishes the conceptual
background for a complete account of causality43. Disputations 16-18 contain an
intricate and complex theory of formal and efficient causality, but here I shall
only be concerned with those issues that are relevant for a proper understanding
of the intentional species. In the first place it has to be borne in mind that for
Suárez the intentional species are accidents and this obviously precludes them
from bringing about any kind of substantial change. As the accidental causes are
obviously not substantial causes, they cannot be real causes44. Although some
indications have already been given to that effect, two interconnected questions
can now be answered in greater detail:
(1) Is there a causal relationship between the external, material object and
the intentional species?
(2) Do the intentional species themselves play a causal role in the process of
As to question (1) it already has been noted that there seem to be, at first
glance, no reasons to suppose that a causal relationship between material object
and intentional species exists, mainly because the species are conceived of ac-
cidents of the cognitive powers and because no qualitative property in itself
brings about the knowledge of the object of which it is a quality45. Yet, in a cu-
rious turn, Suárez acknowledges that one can say that sense knowledge is
brought about causally, if it is understood as leading to the immaterial alteration
or change of the sense power as, e.g., in the case of the transmission of qualita-
tive features such as color or sound46. The material object seems to stand in a re-

43 F. SUÁREZ, Disputationes metaphysicae, Latin-Spanish, vol. 3, Editorial Gredos, Madrid 1961. There

is also an English translation of disputations 16 to 18; cf. F. SUÁREZ, Metaphysical Disputations 17, 18,
and 19, trans. A. Freddoso, Yale University Press, New Haven 1994.
44 SUÁREZ, Disputationes metaphysicae, d. 17, II, vol. 6, Editorial Gredos, Madrid 1964, p. 54: “Causa

autem per accidens, cum non sit vera causa, sed per quamdam habitudinem vel similitudinem aut coni-
unctionem cum causa sic appelletur, non potest commode una communi descriptione definiri, sed variis
modis dicitur. Aliquando enim dicitur causa per accidens ex parte causae, aliquando vero ex parte effec-
45 Cf. W. HOERES, Bewußtsein und Erkenntnisbild bei Suárez, in Scholastik, 36 (1961), pp. 192-216,

especially p. 198.
46 Cf. HOERES, Bewußtsein und Erkenntnisbild bei Suárez cit., p. 199.
Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 15

lation to the cognitive powers while transmitting its qualitative properties. This
process, which Suárez does not explain in full, leads to the existence of species
impressae in the sense power, and they end up being accidental qualities of the
human mind47.
It seems, therefore, that were someone to have the mental image of a chimera,
a correlation with an extramental object would have to hold, even if no relatio re-
alis existed between object and cognizing subject48. Very much like in 13th cen-
tury theories of imagination, does Suárez think that the correspondence between
fictitious image and material object is achieved through the composition and di-
vision of the various features that produce the image of a chimera49.
Apart from the possibility of representing non-existent objects, there is a
need for a relatio realis between object and cognizing subject50. What this ex-
actly means is not altogether clear, but Suárez gives us some hints as to what to
make of it. In the first place “relation” is an accident within the Aristotelian
framework of the categories and its function consists in explaining how some-
thing reaches out to something (ad aliquid)51. Insofar as it reaches out a relation
can either be conceptual (rationis) or real (realis)52. Yet it is only the real rela-
tion that properly points at something, because a relatio rationis can designate
anything non-existent, such as entia rationis, thus establishing a relation ad ali-
quid in an analogical way53.
Now the material objects as well as the cognitive powers exist in nature and

47 HOERES, Bewußtsein und Erkenntnisbild bei Suárez cit., p. 200.

48 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 2, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 328, 465 sqq.: “[...] Res non existens optime
potest repraesentari, neque semper inter repraesentans et repraesentatum est relatio realis [...]” [De ani-
ma, III, 2, 27, ed. Vivès, p. 622 sqq.]. Something very similar is anticipated by Scotus; cf. D. PERLER, What
Am I Thinking About? John Duns Scotus and Peter Aureol on Intentional Objects, in Vivarium, 32 (1994),
pp. 72-89; see p. 78.
49 Cf. SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 2, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 328, l. 468 sqq. [De anima III, 2, 27, ed.

Vivès, p. 622 sqq.].

50 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 2, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 328, l. 458 sqq.: “Repraesentantis enim ad

repraesentatum debet esse relatio realis” [De anima, III, 2, 27, ed. Vivès, p. 622].
51 SUÁREZ, Disputationes Metaphysicae, d. 47, III, ed. Gredos, vol. 6, p. 666: “Patet, nam relativa esse

dicuntur, quorum totum esse est ad aliud se habere; hoc autem omnino et propriissime convenit re-
spectibus rationis; nam licet esse eorum sit magis imperfectum ac diminutum, quam esse relativorum re-
alium, tamen illud esse qualecunque est, tam proprie consistit totum in habitudine ad aliud, sicut esse
relationis realis. Unde fit ut relatio rationis nec cognosci possit, nec definiri sine habitudine ad aliud,
aeque ac relatio realis”.
52 SUÁREZ, Disputationes Metaphysicae, d. 47, III, ed. Gredos, vol. 6, p. 665 sqq. See also Disputa-

tiones Metaphysicae, d. 7, I, ed.Gredos, vol. 2, p. 11.

53 SUÁREZ, Disputationes Metaphysicae, d. 47, III, ed. Gredos, vol. 6, p. 668: “Dicendum ergo est so-

lam relationem realem esse vere et proprie ad aliquid; relationem autem rationis non esse, sed concipi ac
si esset ad aliquid, ideoque solas relationes reales ad proprium praedicamentum Ad aliquid pertinere; re-
lationes autem rationis non constitui in reali praedicamento, sed per analogiam et proportionem ad veras
relationes declarari [...]”.
16 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

Suárez can therefore safely assume that they relate to each other realiter. Yet the
cognitive powers are undetermined as long as they are not actualized by the for-
mal and qualitative features of an object. The object, then, possesses in actu
what the cognitive power is able to become in actu and hence, from an ontolog-
ical point of view, the external object is necessary for the sensory powers to com-
plete their proper functions. But it has to be taken into account that for Suárez
the relation between external object and cognizing subject, although real, does
not imply any change within the cognitive powers, because an object deemed in-
ferior cannot by itself cause a superior kind of process54. Although the principle
of the impossibility of inferior powers to produce superior effects is an ancient
one, it is Suárez who, unlike Aquinas, applies it stringently. Aquinas himself had
further developed Averroes’s dual notion of the species as having either a natur-
al mode of being when it produces physical changes in a body or a spiritual. i.e.
intentional mode of being, when it produces a cognitive change in a sense pow-
Suárez disagrees with this dual theory of the species as being either material
or spiritual, i.e. intentional, because its proponents “do not understand how a
spiritual species can be the similitude of a material thing”56. Also if the species
were spiritual, it would be impossible to explain how sound is able represent
anything, given that it is based on the matter of air57. Because matter as such
does not produce cognitive change in the cognitive powers, Suárez has to exclude
it as the determining aspect in the production of sense knowledge. If neither the
spiritual nor the material mode of being of the species can be admitted for an ex-
planation of the production of intentional species, what can? Again we have to
look at his theory of accidental causality.
Although ontologically inferior instances cannot produce as causae integrae
a superior effect, he thinks the species plays a crucial role in conjoining with the
cognitive power. Only both together account for the causa integra Suárez has

54 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 4, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 366, ll. 247-251: “[...] Imperfectum non potest

attingere productionem perfectioris tamquam totale principium immediatum neque principale neque in-
strumentale, naturaliter loquendo, tamen potest attingere ut partialiter complens immediatum instru-
mentum, et [attingendo] in effectu aliquid non perfectius [se]” [De anima, III, 4, 14, ed. Vivès, p. 630].
55 THOMAS DE AQUINO, Sentencia libri de anima, II, 14, Commissio Leonina, Rome / Vrin, Paris 1984

(Opera Omnia, 45/1), p. 169: “Quandoque uero forma recipitur in paciente secundum alium modum es-
sendi quam sit in agente, quia dispositio materialis pacientes ad recipiendum non est similis dispositioni
materiali que erat in agente, et ideo forma recipitur in paciente sine materia in quantum paciens assimi-
latur agenti secundum formam et non secundum materiam; et per hunc modum sensus recipit formam sine
materia, quia alterius modi esse habet forma in sensu et in re sensibili: nam in re sensibili habet esse nat-
urale, in sensu autem habet esse intentionale sine spirituale [...]”.
56 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 4, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 324, l. 400: “[...] Non intelligunt quomodo

species spiritualis sit similitudo rei materialis”.

57 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 4, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 324, l. 400.
Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 17

been looking for: “The integral productive principle of knowledge is a power in-
formed by a species”58. The qualitative features of material objects do exert a
sort of efficient causality on the sense powers, yet it is not a complete cause. And
since the cognitive powers themselves play a central role in the production of
cognition, it seems that Suárez holds a position contrary to an externalized epis-
temology, stressing instead the role of the cognitive faculties of the mind.
This shift towards the mind’s relevance in the production of knowledge has
in fact led to a recent surge of publications regarding Suárez’s “mentalism”59,
which presupposes that metaphysical entities as such only exist within the
mind60. Contrary to this position it has been contended that Suárez holds a tra-
ditional metaphysical realism in that termini such as species, genus etc. are
based on the objective reality61. Taking into consideration what has been dis-
cussed so far, it is easy to see that the debate about mentalism vs. realism can
be applied to Suárez’s theory of cognition in general and, in particular, to the no-
tion of intentional species.

6. The role of mental processes

The external material objects, although exerting causality by means of their

qualitative features, do not describe completely the production of sense cogni-
tion; they are necessary, but not sufficient. In fact, if they were sufficient as well,
so contends Suárez, it would be impossible to explain the presence of fictitious
objects in the mind. Since not only fictitious objects, but also “ordinary” sense
experiences, say of dogs, are insufficiently described by their external causal
conditions, it has to assumed that the cognitive powers themselves play a role in
bringing about cognition as much as the material objects.
In this respect Suárez empathically holds that sense perception is active,
putting the notion of attention (attentio) to the forefront. This means that the
senses, external or internal, pick actively out the features and objects to be cog-

58 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 4, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 364, l. 227 sqq.: “Principium integrum pro-

ductivum cognitionis est potentia informata specie” [De anima, III, 2, 27, ed. Vivès, p. 622].
59 A positive stance towards mentalism is defended by N.J. WELLS, ‘Esse Cognitum’ and Suárez Re-

visited, in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 67 (1993), pp. 339-348. Gracia has a more subtle
approach insofar as he claims that Suárez leaves the door open to some kind realism: J. GRACIA, Suárez’s
Conception of Metaphysics: A Step in the Direction of Mentalism?, in American Catholic Philosophical
Quarterly, 65 (1991), pp. 287-309; and J. GRACIA, Suárez and Metaphysical Mentalism: The Last Visit, in
American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 67 (1993), pp. 349-354.
60 Cf. GRACIA, Suárez’s Conception of Metaphysics cit., p. 349.

61 Cf. GRACIA, Suárez’s Conception of Metaphysics cit.

18 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

nized. Therefore, in overstepping the traditional Aristotelian limitation of the

cognitive powers conceived of as passive, Suárez explains how we grasp real as
well as fictitious objects. This active reaching out of the cognitive powers is as
crucial to cognition as the existence of the external objects they grasp. In order
to explain succinctly Suárez’s theory of attentio, the following points should be
taken into consideration:
(1) An object, be it real or fictitious, has to be given.
(2) The qualitative features of the external object, understood as accidental
causes, are effective regarding the cognitive change in a perceiving subject.
(3) It is the conjunction of (1) and (2) that explains how mental representa-
tions (phantasmata or species), which subsist either in an indeterminate manner
in the outer senses or in a determinate manner in the inner senses, are brought
As mentioned before, the causality originating in the material object’s qual-
itative features only accounts for the necessary condition of sense knowledge.
But in order to describe the causa integra of knowledge it is necessary to point
at the causality exerted by the cognitive powers63. If the passivity of the senses
is not sufficient for the production of intentional species, then it seems to be nec-
essary to add an active component by which the senses direct their attention to
those issues that are cognitively relevant. Suárez introduces therefore the notion
of attentio, according to which the cognitive powers not only depend on causal
influences, but also reach out to what they intend to grasp. Since cognition is in-
tentional in nature, i.e. it points at objects or states of affairs, it is clear that cog-
nition has essentially a mind-world-relation and not just, in the sense of its
causal conditions, a world-mind-relation.
The change brought about in the sense powers through the aforementioned
causal link with the external object, does not yet constitute intentional knowl-
edge of that object. The sensible species derived from that causal relationship
have rather to be thought of as an instrumental part through which that kind of
intentional knowledge is acquired; it is the quo of cognition. Having discussed
the relevance of that causal relationship, it is all the more important to under-
line those aspects, which render the sufficient conditions for cognition. One con-
dition – attentio – has already been named, but an account of the intentional

62 It will be made clear that Suárez does not think that the outer senses are sufficient to yield knowl-

edge. To achieve knowledge, the inner senses have to direct themselves to what the sensus exteriores grasp:
cf. SUÁREZ, Disputationes Metaphysicae, d. 18, 6, 2, ed. Gredos, vol. 3, p. 170.
63 Cf. HOERES, Bewußtsein und Erkenntnisbild bei Suárez cit., p. 208 and J. LUDWIG, Das akausale

Zusammenwirken (sympathia) der Seelenvermögen in der Erkenntnislehre des Suarez, Karl Ludwig Verlag,
Munich 1929, p. 23 sqq.
Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 19

species can only be complete when taking into consideration the theory of the
inner senses64.
Their importance lies in the fact that intentional knowledge can only be
achieved within the mind, i.e. through the activity of the inner senses. In a quite
traditional way, Suárez assumes that the inner senses are located in the brain65
and that there are seven: common sense, imagination, phantasy, estimation, cog-
itation, memory and reminiscence. The functions of each also follow, at first
sight, a traditional pattern. Phantasy, for instance, as opposed to the common
sense, grasps what is absent66, while the estimative power apprehends what is
becoming or unbecoming67. The important aspect of the inner sense for the pre-
sent purpose is not so much an outline of their function, but the idea that the in-
ner senses do not differ on account of having different objects68.
There are two arguments that Suárez brings to bear. (1) If, as mentioned before,
there is no point in distinguishing sensed and non-sensed species, then there is no
point in distinguishing inner powers that grasp either sensed or non-sensed species.
(2) If, for argument’s sake, the distinction is meaningful, then any power that grasps
non-sensed species should obviously sense them and consequently all the inner
senses would end up having the same object, i.e. sensed species. In an interesting
twist of Avicenna’s famous wolf-sheep-example, Suárez thinks that recognizing that
a wolf is dangerous is nothing over and above what the senses grasp. If the external
senses necessarily see the qualitative features of a wolf, then it is also necessary to
see it as dangerous. Therefore if it is said that “this is an enemy” is based on a pos-
terior judgment, it would nevertheless have to be assumed that it, namely the dan-
gerous wolf, had already been cognized69. As a consequence, a distinction of the in-
ner sense powers as having different objects is uncalled for.

64 Cf. J. SOUTH, Francisco Suárez on Imagination, in Vivarium, 39 (2001), pp. 119-158 for a detailed

account of the inner senses in Suárez.

65 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 6, q. 2, 9, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 478, l. 136: “[...] Suppono sensum interi-

orem esse in cerebro [...]” [SUÁREZ, De anima, III, 9, 5, ed. Vivès, p. 648].
66 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 8, q. 1, ed. S. Castellote, vol. 3, Editorial Labor, Madrid 1991, p. 18, ll. 85-

86: “Phantasia est sensus interior potens cognoscere omnia, etiam sensibilia exterior, in eorum absentia
[...]” [De anima, III, 30, 4, ed. Vivès, p. 704].
67 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 8, q. 1, ed. Castellote, vol. 3, p. 22 [De anima, III, 30, 7, ed. Vivès, p. 705].

68 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 8, q. 1, 19, ed. Castellote, vol. 3, p. 38, ll. 398-399: “Probabilius est etiam

aestimativam et memoriam non esse potentias realiter a phantasia distinctas” [De anima, III, 30, 15, ed.
Vivès, p. 708]. Cf. SOUTH, Francisco Suárez on Imagination cit., p. 129 sqq.
69 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 8, q. 1, 19, ed. Castellote, vol. 3, p. 38, ll. 407-418: “[...] Nam potentia

cognoscens lupum ut inimicum, non alia ratione id cognoscit, nisi cognoscendo nisi cognoscendo figuram
et alia accidentia illius exterior. Quomodo enim potest cognoscere esse inimicum, nisi illum qui est in-
imicus? Non cognoscit autem illum, nisi per exterior accidentia; cognoscere autem illum per exterior ac-
cidentia est cognoscere sub ratione sensate; ergo potential cognoscens sub ratione insensate. Forte dici-
tur satis esse quod una potentia cognoscat lupum ut sic, ut alia iudicet esse inimicum. Sed hoc non in-
20 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

Returning to the importance of the sense’s attention, Suárez thinks, given that
material object and cognitive powers concur in the process of acquiring inten-
tional species, that it is impossible to separate the active and passive ingredi-
ents that lead to knowledge70. In fact, one and the same process can be de-
scribed as being active as well as passive, i.e. as the passive reception of infor-
mation originating in the material world and the concurrent active attention to
that information71. Suárez underscores this point: “The cognitive power exerts a
proper and immediate activity regarding its act”72. In this respect activity and
passivity are related to each other in one and the same cognitive process73. If the
cognitive powers were exclusively passive, such as required by the Aristotelian
line of thought, then it would be possible for them to grasp simultaneously the
intentional species of different objects. Suárez, however, excludes this possibil-
ity, because the intentional species would have to multiply according to the num-
ber of objects grasped when, for instance, many men are grasped through one
human-specific species and not many74. The implication of this is that not only
the sense powers but also the intellect use the same intentional species in order
to refer to the same kind of external objects so that, in the end, the intentional
species serves to grasp an individual human being as well as the universal no-
tion of human being.

7. Intellect

Before concluding, a brief outlook into Suárez’s theory of the intellect is called
for. In the received medieval Aristotelian tradition knowledge of universals is
brought about by the agent intellect as the result of a layered process of ab-

telligitur, nam hoc iudicium: ‘Hic est inimicus’ includit intrinsece cognitionem huius qui est inimicus; er-
go non sunt actus separabiles ad diversas potentias pertinentes.” [De anima, III, 30, 15, ed. Vivès, p. 708].
70 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 4, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 352, l. 29 sqq.: “Quare impossibile [est] haec

duo, scilicet [agere] et recipere, separare omnino et diversis potentiis tribuere”. There is no matching pas-
sage in the Vivès edition.
71 In this sense it seems that SPRUIT, Renaissance Controversies, Later Scholasticism cit., p. 297 is mis-

taken in saying that “[...] human cognition is ‘actio’ and not ‘passio’”. Even though Suárez gives the ac-
tive role of the senses a greater importance, he does not exclude passivity in the process of acquiring
72 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 4, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 360, l. 148 sqq.: “Potentia cognoscitiva ha-

bet propriam et immediatam activitatem circa actum suum” [De anima, III, 4, 9, ed. Vivès, p. 628].
73 Cf. SPRUIT, Renaissance Controversies, Later Scholasticism cit., p. 299.

74 SUÁREZ, De anima, d. 5, q. 7, ed. Castellote, vol. 2, p. 440, ll. 39-42: “Quia una potentia tantum

potest informari in actu unica specie intentionali, ut videns visus plures homines, per unicam speciem il-
los videt, alias haberet plures species solo numero differentes; ergo etiam tantum potest efficere unum ac-
tum” [De anima, III, 7, 2, ed. Vivès, p. 641].
Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 21

straction. Through the conversio ad phantasmata the essential core of the objects
perceived is extracted, but in agreement with Aristotle’s tenet that the intellect
is ultimately passive, the agent intellect seems to lack the capacity of putting ac-
tive attention to what it is about to grasp.
According to Suárez the agent intellect is actually active, but not insofar as
it illuminates the phantasms. Illumination has to be excluded, because it would
mean that the phantasms illuminated could act on the intellect. But as the phan-
tasms belong to an inferior ontological order, since they still contain traces of
matter (apparently the appendices materiae that can also be found in Albert the
Great and Aquinas), they cannot exert any influence on the intellect, even if the
intellect itself “illuminates” them. In this respect the notion of sympathia or con-
sensus potentiorum emerges as a way of explaining how both inferior and supe-
rior powers are related to each other in a congruent fashion so that, whenever the
inferior power is actualized, the superior is actualized concomitantly. What
Suárez seems to have in mind is that any causal relationship by means of con-
versio ad phantasmata has to be excluded75. Although the intellect is an imma-
terial cognitive power with very different ontological properties from that of the
external and internal senses, it is important to hold a continuity of sorts between
both types of powers in order to explain the coherence and unity of human knowl-
edge, mainly because any knowledge, be it singular or universal, is about the
same kind of things, even though the knowledge of the singular is prior to know-
ing the universal. Hence, even though intellectual knowledge is mediated by ab-
straction, it does denote the same states of affairs at which sense knowledge
points as well, but it does so under a common aspect, which not even very inex-
pert people can fail to achieve76.

75 SUÁREZ, De anima, IV, 3, 7, ed. Vivès, p. 724: “Rogo autem, qua ratione per conversionem hanc per

phantasma singulare cognoscatur: et per quam speciem. Nam vel cognoscitur per phantasma, tanquam
per objectum, seu medium cognitum: vel tanquam per speciem. Tanquam per objectum cognosci, est im-
possibile primo, quia alioquin prius foret cognoscendum ab intellectu phantasma ipsum, quam singulare
in eo repraesentatum, quod est contra experientiam; multi siquidem singularia norunt, ac de illis ratioci-
nantur, qui nihil noverunt de phantasmatibus. Secundo, quia rationi dissonum est, ut intellectus in re ma-
teriali, et inferioris ordinis, tanquam in objecto quippiam cognoscat. [...] Quia res materialis et inferiores
ordinis non potest concurrere in actum spiritualem”. There is no corresponding passage in Castellote’s
critical edition.
76 SUÁREZ, De anima IV, 3, 15, ed. Vivès, p. 727: “Eo ipso, quod sensus cognoscit singulare, potest

intellectus facillime illud cognoscere, universale vero non ita facile, siquidem prius requiritur cognitio
singularium, et convenientia illorum, ut ab illis abstrahatur natura communis: ergo prius concipitur sin-
gulare, quam universale. Confirmatur: nam rudes, quia unicum vident solem, conceptum Solis in com-
muni non formant, sed illius tantum quem vident, ut quisque etiam apud se compertum habebit, antequam
hasce abstractiones noverit: ergo formatur prius conceptus hujus Solis, quam Solis in communi, ille autem
conceptus apud intellectum est, cum ridiculum sit existimare rusticos homines nunquam intellectu solem
concipere, cum circa illum utrumque ratiocinetur, etc.”. There is no corresponding passage in Castellote’s
critical edition.
22 Jörg Alejandro Telkamp

In excluding any immediate causal link between the phantasms and the in-
tellect, even through the conversio ad phantasmata, Suárez is again left with the
notion of attention77. The phantasms would thus present the intellect with the oc-
casion of knowing a universal related to them78. The activities of phantasia and
intellect are parallel and strictly speaking never intersect causally, but they are
related to each other by means of the intellect’s attention to the phantasms79.

8. Conclusion

Despite Suárez’s dense and sometimes seemingly contradictory account of cog-

nition, it emerges that his notion of intentional species pushes the envelope.
Deeply rooted in the philosophical tradition, he does not hesitate to point at
problems and incoherencies based, e.g., on the stringent reading of the princi-
ple that lower powers cannot entirely bring about change in superior powers. His
interpretation of causality in the process of cognition does away with the
Thomasian explanation of the species in medio thus construing an epistemologi-
cal realism that relies as much on the presence of the external object as on the
active reaching out of the senses. In this way he can preserve the Aristotelian
model according to which nothing inferior produces changes in superior entities,
but he can nevertheless argue that the external, inferior objects are necessary,
though not sufficient in the process of producing knowledge. Interestingly Suárez
is also committed to applying this model to the relation between the inner sens-
es and the intellect. The phantasms, as products of phantasia, are occasions for
the intellect’s action, but they are not its cause.
It could be said that Suárez’s epistemological stance advances a kind of re-
alism that owes to Thomas Aquinas as much as it does to Durandus or Ockham.
In integrating, criticizing and ultimately going beyond his medieval models, he
culminates the traditional discourse on intentionality, at the same time showing
a path towards a modern theory of intentionality.

77 Cf. HOERES, Bewußtsein und Erkenntnisbild bei Suárez cit., p. 212 sqq.
78 Cf. SPRUIT, Renaissance Controversies, Later Scholasticism cit., p. 303.
79 SPRUIT, Renaissance Controversies, Later Scholasticism cit., p. 302.
Francisco Suárez on the Intentional Species 23

Abstract: With his notion of the intentional species, Francisco Suárez reevaluates the role
of causality within a realist theory of knowledge. Taking into account various traditional
accounts, e.g. Avicenna’s, Aquinas’s and Durandus’s, he develops a novel approach ac-
cording to which the accidental features of material objects are necessary, though not suf-
ficient causes for knowledge. In rejecting the Aristotelian claim that cognitive processes
are passive, he thinks that knowing is essentially an active reaching out to the objects
known. His interpretation of causality in cognitive processes also leads him not only to re-
assess the mind-world-relation, but also to advance a theory as to how higher and lower
cognitive capacities are intertwined. The dependency of the higher ones, such as the in-
tellect, on perceptual processes requires to accommodate the traditional dictum that low-
er entities do not cause essential effects in higher ones. Hence Suárez stresses the intrin-
sic congruence (sympathia, harmonia) of all cognitive powers on a rather non-causal foot-
Key words: Intentional Species; Realism; Perception; Inner Senses; Intellect; Causality;
Attention; Activity and Passivity of the Senses.

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