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become habituated to the stimulus, and react with less energy
if the same excitation be prolonged, whilst contrasted feelings
employ fresh neural elements or other cerebral tracts.
Moreover, from the mental side uniform sensation diminishes
in interest, and attention being drawn away by rival novel
stimuli, the m.onotonous experience attracts less and less

The Relativity of Knowledge. — There is another form of the
doctrine of the relativity of consciousness, which maintains
that all our knowledge is relative to us, and that we have
accordingly no real knowledge of things outside of the mind.
This latter question will be discussed more appropriately
after we have dealt with sense-perception, and we shall treat
it under the title of the Relativity of Knowledge at the end of
chapter vii. Both doctrines are erroneous, but many writers
maintain the second without adhering to the first, although
those who adopt the first naturally adhere also to the second.

The Scholastic Doctrine of the Internal Senses. — In

addition to those sensuous faculties by which we are enabled
to perceive external objects, the mind is endowed with the
capability of apprehending in a sensuous manner, facts of a
subjective order. This power or group of powers constitutes
those modes of mental life styled by the schoolmen the Internal
Senses. The Aristotelian doctrine elaborated by the mediaeval
thinkers distinguishes four such faculties, the sensiis communis,
the vis cestimativa or vis cogitativa, the imagination, and the
sensuous memory. They were termed senses, or organic powers,

of "fixed ideas" are the very reverse of a "blank." (4) That if
every feeling were " two-fold " or a " transition," a man surrounded
by a blue sky and ocean, or passing from a neutral to a positive
state of consciousness, must be unaware of any impression at all,
which is not the fact. (5) There is, too, the old difficulty of
Buridan's ass. (6) Moreover differences, which are themselves real
presentations or objects of apprehension, are cognized, e.g., degrees
of variation in shade, pitch, pressure, &c., and therefore presuppose
the perception of the absolute terms. Mr. Ward also rightly traces
Dr. Bain's confusion on this subject to his ignoring the difference
between the mere successive or simultaneous occurrence of two related
feelings, and the intellectual perception of their relation. {" Psychology,"
Encycl. Brit. Qlh Edit. See also Mark Baldwin, Senses and Intellect,
pp. 58—61 ; W. James, Vol. II. pp. G — 20; and Farges, VObjectivitc
de la Perception, pp. 104 — 115, 202 — 208.)


because they operate by means of a material organ, and have
for their formal objects individual, concrete, sensuous facts.
The word internal marks their subjective character, and
the internal situation of the physical machinery of their

Sensus Communis. — The sensus communis, or common
sense, has also been styled the internal sense and the central
sense. It has been described by St. Thomas, after Aristotle,
as at once the source and the terminus of the special senses.
By this faculty we are conscious of the operations of the
external sensuous faculties, and we are made aware of
differences between them, though we cannot by its means
cognize them as different. Apart then from intellect, by which
we formally compare and discriminate between objects, some
central sense or internal form of sensibility is required, both
in the case of man and of the lower animals, to account for
the complete working of sensuous life. In the growth and
development of sense-perception, the action of this internal
form of sensuous consciousness is involved. Antecedent to
and independent of intellectual activity, the revelations of
the several senses must be combined by some central faculty
of the sensuous order, and it is this interior aptitude which
has been called sensus communis-}^

Vis Aistimativa. — The vis cestimativa, or sensuous judicial
faculty, was a name attributed to those complex forms of
sensuous activity by which an object is apprehended as fit
or unfit to satisfy the needs of animal nature. It thus denotes
that capability in the lower animals which is commonly
described as Instinct. The term vis cogitativa was sometimes

19 It has been held by St. Augustine, St. Thomas (of. Sum. i.
q. 78, a. 4. ad 2. and 87. 3. 3), and other philosophers, that no
sense can know its own states, and that, not merely for the co-
ordination of the different senses, but for the cognition of any single
sensation, an internal faculty in addition to the special sense is
requisite. Aristotle {De Anima, III. 1. 2) decides against this view
on the intelligible ground that such a doctrine would involve an
infinite series of sensuous faculties. Elsewhere, however [De Somno
et Vigilia, 1. 2), he appears to adopt the contrary theory. Suarez
argues cogently against this multiplication of faculties as unneces-
sary, and his teaching appears to us sound. No sense can have a
reflex knowledge of its own states, but this does not prevent a sense
from having concomitantly with the apprehension of something
affecting it an implicit consciousness of its own modifications. A
being endowed with the sense of touch or hearing ought to be con-
scious, it would seem, of tactual or auditory sensations without the
instrumentality of any additional faculty. (Cf. Suarez, De Anifna,
Lib. III. c. ii. and Lahousse, op. cit. pp. 160 — 163.)


employed to designate the aptitude for analogous operations
in man, at other times to signify a certain mode of internal
sensibility operating concurrently with the intellect in the
perception of individual objects.-"

Sentimento Fondamentale. — The term sentimcnto fonda-
mentale, or fundamental feeling, was employed by Rosmini to
denote an assumed faculty, or form of sensuous consciousness,
by which the soul is continually cognizant of the body in which
it is present.'^^ The soul, he teaches, and not the living being
composed of both soul and body, is the true principle of this
feeling. It is by their modification of the sentimento fonda-
vientale ihdii the impressions of the special senses reveal them-
selves to the soul. The fundamental feeling, unlike the sensiis
communis of the scholastics, is held to have been ever in a
condition of activity, even antecedent to the exercise of the
special senses. " It begins with our life, and goes on con-
tinuously to the end of it." Nevertheless, it is rarely adverted
to, and considerable power of psychological reflection may be
required to discover its existence. By this feeling we have a
subjective perception of our organism ; through sight and
touch, on the other hand, we apprehend it in an extra-subjective
manner. Finally, the union of soul and body consists in an
immanent perception of the activity of this faculty.

Sensus Fundamentalis. — Tongiorgi uses the terni senstis
fundamentalis in a kindred meaning to denote an inferior form
of the sensus intimus. By the sensus intimus, he understands a
perpetual consciousness both of its own substantial existence
and of its acts, with which he maintains the soul to be
endowed. This actual cognizance of itself is essential to the

20 It was urged that intellect, the formal object of which is the
miiversal, cannot directly apprehend individual substances as such.
Nevertheless, we have intellectual knowledge of them, for we form
singular judgments, e.g. : " This plant is a rose," " Peter is a negro."
Consequently, it was inferred, there is a special form of internal
sensibility through which the concrete object is so apprehended
that by reflection upon this sensuous presentation the intellect can
cognize the singular nature of the object. St. Thomas thus describes
the operation : " Anima conjuncta corpori per intellectum cognoscit
singulare, non quidem directe, sed per quandam reflexionem, in
quantum soil, ex hoc, quod apprehendit suum intelligibile, revertitur
ad considerandum suum actum et speciem intelligibilem, quas est
principium ejus operationis, et ejus specie! originem, et sic venit in
considerationem phantasmatum et singularium quorum sunt
phantasmata. Sed hac rejiexio compleri non potest, nisi per adjunctionem
virtutis cogitative et imaginative." {Q. Un. de Anima, a. 20. ad i.)

21 ''By the fundamental feeling of life we feel all the sensitive
parts of our body." (77*^; Origin of Ideas, Eng. Trans. § 705.)


soul and independent of all special mental modifications. It
is, moreover, natura if not tempore antecedent to them; yet, as
the soul exists always in some particular state, it can never
apprehend itself unless as determined by an individual
affection. The sensus intimus exerts itself in a higher and a
lower form, as rational, and as sensuous consciousness. By
the inferior order of activity the soul continuously feels its
presence in the body which it informs, and thus apprehends
the various impressions which occur in different parts of the
organism. This sensuous cognizance of the body he styles
the sensus fundamentalis, inasmuch as it is the common root or
principle of the external senses,-

Suarez' doctrine. — Accepting the doctrine of Suarez, that
there is neither a real, nor formal distinction between the
internal senses, it does not appear to us to be of any very
profound importance what classification of faculties we select,
as best fitted to mark off the various phases of mental life
which have been allotted to internal sensibility. Moreover,
the brain seems to be the common physical basis for all these
different modes of consciousness, so that there is no differentia-
tion of organ corresponding to special operations which might
tell decisively in favour of any particular scheme of division.

Internal Sense. — The term internal sense has had a variety
of significations in the history of Philosophy. In the Peri-
patetic system, sensus internus designated generically the four
faculties, sensus communis, vis cestimativa vel cogitativa,phantasia,
a.nd memoria sensitativa ; but also at times it indicated more
specifically the sensus communis. In the Cartesian school, the
sensus intimus or conscientia, signified all consciousness of our
own states, whether sensuous or intellectual ; and the latter

-^ St. Thomas applies the term sensus fundamentalis to the faculty
of touch. The sensus fundamentalis, as described by Rosmini and
Tongiorgi, has been objected to by modern scholastic writers on
various grounds, (i) Internal sensibility, since it is an organic
faculty apprehending concrete sensuous facts, must, like external
sense, pertain not to the soul alone, but to the whole being — the
composituni humannm. (2) The primary function of internal sense is
the apprehension of the modifications of the external senses, its
exercise must thus follow, and not anticipate, that of the latter.

(3) There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of a perpetual
cognition of our own body independent of all special activities.

(4) The constitution of the union of body and soul in the perception
of the former by the latter would reduce their connection to that of
an accidental alliance. (Cf. Liberatore, On Universals, Trans, by
E. Dering, pp. 130, seq., also PsycJwlogia, §§ 27 — 29; Lahousse,
Psych. %% 348 — 355. Contra: Tongiorgi, Psych. 271, 280; Rosmini,
The Origin of Ideas, Vol. II. Ft. V. c. iii., and Psychology, Eng.
Trans. Bk. I. c. vii.)




term has retained the same connotation with modern scholastic
writers. - ^ With Locke, internal sense is equivalent to the intel-
lectual faculty of reflection, by which our mental states are
observed. With Kant, it comprises the sensuous intuition of
our mental states, not, however, as they are in themselves,
but as modified by the a priori form of time. The term
internal sense, legitimate in its original signification in the
Peripatetic system, is very inappropriate in its modern usage
as expressing the intellectual activity of self-consciousness.
That activity is neither in point of object, of nature, nor of
intrinsic dependence on physical organ akin to the senses.

Basis of Division. — The scholastic classification of four
internal senses was grounded on the existence of generic
differences in the formal objects o£ the several faculties. The
formal object of the sensiis communis consists of the actual
operations of the external senses ; that of the imagination is
the representation of what is absent ; the function of the vis
(Bstimativa is the apprehension of an object as remotely
suitable or noxious to the well-being of the animal ; that of
the sensitive memory is the cognition of past sensuous experi-
ences. Some writers reduced these faculties to two, others
augmented them to six. The nature of the distinction between
these senses was also disputed. Suarez,^* after a careful
examination of the various opinions on the point, decides
against the existence of either a real or a /or;;m/ distinction,
and contends that Aristotle is with him in looking on the
internal senses as merely diverse aspects or phases of a single
sensuous facult3\^-^

Common Sense. — Common sense is also a very ambiguous
term, (i) In the Aristotelian Psychology, it meant only the
internal sense above described. (2) It has been since used
to express certain universal and fundamental convictions of
mankind. It is in this signification that it has been appealed
to as a philosophical criterion of truth by the Scotch school.
(3) In ordinary language it implies good sense, sound practical
judgment. (4) Common sensibility, and also common sense, have
been sometimes used by psychologists to indicate {a) the
faculty of touch, and {b) the ccenassthesis or the vital sense,
and the various forms of organic sensibility.

Readings. — On classification of the senses, cf. St. Thomas, Sj

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 10 of 63)