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Intentionality, Cognition, and Mental Representation in Medieval Philosophy$
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Gyula Klima

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823262748

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823262748.001.0001

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Mental Representation in Animals and Humans

Mental Representation in Animals and Humans

Some Late Medieval Discussions

Chapter:
(p.273) Mental Representation in Animals and Humans
Source:
Intentionality, Cognition, and Mental Representation in Medieval Philosophy
Author(s):

Olaf Pluta

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823262748.003.0013

Olaf Pluta gives us a taste of the rich medieval literature on cognitive representation in animals, focusing on Buridan’s treatment of the cognitive abilities of animals, by raising the question whether in some sense even animals think. During the Middle Ages, it was generally assumed that the capacity to form universal concepts is characteristic of and unique to human thinking. While animal souls were considered to be material forms, that is to say, educed from the potency of matter, the human intellective soul was taken to be immaterial and immortal. Thomas Aquinas used the ability to form universal concepts as the key argument in his demonstration that the human intellect is immaterial and hence immortal. John Buridan, however, holds that animals can likewise refer to things universally. According to Buridan, a syllogism is a simple mental act within the soul, even though it is a complex semantic structure. Such an act may easily be possible for animals, even though they cannot express it by means of language.

Keywords:   animal intelligence, universal concepts, immateriality

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