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Flouri, M.

Department of the History of Philosophy

Aquinas on Spiritual Change

In my thesis I examine Aquinas’s theory of perception in order to deal with the question of how do the forms we receive in perception exist in the sense faculty, and what is the nature of the changes we experience in perception? Aquinas thinks that perception is accompanied by two changes, namely a natural change and a spiritual change. In the natural change, the sense organ changes naturally when it receives a form. For instance, when I touch a warm object, my hand turns warm. In the spiritual change, the sense organ changes spiritually when it receives a form. The spiritual change can be understood through the following example: when I perceive a red object, I receive the form redness. However, although my eyes receive somehow this form, they do not turn red after the reception of the form of redness.

In my paper, I focus on clarifying the nature of the spiritual change, for which Aquinas was not very explicit about and which is an issue of disagreement among the readers. There are two main views in the literature regarding the nature of these changes in perception. The first, suggested by Hoffman (1990), holds that the natural change is a bodily change, whereas the spiritual change is not (it is a change in the soul). The second, suggested by Pasnau (1997) and Stump (2003), holds that both changes are bodily changes. I examine these two views, and I reject Hoffman’s account. I then offer my interpretation of the spiritual change and I argue that Pasnau is right in assuming that the spiritual change is a physical-bodily change. Aquinas holds that the spiritual mode of existence is intentional or representational. I suggest that in order to clarify the nature of the spiritual or intentional change, we have to clarify the nature of the intentional forms. Therefore, I proceed to the examination of the nature of the intentional forms that we receive in the spiritual change, for which Aquinas and Pasnau do not give an account. I suggest that in the spiritual or intentional change, there is a representation of the form received in the sense organs, which is a non-literal resemblance that it does not require the sharing of properties and does require a causal connection to the object represented.

Last modified:15 June 2018 4.24 p.m.