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Paolo Rubini: Pietro Pomponazzi’s Theory of Cognition

Lecture by Paolo Rubini, organized by the Department of the History of Philosophy


The Aristotelian Pietro Pomponazzi (1462-1525) has been portrayed as a 'radical philosopher of the Renaissance' (M. Pine). His programme of a 'pure' Aristotelianism can be seen indeed as a form of pre-modern naturalism. In psychology Pomponazzi follows the ancient commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias in his radical endorsement of hylomorphism and consequently rejects the traditional scholastic-Aristotelian tenet of the human intellect’s immateriality. This substantially impacts his theory of cognition. For Pomponazzi can no longer explain universal knowledge in traditional terms, by appealing to an assimilation of the immaterial intellect to universal abstract objects.

The corporeal human intellect is rather, according to him, efficient-causally dependent upon sensory representations of the imagination (the so-called 'phantasms') in all its cognitive acts. As a result, phantasms prove to be the necessary medium of intellectual cognition, and imagination the fundamental cognitive faculty in human beings. For it is imagination that, without any support from the intellect, endows human beings with the basic capacity of recognising singular objects.

In my talk I will try to outline how, for Pomponazzi, the intellect grasps universal objects by means of phantasms, and how imagination accomplishes its fundamental task: making up phantasms suitable for human cognition and, in the end, for human life.

When & where?

18th February 2015, 3.15 - 5 pm
Faculty of Philosophy, Room Omega

Last modified:29 January 2015 12.34 p.m.