Internal Senses

Authored by: Deborah Black

The Routledge Companion to Medieval Philosophy

Print publication date:  January  2021
Online publication date:  January  2021

Print ISBN: 9780415658270
eBook ISBN: 9781315709604
Adobe ISBN:


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Despite their privileging of the intellect as the only uniquely human cognitive faculty, medieval philosophers accorded a cluster of faculties located in the brain, known as the “internal senses,” with a wide variety of cognitive tasks. These internal sense faculties were united by their common concern with sensory images, in virtue of which they account for most of our everyday cognitive operations, such as our ability to remember, our capacity to integrate the diverse perceptions of our individual senses, and the creative operations of our imaginations. Moreover, since most of the capacities assigned to the internal senses are those that humans share in some form with non-human animals, discussions of the internal senses also represent medieval philosophers’ attempts to explain animal cognition and to explore the extent to which animals possess perceptual abilities akin to those of human beings.

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