chapter  2
15 Pages

Scotus and Ockham: intuitive cognition – to cognise nothing

Intuitive cognition did not originate with William of Ockham, although it did receive what can only be described as a revolutionary treatment at the hands of the inceptor. However, Duns Scotus had already given intuitive cognition an unprecedented importance and even before Scotus the doctrine of notitia intuitiva was inchoately present.1 The motives for developing the notion stemmed from the problems generated by the Franciscan belief in direct knowledge of individuals, a belief that became officially sponsored in 1282.2 This created a problem, as Scotus advocated a form of species theory which seemed to provide little, if any, direct cognition of actual substances, since species only communicated accidents and these were only ‘represented’. The fact of mediation, it seemed, introduced an epistemic gulf between the species and the objects which generated them. As Tachau says, ‘it introduced the probability that perceptions of extramental reality were not only sometimes, as in the case of sensory illusion, but inevitably inaccurate or approximate’.3 Scotus sought to resolve this by utilising the idea of intuitive cognition.4