Edited by Mark Stahlman, Peter Berkman, and Adam Pugen

Editorial Introduction, i-vi PDF

Mark Stahlman, Peter Berkman, and Adam Pugen

Dianoetikon: A Practical Journal is a publication of the Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL).  We are a strategic research group engaged in educational and advisory services. Our mission includes the commitment to develop a new range of social sciences, with a particular focus on psychology and economics. This first issue explores Faculty Psychology and, in particular, the organization and practical implications of the Inner Senses,” which are the subconscious seat of human perception. This Introduction includes sections on the Center, this Journal, details of the contents of this volume, background on our study of the Inner Senses, our plans for future research.

The Inner Senses and Human Engineering, 1-21 PDF

Mark Stahlman

Knowledge of Faculty Psychology, a topic which describes Western understanding of the psyche from 4th-century BC Aristotle's Peri Psychethrough more than two millennia of commentary and application, was quickly replaced with “experimental” psychology in the 19th-century, a shift that persists through to today.  In this process, many thought that the human “soul” was not suitable for empirical examination, so it was abandoned for this psychological research. As a result, psychology lost its philosophical/theological foundations and instead often turned into an effort to engineer “better” humans.  New “images” of what it meant to be human were proposed and the goal of engineering a new society often became the motivation for psychological inquiry. Our view is that this shift has had mostly negative results, neither making humanity more sane nor more happy, while resulting in a society that increasingly seems consumed by chaos. Accordingly, we believe that a retrieval of Faculty Psychology is urgently needed for our current digital-age.

Psychology Beyond Technocracy: Marshall McLuhan, Magda Arnold, and the "Meaning Crisis", 22-44 PDF

Adam Pugen

The tradition of faculty psychology is brought to bear on contemporary online discourses purveying the sense of a "meaning crisis" in western consciousness. Taking the social media outreach and scholarly research of psychology professors Jordan Peterson and John Vervaeke as some of the most influential commentary on what Vervaeke has popularly labeled the "meaning crisis," this paper offers the media scholarship of Marshall McLuhan and the psychological theory of Magda Arnold as more compelling sources both for defining the so-called "meaning crisis" and for addressing it. Explicating Arnold's retrieval of Thomas Aquinas' discussion of the "cogitative sense" in her psychology of the emotions, this paper uses Arnold's work to shed light on McLuhan's theory of media environments in order to contextualize the "meaning crisis" in relation to the psychic attitudes correlative to electric and digital technologies. 

The McLuhans and the Inner Senses, 45-53 PDF

Peter Berkman

By the time Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) converted to the Catholic Church in 1937, faculty psychology – definitively treated in St. Thomas Aquinas’s commentaries of Aristotle – had been abandoned.  Shaken by technological revolutions, McLuhan was confronted with the question of how different forms of media shape our senses & modes of perception.  He believed that in an age of constant change and mass confusion, new sciences had to be invented to meet this task.  Today, that field is known as “Media Ecology”.  Marshall based his work on St. Thomas’s doctrine of an inner sensory power called the “common sense”, but nowhere does he have an explicit account of the other three inner senses accepted by St. Thomas: the imaginative power, the cogitative power, and the memorative power (each situated in different parts of the brain).  Instead, Marshall’s work treated only with media as altering the balance and ratio among the five exterior senses: with particular media mainly tending toward either a visual or audile-tactile bias.

A Forgotten Sense: The Cogitative According to St. Thomas Aquinas, 54-94 PDF

Julien Peghaire

Originally published in 1943, Peghaire’s essay is an in-depth study of the vis cogitativa, a sensory power which had been obscured for centuries by the physicalist bent of experimental psychology. Distinct from, although functioning in concert with, the other internal senses (sensus communis, imagination, and memory), the cogitative power, according to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas, possesses a number of closely related roles in human perception.  As an analog to the animal estimative power, the cogitative power (also called the “particular reason”) apprehends what is useful and harmful in perceptual objects not merely through an inborn instinct but also through a comparison (collatio), informed by reason, of particular cognitive objects or “intentions.”  Accordingly, the cogitative power allows humans to perceive the concrete individual not only in terms of its immediate value or harm, but also in terms of its instantiation of a “common nature” or universal. It is this function of the cogitative to serve as a bridge between the particular data of the senses and the universal concepts of the intellect that allows the cogitative both to prepare the “phantasms” retained by the imagination to be intellectually apprehended as universals, and to conduct abstract understanding back down to its relationship and application to concrete singulars. Since the intellectual virtue of prudence depends upon the application of universal moral principles to concrete situations, the cogitative power, Peghaire notes, is vital to the exercise of this virtue, making the cogitative power key to practical human life.

The Inward Wits: Psychological Theory in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance95-120 PDF

 E. Ruth Harvey

The Common Sense: Perfection of the Order of Pure Sensibility, 121-146 PDF

Bernard J. Muller Thym 

The Cogitative Power: Aquinas' Development of His Predecessors' Views, 147-155 PDF

Mark J. Barker





Mark Stahlman

The Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL) is a not-for-profit strategic research group dedicated to understanding the effects of digital technologies on civilizations -- both East and West.

-Mark Stahlman