Cognition and Causation: Durand of St.-Pourçain and Godfrey of Fontaines on the Cause of a Cognitive Act

In Andreas Speer, Guy Guldentops & Thomas Jeshcke (eds.), Durand of Saint-Pourçain and His Sentences Commentary: Historical, Philosophical, and Theological Issues. pp. 229-256 (2014)
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Abstract
We are affected by the world: when I place my hand next to the fire, it becomes hot, and when I plunge it into the bucket of ice water, it becomes cold. What goes for physical changes also goes for at least some mental changes: when Felix the Cat leaps upon my lap, my lap not only becomes warm, but I also feel this warmth, and when he purrs, I hear his purr. It seems obvious, in other words, that perception (at least, and at least under ordinary conditions) is a matter of being affected by the agency of perceptible objects. Call this doctrine affectionism. Durand of St.-Pourçain rejects affectionism. The paper has three parts. In the first part, I sketch, briefly, what motivates Durand to reject affectionism. In the second part, I will take up the affectionist doctrine as defended by Durand's older contemporary at Paris, Godfrey of Fontaines, who holds that the object of all our mental acts (not just perceptions, but also thoughts and desires) is the efficient cause of those acts, or, in other words, all mental acts (not just perception) come about owing to the affection of the relevant mental faculty by the agency of the object. As it turns out, Godfrey develops a celebrated argument against the thesis that the object is not the efficient cause but a mere sine qua non cause. Hence his position offers a challenge to Durand's position, a challenge, I argue in the third part, Durand meets.
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