Research Seminar: “Giles of Rome on Human Cognition”


Location: Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Library

This seminar, “Giles of Rome on Human Cognition,” is presented by Bernd Goehring, assistant professor in the Program of Liberal Studies at Notre Dame. Goehring examines how the medieval thinker Giles of Rome conceives of the relation between our sensory representations and the contents in our intellect. Giles was born around 1243 and died at the papal court in Avignon in 1316; he was the first member of the Augustinian order to become a master in theology at the University of Paris.

Goehring’s paper first analyzes the notion of cognitive presence, i.e. the notion that ideally a cognitive object is immediately present to a cognizer in the right format. Giles develops this conception of cognitive presence in his discussion of the beatific vision. Giles uses this ideal case to explicate the role of representations as functional intermediaries in cognition. The paper subsequently examines specifically the role of sensory representations in our cognition. Giles conceives of our intellect as a capacity for universal thought and assumes with Aristotle that all our cognition originates from sense-experience. According to Giles, sensory representations of particular, sensible objects are not only required for our initial concept-formation via abstraction, but also for any subsequent actualization of our intellective capacity and its contents in thought.

The Italian Research Seminar, jointly organized by the Devers Program in Dante Studies and by Italian Studies at Notre Dame, aims to provide a regular forum for faculty, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and colleagues from other universities to present and discuss their current research. The Seminar is vigorously interdisciplinary, and embraces all areas of Italian history, language, and culture, as well as perceptions of Italy, its achievements and its peoples in other national and international cultures. The Seminar constitutes an important element in the effort by Notre Dame’s community of Italianists to promote the study of Italy and to serve as a strategic point of contact for all Italianists.

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