Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Unicity of Intellect

  • Tomáš NejeschlebaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_438-1


The concept of the unicity of the intellect emerged in association with interpretations of Aristotle’s theory of the soul distinguishing between the agent and the possible intellect. The term monopsychism is connected with the controversy, which arose in the Middle Ages with Averroes’ (Ibn Rushd) commentary on Aristotle. Averroes considers not only the agent intellect but also the material (possible) intellect as transcendent and numerically unified. Thomas Aquinas and other Christian thinkers criticized this doctrine because it negates the concept of an individual immortal human soul. In the fifteenth century, the unicity of the intellect was often viewed as an interpretation fully in agreement with Aristotle’s theory of the soul, and the doctrine is usually found in Renaissance Paduan Peripatetic philosophers, beginning with Paul of Venice and ending with Nicoletto Vernia. Criticism of the doctrine (particularly by Marsilio Ficino) influenced, however, the Church reaction and led to the condemnation of monopsychism at the Fifth Lateran Council in 1513. The anti-Averroist attitude began to prevail in the sixteenth century. As a result of Pietro Pomponazzi affair, the subject of discussion shifted from the relationship of plurality versus unicity to the issue of immortality versus mortality. Monopsychism consequently declined both as a philosophical doctrine and as a viable interpretation of Aristotle in the second half of the sixteenth century.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Renaissance Texts, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of ArtsPalacky UniversityOlomoucCzech Republic

Section editors and affiliations

  • Anna Laura Puliafito
    • 1
  1. 1.Universität BaselBaselSwitzerland