Superphysics Superphysics
Section 7

The Inward Senses and the Motion-Promoting Powers

by Avicenna
7 minutes  • 1351 words

I. Not one of the outward senses unites within itself perception of color, odor, and softness.

Yet, we often come upon a body that is yellow, and perceive at once so much about it, namely that it is honey, sweet, nice of smell, and fluid, although we have neither tasted, nor smelt, nor even touched it; whence it is manifest that we possess a power wherein are assembled the perceptions of the four senses, and have thus become summed up in it into one single form; and were it not for this power we should not know that sweetness, for instance, is other than blackness, since the discriminator between two things is he who has known them both.

This is power is called:

  • the common-sense, and
  • the picturing (or representing) power.

Were it one of the outward apparent senses, its sway (dominion) would limit itself to the state of wakefulness only; whereas ocular observation attests what is quite otherwise; for this power does at times perform its action in both the states of sleep and wakefulness.


Animals have a power which sets up such forms as have assembled in the common-sense, discriminates between them, and differentiates them, without the forms themselves disappearing from the common-sense.

This power is undoubtedly other than the aforesaid picturing power; since in the latter there are none but true (real) forms that have been acquired (obtained) from sense; whereas in this power the case may be otherwise, and it may imagine and picture wrongly and falsely, and what it had not received after such a [wrong and false] pattern (shape) from any one of the senses. This power is the one named imagination.

Further, there is in animals a power that passes judgment, upon such or such a thing that it is so or not so, decisively, and through which the animal flees away from shunned evil and seeks chosen good. It is also evident that this power is other than the imaginative, since this last imagines (pictures to itself) the sun, in accordance with what it has got from the apposite sense, to be of the size of its disc; whereas the matter stands in this power quite otherwise.

So too the lion finds his prey from far off of the size of a small bird, yet its form and size in no way perplex him, but he makes for it. It is also evident that this power is other than the ima[Pg 63]ginative, and this because the imaginative power performs its manifold deeds without belief and conviction on its part that matters are in accordance with its imagining. This power is what is named the conjecturing or the surmising faculty (or judgment).


Living beings have a power that preserves the purports (or thoughts and conceptions) of what the senses had perceived.

Examples are:

  • ’the wolf is an enemy'
  • ’the child is a darling next of kin'.

Wherefore, so much at least if not more is evident, that this power is other than the common-sense (or picturing), inasmuch as in the latter there are no forms but such as it has gained from the senses. Whereas, the senses did not feel the wolf’s enmity, nor the child’s love, but alone the wolf’s image, and the child’s bodily shape;

and as to love and fierceness, it is the mind’s eye alone that has got them, and then stored them up in this power. It is also clear that this power is other than the imaginative power, for the reason that this last does at times imagine what is other than that which the mind’s eye has deemed right, found true, and has derived from the senses; whereas the former power, i.e., the one here dealt with, imagines none other than what the mind’s eye has deemed right, has found true, and has derived from the senses.

This power is also other than the conjecturing[Pg 64] (surmising) power, for the reason that this last does not preserve what some other has deemed to be true, but it of its own self deems to be true, whilst the power here treated of does not itself pass judgment of truth or falsehood, but only preserves what another has deemed to be true. This power is called memory, the preserving or keeping faculty.

Again, the imaginative power is called by this name—imagination—if the conjecturing (or surmising) power alone use it: and if the speaking (rational) power use it, it is called the thinking (cogitative) power.

Aristotle thinks that:

  • the heart is the source (spring) of all these powers (faculties).
  • yet the sway over them is in different organs (instruments).


  • the sway over the outward (apparent) senses is in their known organs
  • the sway over the picturing (representing common-sense) power is in the anterior hollow (ventricle) of the brain
  • the sway over the imaginative, in the middle hollow
  • the sway over the remembering, in the posterior hollow
  • the sway over the conjecturing, throughout all the brain, but above all in the compartment of the imaginative within the brain [or, throughout the whole of the brain, but more especially alongside of the imaginative thereof].

If these these hollows in the brain are harmed and hurt, so will the manifold workings of these powers suffer also.

If the the powers stood independently and subsisted in and worked by themselves, they would not need any organ for their proper actions.

The wise Aristotle recognizes that these powers do not subsist in themselves, but that the undying power is the Speaking (Reasoning) Soul.

Yet for all this, the soul does maybe at times seek out for itself after a fashion (so to speak) the purest quintessences of the kernels of these powers, and cause them to exist of themselves, the setting forth of which shall, D.v., soon follow.

These are the 5 inward senses:

  1. Common-Sense = hiss mushtarak, mutaçawwirah.
  2. Vis formans, imaginatio = khayâl, muçawwirah, fantasia, takhayyul, mutakhayyilah.
  3. Vis cogitativa, vis imaginativa = mufakkirah, mutakhayyilah, mutawahhimah, zânnah, mutaçarrifah, mutafakkirah, takhayyul.
  4. Memory, remembering, preserving = hâfizah, mutazhakkirah, zhâkirah, zhikr.
  5. Vis existimativa, opinativa = wahm, mutawahhimah, zhânnah, takhayyul, wahmiyyah.

Perception, through any one or more of the 5 outward senses, of the outward concrete form.

Conception of particular notions, over and beyond the concrete form perceived.

Memory retains both outward forms perceived as well as recalls inward particular forms conceived.

Common-Sense rises a step higher than the 3 preceding. It unites 2 or more of the products of any of the 3 preceding and derives from them a new conception.

Opining, which rises higher still and passes judgment, or comes to a definite opinion as to the truth or falsehood of conceptions formed.

In respect of memory, Ibn Sînâ in his canon of Medicine, makes a distinction. He says:

And just here is a point for scrutiny and judgment as to whether the preserving power and the power recalling (to consciousness) such notions as had been stored up by the opining power but have passed away from it, are 1 power or 2.

Perception, of the Five Senses, through organs.

  1. Sway of the Common-Sense, in the anterior hollow: this is explained in Section 6
  2. Sway of the Imaginative Power, in the middle hollow.
  3. Sway of the Remembering Power, in the posterior hollow.
  4. Sway of the Conjecturing Power, throughout all the brain, and alongside of the imaginative compartment: 2, 3, 4, are in all live animals, and are dealt with in this Section
  5. Sway of opinion: This belongs exclusively to Man, and will be explained in Section 8

This theory is beautifully clear and simple.

  • Number 2 grasps and appropriates the outward form brought to it by the senses
  • Number 3 grasps and appropriates particular conceptions
  • Number 4 stores them up

Thus also, the one dwelling in the front hollow is not influenced by the action of the one occupying the middle or the hindermost hollow, whereas conversely each succeeding faculty has recourse to the one preceding it in order of place.

This theory arose after an acquaintance with the division and arrangement of the brain into chambers had made considerable progress with the Arabs.

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