The prejudices and errors of the senses reveal themselves to us on all sides.
We try to correct them by reason, and are insensibly led to unheard-of paradoxes.

George Berkeley 1

For a long time, intelligence was the faculty superior to reason, before becoming an object of study for reason, coupled with an object that could be constructed by man, under the same name: artificial intelligence. This inversion can be explained, but only historically, i.e. without any real foundation. The imperative need to re-establish the order of things remains, and this is amply justified by the limits of reason.

It seems clear to us that reason is to reasoning what intelligence is to understanding, making both instances equally essential, but this distinction refers to dissimilar and controversial modes of knowing.

Reason, from the Latin ‘ratio‘ Translating the Greek ‘dianoia‘, and Partly ‘logos

The meaning of Greek dianoia (διάνοια) is, without mystery, discursive (or hypothetico-deductive) thought, the meaning being directly etymological: from noûs (intelligence) and di (in two)2 or dia (through)3. In Plato4, the first degree of knowledge of the intelligibles, the dianetic sciences being positively defined “by the refusal to have recourse to the senses, and, negatively, by the inability to go beyond hypotheses to the ultimate principle”5. An intermediary faculty, dianoia is opposed to both sôma (body) and noûs (intelligence)6. Although proposing a different epistemology, Aristotle defines it in the same way7): a dianoia that discursively reaches its object, and a noèsis that immediately possesses it through intuition8.

For its part, ratio (reason) is related to ratus (participle of reor: to believe, to think) and, perhaps, to the root rat (identical to art from ars, artus), “expressing something adapted, arranged and firm as a result of this arrangement”; hence ratus (assured, fixed) for a thing or a person, ratis (raft : solidly assembled pieces of wood) and ratio (system of interrelated ideas, accounts9, raisonnement)10. The different meanings of ratio (from the verb ratiocinor: “to calculate” and, figuratively only, “to reason”) are in any case explicit, associating calculation and reasoning, both in terms of action (or even object) and faculty11. In close conformity with this Latin etymology, reason is legitimately the faculty of discursive reasoning, of combining concepts and propositions; this constitutes the principal and essential definition we retain here12.

If reason and intelligence have been inverted, it’s probably due in part to the existence of a very specific ancestor: the Greek λόγος (lógos)13 which Latin also translated as ratio, becoming “reason” in French. Indeed, “logos” is not a simple word; it first meant “discourse” (constructed), before signifying the “reason” that is expressed by this discourse – “reason” which, as in French, also has the meaning of principle or cause 14. But logos has also meant “relationship” and “word”. “Word” refers both to reason, or thought, and to supreme or divine Reason, the organizing and explanatory Reason of the universe (the Stoics, Hegel), God possessing within himself the archetypes of all things (Plato); hence the Christian Logos, the Word of God, the divine eternal Word (Jn I, 1-18), who is the Son in the Trinity, and “by whom all things were made” (Jn 1:3). Logos thus refers to “order”, “organization”, “coherence”, applying as much to the order of things as to the order of thought15). L’ordo rerum est en fait une ratio rerum16 and logos‘ sense of “relation” then appears: “isomorphism of the order of things and the order of thought”, “condition and principle of their agreement with each other”17.

In considering the logos and the link it expresses between the world and thought, reason can do no better than simply acknowledge its presence, whether its approach is metalogical, structuralist or phenomenological:

Yet we must ask ourselves whether these efforts to uncover logos – whether formal in logic, structural in the human sciences or transcendental in phenomenology – succeed in reaching the very principle that makes knowledge possible.
The principle of identity that governs formal logic, structural systematicity or phenomenological evidence can only signify logos, not adequately grasp it. Indeed, can we expect any rational discipline to go back to the very thing that founds it, and pose it in an act for which it can claim the initiative?
[… For reason] to hold on to a kind of abstract purity that does not refer to the thickness of the world in which man is engaged in his concrete humanity.18.

Philibert Secretan

Intelligence, from Cell to Spirit: ‘noûs

If “reason” derives in part from a term, logos, which is not so much equivocal as polysemous, and which therefore goes beyond the strict definition of “reason-calculation”19, “intelligence”, via the Latin intelligentia, intellegentia (from intellegere “to understand”)20 indicates a “to collect between” (or “to read between the lines”), which, in turn, presupposes a beyond of the only given (of the only written lines). The meanings of the Latin verb intellego are unequivocal: to discern, to unravel, to perceive, to realize, to grasp, to appreciate (Gaffiot); and the Greek terms, in fine translated by intelligence, are equally explicit: on the one hand súnesis (from the verb súniemi : hiemi = to send and sún = with)21 which, with the notion of reunion, evokes “com-understanding” (to take with oneself, to reunite with oneself) and, on the other hand, aisthesis (from the verb aisthanomai = to perceive, to receive, both by the senses and by the mind)22, which expresses perception, especially by the intellect.

Compared to a reason that combines, arranges and calculates, intelligence will therefore be the instance that accepts, admits and grasps, and will thus relate to the action of understanding as well as to the faculty of understanding. We can thus pertinently distinguish the domain of reason, which, “in its empirical and logical effectuations, is that of established fact [… and] the domain of intelligence [which] is meaning”23. This is the essential definition we retain.

However, while logos goes beyond the definition of reason 24, here it’s intelligence that extends far beyond this definition. Intelligence, in fact, is also defined as encompassing “all the functions whose object is knowledge” in the broadest sense: sensation, association, memory, imagination, understanding, reason, consciousness (Lalande), constituting one of the three classes of psychic phenomena (cognitive, affective, volitional). Thus, while reason is inherently impersonal25, intelligence is rooted in the deepest depths of the individual, and even in biological life:

Human intelligence plunges deep into the psychic layers, where it is linked to a realm that is not its own: it is not yet psyche, consciousness, but biological life.26

Philibert Secretan

It is this rooting through the “psychic layers” that makes its psychological analysis legitimate, in particular, and allows us to distinguish the operations of the intelligence relating to four essential phases: acquisition, conservation, transformation and transmission, in which we note the following main operations:

  • perception of external phenomena by the senses and internal perception: inner sense or consciousness ;
  • the conceptualization of “necessary truths”, inaccessible through perception per se, such as the necessary, the absolute, the infinite – this conceptualization then being reason ;
  • adding the impact of will, we find the operations of attention and observation (looking versus seeing, listening versus hearing);
  • retention combines association and memorization;
  • processing requires abstraction and generalization;
  • imagination27;
  • reasoning (deduction or induction), which leads to the judgment ;
  • the judgment itself;
  • the expression of ideas through language.28

We would point out that this (legitimate) way of considering intelligence is too general, including, on the one hand, an identification with consciousness (cf. point 1) and, on the other, integrating reason (cf. point 2). We shall therefore set aside here this pragmatic definition of intelligence as measurable by psychology: agility of mind or aptitude for mental calculation. Pragmatic indeed, since, when asked “What is intelligence?”, the inventors of the famous test are said to have replied: “But that’s precisely what our test measures!”29.

It is therefore the definitions we have retained that are most relevant here: a reason that calculates or reasons, and an intelligence that grasps. All the more so since, if intelligence has its roots in the biological (Secretan) or the “genetic” (Piaget)30, intelligence also rises to the Greek noûs (νοῦς)31, the spirit, which it expresses via the Latin intellectus. We could then call it the intellect32, to avoid equivocation, and “the exercise of this faculty is called intellection, which is a distinct perception joined to the faculty of reflection”33. While noûs was able to withstand a relative variation in meaning in antiquity (the mind and its various faculties), in Plato, in particular, it is the highest faculty of the soul, the only one able to contemplate the true essence:

True essence, colorless, formless, impalpable, can only be contemplated by the soul’s guide, intelligence. Around essence lies the place of true science. […] Every soul that is to fulfill its destiny, loves to see the essence from which it has long been separated, and gives itself up with delight to the contemplation of truth34


And in Aristotle as well:

The understanding (noûs, intellectus) is the most wonderful thing in us, and among the things that can be known, those that it can know are the most important.35.

The same applies to Plotinus (205-270)36, then in Augustine (354-430), where mens (thought) is the higher soul that distinctly contains ratio and intellectus (or intelligentia), which is what man receives divine light through:

Reason is a movement capable of distinguishing and linking our knowledge.37 [But] other is intellect, other is reason38
The difference between the function of the reasonable soul acting in temporal things, which not only contains knowledge, but also extends to action; and the other more perfect function of the same soul consisting in the contemplation of eternal things and being limited to knowledge.39.

Similarly, in the language of the Middle Ages, “intellectus was used to translate noûs in all its force, and was opposed to ratio, the faculty of discursive reasoning”40. In Thomas Aquinas, for example:

Reason differs from intellect as multiplicity from unity… Reason stands in the same relation to the intellect as time to eternity, and the circle to the center. Indeed, it is the nature of reason to spread out in all directions over a multitude of things.41

This intellect not only receives within itself the knowledge that comes from outside, as a passive intellect, but also, as an active intellect, illuminates the knowledge received to reveal its intelligible dimension to itself, like an eye that illuminates what it sees.42

In another way, rational nature exceeds sensible nature, and intellectual nature exceeds rational nature. Rational nature surpasses sensible nature as to the object of knowledge, for sense can in no way know the universal, which is the object of reason. But intellectual nature surpasses rational nature as to the mode of knowing intelligible truth; for intellectual nature at once grasps the truth to which rational nature rises only by the investigation of reasoning.43

In Dante (1265-1321) too, following Thomistic usage, inteletto and intelettuale are always taken in the Greek sense and designate thought in its highest form44. Thus, while intelligence may well take on a psychological meaning – and, more generally, become a scientific object – under its denomination of intellect, it retains its “gnoseological value [… and] marks the higher faculty of knowledge”45).

It is also worth defining the word “entendement” – used above to translate “intelligence” in Aristotle at the beginning of the 19th century, but whose definition (and therefore usual meaning) will similarly derive46, and thus played a part in the reversal of meaning between reason and intelligence. A historical synonym for “intelligence” (from the 12th century onwards, in the French language), “l’entendement répond à ce qui chez les Latins est appelé intellectus” 47, this is how it was still defined at the beginning of the 18th century, by Leibniz or Malebranche (1638-1715), even if, for the latter, it meant “pure understanding”:

One is transferred, so to speak, into another world, that is, into the intelligible world of substances, instead of having previously been only among the phenomena of the senses.48

[The mind is called the] understanding when it acts by itself, or rather when God acts in it.49

By this word, pure understanding, we only mean the faculty of the mind to know external objects without forming corporeal images in the brain to represent them.50

Of course, empiricist contemporaries such as John Locke (1632- 1704)51 or the “immaterialist” George Berkeley (1685-1753)52 take different positions, which will not be without confusion later on, but, for all that, in modern times, this reason-intelligence distinction remains irrefragable and a minima remains to be read in the best authors.

From Confusion to Inversion

This distinction between reason (dianoia, ratio) and intellect (noûs, intellectus) is not, however, an absolute separation, since “ratio is the broken and fragmentary light of intellectus53, but, if the reality of each of these modes of cognitive activity is indisputable, confusing them would have seemed rather impossible.

This astonishing confusion, this assimilation of ratio and intellectus, occurs in Descartes’ philosophy because of its dualistic reduction; see, for example, the Second Metaphysical Meditation, where they are mentioned as equivalent: “sum igitur res cogitans, id est mens, sive animus, sive intellectus, sive ratio54. However, within this abusive assimilation, the metaphysician retains for reason a power of intuitive knowledge (intellectus intuitivus)55, without which metaphysics would not be possible.

Yet this is what Kant (1724-1804) rejects, for whom only “sensible intuition”, or “empirical intuition”, exists56:

If by this we mean an object of non-sensible intuition, then we presuppose a particular kind of intuition, intellectual, but which is not ours, the possibility of which we cannot even glimpse […] an intuition of this nature, an intellectual intuition, is absolutely outside our faculty of knowing.57

From then on, the understanding (Verstand) – the intellect – becomes the lower, operative cognitive activity, making abstractions and giving conceptual form to sensible knowledge58, and links them together to establish a coherent discourse; for him, this is discursive knowledge, i.e. reason. Similarly, in Kant’s total inversion, reason (Vernunft) becomes the superior faculty of knowledge, that of ideas and principles, of autonomy and freedom to distinguish truth from falsehood, attaining a level of intelligibility that is synthetic, systematic, universal and unified. For all that, this inversion, no doubt facilitated by the German language59, seems to us to be Kant’s only true “Corpernican revolution”, if it is one at all.

Despite its considerable influence down to the present day, and numerous appropriations (and diverse interpretations), there has nevertheless been no shortage of critics of Kantian rationalism60), whether scientific or philosophical; for example:

Kant isn’t talking about the divine will or the divine mind, but, taking the human mind with its universal and necessary laws, he claims that to these laws can at least be linked, by rigorous deduction, the most general principles of mathematical physics. He has indeed attempted such a deduction from his system of categories. But any such deduction is currently regarded by scientists (and Poincaré rightly insists on this) as an untenable sophism.61

René Berthelot

In Scottish psychology, […] a certain number of general judgments are given as indubitable truths, the negation of which the mind cannot even conceive. […] The Kantian critique itself, when we look at it closely, appears to be, at least in its letter, not a fully idealist philosophy, but an intermediate doctrine between a radical dialectical idealism like Plato’s and a dogmatic conception of the laws of the mind like that of Scottish philosophy. Thus, the fundamental laws of mind are accepted uncritically in Scottish philosophy, and with insufficient criticism in orthodox Kantianism62.

In addition to the sophism denounced above, there are two fundamental criticisms of criticalism – of which Kantianism is only an initiator and paragon – that seem to us to be indisputable and redhibitory; the first has to do with contradiction or illusion, or “critical sleep”, the other with paradoxical rationalist reduction.

The Kantian contradiction lies in the very project of the Critique of Pure Reason, a critique that reason is supposed to carry out on its own63, while the limit set by Kant himself: “That which limits must be different from that which it serves to limit”64 and renders this project obsolete. Reason cannot limit reason; on the contrary, if we can become aware of the limits of reason, it’s because there’s an intellectual power within us that’s superior to reason, and that knowledge enjoys its internal limitlessness65. To aim for a critique of reason by itself, when any higher authority has been denied, is therefore an illusory undertaking. To the “dogmatic sleep” reproached by Kant to metaphysics (confused by him with Wolfian scholasticism66, therefore, responds the “critical sleep” (Borella), which is legitimately returned to him. It is the circle of knowledge that Hegel returns to him:

One of the fundamental points of critical philosophy is that before ascending to the knowledge of God, and of the essence of things, we must investigate whether our faculty of knowledge can lead us there […]. This point of view appeared so full of accuracy, that it aroused unanimous admiration and assent […]. If we do not wish to be misled by words, we will easily see […] that all research relating to knowledge can only be done by knowing, and that researching this so-called instrument of knowledge is nothing other than knowing. Now, to want to know before knowing is as absurd as the wise precaution of this schoolboy, who wanted to learn to swim before venturing into the water.67

The paradoxical reduction is, of course, that of rationalism. For, if Kant denies intellectual intuition, it is only because he imagines it, on the model of sensible intuition, as having an object in front of it. Yet “beyond knowledge by observation, there is room for knowledge by participation”68. To think a thing is certainly to construct a concept but, above all, it is to be “intellectually seized by a sense, an intelligible, that we ‘recognize’ more than we know it”69. Deprived of this faculty, Kant may well criticize Leibniz for “intellectualizing phenomena”70 into an “intellectual System der Welt” (an intellectualized world system)71, but hence the paradox already noted by Jules Lachelier:

The completely determined (extensively and intensively), the completely explained (in becoming and in existence) must be, because we can’t help looking for them; but we’d have to look for them beyond time and space, i.e. where it’s currently impossible for us to find them. – Hence the paradox of Kant’s language, that the intelligible, i.e. the very object of our intelligence, is precisely that which escapes all the grasp of our intelligence.72

The fact remains that, following this reduction, the word “intellectualism” was born in the first half of the 19th century73 with, “almost always, a pejorative meaning” (Lalande); and that, following the Kantian inversion, it has become sometimes difficult to know what everyone means by reason, intelligence and understanding (the latter being now obsolete) and, if this is not always the case, the variations in vocabulary should henceforth make us very cautious. Thus, Hegel (1770-1831) identified the real and the rational74, making Reason a paradoxical “relative absolute”, i.e., although natural and historical, Reason is nevertheless identified with the whole of objective being and its meaning. Despite what we might call an “evolutionary deistic panpsychism”, we would understand better by associating the real and the intelligible (or meaning)75

Even among Christian philosophers, who have Thomasian definitions at their disposal, inversion and new terminological inventions are commonplace. Abbé Bautain (1796-1867) distinguished between the two traditional faculties of the human mind, intelligence and reason76, Antoine Blanc de Saint-Bonnet (1815-1880), gives opposite definitions:

Intelligence is the faculty of the relative, and reason is the faculty of the absolute. Intelligence explains, but reason conceives what is explained. The former makes us know, but the latter makes us see; for reason opens a window on Being. As it starts from what is necessary, it says what cannot not be; and, without the help of experience, it imposes truth.77.

Blanc de Saint-Bonnet even ended up opposing reasoning to reason – which is said to derive from a Hebraic root meaning to see (sic)! From then on, Abbé Lacuria (1806-1890) was condemned to follow his own thinking. The first faculty, by which “we communicate directly with the infinite”, will be for him “a kind of intuition” or “an intimate feeling that fills the depths of our soul, but whose form escapes us, of which we can often say like Saint Paul: ‘Quæ non licet homini loqui, of which it is not permitted to man to speak'”. As for the second faculty, it will be that of division, discernment, separation: “our spiritual sense of limit [… by which] we enter into relationship with the multiple or the finite”78.

The spirit of the distinction to be made is clearly present here, but to give them names, Abbé Lacuria faces the contradiction between the etymologies of “intelligence” to which he has access; for Bautain: intus legere = to read within, hence, for him, a sense of the infinite, and for Blanc de Saint-Bonnet: inter legere = to choose among, hence faculter to reason. Faced with these difficulties, Lacuria began by renouncing the word “intuition” (from intueri, intuens, intus ens = being within), which could be used to express the sight of the infinite and union with it, and reserved it for the state of life in God after death. Then, because of the effort of penetration to which the word “entendement” (from in tendere = to tend within) seems to refer, Lacuria finally retains it to designate “intelligence”, and, for the faculty of distinction (reason), he adopts the word “intelligence”, following Blanc de Saint-Bonnet :

It is therefore decided that henceforth we shall express by understanding the sense of the infinite or the idea of being, such as they are in man, and by intelligence, the sense of the finite or the idea of non-being, such as they are also in man.79
This spiritual assimilation, the work of faith, is achieved by means of that marvellous faculty of the understanding, which embraces the infinite in a single embrace, believing what the intelligence can neither reach nor contain.80

Perhaps even more significant of this troubled period was Abbé Lacuria’s use of the word “intelligence” in both senses, although he was careful to distinguish between the two. For his part, the philosopher Félix Ravaison (1813-1900) took the word intelligence to mean “intuitive or immediate knowledge as well as conceptual and discursive knowledge”, the latter being equated with understanding, while Henri Bergson (1859-1941), contrasting intelligence with intuition81, will take intelligence to mean only conceptual and rational knowledge, and will make it a synonym for understanding just as well:

Intelligence is characterized by the indefinite power to decompose according to any law and to recompose according to any system82.

On the other hand, Émile van Biéma, considering the now inverted meaning of “entendement”, proposed to “consider the confusion of intelligence and entendement as a simple impropriety of expression”83. As for James Mark Baldwin (1861-1934), he would stick to the original distinction between reason and intellect (admittedly, without metaphysical intent), but using the Kantian inversion of designations:

Understanding is discursive and hence based on premises and hypotheses, themselves not subjected to reflexion, while [… ] Reason apprehends in one immediate act the whole system, both premises and inference, and thus has complete or unconditioned validity84

As we can see, intelligence has progressively disappeared (reserved for psychology); what remains is to deny it. Hence the paradox of Marcel Proust (1871-1922), who denies intelligence, yet offers a “brilliant description” of it in La Recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927)85; does he distinguish between the two meanings of “intelligence”? Hence also the sophomoric argument of Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), who, taking the philosophy of structure to its logical conclusion, asserts that “”there is no absolute origin of meaning in general”86, […] without seeming to suspect that this assertion, to be relevant, requires exactly the opposite”87.

Derrida is well aware of the contradiction in overthrowing metaphysics and transcendence with the concept of the sign, which is inseparable from its referential aim, i.e., from the affirmation of a transcendent.88

Jean Borella

If this brief overview stops before the end of the twentieth century, it’s because this situation of inversion, even confusion, and negation is now unchanged89. In the recent Grand dictionnaire de la philosophie (2003), Sébastien Bauer (c. 1970), for “intellection”, gives the last word to Kant; Pierre-Henri Castel (1963) defines intelligence exclusively as the object of psychology; and, concerning reason, Suzanne Simha seems to endorse Kantian criticism (in particular against Leibniz), and questions André Lalande’s (1867-1963) distinction between constituted reason (which is confused with its productions in the sciences in particular) and constituent reason, “perennial, which is nothing but the human mind with its great principles”90, in favor of the former.

The Regimes of Reason

From this point of view, we don’t believe that it’s reason as such that is evolutionary, contrary to what some Hegelians or Derrideans may think, but rather the mind that puts this tool to work. Indeed, reason, like any instrument, is subject to its user, his idiosyncrasies, his own mentality, and, in its cultural insertion, to the paradigms, the dominant conceptions, of its time. If, in the wake of structural anthropology, Derrida can denounce a unitary conception of reason91, this is pure sophistry, for “if it were so, then no thought would be entitled to rationally draw such a conclusion: reason is one or it is not92”. Indeed, if reason is triply subject: to its object, to the “empire of logic”93, to the cultural context, it remains, as a cognitive instance, the universal instrument, common to human beings, as illustrated by what should be called “artificial reason” (and not artificial intelligence)94, force or mental energy, with which part of humanity has been endowed since 194695.

While we don’t think we can say that “the history of Reason ‘in general’ is the history of meaning”96, we can certainly, following Jean Borella, distinguish between different regimes of reason. Formally universal, reason applies materially to a variety of objects, depending on place and time, as well as on the culture that mediates sensitive and intellective experiences in one way or another. So, if natural reason proves to be a fiction, there is in any case cultural reason, and thus the possibility of distinct regimes of rationality. In the West, at least, we can roughly distinguish four of them:

  • the Platonic regime of an intellective reason hierarchically ordered to the divine [5th-4th c. CEA, then 2nd-5th c. then Quattrocento] ;
  • the Aristotelian-Thomistic regime of a logical reason subject to revelation, but still imbued with intellectivity [5th c. CEA and 13th c. (then 15th-19th c.)] ;
  • the Kantian regime of a scientific-critical reason, horizontally counterposed to religious beliefs97;
  • the [Derridean] cybernetic or combinatorial regime of a deconstructed and decentralized reason, given over to the power of its economic, social or ethnological determinations98.

Intelligence as the Sense of Being

If intelligence is to be distinguished from reason, it is, as we’ve said, because it “comes from outside” (or “through the door”)99. Certainly, given his psycho-corporal state, it’s true that for man “nihil est in intellectu quod non fuerit in sensu” (nothing is in the intellect that wasn’t first in the senses)100 but, only insofar as we add the Leibnizian correction: “nisi ipse intellectus” (if not the intellect itself)101! If reason unwinds reasoning, it is indeed intelligence that understands it, and no one can force anyone – not even themselves – to understand what remains misunderstood. Simone Weil (1909-1943) showed this better than anyone:

Intelligence, in its act of intellection, is perfectly free, and no authority, no will, even our own, has power over it: we cannot force ourselves to understand what we do not understand102.

The cognitive act as such, as we have said, lies in that “kind of reciprocal transparency” that occurs in the direct union between a known object and a knowing subject, constituting “the very experience of the intelligible” (Borella). The intellect, in act and in its metaphysical essence, is like a crystal infused with light: it does not produce it103. This is reflected in the doctrine of the intellect as the sense of being104.

If reality and intelligence are inseparable105, this is because reality only makes sense to the intelligence106. To say that the role of intelligence is to be a “sense of the real” is to note that the primary intellectual act is essentially intuition of the real as such, awareness that there is reality107, “immediate clarity that imposes itself”, as Léon Noël puts it:

Intelligence obeys only the object, nothing else dominates it, but there, in the immediate clarity that imposes itself on its gaze, it finds definitive rest.108

Our “consciousness of intelligibility”, our “semantic experience”, is the realization that the idea of being has its semantic resonance in our intelligence, even though this cannot be explained by any genesis. This metaphysical disposition is therefore innate and immediate; and it is precisely the immediacy of this ontological experience that makes it directly inaccessible to us, just as we cannot see the light that makes us see, except indirectly.109

For all that, it is not the very being of the known object that is received in the intellect, but its intelligible modality, stripped of the object’s own individual existence; “the act of knowledge is thus achieved only at the price of a kind of derealization”. However, this “knowledge is real, it is even the function of reality par excellence”110: “there is only being for knowledge”. This is what makes the intellect’s situation paradoxical: it is both outside reality and linked to it. It is therefore this illumination “coming from elsewhere”, it is therefore of another nature, of another degree of reality than that which it illuminates. Jean Borella would say that “the cognitive content of the intellect exceeds the degree of reality of its manifestation: in other words, [that] it is transcendent to it”111. And it has to be, since everything that is manifested is never entirely there, since its invisible root, cause and source always remain unmanifested.

To be convinced of this, we need only go back to Plato’s immutable teaching, for whom the conception of the universe “derives as a sensible illustration from that which, in itself, is invisible and transcendent”. It is “in its very substance” that the world “is endowed with an ‘iconic’ function”112; it is, says Plato, “of necessity the image of something” (Timaeus, 29b), so that any cosmology can only be “a plausible myth (ton eïkota muthon)” (Timaeus, 29d)113. If, for Plato,

our science of nature remains hypothetical, it’s not because of the weakness of our intelligence; it’s because of the lack of reality of the object to be known. From then on, the only form of knowledge suitable to a deficient being is symbolic knowledge, because it first posits its object for what it is, a symbol, but a real symbol, i.e. an image that participates ontologically in its model.114

Jean Borella


  1. A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, our translation from the French version: Les principes de la connaissance humaine, Paris: A. Colin, 1920, p. 3.[]
  2. Discursion being a race subject to duality, to division.[]
  3. Referring to the mind as the “medium of refraction” through which the object passes in order to be known.[]
  4. “The four operations of the soul: intelligence at the highest, discursive knowledge at the second, faith at the third, imagination at the last”, Republic, VI, 511d-e (Œuvres complètes, trans. Robert Baccou, Paris: Garnier, t. 4, 1950). “There is therefore only the dialectical method which, discarding hypotheses, goes straight to the principle in order to establish it solidly; which gradually draws the eye of the soul out of the quagmire in which it is shamefully plunged, and raises it high with the help and by the ministry of the arts of which we have spoken”, Republic, VII, 533c-d, œuvres de Platon, trans. V. Cousin, Paris: Rey & Gravier, t. X, 1834.[]
  5. Christophe Rogue, Grand dictionnaire de la philosophie (sous la dir. de Michel Blay, Paris: Larousse, CNRS éd, 2003), s.v. dianoia: “Dianoia is therefore merely an introduction to dialectics, which alone, by synoptically considering the network of hypotheses, can go beyond it and lead to knowledge (noèsis) based on the contemplation of the anhypothetical Good” (ibid.).[]
  6. Timaeus, 88a for the first opposition, Republic, III, 395b and Laws, XI, 916a for the second (Bailly).[]
  7. Metaphysics, IV, 7, 1012a1.[]
  8. The School will thus distinguish between cognitio abstractiva and cognitio intuitiva (ibid.).[]
  9. Book of reason (liber rationis or liber rationum) meant account book: “discursive review of the whole train of a house” (Lalande). Moreover, “rendering account and rendering reason are two practically synonymous expressions: the Italian language knows this well, which uses the term ragioniere to refer to an accountant”, Secretan, op. cit., p. 76.[]
  10. Cf. remark by Jules Lachelier, in Lalande, s.v. Raison, note, p. 877.[]
  11. In terms of action: calculation, supputation; account, register; figuratively: system, procedure, method; evaluation. In terms of faculty: to calculate, to reason, a reasonable or judicious way of doing things; rational; theory, doctrine, scientific system. Ratio can also mean “cause” (Félix Gaffiot, Dictionnaire Illustré Latin-Français, Paris: Hachette, 1934[]
  12. If we oppose reason to madness or passion, we pass from rational to reasonable. If we contrast it with faith, we distinguish between “natural knowledge” and revealed knowledge (Leibniz). If we contrast it with experience, reason can become a system of a priori principles: “truths independent of the senses” (Leibniz), which the empiricist school would contest, as everything must derive from experience; or reason can be given the capacity for a priori synthetic knowledge, as with mathematics and the principles of science (Kant).[]
  13. From “lego“: to say, to speak; with the following series of specific meanings: to affirm, to maintain, to support; to teach; to exhort, to advise, to command, to address; to announce by speech, to destine to…[]
  14. As in “raison d’état” or “raison du plus fort”.[]
  15. For example: Logos, “Word adequately transmitting the internal reason of the speaker as well as the external reason inscribed in ”the order of things”, Gérard Legrand, Dictionnaire de philosophie, Paris: Bordas, 1972; cf. CNRTL, emphasis added.[]
  16. Philibert Secretan, “Raison et intelligence” (Lecture, Dec. 1975, Université de Fribourg), Échos de Saint-Maurice, t. 72, 1976, p. 76.[]
  17. Ibidem.[]
  18. Secretan, ibid., p. 77. Emphasis added. “Logical sciences always run the risk of acting as if this ”intuition” of their principle were equivalent to the capture of their foundation, and the inscription of the latter in the procedure of their self-foundation” (ibid.).[]
  19. Thus we might think that: “the purpose of this logos [… is] to give us access to a beyond of words and even of purely material realities”, Bernard Suzanne, “Le vocabulaire de Platon”, s.v. logos, Plato and his dialogues (online).[]
  20. From “inter” = between and “lego” = to gather, collect and, figuratively: to collect by the ears or by the eyes, to read.[]
  21. To run or flow together, hence co-naissance, com-understanding, “intelligence, i.e. the mind in the limit where it understands”, em-Bible, Greek and Hebrew lexicon (online). From this notion of meeting (sún) derives, from ancient Greek to present-day French, via medieval Latin, the meaning of “good understanding” or “more or less secret relationship between different people” (cf. CNRTL, s. v. intelligence). []
  22. In connection with its root “thes” = to lay, to place, to deposit, to store, to admit, to put in place, to accept.[]
  23. Secretan, ibid., p. 78.[]
  24. In addition to the examples already noted, in Philo of Alexandria (c.-20-c.45), “logos is the divine intelligence in the very act of creating the intelligible world, archetype of what the sensible world will be (De mutatione nominum, 116)” and “force inhabiting the sensible world (De opificio mundi)”, Annie Hourcade, Le grand dictionnaire de la philosophie, s.v. Logos, p. 639.[]
  25. For example, Heraclitus notes: “logos is common”, B 2 (J.-P. Dumont, D. Delatre, J.-J. Poirier (dir.), Les Présocratiques, Paris: Gallimard, 1998.[]
  26. Secretan, op. cit., p. 78.[]
  27. This is what distinguishes man from animals: it’s not so much a question of thinking or expressing something as of thinking about something or talking about something. As we are therefore dealing with an “absent” person, “we see that mental knowledge involves not only conceptual thought, but also memory and imagination, a function of absence in time and space”, Jean Borella, Amour et vérité (Love and Truth), op. cit., p. 109[]
  28. Naturally, these operations distinguished by analysis are not independent, each presupposing all the others; just as this cognitive whole is not independent of the volitional or, often, the affective.[]
  29. This pragmatic response from Binet and Simon means that, for them, there is no intelligence per se, and intelligence is not “something” that can be defined. The only way to look at it is in practical terms: intelligence is about overcoming tasks and solving problems[]
  30. His famous La Naissance de l’intelligence chez l’enfant (The Origins of Intelligence in Children), 1936, republished in Neuchâtel: Delachaux & Niestlé, 1972, where, as an epistemologist rather than a psychologist, he was able to uncover this “construction-acquisition” of knowledge by intelligence (mentioned above). []
  31. Which word would come from the Greek verb ginosco: To learn to know, to perceive, to feel… and would be a “Jewish idiom to speak of the sexual relationship between man and woman” (em. Bible); hence, in this case, the phrase “to know someone biblically”, a euphemism for sexual experience.[]
  32. Which “has retained in its import something more metaphysical”, Lalande, op. cit., s. v. Intellect (p. 521).[]
  33. Leibniz, Nouveaux essais (op. cit.), II, 21, § 5. Emphasis added.[]
  34. Phaedrus, 247c-d, Plato’s Works, trans. V. Cousin, t. 6, Paris: Rey, 1849, p. 51.[]
  35. Nicomachean Ethics, L. X, ch. VII (1177a), Aristotle’s Morals and Politics, trans. M. Thurot, Paris: Firmin Didot, 1823 (online, n.p.).[]
  36. “Intellect is the principle of essence or whatness or intelligibility as the One is the principle of being. Intellect is an eternal instrument of the One’s causality (see V 4.1, 1-4; V I 7. 42, 21-23)”. The intellect is an eternal instrument of the causality of the One), Lloyd Gerson, “Plotinus”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (ed. 2014). See also Jean Trouillard, La Procession plotinienne et La Purification plotinienne, Paris: PUF, 1955.[]
  37. De ordine, II, II, 30; Patrologia Latina, t. XXXII, col. 1009; quoted in Borella, Amour et vérité, p. 113. This does not prevent his use of ratio in a variety of senses, to say the least, as Frederick Van Fleteren has noted, “Authority and reason, faith and understanding in the thought of St. Augustine”, Augustinian Studies, 4, 1973, p. 43.[]
  38. Sermo 43, II, 3; P. L. t. XXXVIII, col. 255; quoted in Borella, Amour et vérité (now translated Love and Truth, Angelico Press), p. 114.[]
  39. Augustine, Trinity, L. XIII, ch. 1; Œuvres complètes de Saint Augustin, trans. M. Devoille, Bar-le-Duc: Raulx, Guérin, 1869[]
  40. Lalande, op. cit., s. v. Intellect (p. 521). See also Julien Peghaire, Intellectus et ratio selon S. Thomas Aquinas, Paris: Vrin, 1936[]
  41. Questions on Boethius’ Book of the Trinity, q. 6, a. 1, sol. 3; quoted in Borella, Amour et vérité, p. 114[]
  42. Summa contra gentiles (1259), II, ch. 76; quoted, in substance, in Borella, Amour et vérité, pp. 114-115.[]
  43. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia IIae, q. 5, a. 1, s. 1.[]
  44. René Berthelot (1872-1960), in Lalande, op. cit., s. v. Intellect (p. 521).[]
  45. Lalande, op. cit., s. v. Intellect (p. 521[]
  46. It is found as early as the first edition of the Dictionnaire de l’Académie (1694), with a broad meaning including understanding and knowing: “Puissance, faculté de l’ame, par laquelle elle conçoit, connoist & comprend” (Power, faculty of the soul, by which it conceives, connoists & understands). A century later, in Jean-François Féraud’s Dictionaire critique de la langue française (Marseille: Mossy, 1787-1788), the meaning was reduced to conceptualization only: “Faculté de l’âme, par laquelle elle conçoit” (Faculty of the soul, by which it conceives); this was endorsed by the Académie française: “Faculté de l’âme, par laquelle elle conçoit” (5th ed. of 1798), until the 8th ed. (1932-1935), when, while in the unchanged sense it had become an exclusively philosophical term, the Dictionary adds, returning to the original meaning: “It also means, either in philosophical language, or in everyday language, Ability to understand”. The original meaning thus survived until at least the 20th century[]
  47. Leibniz, Nouveaux essais (op. cit.), II, 21, § 5.[]
  48. Leibniz, Nouveaux essais (op. cit.), IV, 3, § 5.[]
  49. Malebranche, De la recherche de la vérité, L. V, ch. I, § 1.[]
  50. Malebranche, De la recherche de la vérité, L. III, ch. I, § 3.[]
  51. “The power of thinking is called the Understanding and the power of volition is called the Will”), Essays, L. II, ch. VI (cf. Lalande). In other words, Locke considers the cognitive psyche in block, in the modern sense of intelligence, i.e. including consciousness and reason.[]
  52. Contrary to the traditional, metaphysical sense, the understanding (mind, intellect), for Berkeley, provides no direct access to reality, the material world having no existence other than that of being perceived – this is his famous esse est percipi (cf. A Treatise Concerning the Principle of Human Knowledge, Dublin: Pepyat, 1710, I., 3), but the practical existence of an environment is nonetheless a certainty, associated with that of God, in the knowledge that all that exists is, exclusively, thought: “According to us, non-thinking things perceived by the senses have no existence that is distinct from being-perceived, and therefore cannot exist in any substance other than those inetended, indivisible subtances, or spirits, which act, think and perceive them”; Principles of Human Knowledge, trans. Ch. Renouvier, Paris: A. Colin, 1920, p. 68. “The things by me perceived are known by the understanding, and produced by the will of an infinite Spirit. And is not all this most plain and evident? Is there any more in it than what a little observation in our own minds, […] not only enables us to conceive, but also obliges us to acknowledge”. Isn’t this simple and obvious? Is there more here than a simple observation in our own minds […] not only enables us to conceive, but also obliges us to acknowledge?), Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous in Opposition to Sceptics and Atheists (1713), J. Tonson ed., 1734, “Deuxième dialogue”, online, we translate. We may be surprised to read an equivalent statement by Henri Poincaré: “All that is not thought is pure nothingness, since we can only think thought, and all the words we have to speak of things can only be thoughts; to say that there is something other than thought is therefore an assertion that can have no meaning; La valeur de la science, Paris: Flammarion, 1905, p. 276. Like Berkeley, Poincaré did not, however, deny the objective existence of things: “The only objective reality is the relationships of things, from which universal harmony results. Without doubt, these relationships and this harmony cannot be conceived outside a mind that conceives or feels them. But they are nonetheless objective, because they are, will become or remain common to all thinking beings” (ibid., p. 271).[]
  53. Jean Borella, Amour et vérité, p. 112.[]
  54. “I am therefore a thinking thing, or still spirit, or still soul, or still intellect, or still reason”, quoted by Jean Borella, Amour et vérité, p. 113. Victor Cousin’s translation, which omits “soul” from the series, is equivalent: “je ne suis donc, précisément parlant, qu’une chose qui pense, c’est-à-dire un esprit, un entendement ou une raison”, Œuvres de Descartes, trans. V. Cousin, Paris: Levrault, 1824, t. I, p. 251.[]
  55. For example: “Car je saurois rien révoquer en doute de ce que la lumière naturelle me fait voir être vrai, […] d’autant que je n’ai en moi aucune autre faculté ou puissance pour distinguer le vrai d’avec le faux, qui puisse me enseigner que ce que cette lumière me montre comme vrai ne l’est pas, et à qui je puisse se fier que à elle”, Third Meditation, Œuvres de Descartes, Paris: Levrault, 1824, t. I, p. 270.[]
  56. Kant distinguishes between “empirical intuition”, which relates to the content of sensation, and “pure intuition”, which, devoid of any content of sensation, is that of the simple forms of sensibility, the simple form of his faculty of knowledge. In both cases, we are far from the notion of intellectual intuition, which he does not conceive of and therefore rejects.[]
  57. Critique de la raison pure, trans. J. Tissot, Paris: Ladrange, 1845, t. I, p. 462 & 464. Emphasis added. Here is the paragraph containing the first part of the quotation: “If by noumenon we mean a thing, in so far as it is not an object of our sensible intuition, apart from our way of perceiving it, then this thing is a noumenon in the negative sense. But if we mean by this an object of a non-sensible intuition, then we are assuming a particular kind of intuition, intellectual, but which is not ours, the possibility of which we cannot even glimpse; and this thing would then be a noumenon in the positive sense”; emphasized in the text.[]
  58. “All our knowledge begins with the senses, passes from there to the understanding and ends with reason [Alle unsere Erkenntniss hebt von den Sinnen an, geht da zum Verstande, und endigt bei der Vernunft]. […] We have defined understanding as the power of rules; here we distinguish reason from understanding by calling it the power of principles”, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. A. J.-L. Delamarre and F. Marty, Œuvres philosophiques, ed. F. Alquié, Paris: Gallimard, 1980, t. I, pp. 1016-1017[]
  59. Vernunft there seems to have the sense of practical common sense (like νοῦς in Greek), which accords well with Kant’s view that the ideas of Reason are no longer to be regarded as problems of speculation, but as practical principles, belonging to the sphere of action”, C. Webb in Lalande, op. cit., p. 287[]
  60. The earliest: Herder (1744-1803), Jacobi (1740-1814), G. E. Schulze (1761-1833[]
  61. René Berthelot, Un romantisme utilitaire, essai sur le mouvement pragmatiste, Paris: Alcan, 1911, p. 299.[]
  62. René Berthelot, ibid., Paris: Alcan, 1911, p. 299. Or Antoine Augustin Cournot (1801-1877): “If the order we observe in phenomena were not the order that is found in them, but the order that our faculties put in them, as Kant wanted, there would no longer be any possible criticism of our faculties, and we would all fall, with this great logician, into the most absolute speculative skepticism” (Essai sur les fondements de nos connaissances et sur les caractères de la critique philosophique, Paris: Hachette, 1851, t. I, § 90, p. 179[]
  63. “Pure reason is in reality concerned with nothing other than itself, and it cannot even have any other function”, “Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic”, Critique of Pure Reason (trans. J. Tissot, op. cit.), p. 545.[]
  64. Critique de la raison pure (trans. J. Tissot, op. cit.), p. 444. Underlined in the text. Tissot’s mistranslation (grammatical slip: “ce qui sert” instead of “ce qu’il sert”) is not found in Barni (G.F., “8e section des antinomies”, in fine, p. 428; as quoted in La crise du symbolisme religieux, op.cit., p. 321[]
  65. Cf. Jean Borella, La crise du symbolisme religieux, pp.321-325.[]
  66. From the philosopher Christian Wolf (1679-1754[]
  67. Hegel, Logique de Hegel (Hegel’s Logic), trans. Augusto Véra, Paris: Ladrange, 1859, t. I, pp. 221-222[]
  68. Cf. Raymond Ruyer, “les observables et les participables”, Revue philosophique, 1966, t. CLVI, pp. 419-450; Jean Borella, Lumières de la théologie mystique, Lausanne: L’Âge d’Homme, 2002, reed. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2015, p. 106.[]
  69. Borella, Lumières de la théologie mystique (2015), p. 106. It is this re-recognition that Plato calls reminiscence: “what we call seeking and learning is absolutely nothing but remembering”, Menon 81d, Œuvres de Platon, trad. V. Cousin, Paris: Rey, t. VI, 1849, p. 172[]
  70. In his search for a (new) third way, against both “dogmatism” and empiricism, Kant sees Leibniz intellectualizing phenomena and Locke sensationalizing concepts: “Leibniz intellectirt die Erscheinungen, so wie Locke die Verstandesbegriffe… sensificirt”; Kritik der reinenVernunft [Critique of Pure Reason], K. Kehrbach (ed.), Leipzig: Ph. Reclam, 1878, p. 246; Émile van Biéma, in Lalande, op. cit, p. 523.[]
  71. Critique de la raison pure (Kehrbach), p. 245; Émile van Biéma, in Lalande, op. cit., p. 523.[]
  72. In Lalande, s.v. raison, in note, p. 881. Derrida’s critique thus highlights the Kantian paradox: “The Kantian ‘tribunal of reason’ assures the philosophical-institutional tradition of its formidable power – and its abdication, its impotence, its effective impotence”, Jacques Derrida, Du droit à la philosophie, Paris: Galilée, 1990, pp. 95-96[]
  73. In English in 1829 and in French in 1851 (CNRTL).[]
  74. Preface to his Principles of the Philosophy of Right (1820-1821): “Was vernünftig ist, das ist wirklich; und was wirklich ist, das ist vernünftig” (everything rational is real; and everything real is rational).[]
  75. Which seems to us to be the case: “Excited as if by bait, thought rises, by its own virtue, above natural consciousness, above sensible things and reasoning, and places itself in pure thought […] It is this desire felt by thought to reach the universal essence, and the satisfaction it derives from it, that is the starting point and motive of its developments. To develop for thought is nothing other than to grasp its content and determinations, giving them the free form of pure thought, free in the sense that it conforms to their internal necessity”, Hegel’s Logic, trans. A. Véra, Paris: Ladrange, 1859, “Introduction”, § XII, pp. 224-225. Emphasis added. For all that, Hegel maintains Kant’s terminological hierarchy with “Verstand” as “separating understanding” and “Vernunft” as “ultimately unifying reason”, Jacques d’Handt, Dictionnaire des concepts philosophiques (dir. Michel Blay), s.v. Dialectic, p. 214.[]
  76. The former, which he also called pure understanding, is “the luminous radiance of the soul penetrated and fertilized by divine light”, the latter being capable only of natural objects and able to judge “only what is universal”; quoted in abbé Gaspard (P. F. G. Lacuria), Les Harmonies de l’être exprimées par les nombres…, Paris: Comptoirs des Imprimeurs-Unis, 1847, t. I, p. 241.[]
  77. Blanc de Saint-Bonnet, De l’unité…, t. I, p. 7. And when he defends himself as much as a traditionalist as a rationalist, it is reason that he splits into two: “I would say in the same way to the rationalist that I am more so than he is: he sees only one reason, and I see two, the inner reason, which enlightens every man coming into this world, and the outer reason, which enlightens humanity in the midst of this world” (ibid., 24). These are the concepts he would take up again in L’Infaillibilité (1861), to endow reason with a certain natural infallibility[]
  78. Lacuria, Les Harmonies de l’être (1847), t. I, p. 242.[]
  79. Lacuria, Harmonies… (1847), t. I, pp. 245-246.[]
  80. Lacuria, Harmonies… (1899), t. I, p. 219.[]
  81. This opposition makes the expression intellectual intuition impossible. “However, it is necessary to be able to express the idea of intellectual intuition, even if only to pose the existence of such intuition as a problem, or even to deny its possibility”, Émile van Biéma, in Lalande, op. cit., p. 526[]
  82. L’Évolution créatrice (1907), Paris: PUF, 86e éd., 1959, p. 98.[]
  83. Lalande, s.v. Intelligence, p. 526, in note.[]
  84. “Understanding is discursive, and hence takes as its starting point premises and hypotheses, which are themselves not subjected to reflection, while Reason grasps in one immediate act an integral system that includes both premises and inference, so that it has complete or unconditioned validity” ; in Friedrich Kirchner, Kirchner’s Wörterbuch der Philosophischen Grundbegriffe, 5. Aufl, Neubearbeitung von Carl Michaëlis, Leipzig, 1907, V° 725b; cf. Lalande, pp. 287-288.[]
  85. Catherine Malabou (1959), “Qu’est-ce que la vie artificielle?”, Les Chemins de la philosophie by Adèle Van Reeth, France Culture, 01/09/2017.[]
  86. De la grammatologie (1967), p.. 95.[]
  87. Jean Borella, La crise du symbolisme religieux, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2009, p. 311.[]
  88. Ibid. “It is Derrida himself who rightly declares that ‘coherence in contradiction expresses the force of a desire’.(L’écriture et la différence (1967), p. 410 ; ibid. The Borellian critique of semiotic (or structuralist) reductionism is based on an “argument of great simplicity: it boils down to observing that the discourse of structural superfacialism (which denies any transcendence of discourse) always places itself in a privileged position of transcendence with regard to all other discourses; nothing could be more blinding than a critical intention” (Ibid. p. 310).[]
  89. In Roberto Finelli, for example, Hegel’s “Verstand” has remained translated as “intellect”: “Abstraction is the keystone that allows us to understand an archaic and false modality of the functioning of mind and knowledge: an inadequate modality of thought that Hegel baptizes Verstand, intellect, “Reflections on Hegel’s Science of Logic – between anthropology and logic”, Influxus (online), URL: http://www.[]
  90. Cf. André Lalande’s 1909-1910 course and the application of this distinction in Lalande, La Raison et les Normes, Paris: Hachette, 1948.[]
  91. He notes “the heterogeneity, in space and time, of forms of thought, reduced to the contingency of simple arrangements or combinations of elements”.[]
  92. Jean Borella, Lumières de la théologie mystique, p. 59.[]
  93. “Logic is to be understood as the system of pure reason, the empire of pure thought”, Hegel, The Science of Logic, Nuremberg: J. L. Schrag, 1812, t. I, p. xiii.[]
  94. It is its designation as “artificial intelligence”, following a translation copied from English (artificial intelligence – Warren McCulloch, 1956) which seems to endow it, illusorily, with a conscious autonomy. Whereas until recently, Marcel Schützenberger thought it was “out of the question to have [facial recognition] performed by a computer” (“A cell is much more complex…”, op. cit, p. 89), the main fields of “intelligence” are covered: automatic natural language processing, knowledge representation and processing (learning…), reasoning (expert systems, diagnostic and decision-making aids), vision, advanced robotics (intervention in the world), drawing on the disciplines of computer science, logic, linguistics, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, ergonomics and even philosophy; cf. Denis Vernant, Grand dictionnaire de la philosophie, p. 577.[]
  95. On August 7, 1944, the “Automatic Sequence Calculator” or Mark 1 was put into service. Until then, man had only been endowed with mechanical or thermodynamic energy (fire, draught animals, steam, oil, electricity, atomic energy), but now he has mental energy.[]
  96. Jacques Derrida, L’écriture et la différence, Paris: Seuil, 1967, p. 55.[]
  97. It is this very reason that Luther “preventively” called “the devil’s whore”, Predigten Luthers gesammelt von Joh. Poliander 1519-1521, no. 92 (27.1.1521), D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Weimar: H. Böhlau & Nachfolger, 1883, 9, 559, 28-29. For reason – let us call it intelligence – is also, for Luther, “something divine, it is the principle of all the arts and of all the wisdom, power, virtue and glory that men possess in this life, it is sovereign on earth and its majesty was confirmed by God after the fall of Adam”, Disputatio de homine (1536), Martin Luther, Studienausgabe, ed. H.- U. Delius, Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1979-1992, vol. 5, 129, 11-15, 18-19, 22-23, theses 4, 5, 7,9; quoted by Pierre E. S. Metzger, “Luther et la prostituée du diable”, La Revue réformée, no. 203, 1999/2-March 1999, t. L.[]
  98. Borella, ibid., pp. 60-61. See the development of this analysis in Appendix 12 in Bérard, Métaphysique du paradoxe.[]
  99. Literally (thurathen); Aristotle, On the Generation of Animals, II 3, 736 a, 27-b 12.[]
  100. This formula, originating from Aristotle and, for its Latin version, from the Middle Ages, would become the polemical thesis of Locke (1632-1704) in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), against the rationalist doctrine of innate ideas. He fails to realize that the associated notion of “internal sense” is, in fact, innate. This formula would become the motto of other empiricists such as Hume (1711-1776), for example in his An inquiry concerning human understanding (London: A. Millar, 1748). This formula is naturally found in Thomas Aquinas (“Praeterea, omne quod cognoscitur a mente per sui similitudinem, prius fuit in sensu quam fiat in mente“, Questions disputées sur la vérité, q 10, a 9, 4e,, 2nd ed, August 2012), not that he is an empiricist since, for him, the intellect pre-exists humane impressions.[]
  101. New Essays on Human Understanding, Book II, chap. 1, § 2; cf. Jean Borella, Le mystère du signe, Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 1989, p. 240 (reprinted in Histoire et théorie du symbole, Lausanne: L’Âge d’Homme, 2004; Paris: L’Harmattan, 2015). Hegel puts it another way: “Speculative philosophy must not reject this proposition [“nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu“], but it must also admit the opposite principle: “nihil est in sensu quod non prius fuerit in intellectu“, attaching to it the general meaning that the νοῦς, and, in a deeper sense, the mind is the cause of the world, and then that moral and religious feeling is a feeling, and, therefore, a fact of experience, whose content has its root and seat in thought”, Hegel’s Logic, trans. Augusto Véra, Paris: Ladrange, 1859, t. I, pp. 217-218. And Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) put it another way: “We know of the world only what is given to us by experience. This idea is correct, provided we do not understand “experience” to mean the direct testimony of our five senses. If we reduce the question to experience in its narrowly empirical sense, then it is impossible for us to arrive at any judgement about the origin of species, let alone the formation of the earth’s crust. To say that experience is the basis of everything is to say too much, or nothing at all. Experience is the active relationship between subject and object. To analyze experience outside this framework – i.e., outside the researcher’s objective material environment, of which he is distinct but of which, from another point of view, he is nevertheless an integral part – would be to dissolve experience into a shapeless unity in which there is neither subject nor object, but only the mystical formula of experience. An ”experiment” or ”experience” of this kind is only valid for the baby in the womb – but the baby is unfortunately deprived of the opportunity to share the scientific conclusions of his experience”. Écrits, 1939-40; quoted in La Rédaction, “La logique formelle et la dialectique”, Révolution (, 25/09/2014.[]
  102. Jean Borella, La crise du symbolisme religieux, p. 291. Moore similarly writes: “we absolutely cannot think what we can’t think”, cf. The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics: Making Sense of Things, Cambridge University Press, 2012. Or Gaston Bachelard: “understanding is an emergence of knowledge”, Le rationnalisme appliqué, Paris: PUF, 1949, p. 19.[]
  103. It is this supra-human essence that Master Eckhart calls “uncreated and uncreable” (Quæstiones Parisienses. Questio Gonsalvi. Rationes Equardi, 6; Magistri Eckhardi Opera latina, Auspiciis Instituti Sanctae Sabinae, ad codicum fidem edita, edidit Antonius Dondaine o.p., Lipsiæ in ædibus Felicis Meiner, 1936, p. 17). J. Ancelet-Hustache summarized the essence of this question in Volume I of his translation of the Sermons (allemands), Seuil, 1974, pp. 27-30; Jean Borella, La crise du symbolisme religieux, p. 322.[]
  104. For a synthesis of intelligence as the sense of being, with an outline of a metaphysics of culture (culture as agent intellect), see La crise du symbolisme religieux, pp. 273 ff. or Ésotérisme guénonien et mystère chrétien, Lausanne: L’Âge d’Homme, 1997, p. 59.[]
  105. “The doctrine of the great intellectualists does not consist in admitting only intellectual elements, but in maintaining that intelligence and reality are inseparable in the depths of things, and that in man himself, an intellectual element is inseparable from any state or act of consciousness”; Alfred Fouillée (1838-1912), in Lalande, op. cit, p. 524.[]
  106. “Just as sweet only makes sense to the taste and red only to the sight – and not to the will or imagination”, La crise du symbolisme religieux, p. 273. “The intellect demands intelligibility, as the eye demands light; and this intelligibility reveals being” (ibid.).[]
  107. Jean Borella, La crise du symbolisme religieux, p. 288. Emphasis added.[]
  108. Léon Noël, “Le psychologue et le logicien,” Revue néo-scolastique de philosophie, 28ᵉ année, 2e série, n°10, 1926 (pp. 125-152), p. 134.[]
  109. Jean Borella, Penser l’analogie (Genève: Ad Solem, Genève, 2000), Paris: L’Harmattan, 2012, p. 111.[]
  110. “Intelligence is objective by definition, or else we would have no idea of objectivity. Let’s not forget that an animal does not pose the world as an objective reality in itself: only its Umwelt exists”, Jean Borella, La crise du symbolisme religieux, p. 273.[]
  111. Jean Borella, Amour et vérité, pp. 110-112.[]
  112. Jean Borella, La crise du symbolisme religieux, p. 40.[]
  113. Ibid., p. 41.[]
  114. It is this “symbolic realism” (i.e., “it is the idea of symbol that enables us to think the idea of reality”, Jean Borella, Symbolisme et Réalité, ed. 2012, p. 248), which means that “Platonism is not idealism”; La crise du symbolisme religieux, p. 31, note 47.[]