Abstract

The aim of this paper is to assess the central role the imagination acquires in Pierre Gassendi’s logic. I trace the structuring scheme of the three acts of the mind—common to a good number of late scholastic and early modern logics—to the Thomistic notion of the movement of reasoning in knowledge and argue that Gassendi revisits this notion in his logic. The three acts scheme is from the beginning a bridge between logic and the natural philosophical treatment of the soul. I show how Gassendi’s take on the three acts is similarly poised between his Logic and his Physics and I discuss the rationale, sources and consequences of his attribution of the three acts to the imagination. I argue for the following points: Gassendi’s conception of the logical role of the imagination answers to his empiricist epistemology, his naturalized view of the mind (which involves a defense of thinking in animals) and his notion of a natural logic; it is also operative in his pairing of the formal mechanism of logical operations with a progressive mechanism of the operations of the mind; and it serves as a counterpart to his experimental understanding of the progress of knowledge.1

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