Intellect and Will -
Man's Higher Faculties

The Conscience is an Act of the Intellect


Endowed with a Spiritual Soul, with Intellect and with Free Will, the Human Person, is from his very Conception Ordered to God and Destined for Eternal Beatitude. He pursues his Perfection in 'seeking and loving what is True and Good'


Man's Higher Faculties

Human Being/Person
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)

Natural Order

Supernatural Order


Natural Soul,
Intellect & Will
Mind & Reason

Supernatural Grace, Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Conscience is a Practical Judgment of the Intellect Virtue of Prudence guides the Judgment of the Intellect
The Supernatural Order is the Ensemble of Effects exceeding the Powers of the Created Universe and Gratuitously produced directly by God for the purpose of raising the Rational Creature above its Natural Sphere to a God-like Life and Destiny.


Adapted from various sources and edited
by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D.

angelbar.gif (3645 bytes)

A Faculty is a Capacity or Power for Vital Operation. Man has Nutrition, Growth, and Vital Generation, like the Plants. He has Sensation, Appetition, and Locomotion, like the non-Human Animals. And he has the Higher Faculties of Understanding and Will.


Man's Lower Faculties

brain.jpe (39337 bytes)
Love/Hatred, Desire/Aversion, Joy/Sorrow, Hope/Despair,
Fear/Courage, Envy/Lust/Anger]

Frontal Lobe: Controls how we react to situations Emotionally (Passions).

Five (5) External Senses
[Touch, Smell, Hearing, Sight, Taste]

Cerebrum: Controls how we respond to different Sensory signals (Sensation).
Parietal Lobe: Controls our Sense of Touch.
Occipital Lobe: Controls our Sense of Vision.
Temporal Lobe: Controls our Sense of Hearing.

Four (4) Internal Senses
[Sentient Consciousness, Imagination, Sentient Memory, and Estimation]



Pons: Controls our Breathing and Heartbeat.
Brain Stem: Sends all of the Decisions that the Brain makes to the rest of the Body.

Cerebellum: Coordinates Locomotion.

The system of Bodily Parts or Organs by which Man exercises Sentiency is the Cerebrospinal System, which consists of the Brain and the Spinal Cord, the Cerebrospinal Nerves, and the External (or Peripheral) Sense-Organs.

The Five (5) External Senses (Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell, Touch) have their Organs in the Outer Body, but their findings are conveyed to the Brain by Nerves.

The Four (4) Internal Senses (Sentient Consciousness, Imagination, Sentient Memory, and Estimation) have their Organs in the Brain itself.

External Sensation is normally, and during Man's waking hours, immediately recorded in Imagination and Consciousness. Imagination also retains and, under Stimulus, evokes the recorded Images of External Sensations. Sentient Memory has the single-task of recognizing an evoked Imagination-Image as something experienced in the past.

Estimation is an awareness of Usefulness or Harmfulness (of desirability or undesirability) in a Sensed Object.


Man's Higher Faculties

Human Soul

Superior Will/Reason
Infused Knowledge/

Man's Vegetal and Sentient Faculties are called his Lower-Faculties. His Understanding (that is, his Mind, Intellect, Intelligence, Reason and his Will are his Higher-Faculties. Man's Higher Faculties are those that belong to the Human Spiritual Soul as their Proper-Object. These Faculties are Two (2), the Intellect and the Will. The Intellect is Man's Higher-Cognitive or Knowing-Faculty. The Will is Man's Higher-Appetitive Faculty. And, since the Will is Appetition born of Intellectual Knowledge, and since Intellectual Knowledge is frequently Knowledge of Possible Action that is not necessitated, the Will is the Faculty of Free-Choice.

The Intellect is the Knowing-Power or Faculty rooted in the Spiritual Soul. Man alone, of all Bodily Creatures, possesses Intellect. Angels possess Intellect also. God possesses Infinite Intellect and knows all things.

The Intellect is a Power for Knowing things in an Abstract and Universal Way. It is the Power for Knowing Essences. Further, it is the Power of Judging, and the Power of Thinking-Things-Out. It is also the Power of Retaining or Remembering Meanings (that is, Essences, Judgments, Conclusions, Processes of Thinking); the Power of being Understandingly Aware (either Instantly or by Process of Thought) of such Meanings, and of the Human Self; the Power of Recognizing the Agreement or Disagreement of Human Conduct with the Rule of what such Conduct ought to be. In all its Services, the Intellect is a Faculty or Power for Essential Knowing, that is for the Understanding Grasp of Truth. Truth is the Object of the Faculty of Intellect. It seeks Truth as the Eye seeks Light. It is a Power connaturally formed to reach-after Truth and Attain it and Possess it. Its Object is, therefore, the Truth of Thought (the Truth about Things, not the Truth of Things); in a word, its Object is Logical Truth (the Agreement of the Intellect with the Thing).

The name Intellect is a General Name for this Spiritual Knowing-Faculty; so is the name Mind, although many modern writers use the word Mind to indicate any form of Conscious Life, even Sentient Life; we make Intellect and Mind synonymous in its various services, the Intellect is variously named:

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) Inasmuch as the Intellect Instantly Recognizes Truths that are Self-Evident, it is called Intelligence;

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) Inasmuch as the Intellect can think-out, by connected-steps, many Truths that are not Self-Evident, it is called Reason;

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) Inasmuch as the Intellect is an Understanding Awareness of the Self and of the Mental and Bodily Activities, and of the World of Things Knowable, it is called Intellectual Consciousness (which is essentially different from Sentient Consciousness, an Inner Sense);

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) Inasmuch as the Intellect (or more precisely the Intellect as Reason) thinks-out the Moral Implications of a Situation and Judges on a Point-of-Duty, it is called Conscience. Therefore, Conscience is a Practical-Judgment of the Intellect and does not stem from Feelings or Emotions;

yellowdot.gif (100 bytes) Inasmuch as the Intellect retains its Knowledge, it is called Intellectual Memory.

The Intellect is not an Organic Faculty, that is, it is not exercised by the use of a special Bodily Sensory or Organ. It is a Supra-Organic Faculty, a Spiritual Faculty. It is not a Spiritual Substance, for in itself the Intellect, like every Faculty, is a Quality-of-the-Substance it Marks and Serves. It is called Spiritual because it is the Faculty of the Spiritual called the Human Soul.

Since the Intellect can Exercise the Activity-of-Knowing in a manner wholly impossible to an Organic Faculty (for it can Know in Universal; it can grasp Abstract Essences; it can lay hold of things that are utterly beyond the Power of Senses to Apprehend) we are forced to call it a Supra-Organic Faculty. For "function follows upon essence": as a Thing is, it Acts, and, conversely, as a Thing Acts, it is. The Intellect has Supra-Organic Activities; therefore, necessarily, the Intellect is itself Supra-Organic or Spiritual.

Hence a Man does not Think, Reason, Judge, with his Brain; he does these things with the Supra-Organic Faculty of Mind or Intellect, a Soul-Faculty.

Human Being/Person
(A Union/Unity (1) of Body and Soul)


Sensation/ (Subordinate-Partner)

Sensory Info

Superior Will/
(Dominant Partner)

The Brain is indeed the Seat and Center of Sensation (that is, of Sense-knowing). And in this Life of Union of Soul and Body, the Soul-Faculty of Intellect cannot come directly at its Object (the Truth about Things; the Understood Essences of Things), but must find that Object by working-upon the Findings of the Senses. Hence, since we localize Sensation essentially in the Brain, we localize, by Analogy, the Activity of the Intellect in the Brain; but this is not literally True Localization, and, above all, it is not the Attributing to the Bodily Member called the Brain the Spiritual Operations of the Intellect. There is, in other words, an Extrinsic-Dependence of Intellect on Brain in this life; but it is distinctly not an Intrinsic-Dependence. If the Brain is Diseased, a Man's thinking usually goes Wrong; the Man is not Sane; he cannot Think and Reason, Judge and Decide, as he could if his Brain were Healthy and Normal. But this fact does not mean that the Brain is the Essential Organ of Thought, but only that it is Extrinsically-Essential during Man's Earthly Life.

The Object of the Intellect is Truth. It is Truth about Things. And, since, in this life, there is an Extrinsic Dependence of the Intellect upon the Senses (especially as these have their findings focused in the Inner-Senses of the Brain) we say that the Proper-Object of the Intellect in this life is the Essences of Material Things, the Essences of Things that can be Sensed. The Adequate-Object of the Intellect is Truth about all Knowable Reality.

The Operations of the Intellect are Apprehending, Judging, Reasoning. The Intellect, inasmuch as it Actively Abstracts Essences, and so renders Things Understandable, or Graspable in Universal, is called the Agent Intellect or the Image Interface. The Intellect, inasmuch as it Understandingly Reacts to the Impression of Abstracted Essences and expresses these within itself as Ideas or Concepts, is called the Actual Understanding.

The Idea or the Concept which is the First Fruit of the Intellect's First Operation called Apprehending, is drawn by the Intellect from the Findings of the Senses, as these are recorded in Conscious Imagination. Hence, the Origin of Ideas is to be found in the Abstractive Power of the Intellect working on the Findings of the Senses. Ideas are not born in us, as Innatism teaches. Ideas are not mere Collections of Sensations, as Sensism teaches. Ideas are not revealed Elements of Knowledge handed-down from generation-to-generation among Men, as Traditionalism teaches. Ideas are the Legitimate Fruitage of the Abstractive Activity of the Intellect working upon the Findings of the Senses (a Radical Empiricism). And once possessed of Ideas, the Intellect is equipped for Judging and Reasoning, that is, for Exercising all of its Operations in its Connatural Drive or Tendency to possess Truth.


The Will - The Appetitive Power of the Soul

The Intellect is the Knowing-Power of the Human Soul. The Will is the Appetitive Power or Faculty of the Human Soul. It is the Power of Intellectual Appetition. It is the Faculty for going after, or away from, what the Intellect presents as Desirable (or Good) or Undesirable (or Bad). Will therefore is rightly described by Saint Thomas Aquinas as Rational Appetency.

The Will, like the Intellect, is a Supra-Organic Faculty. It is not Intrinsically-Dependent upon any Bodily Member or Organ, or upon the whole Body itself. It is a Spiritual Faculty , for it is a Faculty which inheres in the Spiritual Soul.

The Will is a Faculty for Appetizing Understood Good. Thus, the Object of the Will is Good. By the same token, it is a Faculty for tending-away-from Understood Evil. Good is that which is Appetizable, Desirable. Evil is that which is Unappetizable, Undesirable, for it is a Negative Thing, and consists in the Absence of Good. Evil cannot be Appetized for its own sake, but only under the Aspect of Good, that is, under the Appearance of what is Desirable.

The Intellect is capable of Objective-Judgments which are Morally indifferent. That is, the Mind or Intellect can let its Light shine-upon anything Thinkable, and can discern in it elements of Positive-Being which is always Good, and elements of Defect or Absence-of-Being which are Bad. No matter what the Mind Lights-Upon, may be seen in the aspect of what is Factually there, or what Fails to be there. The Intellect can therefore Judge as Desirable what is Truly not-so, because it 'Clothes', so-to-speak, the Lack or Absence-of-Being with the Appearance-of-Being. And the Intellect can Judge as Undesirable or Evil what is actually Good, because it can Focus upon some Point or Detail of the Good as Deficient. Thus a Murderer can envision the Death of an Enemy as Good, as Desirable, as Satisfying, although it is really not so. Hence, the Intellect may set-before the Will (its Appetency) an Object which is Evil, but only by 'Clothing' that Object in the attractive-features of Good, that is, of what Satisfies. This makes the Choice of Evil a Possibility. For the Will, be it repeated, cannot Choose Evil as-such, but only when it Appears-as or is Masked-as Good.

It would appear, then, at First Sight, that the Intellect (by its Capacity for "Objectively-Indifferent-Judgments") is the Source-of-Choice and the Root-of-Responsibility in Man. But while the Will always and inevitably follows upon the Ultimate-Practical-Judgment of the Intellect, it is nevertheless the Will which allows the Intellect to dwell upon an Object and reach Ultimate-Judgment on its Desirability or Undesirability, its Good or Evil. The Intellect is like a Spotlight which Illumines an Object, and may show-up in that Object Points-Desirable and Points-Unattractive, and may dwell on either, or may transfer, so-to-speak, the 'Mask' of Desirability to what is Unattractive in the Object. The Intellect is like such a Spotlight. But the Will is like the Hand which controls-the-direction of the Spotlight.

An Illustration: A Motorist driving his car at night, inevitably follows the Headlights. But we do not say that the Headlights choose the road for him. It is the Motorist who Chooses to turn the Headlights on this-road or that-road. The Intellect is like the Headlights; the Will is like the Motorist. So, upon consideration, we discern the Truth that though Will follows Intellect (as the Motorist the Headlights) it is the Will that is the Master-Faculty in any Deliberate-Choice of Man. It is the Will that is the Root of Responsible Action.

The Will is indeed influenced by the Intellect, for a Man cannot Will what he does not in some measure know. So we may say that the Headlights of a car Influence the Motorist by suddenly revealing a fine stretch of Smooth Pavement leading off to left or right. Thus the Intellect, Acting in the Manner of a Final-Cause, Attracts or Invites the Will. But the Will Influences and Moves the Intellect after the manner of an Effecting-Cause, just as the Motorist moves the Headlights to Illuminate the Attractiveness which comes of the fact that a rough-road is the right-road, and away from the suddenly Revealed and Illuminated Attractiveness of the smooth side-road which will not carry him to his Destination.


The Will is Free by the Freedom-of-Choice-of-Means. Man, made for Happiness in the possession of Supreme Good, is not Free to change that Ultimate Goal. Saint or Sinner, a Man goes after, inevitably, what he regards, Rightly or Perversely, as Ultimately-Fully-Satisfying. Man is made for the Supreme Good. And whether he goes North, South, East, or West, he is striving towards that Good. Even when his efforts are carrying him away-from it, it is that Good which he is after. So, even in the Perverse (and not merely Mistaken) conduct of the Evildoer, there is Manifest the Tendency which man is not Free to Change or to Reject -- the Tendency towards what will Completely-and-Permanently-Satisfy.

So the Will is Free to Choose 'Means' to the Ultimate End, and it may Choose Blindly, Perversely, Ruinously; but the Will is not Free to Choose the Ultimate End itself; towards that, all Creation is Inevitably Set. If Man does not Choose the Right-Means to the Ultimate End, he will miss the Ultimate End. The point we make is that it is the Ultimate End he is necessarily after, whether he goes towards-it or directly away-from-it. In the Ultimate End, therefore, of Human Conduct, there is no Choice, no Freedom. Freedom is only in the Choice-of-Means to the Ultimate End. The Human Will is truly Free by this Freedom-of-Choice, or more accurately, by this Freedom-of-the-Choice-of-Means.



We conclude: The Human Will is endowed with True Freedom-of-the-Choice-of-Means to its Ultimate End. The Human Will exercises its Freedom-of-Choice in every perfectly Deliberate Human Act. The denial of Human Freedom-of-Choice is a flat contradiction of Reason, of all experience, of the exigencies of daily existence, and, if logically followed, it would turn the Mind to the Insanity of Skepticism, and Human Society into a Chaos of Lawless Disorder.


The Ultimate End towards which all Creation is Inevitably Set

Last Judgment Triptych - by MEMLING, Hans - from Muzeum Narodowe, Gdansk . . . (Click to enlarge)