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phantasm

phan·tasm / ˈfantazəm/ • n. poetic/lit. a figment of the imagination; an illusion or apparition: the cart seemed to glide like a terrible phantasm. ∎ archaic an illusory likeness of something: every phantasm of a hope was quickly nullified. DERIVATIVES: phan·tas·mal / fanˈtazməl/ adj. phan·tas·mic / fanˈtazmik/ adj.

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phantasm

phantasm illusion XIII; apparition, ghost; imagination, fancy XV; mental image XVI. — (O)F. fantasme, †-esme — L. phantasma; see next.
So phantasmagoria exhibition of optical illusions; shifting succession of imaginary figures XIX. prob. — F. fantasmagorie, f. fantasme with fanciful termination.

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phantasm

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Phantasm

PHANTASM

In its current acceptance, the term phantasm signifies a representation or apparition distinct from the ordinary reality of things and frequently subjective in character. In the latter case it is commonly attributed to the imagination. For Aristotle, φάντασμα means image (Anim. 432a9), a representation similar to sensation (except that it is immaterial) and needed for the activity of the intellect. Scholastics such as St. thomas aquinas define phantasm functionally as a likeness of a particular thing (Summa theologiae 1a, 84.7 ad 2). It is found at the level of the internal senses and constitutes an indispensable step in man's knowing process, where its principal role is to supply a representation of concrete reality from which the intellect extricates the essential meaning (C. gent. 2.77; Comp. theol. 1.83; Summa theologiae 1a, 84.7).

Explanation. Because the internal senses reach material reality only through the medium of the external senses, they generally (i.e., with the exception of the central sense) need a representation of this reality to serve as the expression (species expressa ) of their knowledge. When transmitting the integral object of their sensations to the internal senses, the external senses are unable to know the meaning or function of certain aspects of reality perceived by the cogitative power (In three de anim. 3). Moreover, imagination and memory store the impressions of the central sense and the cogitative power respectively (Summa theologiae 1a, 78.4), since the reality affecting all the senses changes continually. A representation of this reality as known by these three internal senses is thus required to complete their knowing activity. The need for the phantasm must therefore be admitted not only in the imagination, as many scholastics teach, but also in the cogitative power and memory, as St. Thomas expressly holds (C. gent. 2.73). Besides, since the species expressa is to represent the object as known, the latter two senses cannot elaborate their specific activity of knowing if they do not express this knowledge through a phantasm distinct from that of the imagination.

While phantasms, as expressed species, are representations of things other than themselves, they are realities of the organic order (In lib. de memor. 3), as are the cognitive powers that produce them. It is possible to detect their presence in particular areas of the brain by means of suitable techniques. Phantasms are subject to the physiological and psychological conditions of the internal senses and are liable to change with time (C. gent. 2.73); thus they can become weak and disappear.

Related Phenomena. While illusion is primarily a sensory phenomenon of the external senses, to the extent that it implies a perceptual judgment concerning the data of sensation it also involves the internal senses. Imagination and memory can be active, particularly when there is interference of past experiences in the knowing process. The phantasms of these internal senses are joined to images directly brought on under the stimulus of actual sensations, and proportionately modify the whole as perceived and evaluated by the central sense and cogitative power. Such cases of illusion are limited because, in the wakened state, the imagination generally follows reason in preference to natural influences (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 172.1 ad 3). However, because susceptible to the disturbing action of these influences, imagination is justly regarded as a source of error, and much more so than the external senses (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 11.1 ad 3; De ver. 1.11). The typical illusion brought on by the imagination consists in presenting its phantasms to the consciousness of the subject with sufficient intensity to make it difficult to distinguish between things that are present and those that are merely representations of the imagination (Summa theologiae 1a, 17.2 ad 2).

Illusion consists principally in a distorted perception of a reality actually present to sensation. Hallucination, on the other hand, is produced by the interposition of an internal representation that is substituted, on the field of consciousness, for the perception of external reality. Its cause is the paroxysmal activity of the imagination's conserving and reproducing functions.

Following Aristotle, St. Thomas did not hesitate to attribute this hyperproduction of phantasms to biological factorse.g., humoral circulation produces some phantasms (Summa theologiae 1a, 111.3)or to the action of stupefacient substances (De ver. 13.1 ad 12). Devils also can bring on these apparitions (De malo 3.4).

The scholastic theory of phantasms is considerably elaborated with respect to dreams because of the related moral problems (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 154.5), and even more so because of the paranormal states involved in visions and prophecies (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 173.2, 3). A dream is essentially a product of phantasms appearing during sleep, while the senses are inhibited, so that the phantasms occupy almost exclusively what is left of the sleeper's consciousness. The causes of the production of these phantasms include everything that can act upon the imagination during sleep. St. Thomas draws up a systematic list (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 95.6): first, internal causes, including those of a psychic nature (previous evening's preoccupation persisting during sleep), and those of a corporal nature (sleeper's organic dispositionwhence Aquinas notes the usefulness of the study of dreams by doctors); and then external causes, including those of a physical nature (ambient temperature), and those of a spiritual nature (God, through the ministry of angels, or even the devil). As the central sense frees itself of hypnogenetic inhibitions, the subject begins to make a distinction between phantasms and the reality affecting the senses, although this distinction remains imperfect so long as the central sense is not completely awakened (Summa theologiae 1a, 84.8 ad 2).

See Also: species, intentional; knowledge, process of.

Bibliography: f. gaetani and m. l. falorni, Enciclopedia filosofica 2:264268. r. eisler, Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe, 3 v. (4th ed. Berlin 192730) 2:434, 424433. r. e. brennan, Thomistic Psychology (New York 1952). f. a. walsh, "Phantasm and Phantasy," New Scholasticism 9 (1935) 116133. t. m. bartolomei, "Le immagini," Divus Thomas (Piacenza) 58 (1955) 124142.

[a. m. perreault]

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Phantasm

Phantasm ★★½ The Never Dead 1979 (R)

A small-budgeted, hallucinatory horror fantasy about two parentless brothers who discover weird goings-on at the local funeral parlor, including the infamous airborne, brain-chewing chrome ball. Creepy, unpredictable nightmare fashioned on a shoestring by young independent producer Coscarelli. Scenes were cut out of the original film to avoid “X” rating. Followed by “Phantasm II.” 90m/C VHS, DVD . Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester, Terrie Kalbus, Kenneth V. Jones, Susan Harper, Lynn Eastman, David Arntzen, Angus Scrimm, Bill Cone; D: Don A. Coscarelli; W: Don A. Coscarelli; C: Don A. Coscarelli; M: Fredric Myrow, Malcolm Seagrave.

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