A third view differs from both these classic views. This approach was pioneered by Saint Thomas Aquinas (1272) in his effort to bring Aristotelian doctrine into conformance with Christianity. The basic Thomist premise is the unity and inviolability of the self that is inherent in the soul, brain, and body. This unity does not allow the entry of forms (information) into the self. The impact of the world onto the senses gives rise to states of activity he called ‘phantasms’, which are ephemeral and unique to each impact and therefore cannot be known. The function of the brain is to exercise the faculty of the imagination, which is not present in the Aristotelian view, in order to abstract and generalize over the phantasms that are triggered by unique events. These processes of abstraction and generalization create information that assimilates the body and brain to the world. Assimilation is not adaptation by passive information processing, nor is it an accumulation of representations by resonances. It is the shaping of the self to bring it into optimal interaction with the desired aspects of the world. The goal of an action is a state of competence that Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945) called ‘maximum grip’. Assimilation is the beginning for all knowledge.
W.J. Freeman, Neurodynamic Models of Brain in Psychiatry