, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 589–602 | Cite as

Aquinas on Intellectual Cognition: The Case of Intelligible Species

  • Elena Baltuta


The paper argues in favour of a direct realist reading of Aquinas’s theory of intelligible species, in opposition to the recent representationalist challenges. In order to secure the direct realist reading, the paper follows three steps: a short description of Aquinas’s process of cognition, a survey of the direct realist arguments and the analysis of the representationalist interpretation. The final step consists of investigating the representationalist reading as it is suggested by two scholars, Claude Panaccio in Aquinas on Intellectual Representation and Robert Pasnau in Theories of Cognition in the Latter Middle Ages. Thus, the paper can be construed as a reply to these two authors, due to the thorough attention paid to their argumentative trails. With regard to Panaccio’s reading the paper focuses on the identity between the intelligible species and the essence of the extra-mental object and argues that Panaccio understands identity in a very narrow sense. Concerning Pasnau’s line of reasoning the focus is on the primum cognitum status of the intelligible species, and the main argument is that intelligible species is understood by Aquinas as the quo and not the quod of cognition. As the paper shows, neither one, nor the other interpretation poses a threat to the direct realist reading of Aquinas’s intelligible species.


Cognitive and causal role Direct realism Formal identity Intelligible species Primum cognitum Representationalism Thomas Aquinas 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.“Alexandru Dragomir” Institute for Philosophy, Romanian Society for PhenomenologyBucharestRomania

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