View Articles

Monday, September 17, 2018

0595: Knasas on the Species Intelligibilis



Entry 0595: Knasas on the Distinction 

Between the Human Intellect
Species Intelligibilis and Intellectual Conception 
in Aquinas  


Co
mmenting on a passage from Aquinas’s Summa contra Gentiles, John F. X. Knasas interprets the text in support of a distinction between the formation (or information) of the human intellect and the conception that the human intellect produces once formed.

Thus Knasas writes: “Aquinas succinctly presents the doctrine in his Summa Contra Gentiles I, 53. Aquinas describes how having been informed by the species of the thing, the intellect goes on to form an intention of the thing understood” (196).

The text from the Summa Contra Gentiles (bk. 1, chapter 53) reads as follows: “Haec autem intentio intellecta, cum sit quasi terminus intelligibilis operationis, est aliud a specie intelligibili quae facit intellectum in actu, quam oportet considerari ut intelligibilis operationis principium: licet utrumque sit rei intellectae similitudo. Per hoc enim quod species intelligibilis quae est forma intellectus et intelligendi principium, est similitudo rei exterioris, sequitur quod intellectus intentionem formet illi rei similem: quia quale est unumquodque, talia operatur. Et ex hoc quod intentio intellecta est similis alicui rei, sequitur quod intellectus, formando huiusmodi intentionem, rem illam intelligat” (Leonine edition, 13:150-151).

Here is the translation provided by Knasas: “Now, since this understood intention is, as it were, a terminus of intelligible operation, it is distinct from the intelligible species that actualizes the intellect, and that we must consider the principle of intellectual operation, though both are a likeness of the thing understood. For, by the fact that the intelligible species, which is the form of the intellect and the principle of understanding, is the likeness of the external thing, it follows that the intellect forms the intention like that thing, since such as a thing is, such are its works. And because the understood intention is like some thing, it follows that the intellect, by forming such an intention, knows that thing” (196-197).

The conception that the human intellect produces once formed is described in Aquinas’s text as the intentio intellecta. The initial information of the possible intellect, on the other hand, as explained in other works of Aquinas, is understood to be the work of the agent intellect and the species intelligibilis.

Thus, the intellectual conception produced by the intellect, using the words of Knasas, “is distinct from the intelligible species that both actualizes the intellect and is the principle of intellectual operation” (197).

See John F.  X. Knasas, ”Existential Thomist Reflections on Kenny: The Incompatibility of the Phoenix and Subsistent Existence,” Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 89 (2016): 195-208.