The Development of Aquinas's Thought

Giorgio Pini

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Development of Aquinas's Thought

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy
  • History of Western Philosophy



The article focuses on the evolution of Aquinas's thought during his career. A significant change can be documented with regard to Aquinas's views on the role sensory images (phantasmata) play in human intellectual cognition. In the first stage of his career, Aquinas held that there are two instances of human cognition that make exception to the general rule of the twofold function of sensory images. Later on, he rejected the view that cognitive acts occurring without abstraction from sensory images or without turning back toward sensory images can count as genuinely human acts. In his later years, Aquinas clearly adopted the view that sensory images are necessary not only to what typically counts as human cognition, but to any act of human intellectual cognition whatsoever, in any possible state. Aquinas's earlier position with regard to Christ's knowledge was that Christ had only infused, not acquired knowledge. Some years afterwards, however, Aquinas adopted the view that Christ did not have innate knowledge of all and every essence. Aquinas always held that separated souls couldn't acquire new information by abstracting intelligible species from sensory images, since separated souls are not united with their bodies and as a consequence have no access to sensory information. In his later years, he argued that human souls keep their own nature whether they are united to their bodies or are separated from them.

Keywords: sensory images; innate knowledge; human intellectual cognition; sensory information; separated souls

Article.  11398 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »