Aquinas's Naturalized Epistemology

Document Type

Conference Proceeding



Format of Original

16 p.

Publication Date



American Catholic Philosophical Association

Source Publication

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Source ISSN



Recently much interest has been shown in the notion of intelligible species in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Intelligible species supposedly explain human knowing of the world and universals. However, in some cases, the historical context and the philosophical sources employed by Aquinas have been sorely neglected. As a result, new interpretations have been set forth which needlessly obscure an already controversial and perhaps even philosophically tenuous doctrine. Using a recent article by Houston Smit as an example of a novel and anachronistic modern interpretation of Aquinas’s abstractionism, this paper shows that Aquinas follows the intentional transference of Averroes who proposes a genuine doctrine of abstraction of intelligibles from experienced sensible particulars. The paper also shows that Aquinas uses the doctrine of primary and secondary causality from the Liber de causis when he asserts that human abstractive powers function only insofar as they are a participation in Divine illumination


Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, Vol. 79 (2005): 85-102. DOI: 10.5840/acpaproc20057916.