Aquinas as representationalist: The ontology of the species intelligibilis
D'Onofrio, Sandro R.
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The present study argues against a traditional view that describes Aquinas' epistemology as direct realism. This view arises from the fact that Aquinas denies any type of representation or indirect realism and a knower is able to grasp the essence of extramental things. According to Aquinas, however, there is mediation between the individual extramental thing's form and the mind: the species intelligibilis . The species ' role is to transmit information in a way that allows an extramental thing's essence to be known, but not the species itself. Therefore, what Aquinas means by representation is that the ultimate object of knowledge is an extramental thing known through an immediate object of knowledge, the species . Likewise, because knowledge is about essence, it is assumed that the species is either a copy of the individual extramental thing's form or it delivers the thing's form to the mind. Nevertheless, the species differs ontologically from the extramental thing's form , and does not "carry" the extramental thing's form ; indeed, none of this is possible, because the extramental thing's form is a principle of the composite, the causa essendi of a thing, while the abstracted thing's form , considered as essence or nature, is an intelligible structure suitable for knowledge, not a being. Consequently, a species only represents the thing's essence by conveying essential information to the mind.