ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
ON BEING AND ESSENCE
taught by Albert the Great
albet the great
picks up important notion from avicenna: the ﬁrst thing conceived is being and essence.
we need to be right about being and essence
"a slight error in the beginning is large in the end," he starts by saying if you make a mistake in the beggining you
get big mistakes later. it is an epistemological statement: you need to get the very starting point right or later on
your knowledge may be very wayward.
to start oﬀ the right way you must discuss being and essence.
BEING AND ESSENCE ARE FIRST CONCEIVED OF IN THE INTELLECT: anything there is can be
thought of according to its being and its essence
what is it to say that thing that is conveived of ﬁrst when thinking of highlighter or chair or dog is by making
reference back to ether being (act of existence) or essence.
FIRST CONCEIVED means absolute reference back to the ﬁrst condition for conceiving of anything.
• the Philosopher: Aristotle
• the Commentator: Averroes
• being: the act of the thing. tree without leaves is in the act of not having leaves right now.
• essence: the complete mode of the thing's being. the causes of the tree's acts (having, not having leaves).
determines a being to be the kind of being that it is. there is no essence of the individual. there is no socrates
essence, but socrates ﬁts into the larger essence of humanity.
• intention: there is something in my mind that my thought is about. you can't just think without some object in
your thought. your thinking is always towards some object. What is it to have thought about things?
• ﬁrst intention: the ﬁrst thing you abstract: cupness, humanity, dogness, etc.
• second intention (logical intention): genus, species. this is what logic does, analyses the relationship between
second intentions. how do cups relate to dogs or how does dog relate to dogs. whenever you start sliding around
on porphyry's tree.
*MORE GLOSSARY BELOW
QUESTIONS: how does second intention exist? does it exist? these go back to porphyry's questions he doesn't
ﬁrst conception in the intellect is being and essence. does it not seem like it is being that is ﬁrst here?
ASK YOURSELF WHETHERYOU THINK AQUINAS MAKES BEING AND ESSENCE DISTINCT
FROM ONE ANOTHER: is it a real distinction or just conceptual..?
intentionality - a historical take.
PHENOMENOLOGY: In the 19th Century & 20th Century: Bretano, Husserl, and Heidegger. Bretano trained in
Scholastic thought. He wanted to talk about the way the mind is constituted when it has objects of knowledge.
That is what they call an INTENTION.
- the mind intends some kind of object, so thought always has a relationship towards some kind of object. all
thought is intentional. you can't just thi