Immateriality and intentionality

One cannot go far in the reading of St Thomas Aquinas and other medieval writers without coming across a multiplicity of usages of the Latin term for ‘being’ or ‘to be’, esse, such as esse intentionale, esse intelligibile, esse naturale, esse sensibile and so on.3 It is not always easy to appreciate the distinctions which these terms are intended to mark and if one is inclined to scepticism one might indeed suspect that these are distinctions without a difference. However, such a judgment would be both precipitate and incorrect. Even if the distinctions marked by such terms are not immediately perspicuous it is essential, if one wishes to understand and appreciate the thought of the medievals, that one come to understand them. Within the compass of a short paper it will not, of course, be possible to be comprehensive, so I shall investigate the notions of immateriality and intentionality with a view to clarifying their relationship.4 In so doing, I hope some light will be thrown..
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