Aquinas on Being and Essence As Proper Objects of the Intellect

Abstract
This article investigates a tension among Aquinas’s basic claims about what constitutes the proper object of the human intellect. Aquinas asserts that the mindhas only one proper object, yet he repeatedly endorses two different candidates for this role: the being of a thing (ens) and a thing’s essence (essentia). One might assume the tension disappears if ens signifies the essence of a thing. Alternatively, the tension seems to dissolve if each operation of the intellect (apprehension and judgment) takes its own object (essence and ens respectively). Although each approach effectively hides the tension from immediate sight, neither genuinely resolves it. This is because neither sufficiently accounts for the features of simplicity and priority Aquinas claims our “first conception of being” must have. Alternatively, I suggest how we might mitigate this tension by treating the intellect itself as having its own proper object (ens) and apprehension as having another (essence)
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