more from Thomas Aquinas

Single Idea 10503

[catalogued under 18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 1. Abstract Thought]

Full Idea

To cognize that which is in individual matter, not as it is in such matter, is to abstract the form from the individual matter that the phantasms represents. Thus we come to a degree of cognition of immaterial things.


'Phantasms' are appearances

Gist of Idea

We abstract forms from appearances, and acquire knowledge of immaterial things


Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologicae [1265], Q85 1 Reply)

Book Reference

Aquinas,Thomas: 'Treatise on Human Nature (Summa 1a 75-89)', ed/tr. Pasnau,Robert [Hackett 2002], p.158

A Reaction

This offers abstraction as a kind of inference to best explanation which takes us beyond immediate empirical experience to what is behind it. Aquinas thinks the concepts and explanation are spiritual, but they may be generalities and essences.