American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 82, Issue 2, Spring 2008

John Deely
Pages 337-359

How To Go Nowhere with Language
Remarks on John O’Callaghan, Thomist Realism and the Linguistic Turn

Jacques Maritain tells us that, apart from St. Thomas himself, his “principal teacher” in Thomism was John Poinsot. Poinsot, like Maritain and Thomas, expressly teaches that the basis of “Thomist realism” lies in the distinction between sentire, which makes no use of concepts, and phantasiari and intelligere, which together depend essentially on concepts. O’Callaghan makes no discussion of this point, resting his notion of realism rather on the widespread quo/quod fallacy, that is, the misinterpretation of concepts as the id quo of knowing. Poinsot demonstrates that this view conflates the distinct notions of species expressae and species impressae, demonstrating further that concepts as such cannot provide the cognitive basis of realism. O’Callaghan in effect suppresses the distinction between objects and things in his effort to achieve the impossible. In this review, I show that it is a question of semantics vs. semiotics over which O’Callaghan stumbles in misrepresenting “Thomist realism.”