International Philosophical Quarterly


published on August 13, 2014

Carl N. Still

Aquinas on Self-Knowledge and the Individuation of Thought

Thomas Aquinas’s theory of self-knowledge stands out among medieval theories for its conceptual sophistication, yet it remains less studied than many other areas of his thought. Here I consider a significant philosophical critique of Aquinas on self-knowledge and respond to it. Anthony Kenny alleges that Aquinas does not sufficiently account for the individuation of thought in the knower. But Kenny’s analysis of how Aquinas individuates thought ironically confuses Aquinas’s account with that of Averroes, whose explanation Aquinas rejected. A closer reading of Aquinas’s texts reveals that intelligible species, not phantasms, individuate thought. Kenny’s central objection to Aquinas’s account of self-knowledge is thus resolved, but I leave open whether Aquinas’s account could be usefully supplemented by modern treatments of self-knowledge.