Stoic and Epicurean Elements in the Theory of Knowledge of Thomas Aquinas
An interpretation which Thomas Aquinas has offered as a solution of the problem of 'cognitive apprehesions' (conceptiones) of the human intellect bears clear marks of an Epicurean-Stoic understanding of 'prolepseis' and 'ennoiai' insofar as it underscores a specific innate character of 'conceptiones communes' and 'conceptiones universales' as evidenced by their anticipatory function. Some conceptiones are what we call today propositions, very much like Augustine's 'notiones' or Epicurean-Stoic 'prolepseis', or 'katalepseis'. Such concepts cannot be found in Aristotle who, moreover, did not have terms with which he could identify 'cognitive apprehesions'. He discusses concepts as a separate topic in the context of the origin and nature of the universals (katholou), and regards propositions which are not distinguished from sentences (logos) as either affirmations (kataphasis) or negations (apophasis). Aquinas took over from Aristotle the idea that all human knowledge originates in the experience of being, and from Stoics and Epicureans the conception of the anticipatory nature of human cognitive concepts. He merged these two traditions with the help of Augustinian conception of illumination, a theory of 'conceptiones universales' and a theory of transcendental concepts and first principles which he called 'conceptiones communes'.
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