Peripatetic axiom

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The Peripatetic axiom is: "Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses" (Latin: "Nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu"). It is found in Thomas Aquinas's De veritate, q. 2 a. 3 arg. 19.[1]

Aquinas adopted this principle from the Peripatetic school of Greek philosophy, established by Aristotle.[where?] Aquinas argued that the existence of God could be proved by reasoning from sense data.[2] He used a variation on the Aristotelian notion of the "active intellect" ("intellectus agens")[3] which he interpreted as the ability to abstract universal meanings from particular empirical data.[4]


  1. ^ Aquinas, Thomas. Quaestiones disputatae de veritate.
  2. ^ Leftow, Brian (ed., 2006), Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, Questions on God, pp. vii et seq.[ISBN missing]
  3. ^ Z. Kuksewicz, “The Potential and the Agent Intellect,” in: N. Kretzmann, e.a., The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 595–601[ISBN missing]
  4. ^ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1969), "Thomas Aquinas", subsection on "Theory of Knowledge", vol. 8, pp. 106–107.[ISBN missing]