The Ways to Wisdom
Aquinas Day By Day


Aquinas’s topic: first and second intentions

Aquinas’s texts: De potentia 7.9c and Scriptum in Sententiis

Br. Thomas distinguished the conceptions that stand for real things and are studied in the sciences from the conceptions that organize our thought and are studied in logic, referring to the former as “first” and the latter as Asecond.” Sometimes he distinguished things “understood (intellecta)” into first and second, at other times distinguishing notions, either first from second “intentions” or first from second “impositions” of the mind. These are three ways of saying the same thing; and in every case logic studies what comes “second.” In an ethical context, the term “intention (intentio)” refers to a will act toward the end we intend; but in the logical context “intention” was the term used to translate the Arabic term ma’na, meaning “concept.”

In De potentia 7.9 he makes the distinction this way:

The first things understood are things outside the soul, to which the intellect is first drawn for the purpose of understanding. But the intentions following on the mode of understanding are called the things understood second, for the intellect understands them second since it reflects upon itself, understanding itself to understand and the manner in which it understands.

In 1 Sententiis, d. 23, 1.3 reads:

An individual can be signified in two ways: either by a noun of second intention, such as the nouns Aindividual” or Asingular,” which do not signify a singular thing but the intention of singularity; for by a noun of first intention, which signifies the thing to which the intention of singularity applies.

[Introductions and translations © R.E. Houser]

The Ways to Wisdom

Be inspired by Thomas Aquinas.

Read more

Joint Conference

The first US Conference of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas held in North America.

Learn More

Upcoming Events

The Center hosts many events of interest to the philosophical community.

See schedule

__Centers - Center for Thomistic Studies The Ways to Wisdom
Center for Thomistic Studies
The Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St. Thomas is the only graduate philosophy program uniquely focused on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas in the United States. The Center is founded on the Church’s insistence of the perennial value of the thought of Aquinas as the new millennium proceeds.
Site Map
Contact Us
University of St. Thomas
3800 Montrose
Houston, Texas 77006-4626


Email us:

Contact Us
  University of St. Thomas
3800 Montrose
Houston, Texas 77006-4626

Follow Us


Copyright © 2014 University of St. Thomas.
All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Clery Act | Title IX | Employment