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Is the soul’s awareness or apprehension of its own self by its essence or its act? I hope to elaborate in detail on this issue soon but for now, dear readers, content yourselves with these two arguments, one for each side of this disputed question.

For the affirmative side, here is the Shaykh al-Ra’is in Al-Ta‘līqāt (ed. A.R. Badawi. Cairo, 1973, p. 161, tr. D. Black):

My apprehension of myself is something which […] does not arise in me from the consideration of something else. For if I say: “I did this,” I express my apprehension of myself even if I am heedless of my awareness of it. But from where could I know that I did this, unless I had first considered my self? Therefore I first considered my self, not its activity, nor did I consider anything by which I apprehended myself.

For the negative side, here is the Angelic Doctor in the Summa, I.q.87.a.1 (tr. Fathers of EDP):

Everything is knowable so far as it is in act, and not, so far as it is in potentiality. […]. Now the human intellect is only a potentiality in the genus of intelligible beings, […]. Therefore, in its essence the human mind is potentially understanding. Hence it has in itself the power to understand, but not to be understood, except as it is made actual. […]. But as in this life our intellect has material and sensible things for its proper natural object, […], it understands itself according as it is made actual by the species abstracted from sensible things, through the light of the active intellect, which not only actuates the intelligible things themselves, but also, by their instrumentality, actuates the passive intellect. Therefore the intellect knows itself not by its essence, but by its act.

So, which side do you find yourself? Discuss.

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