Today we discussed Avicenna, Aquinas, and Buridan on existence and essence.
Essence, as we saw, is what makes a thing itself. Your essence is that without which you could not be you.
Now as we saw, Aquinas offered a rather neat argument for why essence and existence are separable. He argued that if we can think of two things as being separate, they must be two different things. If so, then existence and essence are separate. Buridan took aim at this argument, and argued that that this form of argument is not obviously good. For example, we quite often think of two things as separable because we understand them incompletely. If we better understood them, we would see how inseparable they are. As we saw, the issue is connected to universals, for universals are really free-floating essences. Aquinas is willing to suppose that such universals exist, at least as concepts, as Avicenna explained is the case for horsehood. But Buridan is a nominalist. For that reason, Buridan cannot allow that essences exist independently of things.
Finally, note Aquinas' fascinating claim, that in God and God alone, existence is essence. We will return to this topic next week.