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Aristotle De Anima, Books I and II. Book I: Introduction to the subject Soul as a ‘lifeforce’ within all living things: plants, animals, humans. Soul.

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Presentation on theme: "Aristotle De Anima, Books I and II. Book I: Introduction to the subject Soul as a ‘lifeforce’ within all living things: plants, animals, humans. Soul."— Presentation transcript:

1 Aristotle De Anima, Books I and II

2 Book I: Introduction to the subject Soul as a ‘lifeforce’ within all living things: plants, animals, humans. Soul related to body, not independent. Recall Aristotle’s four causes and his rejection of both materialism and ‘formalism’. For A., soul and body are connected. The body is the material cause upon which the soul (as formal, efficient, and final cause) acts.

3 Book II, ch 1 Aristotle’s ‘dualism’: substance as a combination of matter and form Hence, the soul cannot be ‘just’ a body. But neither is just ‘mind’. “The soul, then, must be substance as the form of a natural body that is potentially alive. Now, the substance is actuality; hence the soul will be the actuality of this specific sort of body” ( ).

4 Bk II, ch. 1 (see Michael Taber Two sense of “actuality”: Aristotle distinguishes between the first and the second actuality of something. What he means is this. Let Alice be ignorant of (but capable of learning about), say, the cause of the winds. Let Betty know the cause of the winds but not be thinking about it now (as she is asleep). And let Cathy know the cause of the winds and be presently explaining the matter to Daphne. Betty has actualized what Alice has as mere potential, yet Cathy is actualizing something which Betty both has actually (in that she actually possesses the knowledge) and has potentially (in that she's not, in her sleep, actualizing that knowledge). So Cathy has actualized her knowledge in two senses, whereas Betty has only the first actualization.

5 Bk II, ch 1 Aristotle's claim here is that soul/psyche is the first actualization. This is important, first, because the implication of saying that psyche is the first actualization is that the psyche would be not some sort of activity, but the capacity to engage in some sorts of activities; more precisely, not the undeveloped capacity (that would be Alice), but the actualized potential to engage in some sort of activities.

6 II, 1 Examples: an axe, an eye, and a living body Axe – Second act (defining activity): to cut – First act, which is the potency for the second act: the form or essence of an axe The form which makes it possible for an axe to cut is the sharpness of its blade. Sharpness, must be realized, instantiated in matter of a certain type, i.e. with a certain hardness - e.g. steel. In order to be an axe, a thing has to have a hard, sharp blade, so that it perform the defining activity of an axe. The form of axe (first act) cannot exist unless it is in matter, and matter of a certain type (hard sharp steel). If something merely looks like an axe (if it is made out of wax) but it does not have a hard, sharp blade, it will be an axe in name only. The form of axe has an essential and necessary relationship to the matter in which it is realized.

7 II, 1 (see Magee, Body and soul are one as the wax and its impression are one. Soul, and parts of the soul, are actualities of the body, and so cannot exist apart from the body, unless there is an activity of soul which is not the activity of an body, or any organ. However, if there is an activity of soul apart from the body, that part (at least) may be separate. (This is the theoretical basis for arguing that the mind is separate because its activity is not (and could not be) the activity of the body.)

8 Overview (See The living being differs from the nonliving, and life signifies the following characteristics: intellect, sensation, movement or rest in space. But the movement has a broader meaning -- it also means change, growth and decay. The living organisms have faculty and principle. Life belongs to the living by inheritance of this principle. But what originally constitutes an animal is the ability of sensation, the touch, growth and decay. The soul is the principle of various kinds of life that is defined by various faculties: nutritive and reproductive, appetitive, desire, courage, reasoned wish; sensitive, mobile, discursive thinking. Plants have only the nutritive faculty; all animals have at least touch for sensitivity; humans and all others who might resemble humans have deliberative thinking faculty and intellect.

9 Aristotle’s scale of life Faculties of living beings at various levels Plants and animals Animals nutritive + reproductive Sensitive touch + taste Rational + sight + hearing + smell practical + theoretical reasoning +calculus + intellectual intuition nous appetitive – physical desire + courage + rational will imaginative sensitive deliberative

10 Summary 1. The Aristotelian concept of the soul does not correspond to any religious tradition. 2. Aristotle's concept of the soul fits into his larger onto logical scheme of reality as composed of matter and form, potentiality and actuality. 3. The soul is described as the actuality or form of a living organism (living body) with all its faculties corresponding to the characteristics of life. As there is a gradualness in the degree of complexity of life, so there is a corresponding gradualness in the complexity of the soul. Man is at the top of the scale with the intellectual faculty of syllogism.

11 Summary 4. The soul, being a form of the living body, perishes with the organism at death. 5. Still, in the Aristotelian ontology, the universe requires the transcendental Primal Mover or the First Cause to keep the universe in motion and to maintain it. 6. The human soul is superior to those of plants and animals in that, besides all the other psychic faculties, it possesses the faculty (potentiality) of thinking, the basis of which is the recognition and manipulation of universals. As the senses are called into activity by the external objects perceived, so similarly the nous of rational living organisms, whose objects are within it, requires a transcendental First Rational Cause, Cosmic Nous, to set in motion the intellectual process.

12 Summary 7. The Aristotelian idea of the First Cause, with all its consequences, is based on the erroneous Law of Motion (corrected by Galileo and Newton) and on the anthropomorphic transposition of the relationship between the cause and effect, "matter" and form (idea), from the sphere of human activity (crafts) to the Universe.


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