COLLOQUIUM 6

ARISTOTLE'S NOΥΣ AND THE MODERN MIND

in Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy
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COLLOQUIUM 6

ARISTOTLE'S NOΥΣ AND THE MODERN MIND

in Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy

References

1 For a concise overview of the debate, see Shields 1993, esp.160-164. 2 Burnyeat is critical of the trend in modem scholarship. He argues that we should junk Aristotle's philosophy of mind. But, even Burnyeat's arguments turn almost entirely on an analysis of Aristotle's theory of perception. He offers no substantive analysis of Aristotle's account of intellect (see Burnyeat 1992). I offer a critical assessment of Burnyeat's arguments in my 1996.

3 This view depends on the notion vous 7Ta8TJTlKÓ� is the same as Aristotle's 'possible' or 'material.' intellect. Some commentators, Philoponus for one, hold that vo0v 7Ta8TJTlKÓ� is not the same as "material" intellect. For an overview of the tradition from Theophrastus to the late nineteenth century see F. Brentano 1992. What I take to be the predominant view within the tradition is also found in Hamlyn 1993 (/1968), 140 and Robinson 1983, 143-144.

4 Caston rejects part of Wedin's rationale for holding this view (Caston 1992, 122- 125). But he offers an alternative account, which, he thinks, answers the worries that he has with Wedin's rationale (Caston 1998, 284-287, esp. n. 89.). 5 This view is also suggested in Frede 1992, esp. 106.

6 Although, Caston's interpretation has a limited affinity with that advanced by Alexander of Aphrodisias (See Caston 1999, 200-202).

7 "What, then are the two natures? And what, again, is this which underlies and is subordinate to the productive [voUS]? For the intellect is somehow a mixture of the productive and the potential. If then the moving [intellect] is innate, it must have been so [i.e., moving] from the start and always. But if it came later, with [the aid of] what, and in what way, was its coming to be? But it seems indeed to be ungenerated, if it is also indestructible. Since that it is inherent in [the soul] why is it not always [active]? Why are there forgetting and deception and falsehood? Or is it because of the mixture." (Theophrastus Fr. XII, trans. Devereux)

8 Much of the material in the remainder of this section is set out in greater detail in my 1999. 9 Here I take 429a24-27 to provide us with a single line of argument, whereas in my 1999 I suggested that it contains two lines of argument. In each case, I argue that tvkoyov (at 429a24) governs the whole of the passage.

10 One might think of the professor of mathematics who is teaching "Introduction to Calculus" for the twentieth time. Even though the students may find the material to be difficult, he teaches the course with ease, in part because he is already familiar with even higher truths in mathematics. Of course the stereotype is that, after class, such a professor might have difficulty finding his car in the parking lot. But, that, it would seem, is another issue. 11 Shields employs the distinction between exemplification and encoding in his analysis of De Anima IIL4 (see his 1997).

12 Perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that Aristotle criticizes a Neo- Anaxagorean model, since he imports part of his own theory of causation into the "Anaxagorean" model that he criticizes.

13 For an excellent treatment of Aristotle's theory of noetic self-awareness see Lewis 1996.

14 Here I follow Philoponus (see Charlton 1991, 60-61).

15 Wedin agrees. See his 1989, 74-75. 16 In what follows, I shall focus primarily on Aristotle's account of nous 'lTO¡17TU(Ó�. The topic of vodv 7ra0TjTncos shall be left for another day.

17 In accordance with the orthodox interpretation, it could be argued that nous poietikos does not appear elsewhere in the An., because it is only in An. 111.5 that Aristotle is concerned with demarcating the causal mechanisms within human thought (see Hicks 1907, 509-510). 18 Further, Aristotle may suppose that, since a natural creature possesses the faculty in question (intellect), this faculty will (to a significant extent) behave in accordance with the causal principles of natural science. (We should be reminded that intellect, in its practical activity, is responsible for action and, consequently, is a part-cause of bodily motion.)

19 Before I turn to Caston's main argument, I should comment on the translation of the final sentence of An. IILS. Caston correctly notes that if we remove the comma between 8i and on at 430a23, the passage is ambiguous and could be translated as "We do not remember that while this cannot be affected, the intellect that can be affected is perishable" (Caston 1999, 213). Translated in this way, the sentence does not immediately suggest identification between ourselves and a vo0v 7Ton7nKó� that exists beyond the boundaries of this life. Caston's suggestion is an especially clever one and he is right about the grammar. So, in what follows, I shall avoid staking a claim on one translation or the other and instead I shall focus just on the characteristics assigned to vo6v 7Tolr¡nKó� in the second half of the chapter. This, I take it, is the strategy that Caston himself follows in his main argument for taking few 7Tolr¡nKó� to be the Prime Mover.

20 The passage from which characteristic #7 is taken is repeated verbatim at the start of An. 111.7 and in An. IIL7 & 8 Aristotle's meaning is clear. We have thoughts (and perceptions) only potentially until we are acted on by sensible forms and in turn by intelligible forms. These forms exist in actual perceptible things. So, these perceptible things must first exist, if we are to come to think (or perceive). Aristotle's point in An. IIL7 & 8 is that the knowable must exist prior to our actually knowing it and his point in An. IILS is likely to be the same. So, there is little reason to suppose that in our passage from An. III.5 Aristotle is suggesting that God must exist as an active thinker, before we ourselves can come to actively think. 21 Since #5, the claim that vous 'lTOI7JTlKÓ� is more honorable, is justified through an appeal to the contrast between producer and matter that is introduced at the start of An.

IILS, this characteristic (alone) has no more weight in deciding the case than does the initial passage. In addition, since throughout his discussion of the faculties of soul in the An. Aristotle is careful to draw attention to the internal necessary conditions for activity, characteristic #11 can quite naturally be taken to mark such an internal condition for human thought: just as certain features are necessary, if an individual is to perceive, so to is vovs 1TOI1lTlKÓÇ necessary, if an individual is to think. Finally, characteristics #9 is simply too plastic to tell us much of anything. Now 1TOI1/TIKÓÇ may be just what it is, but then anything else that exists is also just what it is. (Caston adds the word 'essentially' to the clause from which characteristic #9 is drawn. I see no clear text-based reason for the addition.)

22 In this condition we have something more than a mere potentiality to perceive, for we assess such a potentiality even when asleep. If this interpretation, if correct, it answers Jennifer Whiting's worry that if this vovs could exist apart from the body, it would not be able to function and, thus, given Aristotle's homonymy principle, it would no longer be vovs, but just vows in name alone. Whiting's worry is that such an intellect would be like a "blind eye" (see Whiting 1986, 80, n.25). My suggestion is that such an intellect would be like a "sighted eye" in a "darkened room."

24 I criticize Wedin's appeal to this supposed parallel in my 1999, 252-3, n.10. 25 Judson is right to note that, while we should expect to get "nearer to the hardware" as we break down cognitive systems, Aristotle's introduction of MM 7rOtl7TtK69, on

Wedin's interpretation, seems to get us "...further from the hardware, not closer to it." Judson 1991,437-438. 26 In his papers on Aristotle's account of mind published after 1988, Wedin sometimes describes vodv 7T017jtik6s in ways that are amenable to the naturalistic project. For example, he states "...the account of Y6-qo-Lg requires that vo6v be resolved into lower level mechanisms - productive and receptive minds - which give way, ultimately, to operations involving images at, or just above, the level of the physical system." (Wedin 1992, 82; cf. Wedin 1989, 76-77 and Wedin 1994, 110 & 113.) However, there still remains the difficulty of reconciling this purported naturalism with the account of vovs 7Tolr¡nKós- that Aristotle offers in An. IILS.

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