On the Time of the Intellect: The Interpretation of De Anima 3.6 (430b 7–20) in Renaissance and Early Modern Italian Philosophy

in Early Science and Medicine
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This article argues that an original debate over the relationship between time and the intellect took place in Northern Italy in the second half of the sixteenth century, which was part of a broader reflection on the temporality of human mental acts. While human intellectual activity was said to be ‘above time’ during the Middle Ages, Renaissance scholars such as Marcantonio Genua (1491–1563), Giulio Castellani (1528–1586), Antonio Montecatini (1537–1599) and Francesco Piccolomini (1520–1604), greatly influenced by the Simplician and Alexandrist interpretations of Aristotle’s works, proposed alternative conceptions based on the interpretation of De anima 3.6 (430b 7–20) according to which intellectual acts happen in a both ‘undivided’ and ‘divisible time’. In order to explain Aristotle’s puzzling claim, they were led to conceive of intellectual activity as a process similar to sensation, corresponding to a certain lapse of time (Castellani), an instant (Montecatini), or a mix of instantaneousness and concrete duration (Picco­lomini), depending on their theoretical options.

On the Time of the Intellect: The Interpretation of De Anima 3.6 (430b 7–20) in Renaissance and Early Modern Italian Philosophy

in Early Science and Medicine




On angelic time see Richard Cross“Angelic Time and Motion: Bonaventure to Duns Scotus,” in A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophyed. Tobias Hoffmann (Leiden 2011) 117–47 at 126–29.


Steel“The Neoplatonic Doctrine of Time” 23–24.


Eckhard Kessler“Psychology: the Intellective Soul,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophyed. Charles B. Schmitt Quentin Skinner Eckhard Kessler and Jill Kraye (Cambridge 1988) 520. Kessler comments on Porzio’s De humana mente disputatio (Florence 1551) 9. For a larger investigation on Porzio’s philosophy and career see Eva del Soldato Simone Porzio: un aristotelico tra natura e grazia (Rome 2010).


PorzioDe humana mente36. See also the whole chapter 7 34–47.


Michael Edwards“Time, Duration and the Soul in Late Aristotelian Natural Philosophy and Psychology,” in Psychology and the Other Disciplines: A Case of Cross-Disciplinary Interaction (1250–1750)ed. Paul J. J. M. Bakker Sander W. de Boer and Cees Leijenhorst (Leiden 2012) 117. See also Michael Edwards Time and the Science of the Soul in Early Modern Philosophy (Leiden 2013) 78–79.


See Charles B. Schmitt“Castellani, Giulio,” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani80 vols. (Rome 1925–2014) 21 (1978) 624–25.


See Enrico Berti“The Intellection of Indivisibles According to Aristotle’s De Anima III.6,” in Aristotle on Mind and the Sensesed. Geoffrey E. R. Lloyd and G. E. L. Owen (Cambridge 1978) 141–63; Thomas de Koninck “La noêsis et l’indivisible selon Aristote” in La Naissance de la raison en Grèce ed. J.-F. Mattéi (Paris 1990) 215–28. See also Michel Fattal “L’intellection des indivisibles dans le De Anima (3 6) d’Aristote: lectures arabes et modernes” in Corps et âme: sur le De Anima d’Aristoteed. Gilbert Romeyer-Dherbey and Cristina Viano(Paris1996) 423–40.


See AristotleMetaphysics5.6 1016b 25–26.


‘Philoponus’On Aristotle On the Soul 3.1–8129.


GenuaIn tres libros Aristotelis de anima164v.


Kessler“The Intellective Soul” 521–22.


CastellaniAduersus M. Tullii Ciceronis academicas quaestiones89–90.


MontecatiniDe mente humana349.


MontecatiniDe mente humana349. See Genua In tres libros Aristotelis de anima 163–64. Vincenzo Maggi (1498–1564) taught natural philosophy in Ferrara and had Castellani as a pupil. It has been noticed that Castellani “had derived [his De humano intellectu] from a commentary of Maggi on the third book of De anima”: see History of Italian Philosophy ed. Eugenio Garin vol. I transl. Giorgio Pinton (Amsterdam-New York 2008) 363. See also Castellani De humano intellectu 2.


See Michel Crubellier“On Generation and Corruption I. 9,” in Aristotle’s On Generation and Corruption Ied. Franz de Haas and ‎Jaap Mansfeld (Oxford 2004) 284–85.


See Jill Kraye“Francesco Piccolomini,” in Cambridge Translations of Renaissance Philosophical Texts: Volume One Moral Philosophy ed. Jill Kraye (Cambridge 1997) 68. See also Artemio Enzo Baldini “Per la biografia di Francesco Piccolomini” Rinascimento series II 20 (1980) 389–420.


PiccolominiIn tres libros Aristotelis de anima181v.


Eckhard Kessler“Metaphysics or Empirical Science? The Two Faces of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy in the Sixteenth Century,” in Renaissance Readings of the Corpus Aristotelicum ed. Marianne Pade (Copenhagen 2001) 100. See also Eckhard Kessler “Alexander of Aphrodisias and his Doctrine of the Soul. 1400 Years of Lasting Significance” Early Science and Medicine 16 (2011) 1–93.


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