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When and Why Understanding Needs Phantasmata: A Moderate Interpretation of Aristotle’s De Memoria and De Anima on the Role of Images in Intellectual Activities

In: Phronesis
Author:
Caleb Cohoe Department of Philosophy, Metropolitan State University of Denver Denver co, 80204 USA calebcohoe@gmail.com

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I offer a new interpretation of the passages where Aristotle maintains that intellectual activity employs φαντάσµατα (images). In theoretical understanding of mathematical and natural beings, we usually need to consciously employ appropriate φαντάσµατα in order to grasp explanatory connections. Aristotle does not, however, commit himself to thinking that images are required for exercising all theoretical understanding: understanding immaterial things, in particular, may not involve φαντάσµατα. Thus the connection that Aristotle makes between images and understanding does not rule out the possibility that human intellectual activity could occur apart from the body.

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