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Mind and Body in Aristotle

  • H. M. Robinson (a1)

In this paper I hope to show that a particular modern approach to Aristotle's philosophy of mind is untenable and, out of that negative discussion, develop some tentative suggestions concerning the interpretation of two famous and puzzling Aristotelian maxims. These maxims are, first, that the soul is the form of the body and, second, that perception is the reception of form without matter.

The fashionable interpretation of Aristotle which I wish to criticize is the attempt to assimilate him to certain modern philosophies of mind by making him into a functionalist. I shall therefore begin by explaining this modern term of art

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1 A typical exposition of modern func-tionalism can be found in Putnam H., ‘Psychological Predicates’, in Art, Mind and Religion, ed. Capitan and Merrill (Pittsburgh, 1967). For our purposes the causal theory of mind is a popular variant on Functional-ism: see Armstrong D.M., A Materialist Theory of the Mind (Routledge, 1968).

2 Armstrong, op. cit., pp. 85 f.

3 Kosman L.A., ‘Perceiving that We Perceive: On the Soul III 2’, Philosophical Review 84 (1975), 499519.

4 Sorabji R., ‘Body and Soul in Aristotle’, Philosophy 49 (1974), 6389.

5 See Matson W.I., ‘Why isn't the Mind-Body Problem Ancient?’, in Mind, Matter and Method (Minnesota, 1966); Sorabji, p. 68. For further discussion of this issue see Hardie W.F.R., ‘Concepts of Consciousness in Aristotle’, Mind 85 (1976). Hardie argues strongly that the Greeks in general and Aristotle when speaking non-technically used inline-graphic coextensively with our term ‘conscious’ and with the same apparent sense.

6 Kahn C.H., ‘Sensations and Consciousness in Aristotle's Psychology’, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 48 (1966), 43–8:

7 Quotations from De Anima II and III are from Hamlyn's translation, Clarendon Aristotle Series, Oxford, 1968; quotations from D.A. I are from the Oxford translation.

8 Such a view has modern parallels: e.g. Campbell K., Body and Mind (Macmillan, 1970), argues that all mental predicates should be analysed behaviouristically except for those relating to senseations which must be treated dualistically.

9 In n. 66 Sorabji says that ‘the formal cause of seeing will be awareness of colour’ but goes on to say ‘the awareness is again uml;not a Cartesian act of mind’. Therefore this reference to awareness as the formal cause is not illuminating, for no account is implicit as to how it should be understood.

10 e.g. Armstrong, op. cit., p. 94.

11 Hardie W.F.R., ‘Aristotle's Treatment of the Relation Between the Soul and the Body’, Philosophical Quarterly 14 (1964), 5372.

12 Barnes J., ‘Aristotle's Concept of Mind’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 72 (19711972), 101–14.

13 Ackrill J.L., ‘Aristotle's Definitions of PsucheProceedings of the Aristotelian Society 73 (19721973), 119–33.

14 Marjorie Grene, A Portrait of Aristotle (1963), p. 243: quoted by Hardie Mind, 1976.

15 Hintikka J., Time and Necessity: studies in Aristotle's Theory of Modality (Oxford, 1973).

16 Slakey T.J., ‘Aristotle on Sense Perception’, Philosophical Review 70 (1961), 470–84.

17 Brentano F., Die Psychologie des Aristoteles (Mainz, 1867), pp. 7998.

18 Hamlyn D.W., ‘Aristotle's Account of Aestbesis in the De Anima’, CQ N.S. 9 (1959), 616.

19 Schiller J., ‘Aristotle and the Concept of Awareness in Sense Perception‘, Journal of the History of Philosophy 13 (1975), 283–96.

I am particularly grateful for the help of Dr. Julia Annas, Dr. K. V. Wilkes Professor A. C. Lloyd, and Professor A. A.Long.

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The Classical Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0009-8388
  • EISSN: 1471-6844
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