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Aristotle and the Spheres of Motivation: De Anima III.11

  • D. S. Hutchinson (a1)

Motivations can often conflict. Suppose it is six o'clock and I want a drink; suppose also that I know that it would be unwise or inappropriate in my present circumstances to drink. In cases like this I feel a struggle inside me. For Plato and for Aristotle, such struggles were an important part of moral experience, and on their description and analysis depends much of Plato's and Aristotle's moral psychology. It is not well enough appreciated that, in this respect, Aristotle was an uncritical follower of Plato. If we understand Plato's theory and how little Aristotle departed from it, we will be able to make better sense of some difficult passages, especially De Anima III.11, and we will even be able to solve the conundrum of the ‘sphere’ which has teased scholars for two thousand years.

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1 It looks as if Chapters 12 and 13 follow it, but in my Restoring the order of Aristotle's De Anima”, Classical Quarterly, 37 (1987), I showed that they have been accidentally displaced from their original position in Book II.

2 Bekker Immanuel, ed., Aristoteles Graece (Berlin: Prussian Academy and Georg Reimer, 1831), reading, at 434a13, σΦαῑρα, σΦαῑαν (Essen). I use Bekker's text because I think that all the later editors have introduced errors of which Bekker was free. I looked at Rodier G., ed. and transl., Aristote: Traité de l'âme (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1900); Hicks R. D., ed. and transl., Aristotle: De Anima (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1907); Ross W. D., ed., Aristotelis De Anima (Oxford: e typographeo Clarendoniano, 1956); Ross W. D., ed., Aristotle: De Anima (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961); Siwek P., ed., Aristotelis Tractatus de Anima (Rome: Desclée, 1965); Jannone A., ed., Aristote: De l'âme, translated by Barbotin E. (Paris: Budé, 1966). On the other hand, later editors, especially Siwek, give a far more informative apparatus criticus. I have silently altered some of Bekker's punctuation.

3 Aristotle , On the Soul, Parva Naturalia, On Breath, translated by Hett W. S. (London and Cambridge, MA: Loeb, 1936, 1957).

4 Aristotle , De Anima, translated by Smith J. A., in Ross W. D., ed., The Works of Aristotle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931), Vol. 3.

5 Aristotle , On the Soul, translated by Smith J. A. (1931), revised by Jonathan Barnes, in Jonathan Barnes, ed., The Complete Works of Aristotle (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), Vol. 1.

6 Rodier, Hicks and Barbotin, as cited in note 2.

7 As cited in note 2.

8 As cited in note 5.

9 One other place where the text is in dispute is at 434a16 where Jannone, the Budé editor, has οὐ κινɛḹ τι (for οὐ κινɛῖται), with the support of some of the MSS. But this seems a mistake, as the sequel (434a19–21) shows; the knowing part does motivate, but is not itself subject to being moved.

10 For On Justice, see Moraux Paul, A la recherche de l'Aristote perdu: Le Dialogue “Sur la Justice” (Louvain: Publications Universitaires de Louvain;Paris: Béatrice-Nauwelaerts, 1957).

11 The example is derived from Davidson Donald, “How is weakness of the will possible?” in Feinberg Joel, ed., Moral Concepts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), reprinted in Donald Davidson, Essays on Actions and Other Events (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980). I have changed some of the details of the example and put it to a different purpose, but I have benefited very much from Davidson's essay.

12 Simplicius, In libros Aristotelis de Anima Commentaria 310.30–34 Hayduck, in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca (Berlin: Prussian Academy and Georg Reimer, 1892), Vol. 11.

13 Philoponus, In Aristotelis de Anima libros Commentaria 590.10–12 Hayduck, in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca (Berlin: Prussian Academy and Georg Reimer, 1887), Vol. 15; Themistius, In libros Aristotelis De Anima Paraphrasis 121.33–37 Heinze, in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca (Berlin: Prussian Academy and Georg Reimer, 1899), Vol. 5, pt. 3; Aristotelis De Anima libri tres, edited by Trendelenburg F. H., 2nd ed. (Berlin: Weber, 1877); Hicks (see note 2); the Oxford Aristotle (see note 4).

14 Simplicius, Commentaria 310.21–24; Sophonias, In libros Aristotelis de Anima Paraphrasis 145.16–19 Hayduck, in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca (Berlin: Prussian Academy and Georg Reimer, 1883), Vol. 23, pt. 1; Rodier (see note 2); Ross (1961) (see note 2); Barnes (see note 2); Siwek (see note 2).

15 Burette V., Memoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions, Vol. 1.

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