Aristotle on the Soul

Aristotle on the Soul - Aristotle on the Soul Matter and...

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Aristotle on the Soul Matter and Form 1. Aristotle uses his familiar matter/form distinction to answer the question “What is soul?” At the beginning of De Anima II.1, he says that there are three sorts of substance: a. Matter (potentiality) b. Form (actuality) c. The compound of matter and form 2. Aristotle is interested in compounds that are alive . These - plants and animals - are the things that have souls. Their souls are what make them living things. 3. Since form is what makes matter a “this,” the soul is the form of a living thing. (Not its shape, but its actuality , that in virtue of which it is the kind of living thing that it is.) Grades of Actuality and Potentiality 1. Aristotle distinguishes between two levels of actuality ( entelecheia ). At 412a11 he gives knowing and attending as examples of these two kinds of actuality. (It has become traditional to call these first and second actuality, respectively.) At 412a22-26 he elaborates this example and adds this one: being asleep vs. being awake . But he does not fully clarify this important distinction until II.5 (417a22-30), to which we now turn. 2. At 417a20, Aristotle says that there are different types of both potentiality and actuality. His example concerns different ways in which someone might be described as a knower . One might be called a knower in the sense that he or she: a. is a human being. b. has grammatical knowledge. c. is attending to something. A knower in sense (a) is someone with a mere potential to know something, but no actual knowledge. (Not everything has this potential, of course. E.g., a rock or an earthworm has no such potential.) A knower in sense (b) has some actual knowledge (for example, she
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This note was uploaded on 11/26/2011 for the course PHILOSOPHY 101 taught by Professor Buechner during the Fall '06 term at Rutgers.

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Aristotle on the Soul - Aristotle on the Soul Matter and...

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