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Topos eidōn

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Title: Topos eidōn
Author(s): Leinonen, Mika Tapani
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in Philosophy
Specialisation: Theoretical Philosophy
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
The topic of this work is Aristotle’s doctrine of the intellect (ὁ νοῦς) as the noetic faculty of the soul in the psychology of the De anima. The work is based on scholarly exegesis of Aristotle’s text and philosophical analysis of his arguments. This work also reviews some of the most prominent interpretations of the topic up to the present. While most research on the topic seems to have focused primarily on ontological issues, the aim of this work is to assess the question of what kind of an activity Aristotle ascribes to the intellect as a faculty of the soul. To this end, I separate between two forms of rationality in Aristotle’s psychology, noetic and discursive rationalities. Close reading of Aristotle’s considerations of rational capabilities in the De anima shows that he separates between these, and furthermore that the characteristic activity of the intellect (νοεῖν) is best understood in terms of the former. I also discuss the method of defining capacities in Aristotle’s faculty psychology and give reasons for thinking that the doctrine of the intellect stands for a higher, separate reality in Aristotle’s psychology and is not contained in the common account of the soul. In approaching the topic of the intellect, I discuss the way that Aristotle aims to overcome the shortcoming of Anaxagoras’ theory with his doctrine of the potential (δύναμις) intellect. The central account of the intellect’s noetic activity in the De anima is given in terms of receptivity (δεκτικός) and is borne out of an analogy with sense perception. The analogy implies an explanation of the intellect’s activity with the model of efficient cause. But Aristotle’s considerations of the nature of the intellect also show him detaching it from the faculty of sense due its difference in scope, discussed in terms of limitlessness or neutrality of the intellect. In this work I argue that the characterizations that Aristotle gives of the intellect’s characteristic activity prevents from reading it as thinking in the broad sense of the term. However, it is possible to take Aristotle’s focus to be with thinking in his account of the intellect. In this work my aim is to give reasons for why this reading is unsuccessful and to provide an alternative, which argues that the cognitive activity of the intellect in the De anima is rather best understood by associating it with theoretical knowledge. In my reading the activity of the intellect does not stand for ordinary thought but for the most successful form of rationality available to humans, which is a veridical and direct kind of cognition that is of starting points of explanatory sciences. The activity of the intellect is primarily for Aristotle reception of form (εἶδος), as is shown by his characterization ‘place of forms’. In conformity with the traditional reading of Alexander of Aphrodisias, the noetic faculty of the soul is in my reading never the actual locus of forms but only the dispositional capacify for participating in the life of active understanding.
Keyword(s): philosophy of history ancient philosophy Aristotle De anima philosophy of psychology philosophy of rationality rationalism the intellect νοῦς νοεῖν

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