David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Phronesis 47 (1):28 - 90 (2002)
This is a close scrutiny of "De Anima II 5", led by two questions. First, what can be learned from so long and intricate a discussion about the neglected problem of how to read an Aristotelian chapter? Second, what can the chapter, properly read, teach us about some widely debated issues in Aristotle's theory of perception? I argue that it refutes two claims defended by Martha Nussbaum, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Sorabji: (i) that when Aristotle speaks of the perceiver becoming like the object perceived, the assimilation he has in mind is ordinary alteration of the type exemplified when fire heats the surrounding air, (ii) that this alteration stands to perceptual awareness as matter to form. Claim (i) is wrong because the assimilation that perceiving is is not ordinary alteration. Claim (ii) is wrong because the special type of alteration that perceiving is is not its underlying material realisation. Indeed, there is no mention in the text of any underlying material realisation for perceiving. The positive aim of II 5 is to introduce the distinction between first and second potentiality, each with their own type of actuality. In both cases the actuality is an alteration different from ordinary alteration. Perception exemplifies one of these new types of alteration, another is found in the acquisition of knowledge and in an embryo's first acquisition of the power of perception. The introduction of suitably refined meanings of 'alteration' allows Aristotle to explain perception and learning within the framework of his physics, which by definition is the study of things that change. He adapts his standard notion of alteration, familiar from "Physics" III 1-3 and "De Generatione et Corruptione" I, to the task of accounting for the cognitive accuracy of (proper object) perception and second potentiality knowledge: both are achievements of a natural, inborn receptivity to objective truth. Throughout the paper I pay special attention to issues of text and translation, and to Aristotle's cross-referencing, and I emphasise what the chapter does not say as well as what it does. In particular, the last section argues that the textual absence of any underlying material realisation for perceiving supports a view I have defended elsewhere, that Aristotelian perception involves no material processes, only standing material conditions. This absence is as telling as others noted earlier. Our reading must respect the spirit of the text as Aristotle wrote it.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Mark A. Johnstone (2013). Aristotle on Sounds. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (5):631-48.
Thomas K. Johansen (2012). Capacity and Potentiality: Aristotle's Metaphysics Θ.6–7 From the Perspective of the De Anima. Topoi 31 (2):209-220.
Errol G. Katayama (2011). Soul and Elemental Motion in Aristotle's Physics VIII 4. Apeiron 44 (2):163-190.
Similar books and articles
S. Marc Cohen (2012). Alteration and Persistence: Form and Matter in the Physics and de Generatione Et. In Christopher Shields (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle. Oup Usa. 205.
Robert Heinaman (2007). Actuality, Potentiality and "De Anima II.5". Phronesis 52 (2):139 - 187.
John Bowin (2011). Aristotle on Various Types of Alteration in De Anima II 5. Phronesis 56 (2):138-161.
John E. Sisko (1996). Material Alteration and Cognitive Activity in Aristotle's "De Anima". Phronesis 41 (2):138 - 157.
Catherine Osborne (1983). Aristotle, De Anima 3. 2: How Do We Perceive That We See and Hear? Classical Quarterly 33 (02):401-411.
Catherine Osborne (1998). Perceiving White and Sweet (Again): Aristotle, De Anima 3.7, 431a20-B1. Classical Quarterly 48 (02):433-446.
Crawford L. Elder (2003). Destruction, Alteration, Simples and World Stuff. Philosophical Quarterly 53 (210):24–38.
John Sisko (1996). Material Alteration and Cognitive Activity in Aristotle's De Anima. Phronesis 41 (2):138-157.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads58 ( #29,223 of 1,101,879 )
Recent downloads (6 months)3 ( #128,836 of 1,101,879 )
How can I increase my downloads?