Aristotle on Perception

Philosophical Review 108 (2):282 (1999)

Authors
Iakovos Vasiliou
CUNY Graduate Center
Stephen Everson
University of York
Abstract
This is an important book for the specialist in Aristotelian natural science and philosophy of mind. While its overall aims are more sweeping—to show how the account of perception is an application of the explanatory method of the Physics and to argue that Aristotle’s resulting method of explaining mental activity has substantive advantages over contemporary accounts in philosophy of mind —much of its most successful argument is a sustained and detailed attack on a position made famous by Myles Burnyeat. On Burnyeat’s “spiritualist” reading of Aristotle, the sense organs perceive without undergoing any material alteration; the capacity for perception is a basic capacity of the matter that constitutes sense organs, and admits of no further material explanation. The “literalist,” by contrast, maintains that when a sense organ perceives something it is physically altered, so that it takes on a property of the sensible that affects it. Everson’s primary achievement is to supply a thorough and generally convincing defense of a literalist reading by explaining in detail the material workings of both the individual senses and the perceptual system as a whole, including the activities of phantasia.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0031-8108
DOI 10.2307/2998304
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