Method and doctrine in aristotle’s natural psychology: De Anima II.5

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De anima II.5 has long been recognized to be of central importance for our understanding of Aristotle’s views on perception and on cognition generally, but it is one of the most difficult in the entire Corpus. Or so interpreters have often found it. Many have claimed that Aristotle mainly wishes to show that, just as in the case of intellectual cognition, when normal perception occurs no ordinary material change which might help explain the occurrence of that perception and its content takes place in a perceiver. This approach has been presumed to be crucial, for Aristotle, in his attempt to account for the reliability of our perceptual faculties and thus for our veridical awareness, in normal perception, of an objective external world. Others, however, have argued vigorously to the contrary that Aristotle means only to show that in perception no ordinary change takes place to a perceiver’s sense faculty, or capacity for objective sensory awareness of the external world, not that no ordinary explanatory changes take place, or essentially take place, in a perceiver’s sense organs. But here again the transition of the sense faculty itself to perceptual awareness without any ordinary change to that faculty has also been presumed to be crucial, for Aristotle, to account for the objective veridical content of normal perception. The common underlying idea here seems to be that if the sense organ or faculty were to genuinely alter in perception that would in some way block our common objective perceptual access to the external world, as in fact Democritus, and Protagoras, argued it does. In this chapter, I argue that Aristotle’s interest in De anima II.5 is not so much in limiting the change, or the kind of change, that takes place either in a perceiver’s sense organs or sense faculty, in normal perception, as it is in limiting the change that takes place in the object perceived. This result does have highly significant epistemological implications, but implications which are overlooked on the more usual accounts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncounters with Aristotelian Philosophy of Mind
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9781000382952
ISBN (Print)9780367439132
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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