BA Liberal Arts, St. John's College, Santa Fe, 2014
Aristotle, Plato, Hellenistic Philosophy; Philosophy of Mind, Moral Psychology, Philosophy of Perception; Wittgenstein
"Aristotle’s Divided Soul"
Dissertation Committee: Martha Nussbaum, Gabriel Lear, Agnes Callard
PHIL 29200-02/29300-02 Junior/Senior Tutorial
Topic: Aristotle’s On the Soul
Aristotle’s De Anima (On the Soul) contains his general account of soul, understood as the principle and cause of life. This text has been foundational to much of the philosophical and scientific reflections on life and the mind that have followed. Philosophers from Aquinas to Hegel have praised its richness and insight; contemporary psychologists, cognitive scientists, and biologists have found in it a predecessor to contemporary conceptions of mind, perception, and life. In reading De Anima, then, we can come face to face with the origins of our own conceptions of life. Yet it has also struck some modern readers as quite alien. De Anima’s scope doesn’t fit neatly within contemporary philosophy of mind, psychology, or biology; it instead offers an idiosyncratic ‘metaphysics of life’, which to some has appeared hopelessly antiquated in our post-Cartesian age.
In this class, we will engage in a close reading of the whole of De Anima. We will give particular attention to Aristotle’s greatest achievement in De Anima: his hylomorphic conception of soul, according to which the soul is ‘form’ and ‘actuality’, and the body is ‘matter’ and ‘potentiality’. We will use an understanding of this doctrine to address Aristotle’s most infamous and enigmatic claims in De Anima: that the soul and the body are one, that nutrition and reproduction are imitations of the divine, that perception is a reception of form, and that intellect is both nothing and everything. Our goal will be not only to understand Aristotle on his own terms, but also to see how modern philosophical problems about life and mindedness (e.g., AI, consciousness) look from an Aristotelian perspective.
Meets with Jr/Sr section. Prerequisite: Open only to philosophy majors. Intensive-Track Majors should reach out to the instructor to be enrolled manually. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.