The Soul and Its Instrumental Body: A Reinterpretation of Aristotle's Philosophy of Living Nature

The Soul and Its Instrumental Body: A Reinterpretation of Aristotle's Philosophy of Living Nature

The Soul and Its Instrumental Body: A Reinterpretation of Aristotle's Philosophy of Living Nature

The Soul and Its Instrumental Body: A Reinterpretation of Aristotle's Philosophy of Living Nature

Synopsis

For more than 1800 years it has been supposed that Aristotle viewed the soul as the entelechy of the visible body which is equipped with organs. This book argues that in actual fact he saw the soul as the entelechy of a natural body that serves as its instrument. This correction puts paid to W. Jaegers hypothesis of a three-phase development in Aristotle. The author of this book defends the unity of Aristotles philosophy of living nature in De anima, in the biological treatises, and in the lost dialogues. Aristotle should therefore be regarded as the author of the notion of the vehicle of the soul and of a non-Platonic dualism. The current understanding of his influence on Hellenistic philosophy needs to change accordingly.

Excerpt

It was the great German scholar W. Jaeger who brought about the most important change of paradigm in modern Aristotelian studies with his famous book about the history of Aristotle's development. Instead of talking about Aristotle's philosophy as a static whole, in the way that the scholastics did, Jaeger applies the principle of organic development, of which he regards Aristotle as the discoverer, to the Stagirite's own philosophy. Of course, the proposition that a philosopher undergoes a development during forty-five years of activity is in itself highly plausible. However, there is always a danger that problems encountered by an interpreter lead to conclusions about the non-compatibility of certain theories and that it is then assumed that the ancient author in question also felt this incompatibility and did not hold such theories simultaneously. The obvious solution is to assume that at some stage the ancient author abandoned the theory which he initially held and replaced it by one which he considered superior. The degree to which the application of the development

For a biographical survey, see W.M. Calder III, Classical Scholarship (New York
1990)211–225.

W. Jaeger, Aristoteles. Grundlegung einer Geschichte seiner Entwicklung (Berlin
1923). A French translation was published as late as 1997: Aristote. Fondements pour
une histoire de son évolution
, traduit et présenté par O. Sedeyn (Combas 1997). for
the sake of references I will use the English translation Aristotle. Fundamentals of the
history of his development
transl. by R. Robinson (Oxford 1934; 1948; repr. 1962). T.
Case, 'Aristotle', The Encyclopaedia Britanica, vol II, 11th edition (Cambridge 1910)
501–522 had also hypothesized a development in Aristotle, but found little
response.

W.Jaeger, Aristotle 3–7.

Cf. T.J. Tracy, Physiological theory and the doctrine of the mean in Plato and Aristotle
(The Hague/Chicago 1969) 348: 'Whether (1) the commentator finds two notions
irreconcilable, and whether (2) Aristotle regards them as such,—these appear to me
to be separate problems'. Tracy observes that 'Aristotle does speak of the soul in
the same context or work as both the form of the body and as centered in a
particular organ, the heart, governing the life processes through the innate heat'.
And he admits that he, too, has difficulty in understanding 'how he reconciled
these notions' (353) . . .

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