Aristotle’s De Anima III.3–5

"Aristotle's de anima III.3-5," Review of Metaphysics, 28, no. 4 (June 1975): 611-622. Reprinted in The Archaeology of the Soul, 2012.

Aristotle’s De Anima is not a treatise on the human soul. It is as silent about the virtues as it is about memory and empeiria. The soul is mainly considered apart form time and the awareness of time. All the emphasis falls on the now, in which the soul, wiped clean of whatever state it was in before, is always new and most admits of definition. The recalcitrance of moral matters to accuracy and finish in their treatment sanctions (and perhaps is even partly due to) the use of an admittedly crude psychology; but if knowledge of soul is outstanding in point of accuracy, the ever-true experience of soul must be its theme. These experiences are to be found in perception and intellection, in which the absence of predication precludes the possibility of error and the soul is somehow all things. Graphically it is not the period but the exclamation point that most nearly corresponds to the truth by inspection. The accuracy at which Aristotle aims in De Anima plainly shows up in the way in which mathematical examples are used throughout both to solve and point to a difficulty. Aristotle, however, is far from asserting that he has lived up to his goal: he never speaks of the science (episteme) of soul; indeed, he begins with a word for knowledge (eidesis) that occurs nowhere in his writings and is otherwise rare.