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Line by Line Commentary

on Aristotles De Anima
Books I and II
Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D.
University of Chicago
Line y Line Co!!entary on "ristotle#s De "ni!a, Books I $ II
Co%yright & '()' y Eugene T. Gendlin
Pulished y the *ocusing Institute
+, East Ln., -%ring .alley, /0 )(122
"ll rights reserved. /o %art of this %ulication !ay e re%roduced, stored in a retrieval syste!,
or trans!itted, in any for! or y any !eans, electronic, !echanical, %hotoco%ying, recording, or
other3ise, 3ithout %rior %er!ission of the %ulisher.
Pur%ose and Plan4
This co!!entary is intended as a co!%anion to "ristotle5s De Anima. I address
so!eone 3ho is reading the te6t, and is sto%%ed y a %u77ling s%ot. Look that s%ot u% in the
Co!!entary. 8r, if you have long had certain %u77les in the De Anima, look the! u% here.
The Co!!entary is designed for scholars of "ristotle, ut I divided it so that it can e
useful also to eginning readers. The !ain %art ai!s at clear assertions that should e hel%ful
to anyone at each line. The endnotes are only for a s%ecialist. They 3ill confuse so!eone 3ho
is 9ust gras%ing 3hat "ristotle is talking aout. But e6%erienced %hiloso%hers are also advised
not to read the endnotes until they have read !y co!!ents on the te6t. The issues raised in
so!e endnotes %resu%%ose "ristotle5s careful develo%!ent in the 3hole De Anima.
In the !ain %art I si!%ly say 3hat I think "ristotle !eans. I a! a3are that straight out
state!ents aout 3hat "ristotle !eans are currently out of style, ut I see no reason to force
everyone to retrace !y long %ath, 9ust to read "ristotle5s %age. -o!e intricate insights can lead
to si!%le clarifications. Passages that see! clear are often contradicted y other %assages
else3here, until at last 3e find "ristotle !aking an odd distinction 3hich e6%lains oth. But
other %assages !ay raise further %role!s 3hich re:uire finding still another odd distinction.
"fter a long ti!e, 3hen the te6t has eco!es :uite consistent, one can clarify a line 3ithout
raising erst3hile %role!s. In the endnotes I e6%lain the asis for !y assertions, as 3ell as
douts and alternative readings. There I interrelate !any %arts of the De Anima and other
3orks of "ristotle.
In the endnotes I take u% every %u77le I find. I !ust 3arn the reader that !any of these
are :uite technical. 8nly an "ristotelian scholar 3ill find the! e6citing. ;esolving a s!all
%u77le can clarify others and lead to i!%lications one does not see at first. *or e6a!%le, one
such s!all %u77le is the %assage <,'=a))> 3here "ristotle denies that ees and ants have
i!agination, 3hereas every3here else he affir!s e6%licitly that all ani!als have it. The %u77le is
3ell kno3n. Before ":uinas, "lert the Great insisted that the translator !ust have !ade a
!istake. ":uinas inter%rets the %assage in relation to ani!als that have only one sense, ut
this does not e6%lain aout ees and ants 3ho have all five senses. -o!e !oderns <the 8.C.T.
and Torstrik> 3ant to re!ove the troule y e!ending the te6t. ?a!lyn thinks it !ight !ean that
ants and ees lack the @delierativeA <hu!an> kind of i!agination, ut according to "ristotle all
ani!als lack that kind. *ro! solving several other %u77les I sho3 3here "ristotle says that the
kind of i!agination he thinks ees and ants don#t have, the kind he is discussing here, re:uires
' Introduction
a sense for time 3hich only the higher ani!als have. They need to e ale to recogni7e
i!ages as eing fro! the %ast. ?o3 "ristotle e6%lains the sense for ti!e does turn out to have
road i!%lications. It is e6citing to resolve %u77les that have hung there for centuries, ut I 3ant
to assure the reader that !any %arts of the co!!entary are !ore i!!ediately useful. Belo3 I
discuss so!e of the uses and %o3ers 3hich a reading of "ristotle %rovides.
I can give the reader a criterion y 3hich to decide if I a! right in any s%ot. My
assertions are not to be taken in place of Aristotles assertions. A commentary should
never displace the text. Please do not go out and re%eat 3hat Gendlin says and clai! that it
is 3hat "ristotle says. If you have a %u77le in the te6t, read 3hat I say and then return
i!!ediately to that s%ot in the te6t. 0ou !ay find the te6t saying 3hat the Co!!entary
%ro!ised, or BB so!ething else. Aristotles meaning must emerge for you directly from that
spot in his text. 8ther s%ots should then corroorate it as 3ell.
Cany co!!entaries I have seen are so %oor that even a eginner using !y test can find
the! 3anting. Do not elieve the!, or !e. " co!!entary succeeds at a %u77ling s%ot only if,
3hen you return to the te6t, "?"D no3 the text %lainly says so!ething that !akes sense. Later
you !ight inter%ret it in another 3ay ut the %assage 3ill never go ack to eing senseless.
Currently !any %hiloso%hers e!%hasi7e the fact that there is no single right reading of a
te6t. It is true that different concerns can e rolled u% to a te6t, in res%onse to 3hich the te6t 3ill
s%eak ack very differently. But a te6t !ust first e recogni7ed as a delierately and carefully
constructed thing 3ith a %lan, %arts, links, and internal senseB!aking. The est %ractitioners of
the slogan that @there is no te6tA analy7e a te6t very carefully and accurately, in order to
deter!ine ho3 to @deconstructA it. That stage has not een reached as long as the te6t see!s
to contain a great deal of %u77ling nonsense.
There is a reason 3hy one can e so %u77led for so long, and yet later see that the te6t
says 3hat it says :uite %lainly. To understand the te6t 3e !ust be able to conceive of 3hat it
saysE 3e have to follo3 it 3ith ste%s of our o3n thought. But our o3n thought is already
structured and directed y !any assu!%tions 3hich 3e are not a3are of !aking. Fe cannot
i!agine other alternatives. -een through our o3n thinking, a %assage in the te6t !ay see! to
!ake an ovious !istake. " %erson of at least average intelligence such as "ristotle 3ould not
!ake this !istake. -o 3e can e sure that this cannot e 3hat "ristotle thought he 3rote here,
ut 3hat else could it !eanG To save readers !y !any years of 3ork, I tell the! the
unfamiliar way of thinking 3hich, if it can e considered, lets the te6t !ake sense. But this
can ha%%en only if they turn ack to the te6t to find out 3hether it no3 s%eaks %lainly. Then I
e6a!ine and defend !y reading in the endnotes.
Introduction +
In !any %assages "ristotle argues e6%licitly against an assu!%tion 3e are reading in.
But since 3e do read it in here, 3e don5t notice that he is denying it here. Fe see! to read
so!ething else. I have often oserved this in retros%ect. Later I 3onder4 ?o3 could I have
!issed his e6%licit denialG 8ne can never e sure of having recogni7ed all such %laces.
T?E HI/D 8* C8CCE/T";0 IT I-
In the Ciddle "ges a long line of scholars estalished a dee%Bgoing reading of "ristotle.
In that tradition a eginner learned !any reliale state!ents aout "ristotle5s vie3s, 3hich
function at first like !ysterious for!ulae. 8ne could re%eat the! ut one ca!e to understand
the! only gradually. *or e6a!%le, fro! the start one learned that for "ristotle @!atter is not
odies or %articlesE !atter is %otentiality.A -o!e years later %erha%s one eca!e ale to tell
oneself e6actly ho3 !atter can e thought of as 9ust %otentiality, not as identifiale asic
%articles or odies. 8ne understood this only together 3ith understanding other ter!s and
assertions. Fith such gradually e!erging understandings, scholars kne3 that "ristotle5s
characteristic !ode of thinking is very different fro! !ore fa!iliar kinds of thought.
The tradition had !any dra3acks. "ristotle 3as discussed in Latin ter!s 3hich distort
his conce%ts. Each co!!entator asserted @the correctA reading 3ithout alluding to other
readings. They see! to understand everything "ristotle says. Fhen they cannot enter into the
internal sense of his state!ent, they !ay re%eat an old for!ula, still in an assertive tone. It can
see! that only you, the reader, do not gras% the for!ula. Cany "ristotelian for!ulae re!ain
internally dark.
In reaction, "nalytical %hiloso%hers <es%ecially scholars and translators in 86ford> have
si!%ly set the 3hole tradition aside, and have egun afresh. In accord 3ith their general
a%%roach, the "nalytic Philoso%hers strive for clarity. They acce%t only 3hat they clearly
understand. They often ad!it to eing %u77led. Even 3hen they feel sure, they still leave roo!
for other readings. In contrast to the tone of @I a! al3ays right,A it is far !ore realistic and
%leasant 3hen scholars 3rite4 @If I a! right, "ristotle !eans ...A or @?o3 are 3e to understand
thisGA @?o3 can 3e !ake this intelligile to ourselvesGA @I 3ill argue ....A and, @"n o9ector
!ight no3 :uestion 3hether ...A
These co!!entators have also %rovided invaluale clarifications of !any a!iguities in
the gra!!ar of "ristotle5s co!%ressed te6t. In so!e stretches of !a9or 3orks his often
a!iguous referents have een carefully e6a!ined. There is no3 a 3hole literature of this kind,
, Introduction
3hich 3e 3ill never 3ant to do 3ithout. " ne3 level of %hilological care has o%ened !any
But the ne3 3ay also has certain %itfalls. There are so!e co!!entators 3ho don#t
atte!%t to understand "ristotle5s genuinely different 3ay of thinking. *or e6a!%le, Fillia!s
critici7es "ristotle5s ui:uitous conce%t of @%otentiality4A Fillia!s 3rites4 @Fhat is actually
nothing is nothing. ... Fhat there is, is a confusion in "ristotle5s thinking.A <Aristotles De Gen
and Cor, Translated with Notes, Clarendon, 86ford4 )1=', %. ')1>. Fe 3ould not 3ant to e
satisfied 3ith the usual for!ulae, and "ristotle 3as certainly 3rong and confused aout !any
things. But his conce%t of @%otentiality@ re:uires a roader effort.
To egin afresh, and to acce%t only 3hat one really understands is an e6cellent idea,
and can lead to ne3 clarity. But if one refuses even to entertain 3hat one cannot yet
understand, one can fail to recogni7e !a9or %oints to 3hich the older tradition %ointed fro! the
*or e6a!%le, so!e co!!entators do not recogni7e ho3 greatly "ristotle5s conce%t of
@!atterA differs fro! that of classical 3estern %hysics. ?is often reiterated state!ent that
@!atter is %otentialityA see!s inad!issile. Instead of leaving o%en 3hat it !ight !ean, so!e
co!!entators %resent an "ristotle 3ho doesn#t have that conce%t of !atter.
To read a foreign te6t one !ust allo3 the !ain 3ords to have unfa!iliar !eanings. They
reveal their !eanings only fro! their use in !any conte6ts. 8ne can learn the! only gradually.
If one insists on understanding i!!ediately, then the good :uestion4 @?o3 can 3e !ake this
intelligile to ourselvesGA turns into the :uite different :uestion4 @?o3 can this e understood in
ter!s of the assu!%tions i!%licit in our o3n !ode of thoughtGA 8ften, it cannot.
" different %hiloso%hy cannot e understood right off. " %hiloso%hy changes the
!eanings of its !a9or ter!s. If one doesn5t allo3 for this fact, the te6t 3ill see! full of senseless
-o!e co!!entators find throughout, that "ristotle @vacillates,A @never resolves the
difficulty,A and @re!ains e6tre!ely oscure.A They soon conclude that @the te6t of this %assage is
%roaly corru%t,A or that @this cha%ter is a collection of frag!ents,A or that @this %assage has
little to do 3ith the one that %recedes it.A They often find that @the 3hole thing eco!es
To find "ristotle confused and !istaken is not the 3orst %itfall. If "ristotle 3ere si!%ly
left 3ith the re9ection he has largely received since the ;enaissance, this 3ould %resent no
%role!. But so!e co!!entators @saveA hi! fro! eing @illogicalA y isolating, reinter%reting,
Introduction I
and then :uoting his state!ents in evidence of a version that doesn5t violate the assu!%tions of
!odern logic. 8ne denies that he needed so!e of his @illogicalA conce%ts. "n "ristotle 3ithout
his !ain a%%roaches is %ut for3ard as a defense of "ristotle.
I agree 3ith ?elen Lang 3ho 3rites4 @Translating "ristotle5s %hysics into !odern ter!s,
e.g., those of /e3tonian %hysics, at once falsifies his %osition ...A Lang eli!inates the %role!
y si!%ly granting fro! the start that <in ter!s of /e3tonian %hysics> "ristotle5s %ro9ect is
@3rong aout everything.A Then there is nothing left to do in each s%ot, ut to try to understand
"ristotle in conte6t, and in his o3n ter!s. I think that this is the only 3ay to understand any
%hiloso%hy. 8nce this has een achieved, one can freely deny, a%%ly, reinter%ret, use, or
change anything fro! the %hiloso%hy in one5s o3n 3ork.
Fhen 3e understand so!e of the 3ays of a foreign country, 3e co!e to notice
%eculiarities of our o3n country 3hich 3e never noticed as such efore. -een fro! the foreign
%oint of vie3, our fa!iliar 3ays can eco!e %u77ling. ?o3 could they have see!ed so natural
eforeG -i!ilarly, understanding a foreign te6t re:uires eco!ing a3are of assu!%tions of our
o3n, 3hich did not see! to e assu!%tions efore. If this does not ha%%en, 3e cannot gras%
the argu!ents in the te6t. I therefore so!eti!es ask the reader to consider the usual !odern
vie3 fro! "ristotle5s vantage %oint. Then our o3n assu!%tions eco!e %u77ling, and 3e 3on5t
read the! into "ristotle5s %assages.
The %ossiility of understanding an unfa!iliar %hiloso%hy involves the %ossiility that
sense can e !ade in genuinely different 3ays. 8ne can discover the thrill of %ursuing a !ode
of thinking 3hich is altogether different fro! one5s o3n.
Let us %in%oint the difficulties in the te6t. Let us not e content 3ith dark for!ulae. Let
us struggle to s%ell out their internal reasoning. Let us collect and relate "ristotle5s see!ingly
contradictory %assages and their %ossile readings, rather than 9u!%ing to co!!itted
conclusions. But let us kee% "ristotle5s conce%ts and his odd distinctions as he defines the!,
and %lay the conce%ts on each other until 3e discover their internal connections. Fe can
recogni7e 3hen this has ha%%ened, ecause then each clarification also clarifies other
%assages. Cine as%ires to e a co!!entary along these lines.
8f course you 3ant to understand "ristotle5s De Anima for its o3n sake. It is one of the
great 3orks of all ti!e, and functions i!%licitly in !uch of %hiloso%hy fro! then on. It also hel%s
greatly 3ith "ristotle#s other 3orks. The De "ni!a and the Ceta%hysics have to e read
J Introduction
together ecause he sho3s and does here 3hat he says there only in general. But there is a
!uch larger @yB %roduct.A 8nce you have follo3ed his thinking 3ith your o3n, you 3ill have
created %ath3ays in your understanding 3hich 3ill serve you even if you no longer re!e!er
3hat "ristotle said. Fhatever %ath3ays you !ay %ursue, you 3ill e i!%licitly %rotected fro!
!any unconscious assu!%tions, errors and oversi!%lifications y the fact that you have once
thought along 3ith hi!. ?is kind of thinking, his %o3erful strategies, the ty%e of conce%tB!aking
that you find here, 3ill al3ays e i!%licitly availale to you, !ade richer y everything else you
The e6%erienceBnear type of concept 3hich "ristotle creates is inca%ale of achieving
the reductive <technological> success 3hich our Festern, astract, !athe!atical ty%e of
conce%t %rovides. 8n the other hand, there is !uch that !ust inherently elude the
!athe!atical ty%e of conce%t, %erha%s es%ecially the chief characteristics of living things and
%eo%le. The De Anima !ay contriute so!e conce%tual strategies for the eventual
develo%!ent of an additional kind of !odern science of living things and hu!ans, 3hich 3e
Different !odes of thinking are each ca%ale of o%ening great reaches that 3ould
other3ise stay closed. Therefore every %o3erful %hiloso%hy is of interest not only in itself, ut
ecause it adds i!!ensely to 3hat 3e eco!e ca%ale of thinking in our o3n conte6ts in the
" %hiloso%her stands at the edge of thought 3here the fa!iliar !eanings o%en into
unseen %ossiilities, 3here 3ords can co!ine in odd sentences to say 3hat those 3ords have
never said efore. In reading any %hiloso%hy, if 3e gradually gras% ho3 the 3ords are used in
the sentences, if 3e struggle to stand 3here that %hiloso%her stands, if 3e atte!%t to see fro!
there 3hat that %hiloso%her sees fro! there, and if 3e then %ursue ho3 that %hiloso%her
%roceeds fro! there, 3e are never again li!ited 9ust to already e6isting conce%ts. 8nce 3e can
think at that edge, 3e cannot hel% ut develo% our o3n thinking further and further. Then 3e
can o%en any to%ic in !any 3ays that 3ere not %art of that %hiloso%hy.
"ristotle is surely 3rong aout hundreds of things and right aout hundreds of other
things, ut his !ode of thought and conce%tual strategies are neither right nor 3rong. They are
uni:uely valuale in any %eriod including the %resent for anyone 3ho tries to think freshly.
Codes of thought are not right or 3rong, 9ust valuale.
Introduction 2
"B8UT T;"/-L"TI8/-
If you do not kno3 Greek 3ell, you need to o3n at least t3o <%referaly !ore> different
translations. In !y class 3e read only one of the! together, ut students are re:uired to have
at least one other. ead only one, ut 3hen you don5t understand so!ething, go to the other.
It 3ill sur%rise you ho3 often the %u77le disa%%ears. The totally different English %hrases in the
second translation can eli!inate the %role! you had in the first one, if it 3as due to the English
version. There is no 3ay to avoid such effects of translation, ut across t3o or three versions
you can sense 3hat co!es fro! "ristotle and 3hat does not.
The translation I cite is !ostly ?a!lyn5s, slightly corrected. Cy !ain corrections are4
?is @in generalA should e @universalA or @according to the 3hole.A
?is @si!ultaneouslyA should e @together.A
?is @conte!%lationA in IIB) <,)'a)(> should e @conte!%lating.A
@activityA cannot e interchanged 3ith4
@actualityA <co!%leteness>.
Translation is inevitaly a %ainstaking co!%ro!ise et3een faithfulness and readaility,
ut so!e translations de%rive "ristotle of so!e of his characteristic !ode of thought.
Philoso%hical ter!s that he carefully distinguishes have een treated as e:uivalent and
sustituted for each other. Conce%ts that he e6%licitly re9ects 3ith long argu!ents have een
rei!%osed y the English 3ords and %hrases. /e3tonian ti!e and s%ace have een assumed
in 3ords that hide "ristotle5s derivation of ti!e and %lace. -o!e of "ristotle5s !a9or conce%ts
3hich are strange to us have een eli!inated fro! vie3 altogether, y translating the sa!e
3ord 3ith different co!fortale English 3ords in different %laces. The English reader can
never notice the e6istence of such conce%ts, let alone ac:uire their unfa!iliar !eaning, since
this can e done only fro! seeing that the sa!e 3ord is used also in sur%rising sentences.
?a!lyn usually translates a Greek 3ord consistently 3ith the sa!e English 3ord. ?e
also !anages ingeniously to retain the order of "ristotle5s 3ords and clauses, 3hich enales
eginners in the Greek language to follo3 along in Greek.
*or a fe3 Greek ter!s I use English letters so that the eginner can learn to think 3ith
these 3ords @in Greek.A
The English 3ords that are usually used for "ristotle5s !ain conce%ts co!e fro! the
Latin co!!entaries in the late Ciddle "ges. @"ctivity,A @actuality,A @sustance,A @!atter,A and the
na!es of the four @causesA all co!e into English fro! the Latin 3ords. Latin adds a layer of
= Introduction
distortion to the Greek conce%ts. *or e6a!%le, for @actualityA it 3ould e etter to use
@co!%letion,A ut y no3 a change 3ould ring even !ore confusion. Translations already vary
a lot.
Because of the varying translations, I use the follo3ing English 3ords interchangealy4
the a%%etitive, desire
sensation, %erce%tion
eing affected, eing changed, suffering effects
accidental, incidental
I have read !any co!!entaries and co!%endia of co!!entaries. I 3ould highly
reco!!end The!istius, .erdenius, Inciarte, and Lang. *or students the only one I found useful
is the one y ":uinas. Fhile I disagree 3ith hi! aout so!e vital issues, I find hi! so!e3hat
hel%ful to first readers at every %oint. ?e stretches out 3hat "ristotle co!%resses, giving a
%aragra%h to every sentence. ?e is e6tre!ely hel%ful at the first fe3 readings of the De Anima.
Thereafter one finds !any %role!s that he does not deal 3ith.
Fhile I differ in !any 3ays fro! !y old teacher, ;ichard CcHeon . I no3 kno3 etter
than ever ho3 fortunate I 3as to encounter the history of %hiloso%hy through hi!.
I a! grateful for !any hel%ful tele%hone conversations 3ith !y recently rediscovered
friend Henneth Telford. Fe al!ost al3ays argue, ut I have so!eti!es learned fro! hi!, and
al3ays fro! the thinking sti!ulated y our talks. Fe have not e6changed our 3ritten 3ork.
I thank ;o Parker for the !any technical as%ects of asse!ling the !anuscri%t and
turning it into a ook.
*8U; C8CC8/ FE-TE;/ "--UCPTI8/- T?"T ";I-T8TLE D8E- /8T -?";E4
I 3ould like to !ark four co!!on Festern assu!%tions. *or the %ur%ose of reading
"ristotle it does not !atter 3hether 3e ourselves retain or re9ect the! as such. Their e6%licit
re9ection does not undo their i!%licit role, since they are uilt into the very structure of !ost of
our co!!on conce%ts. Fe need to notice 3hen 3e are assu!ing the!.
Introduction 1
). !pace and time can e variously understood. Fith a Festern outlook one assu!es
that anything real !ust a%%ear in the e!%ty kind of s%ace that see!s to s%read out efore us,
and in the kind of ti!e that consists of deter!ined !o!ents and 3ould !ove on even if
everything else stood still. But for "ristotle, e!%ty s%ace and asolute ti!e do not e6ist.
-o!e co!!entators say that "ristotle didn#t KyetK have our conce%t of Ks%ace.K The
conce%t of s%ace %receded "ristotle and 3as 3ell kno3n in his ti!e. "ristotle argues e6%licitly
against it. The Greek K"to!istsA 3ith 3ho! "ristotle contends, assu!ed the e6istence of e!%ty
s%ace <the @voidK in 3hich the ato!s !ove>.
Fe also have to recogni7e that "ristotle is not assu!ing deter!ined !o!ents, ut
rather deriving ho3 a deter!ined !o!ent of ti!e co!es aout.
'. elativism is fashionale today. The alternative is %resu!ed to e naive realis!,
the assu!%tion that sensations and conce%ts are co%ies of things. -ince "ristotle is not a
relativist, one easily assu!es that his assertions are those of a naive realist. But he 3as :uite
fa!iliar 3ith relativis!. In his "thens !any a%%roaches co!%eted. The -o%hists taught that
one could argue e:ually 3ell for or against anything. "ristotle 3rote a collection of 3ays to
undercut any definition <Topics>. Fe have to see 3hy <he thinks> his o3n a%%roach goes
eyond oth naive realis! and relativis!.
+ "he familiar philosophical positions are not e6haustive. Fe tend to assu!e that
an intelligile vie3 !ust fall on one side or the other of the fa!iliar %hiloso%hical issues. Even
3hen 3e a%%reciate oth sides, 3e usually assu!e that 3e !ust choose et3een the fa!iliar
alternatives, 3hen 3e try to define so!ething. Either vie3 3ould !ake sense, ut not oth.
"ristotle ty%ically doesn5t choose. ?e goes further into each and finds ne3 distinctions that are
!ore %recise. Then he often concludes4 @In a certain s%ecific sense this and this, ut in a
different e:ually s%ecific sense not this and this, ut rather that and that.A ?e s%ells out each of
the t3o senses, ut the single result can e odd and !ore co!%le6 than any fa!iliar conce%t.
Fe !ust often let hi! take us to an unfa!iliar %osition.
,. Matter4 Fe tend to assu!e BB ut "ristotle denies BB that living things have the sa!e
kind of !atter as inani!ate things. Fe divide !atter do3n into its ulti!ate %articles, and these
can e the sa!e in living and inani!ate odies. "ristotle denies any %articles that are not
further divisile. Catter does not e6ist alone, 9ust either in this for! or in that for!. 8nly living
activity !akes the kind of !atter that is alive. The De Anima defines the conce%ts and
strategies for "ristotle5s science of living things.
#ook I
IB) )
"t the start of each science "ristotle %oses so!e of the !ain %role!s. Then he
discusses the %hiloso%hers 3ho ca!e efore hi!. "fter our cha%ter, he 3ill do that in the
re!ainder of Book I. In this kind of discussion the %re!ises and definitions of our science are
not yet fi6ed. "ristotle estalishes the! at the start of Book II and at the start of each ne3
section in Books II and III.
I give a fe3 !ain 3ords in Greek and also in our o3n letters so that the eginning reader
can eco!e fa!iliar 3ith the! 3ithout !uch effort. Translators vary and !i6 the !ain ter!s so
it is necessary to look in the Greek te6t to see 3hich 3ord "ristotle has used.
IB) 8.E;"LL
It hel%s to read a cha%ter through a fe3 ti!es 9ust to see 3hat is there, efore trying to
understand each %art.
"ristotle egins 3ith @everythingA and divides until he reaches the to%ic of the De Anima.
*ro! ,('a)) B ,(+a' "ristotle %oses a list of %role!s.
In ,(+a+ B ,(+a', he deter!ines 3hat elongs to the soul itself in contrast to 3hat
elongs to soulBandBody as a 3hole. ?e %resents a list of @affections,A then a difficult argu!ent
aout @straightness,A and then he %resents a changed list of affections.
*ro! ,(+a', to the end he talks aout ho3 the natural scientist <so!eti!es translated
A%hysicistA or @natural %hiloso%herA> should %roceed, in contrast to !athe!aticians and
This first cha%ter is often cited and 3idely discussed, ecause it says a great deal aout
"ristotle5s scientific !ethod.
,('a)B, Insight <, seeing, understanding> 3e take as a fine and
3orthB3hile thing,
and one kind as !ore so than another
either in virtue of its accuracy or in virtue of its eing concerned
3ith su%erior and !ore re!arkale things.
' IB)
8n oth these grounds 3e should 3ith good reason %lace the
study of the soul in the first rank.
"ristotle lauds the science he is eginning, ut therey also divides the sciences oth y
their !ethod <i.e., their accuracy> and y their content <the things it studies>. In every
%hiloso%hy one i!%ortant :uestion is the unity or divisions of the sciences. "ristotle 3ill return
to the difference in !ethod at the end of the cha%ter. ?ere he 3ill divide and sudivides all
%ossile content do3n to the science on 3hich 3e are aout to e!ark. ?e states a 3idely held
o%inion <dokei>. ?e egins 3ith @everything.A
,('a,B)( It is thought <dokei) also, that an ac:uaintance <> 3ith it Mthe soulN !akes a
great contriution to the truth of everything,
and es%ecially to the study of nature, for
the soul is, as it 3ere, the first %rinci%le <arche, > of living things.
Fe seek to consider and ascertain < >
oth its nature and its substance <, ousia>
and after that all the attributes <c> elonging to itE
of these so!e are thought to e <dokei)
affections <q> peculiar to the soul,
3hile others are thought to elong
because of it <the soul> to living things.
$ithin the truth of everything, "ristotle divides first et3een nature and everything
else. <Fhat is other than natureG The ti!eless universe, also !athe!atics as 3ell as the
things 3e !ake, like furniture, !achines, and %oe!s.>
"hen% within nature, one sudivision consists of the living things. It is of those that
the soul is the first %rinci%le <arche, , starting %oint, source, %re!ise>. The soul is 3hat
constitutes the living in the!. Fe can use the English 3ord @livingA or @ani!ationA for 3hat he
refers to. "ristotle uses the 3ord @soulA to na!e 3hatever it is that !akes all agree that %lants
IB) +
and ani!als are alive, 3hereas rocks are @inani!ate.A By the 3ord @soulA he !eans 3hatever
living is.
Every %hiloso%hy changes 3hat the !ain 3ords !ean. Therefore one !ust gras% the
!eaning of the 3ords fro! ho3 they are used in their conte6ts. Fe can see here that the 3ord
@soulA <psyche) has a !uch roader and different !eaning for "ristotle, than it has in English. In
!odern usage @the soulA is considered to e so!ething that !ight or !ight not e6ist. *or
"ristotle there is no dout that there are living thingsE the :uestion is what living is. The %ro9ect
is to understand 3hat this is.
To understand "ristotle 3e !ust al3ays notice 3here his 3ay of thinking differs fro! our
usual vie3. Codern science does not find a special kind of conce%t to study living things. Fe
are accusto!ed to think that living things are defined in ter!s of che!icals and !olecules
3hich are not alive. Therefore 3e are unfa!iliar 3ith the strategy 3ith 3hich "ristotle egins.
"lthough his infor!ation is %ri!itive, his conce%tual strategies are so%histicated. Fe need to
notice 3here his !ethod and a%%roach are different fro! ours. 8ur otany, 7oology, and
!edicine are highly develo%ed, ut they are not used as a source of asic conce%tual !odels to
e6%lain nature and the universe. Fe do not look to our life sciences for asic understandings of
3hat nature is. &rom the start "ristotle divides nature off fro! artificiallyB!ade things, and
then living things fro! other nature. ?e e6%ects to generate asic conce%ts for all e6istence y
studying 3hat life is.
"hen% within 'soul( or 'living( "ristotle divides et3een the basic understanding he is
looking for, and all the traits he ho%es to e6%lain fro! the asic understanding. Fhat he calls
the 'substance <ousia, > and nature( of the soul <or living> should e6%lain its attributes
<c>, if 3e get the asic conce%t right. -o this is one !eaning of his 3ord @sustance4A
3hat defines so!ething so that one can e6%lain its attriutes.
$ithin attributes <c> "ristotle !akes a distinction <unfa!iliar to !ost of us>
et3een active and passive attriutes. ?e %oses a %role! aout %assive attriutes of the
soul. Passive attriutes are @affections,A <pathe, ), traits 3hich !ake a thing affectale
<changeale or !ovale> in so!e 3ay. *or e6a!%le, I can consider it an active attriute of cloth
that it can kee% heat in. That is so!ething cloth does without being itself changed therey.
But it is an affection of cloth that its color is changeale in oiling dye. " university, for
e6a!%le, does not have this affection, ut it has other active traits <it educates %eo%le> and also
%assive traits that !ake it ca%ale of eing affected and changed.
$ithin affections, "ristotle further divides et3een 3hat see! to e affections peculiar
to the soul itself, in contrast to those that elong to the soul)and)body. ?e 3ill clarify this a
, IB)
fe3 lines do3n.
"ristotle says that there are 'thought to be( <dokei, general o%inion> affections %eculiar
to the soul. ?e is saying that !ost %revious thinkers held that the soul is affectale and
!ovale in various 3ays. *or e6a!%le, the soul is said to e @!ovedA y e!otions. <"ristotle
3ill deny that the soul is !oved.>
"t the end of the %assage, let us notice the %hrase @because of it.A Fhat is @%eculiar to
the soul as suchA has 9ust een distinguished fro! 3hat @elongs to the 3hole living thing,A soulB
andBody. /o3 "ristotle adds that both are due to the fact that the thing is alive, i.e., has soul.
The living odies and their organs are the 3ay they are because they are living. *or "ristotle
the conce%ts that e6%lain living activity !ust also e6%lain the %rocesses of %hysiology.
Fhatever @livingA <soul> 3ill turn out to !ean, it deter!ines every %art of the ody. ?e denies
fro! the start that the living ody can e understood 9ust as ody a%art fro! its living. Let us
notice4 Aristotle does not make the familiar distinction between soul and body. ?is
distinction is rather et3een the soul on the one hand, and soul)and)body on the other hand.
The asic conce%t of @soulA 3ill e6%lain not only the soul5s o3n attriutes, ut also those of the
3hole living thing. That is 3hat the little %hrase 'because of it( says here. "ristotle 3ill !ake
his distinction <soul OO soulBandBody> clear shortly <at ,(+aJ>.
!** *+,+-"* . -+ "/* "*M! I+ 012a.).1
/o3 he %oses his first and fore!ost !ethodological :uestion4
,('a)(B'' But in every res%ect and in every 3ay it is !ost difficult to attain
any conviction aout this . . . It !ight e %erha%s held <dokei) that
there is one %rocedure in the case of all those things of which we
wish to ascertain 3 4 the substance <>
9ust as there is, demonstration, for
the %eculiar attriutes
. . . But if there is not one co!!on %rocedure for what a thing is
< t t ct>. . . we shall have to establish 3hat is the 3ay to
%roceed in each case. "nd. . .3hat starting)points <arche, >
3e !ust use in our in:uiryE
for, different su9ects, e.g., nu!ers and %lanes have different
starting points <arche, > Mthan living things haveN.
De!onstration is the fa!iliar !ethod of logical argu!ent from %re!ises to conclusions.
This is the sa!e in all of "ristotle5s sciences. ?e is asking 3hether there is also so!e single
!ethod for determining 3hat the asic %re!ises are. Before 3e discuss this %assage %lease
notice that fro! here "ristotle goes on i!!ediately to outline ho3 he 3ill estalish the starting
Let us look at the ter!s he uses here. "ristotle5s 3ord @sustanceA <ousia, > has
very different !eanings than it has in English. It doesn5t !ean so!e !aterial, like salt or heroin.
@-ustanceA is a Latin 3ord. -o far 3e see fro! the 3ay he uses the 3ord here, that it !eans
the defining conce%t of so!ething. If one knows the 'substance( 3ousia4 of so!ething, one
has a @starting pointA <arche, > in accordance 3ith 3hich all the attriutes of @what the
thing is@ can e organi7ed so that they eco!e logically deduceale. Fe can notice that
"ristotle sustitutes @3hat a thing isA <t t ct> for 3hat he 9ust s%oke of as @sustanceA and
also as @starting %oint,A although the three 3ords do not have :uite the sa!e !eaning.
/oticing such sustitutions is a 3ay to learn ho3 "ristotle uses the ter!s. *or the !o!ent you
can follo3 the te6t if you take the 3ords to !ean4
t t ct <to ti esti, the 3hat it is>4 " general inclusive ter! for 3hat so!ething is.
<ousia, sustance>4 The 3hatBitBis of an inde%endently e6isting thing. Cy
E/D/8TE on sustance co!es after "ristotle5s ne6t %assage.
<arche, source>4 The first %rinci%le, %re!ise, starting %oint for deducing <he calls it
@de!onstratingA> everything else.
8f course there are !a9or %hiloso%hical issues aout starting %oints, since so !uch
de%ends on the! and since they cannot e deduced fro! anything else. Fe need to 3onder
ho3 "ristotle arrives at @startingA %oints. <*or his discussion of first %re!ises, see the eginning
and end of his Posterior Analytics.) Logical argu!ent <@de!onstrationA> reasons from
%re!isesE therefore it cannot %rovide or estalish the %re!ises. In %hiloso%hy %re!ises are
al3ays an issue, and in "ristotle5s "thens 9ust aout everything 3as controversial a!ong
%hiloso%hers. *or oth reasons he e6%ects us to :uestion his every !ove, and es%ecially ho3
he estalishes the asic %re!ises. 8f course it is the first and fore!ost !ethodological
Is there a single %rocedure in all sciences for arriving at %re!isesG "ristotle ans3ers
this in our cha%ter at ,(+a'I elo3, 3here he argues that the kind of starting %oints one needs
in the science of nature <3hich includes the De Anima> differ fro! the kind of starting %oints
needed in !athe!atics and in !eta%hysics. There he 3ill say ho3 they differ.
In the first five cha%ters of Book II and again at the start of each ne3 section 3e 3ill see
ho3 "ristotle actually estalishes %re!ises in the De Anima. ;ight here he only outlines his
%rocedure as a list of %role!s he 3ill take u% in order.
,('a)(B'+ The %role!s "ristotle raises are !uch easier to understand in Book II
3here he actually deals 3ith the!, so 3e 3ill discuss the! s%ecifically there <and in E/D/8TE- '
and +>. ?ere I 3ill only outline the %rocedure 9ust as "ristotle does, ut I 3ill %oint out e6actly
3here he takes u% each of these %role!s.
,('a'+ *irst surely 3e !ust deter!ine in 3hich of the genera the soul is
and 3hat it isE I !ean
3hether it is a particular thing <tode ti> and substance
or M3hether it isN :uality :uantity or so!e other of the
categories 3hich have een distinguished.
"ristotle5s %rocedure egins 3ith his !ost general divisions fro! his ook, Categories,
the !ost general divisions of @3hat is.A In contrast to categories like :uantity and :uality 3hich
e6ist only ecause so!ething else ha%%ens to have that si7e or that :uality, "ristotle
categori7es as @a sustanceA anything that exists independently and acts from itself.
"ristotle 3ill indeed egin his for!al %resentation in IIB) 3ith this :uestion, and 3ill sho3 that
living things are sustances.
!** *+,+-"* 2 -+ !5#!"A+C* 012a.1)26
@"nd secondly 3e !ust deter!ine 3hether it is one of those things
3hich are in potentiality <dyna!ei, > or 3hether it is rather
a kind of actuality <entelecheia, ctc4, for this !akes no
s!all difference.
/e6t in his %rocedure "ristotle a%%lies his asic distinction et3een %otentiality and
actuality. ?e distinguishes et3een these t3o 3ays of @eingA in order to e ale to think aout
IB) 2
a 3orld of change 3hich nevertheless has a high degree of order4 Fe 3ill co!e to kno3 his
conce%t of @%otentialityA 3hich !eans at least that only certain things can change into certain
other things. @/ot 9ust anything can change into 9ust anything,A he often says. This 3ill eco!e
clear as he %roceeds.
Early in IIB) "ristotle 3ill estalish 3hether the soul is a %otentiality for certain changes,
or an actuality, or in so!e co!%le6 3ay oth.
@"nd 3e !ust in:uire also if it is divisile or indivisile . . . @
"ristotle asks and ans3ers this in IIB' 3ith different kinds of distinctions and se%arations.
"t ,)+)J 3here he s%eaks of cutting an insect in half, he finds that each half can sense and
!ove. -o there is one 3hole soul in each cut %art. " living thing is in so!e i!%ortant 3ay
al3ays one and indivisile, in s%ite of the distinctions et3een its %otentialities for activities such
as re%roduction, sensation, loco!otion, and thinking.
,(')BJ @and 3hether every soul is of like kind or notE
and if not of like kind 3hether differing in species or genus.
*or as things are, %eo%le 3ho s%eak and in:uire aout the soul
see! to study the hu!an soul only.
But 3e !ust take care not to overlook the :uestion whether
there is one definition <logos, o) of the soul,
as of living thing,
or 3hether there is a different one for each, as of horse, dog,
!an, and god.
The universal @living thingA is either nothing or secondary. "nd it
3ould e si!ilar for any other co!!on %redicate.
In IIB) "ristotle gives a single definition a%%licale to every kind of soul, ut in IIB' and IIB
+ he sho3s 3hy different definitions are necessary for different kinds of living things.

,('1. *urther!ore, if there are not !any souls ut only %arts Mof al3ays
one soulN, should 3e in:uire into the 3hole soul or its %artsG It is
= IB)
difficult too to decide 3hich of these M%artsN are really different fro!
each other.
By the different @%artsA of the soul "ristotle !eans its %otentialities for different lifeB
activities. Plants have only one ut ani!als have several.
,('), @and 3hether 3e !ust in:uire into the %arts first, or their 3orks
<c, erga, functions>. M*or e6a!%le, shall 3e first in:uire into4N
thinking <noein, i> or the nous <i, i, i>
the thinking activity or that 3hich can think>,
or perceiving or that which can perceiveE
and si!ilarly 3ith the rest also.G
"nd if the functions co!e first, the :uestion !ight e raised
3hether to in:uire into the corres%onding o9ects efore these,
e.g., the perceptibles efore that which can perceive,
and the ob7ects of thought efore the nous.
?ere "ristotle relates the soul5s potentialities and activities to the things, the ob7ects,
i.e., 3hat 3e sense and understand. In 3hich order shall 3e consider these threeG -hall 3e
egin 3ith the activities, or 3ith the %otentialities <the ca%acities> 3hich enact the activitiesG *or
e6a!%le, @noeinA <i, thinking> is the ongoing activity of @nousEA nous is the soul5s ca%acity for
thinking and understanding, <noein, i>. Fhich should e considered firstG "ristotle takes
this :uestion u% at the start of IIB,.
,('IJ @It see!s that not only is ascertaining what a thing is <to ti esti>
useful for a consideration of the causes of the attributes which
follow from substances
<as in !athe!atics ascertaining 3hat straight and curved or line
and %lane are is useful for seeing to ho3 !any right angles the
angles of a triangle are e:ual>, ut also conversely the
attributes contriute a great %art to insight <eidenai> of 3hat a
thing is.
*or 3hen 3e are ale to give an account of either all or !ost of
IB) 1
the attriutes as they a%%ear to us <t, %hantasian>,
then 3e shall e ale to s%eak est aout the sustance too.
"ristotle <and in so!e 3ay every scientist> does oth. &rom everything one kno3s and
oserves aout a thing, one 3orks to arrive at a theoretical definition, so that one can then
!ove in the other direction, to derive everything from the theory. *or "ristotle these are t3o
distinct orders4 In the @order of natureA the oservale %articulars derive fro! the functional
order 3hich cannot e sensed ut only understood, 3hereas in the @order of discoveryA 3e
egin 3ith oservations of %articulars. "ristotle alternatingly %resents things in oth orders, 9ust
as he says here.
!** *+,+-"* 6 -+ 012a20 ) 012b20
,(''I the starting %oint <arche, > of every demonstration is
3hat a thing is <t t ct>,
?o3 can 3e 9udge 3hether 3e get our definitions rightG ?ere no3 he gives us his
criterion4 -ince definitions <state!ents of 3hat a thing is> have the role of %re!ises or starting
%oints for the de!onstrations of other state!ents aout the thing, therefore,
,(''JB,(+a' so that, for those definitions <oo> ... 3hich do not enale us to
ascertain the attributes <t ot> nor even !ake it easy
to guess aout this, it is clear that
they have all een stated dialectically and to no %ur%ose.
This is a criterion for starting %oints4 they !ust enale us to derive at least all the kno3n
attriutes of the thing. This is also true currently. -cientists s%end years to arrive at theoretical
conce%ts that !ust e6%lain all the oservations and kno3n facts 3ithout e6ce%tion. Then, in
for!ulating the science, the theory is %ut first, so that the oservations and facts @follo3A fro!
the theory. If 3hat 3e oserve cannot e logically derived fro! our theory, then it is oviously
not the theory 3e need. In "ristotle5s 3ords, it 3ould e @to no %ur%ose.A In IIB' and IIB+ and in
!ost of the De "ni!a "ristotle offers different definitions for the different kinds of living
activities, soulBfunctions, and odies.
)( IB)
"t the start of each science "ristotle al3ays shar%ly distinguishes 3hat elongs in that
science fro! 3hat does not. ?ere he has distinguished the su9ect !atter do3n as far as
attriutes of the soul as such. ?e has left o%en 3hether any of these are affections <3ays in
3hich so!ething can e %assively affected>. ?e 3ill no3 sho3 e6actly 3hat 3ill e included in
the De Anima, and 3hat he 3ill treat in other sciences.
It is al3ays a crucial %hiloso%hical :uestion ho3 one divides and organi7es the sciences,
ut "ristotle has another reason for dividing the! very shar%ly. Fhen one 3rites a lot, it
eco!es crucial to kno3 3here to %ut a given %oint. Fe 3rite so!ething and then, later on, 3e
have another thought, BB 3here does it goG 8r, if 3e discover a ne3 %iece of infor!ation, BB
3here shall 3e add itG If 3e have 3ritten a lot, 3e need to e ale to find e6actly 3here 3e have
already 3ritten on that to%ic, so that 3e can add or change so!ething, rather than 3riting so!e
of it ane3 in so!e other %lace. 8nly if 3e have a very shar% organi7ation can 3e define one
and only one spot 3here a given to%ic or %oint can %ossily e %laced and found. If 3e need
to correct so!ething, 3e can correct it in its one s%ot, not in si6 %laces. This eco!es
over3hel!ingly necessary, if one ha%%ens to deal 3ith !any to%ics. I!agine the intensity of this
need for "ristotle 3ho 3rote aout everythingD
*or this and other reasons "ristotle !ade e6tre!ely shar% cuts et3een different ooks
and %arts of ooks. ?e al3ays has a clear ans3er to the :uestion, 9ust 3hy is this %laced hereG
-o 3e have to grant hi! this 3ay of doing things. Fithout this he could not %ossily
have achieved 3hat he did. Fe have to ad9ust to it, 3hich often !eans that 3e !ust do 3ithout
certain very necessary %oints, or look for the! in the other ooks.
Let us attend closely as he derives his shar% distinction et3een attriutes of the soul
3hich 3ill e covered in the De Anima, and attriutes 3hich 3ill not e included. "ristotle
returns to the distinction he !ade at the otto! of his sudivisions, 3here affections generally
held to e of the soul as such 3ere distinguished fro! affections of the whole soul)and)body
animal. ?e had left o%en4
,(+a+B2 There is also the %role! of 3hether the affections <> of the
soul are all co!!on also to that which has it
@That 3hich has soulA is the soulBody co!ination. ?e asks 3hether all the 3ays in
3hich the soul can e affected are really affections of the soulBandBody,
IB) ))
or 3hether any are peculiar to the soul itselfE
for it is necessary to deal 3ith this, though it is not easy.
U% to this %oint only affections 3ere asked aout. "s he 3ill sho3 9ust elo3, none of
the affections are %eculiar to the soulE they all elong to the soulBandBody co!ination.
/o3 he asks a ne3 :uestion4 Can any, even the soul5s active attriutes e6ist 3ithout
the odyG "ristotle thinks that one of the! <nous> !ight e se%arale fro! the ody. ?e asks
aout any attriutes, oth affections and acts4
,(+a.2 It a%%ears that in most cases the soul is not affected, nor does
it act 3i4 a%art fro! the ody, e.g., in eing angry, eing
confident, 3anting, and in all perceiving.
/either @!ostA active %o3ers <3hich enact lifeBactivities> nor the <%assive> affections, can
exist without the body. Therefore this list includes not only the emotions but also
perceiving. In regard to eing i!%ossile 3ithout the ody, everything <e6ce%t nous> falls
together. /ot only affections like e!otions ut even active functions like %erceiving are
i!%ossile 9ust 3ithout the ody. 8nly noein is a candidate if @%eculiar to the soulA !eans exist
without the ody4
,(+a=B)( although noein <i, thinking, understanding, nousBactivity> looks
!ost like eing %eculiar to the soul.
But if this too is a for! of i!agination or does not e6ist a%art fro!
<q d> i!agination, it 3ould not e %ossile even for this to be
<i, einai> a%art fro! the ody.
8nly noein <i> can %erha%s <only %erha%s> exist without the ody. I!agination
surely re:uires the ody since it consists of e!odied re!ains fro! senseB%erce%tion.
/o3 "ristotle uses oth of the t3o distinctions <se%arale fro! the ody O inse%araleE
active O %assive attriutes> to set u% three grou%s in a ne3 three)way classification8
)' IB)
,(+a)(B)) )> If then there is any of the functions <c, active 3orks>
or passivities <t> of the soul 3hich is %eculiar to it, it can
e separated fro! the ody.
Ty%e ), the soul without the ody, is 3hat he 9ust ruled out, e6ce%t %erha%s for noein
,(+a)' '> But if there is nothing %eculiar to it, it cannot e se%arated,
ut it 3ill e like the straight%
to 3hich, 9ua straight% many attributes belong,
e. g. it will touch a bron:e sphere at a point,
although the straight if se%arated 3ill not so touch. *or it is
inse%arale, if it is al3ays found 3ith so!e ody.
In !athe!atics the for!al attriutes of straight lines can e studied se%arately although
they don5t e6ist se%arately. In our science 3e 3ill study the functions of the soul se%arately
although they don5t e6ist se%arately. This 3ill e like studying the kind of @straightA that can
touch a ron7e s%here. Fe still study the straight @:ua straight,A for e6a!%le that a line touches
a circle only at one %oint, ut it 3ill e a !aterial @straightA thing that touches a ron7e s%here.
Fe can se%arately study the active functions that elong to the soul even
though they are not se%arale fro! the ody.
But the affections no3 fall into a third grou%ing4
,(+a)JB)1 +> It see!s that all the affections <> of the soul ha%%en
along 3ith the ody <i t et> P passion% gentleness%
fear% pity% courage% and further% 7oy and both loving and
for, together <ha!a, d> 3ith these, the ody is affected in a
certain 3ay.
The third kind, @the affections of the soulA are not affections of the soul alone. They all
elong to soulBandBody. The soul can e affected only y affecting the ody.
IB) )+
Please note that in this third list there is no !ention of %erceiving. Fith this ne3 threeB
3ay distinction %erceiving falls into the !iddle grou%. The e!otions are affections 3hich are
no3 listed as a third grou%.
!** *+,+-"* 0 -+ $/< =*C*I>I+? I! +-" A+ A&&*C"I-+ -& "/* !-5L
"he three)way distinction8
) se%arale, 3ithout the ody OO inse%arale
%ossily noein O Q
' Q
active %o3ers Q
of soul as such Q
<like sticks and Q
ron7e s%heres> Q
affections of soulBandBody

"here are no affections of the soul as such. <IB, 3ill sho3 this !ore e6%licitly.> The
third kind of attriutes ha%%en only to the soulBody co!ination, only ecause the ody is
eing affected.
With this three-way distinction, Aristotle has defined and delimited the content of
the De Anima . The book will include ! and "! but not #!.
?e has no3 sho3n in detail 3hat he !entioned at the start of the ook, the division
et3een 3hat elongs to the soul as against 3hat elongs to the soulBandBody. "ll affections
elong to the soulBandBody. Fhat elongs %eculiarly to the soul includes <)> 3hat !ight e
se%arate fro! the ody, and <'> the active functions 3hich can e studied se%arately <in the De
"ni!a> ut al3ays as e!odied, like a !athe!atics of ron7e s%heres and 3ooden rods. The
for!al %ro%erties of the active functions 3ill e studied together 3ith ho3 they deter!ine and
generate the !aterial.
8n the other hand, <+> the affections of soulBandBody 3ill fall into other lifeBscience
), IB)
ooks aout 3hat is true of living odies ecause of eing alive, i.e. ecause of having a soul
<as he said at the start>.
Throughout the re!aining cha%ters of Book I "ristotle 3ill insist that the soul cannot e
!oved or affected. 8nly the soul and ody can e affected. ?e argues against the %revailing
vie3 3hich 3as that the soul is !oved y e!otions. ?e first uilds this continuing argu!ent
right here.
Fhere 3e left his te6t, he 3as saying4 @together <ha!a, d> 3ith these Mfear, %ity,
courageN the ody is affected in a certain 3ay.
,(+a)1B', This is sho3n y the fact that sometimes when severe and
manifest sufferings <t> efall us we are not provoked
to exasperation or fear, 3hile
at other ti!es 3e are !oved y s!all and i!%erce%tile sufferings
when the body is aroused and is as it is when it is in anger.
There is even !ore ovious evidence4 for one !ay co!e to have
the affections of so!eone 3ho is frightened, although nothing
frightening is taking %lace.
"lthough he doesn5t say so, "ristotle has e6%lained 3hy the e!otions 3ill not e studied
in the De Anima. They elong to grou% +>. ?e thinks that they are not active functions. ?e
argues that the e!otions are results of %receding states of the ody 3hich interfere 3ith 3hat
3ould other3ise e valid %erce%tions of events.
!** *+,+-"* @ -+ "/* *M-"I-+!
,(+a',B'I If this is so, it is clear that the affections are %rinci%les <logos,
o) involving !atter. <l ' it c, t t o
c l>
The soul is affectale only through its !atter 3hich is the ensouled ody. ?e 3ill say
!ore aout this in IB,, to sho3 that <contrary to %revailing o%inion> the soul as such is never
IB) )I
affected or !oved.
!** *+,+-"* A -+ $/< "/** A* +- =A"/* -& "/* !-5L A! !5C/
The re:uire!ent for oth !aterial and functional kinds of e6%lanations, 3hich he has 9ust
sho3n <e6ce%t for nous>, 3ill no3 enale hi! to do 3hat he %ro!ised earlier <,('a)(B''>, to
characteri7e the kind of %re!ises 3hich are re:uired for the larger science of nature, of 3hich
the De "ni!a is only one sudivision. 8ther sudivisions include the Physics, De Gen and Cor,
De Caelo, as 3ell as the ooks aout living things, including De Sens, !any short %ieces and
all his very long ooks on the %arts, !otions, and re%roduction of living odies for 3hich the soul
<the De "ni!a, the active functions of the soul> gives the asic conce%ts, sources and
%rinci%les, deter!ining 3hat living odies have to e, to %erfor! these functions.
The inse%araility fro! the ody enales hi! to state e6actly in 3hat 3ay the 3hole
inclusive science of nature differs fro! !athe!atics and !eta%hysics. *or "ristotle these are
his three kinds of theoretical sciences. In contrast to !athe!atics and !eta%hysics, the
science of nature re:uires %re!ises that involve oth for! and !atter, i.e., changeaility.
?e continues aout the e!otions, no3 as an e6a!%le of the !ethod of the overall
science of nature.
,(+a'IB'2 ?ence their definitions <oo> are such as4
?ere he states a definition4
R#eing angry is a %articular !ove!ent of a body of such and
such a kind, or a %art or %otentiality of it, as a result of this and
for the sake of that#.
Fhile his e!%hasis here is 9ust on t3o, the inclusion of matter as 3ell as form, his
definition of anger involves "ristotle5s fa!ous four causes. <*our @causesA !eans four kinds of
e6%lanations "ristotle uses throughout his 3orks.> If you don5t kno3 the!, this e6a!%le can let
you eco!e fa!iliar 3ith the!.
@as a result ofA Coving cause <in Latin4 @efficient causeA>
@ody <or %art . . . of a ody>A !aterial cause
)J IB)
@such and such kind for!al cause
and for the sake ofA final cause
These traditional ter!s are Latin, not "ristotle5s 3ords. They have long een used in
traditional "ristotle studies. But "ristotle, like !any %hiloso%hers, coins his o3n ter!s directly
fro! the language. ?e calls the!4 the
@by whichA <y !eans of 3hich, or source of its !otion>
the @out of whatA <the ingredients, the !aterial>
the @what it isA <Its for!>
the @that for the sake of whichA
,(+a'2B'= "nd for these reasons an in:uiry concerning the soul,
<either every soul or this kind of soul, >
is at once the %rovince of the scientist of nature
The study of the soul is %art of the 3ider science of nature 3hich considers matter as
3ell as for!, since !ost of the soulBfunctions, including %erce%tion, are not %ossile 3ithout the
ody, and since the soul is affectale through the soulBandBody. <The %arenthesis concerns
the %ossile e6ce%tion of one kind of soulB%o3er 3hich !ight e se%arale fro! the ody>. "ll
or !ost of the De Anima does not astract fro! !atter. "s in all the rest of the science of
nature, the definitions of our %re!ises 3ill al3ays include oth the for! and the !atter. "ristotle
no3 critici7es those 3ho included only one or the other.
,(+a'1 But the Mearlier kind ofN natural philosopher
The early %hysicalBreductive thinkers called R%hysicists, for e6a!%le De!ocritus
,(+a'1B+( and the dialectician 3ould define <o> each of these
differently, e.g., 3hat anger is.
IB) )2
*or e6a!%le Plato and the earlier dialecticians.
,(+a+(B,(++ *or the latter 3ould define it as a desire for retaliation or
so!ething of the sort,
the for!er as the oiling of the lood and heat around the heart.
8f these, the one gives the !atter, the other the for! and
%rinci%le <logos, o>. *or this is the %rinci%le <logos> of the thing,
ut it !ust e in a matter of such and such a kind if it is to e.
"ristotle critici7es Plato for dealing only 3ith for! and function, and the earlier %hysicists
for dealing only 3ith !atter and !otion. Fe can see that oth kinds of e6%lanation 3ere fa!iliar
in "ristotle5s ti!e. "ristotle al3ays intends to take 3hat he can fro! every vie3%oint. ?ere he
de!ands oth kinds of e6%lanation.
/o3 he offers another e6a!%le of for! and !atter4
,(++B2 Thus the %rinci%le <logos, o) of a house is, say, that it is a
covering to prevent destruction y 3inds, rain, and heat,
ut so!eone else 3ill say that a house is stones% bricks% and
and another again that it is the form in them Min the stones,
ricks and ti!erN for the sake of these other things.
The lastB!entioned does as "ristotle 3ants.
@The for!A <a covering> and the function <to %revent ...> stand in contrast to @the !atterA
3hich consists of the !aterials <!ade of ... >.
!** *+,+-"* B -+ "/* C/-IC* -& AI!"-"L*! *CAM=L*!
,(+2B1 Fhich of these, then, is the student of natureG Is it the one 3ho is
concerned 3ith the !atter, ut is ignorant of the %rinci%le <logos,
o) or the one 3ho is concerned 3ith the %rinci%le onlyG
8r is it rather the one 3ho is concerned 3ith the %roduct of bothG
)= IB)
8nly the last is a %ro%er scientist of nature for "ristotle.
,(+1B)' Fho then is each of the othersG 8r is there no %articular %erson
3ho is concerned 3ith the affections of !atter 3hich are not
se%arale nor treated as separable,
" little further elo3 he tells 3ho! he !eans
3hile the student of nature is concerned 3ith everything 3hich
is a function or affection of such and such a body and such
and such a matterG
?ere active functions and %assive affections <%athe, > are again oth !entioned.
"ristotle5s natural %hiloso%her <phsikos, o> is concerned 3ith oth.
The phsikos is concerned 3ith !atter ut not 3ith any %articular %iece of !atter, rather
only 3ith the kind of matter.
,(+)'B), "nything other that this is the concern of so!eone else, and in
so!e cases of a crafts!an %erha%s, e.g. a car%enter or doctor.
Treating not 9ust the kind of !atter, ut this particular ody is 3hat the doctor does in
trying to cure these %articular %atients, or the car%enter in !aking this %articular tale.
/o3 he 3ill define the t3o other theoretical sciences4
,(+),B)I Fhat is not separable, and not treated as affections of such and
such a ody ut in abstraction, is the concern of the
Cathe!atics is not concerned 3ith 3hat kind of ody so!ething is, 3hether living or
IB) )1
inani!ate, dra3n in the sand or on the lackoard, although 3hat it studies does not e6ist a%art.
,(+)IB)J Those 3hich are separable are the concern of the R&irst
=hilosopher5 Mi.e., !eta%hysicianN.
Fhat 3e call the !etaphysics, "ristotle called @first %hiloso%hy.A <The 3ork 3as na!ed
@Ceta%hysicsA later y others.> That is 3here 3hat e6ists a%art fro! !atter <a%art fro!
changeaility> is considered.
,(+)JB)1 Let us return to the %oint fro! 3hich our discussion <logos, o>
egan. Fe 3ere saying that the affections of the soul are, at any
rate, in so far as they are such DasE passion and fear,
inse%arale in this 3ay fro! the natural !atter of the ani!als in
3hich they occur, and not in the sa!e 3ay as a line or surface.
IB' )
8ne cannot ski% Book I after the first cha%ter. "lthough !ost of the rest see!s to deal
9ust 3ith "ristotle5s %redecessors, he achieves :uite a lot !ore. I 3ill take u% only %arts that are
:uite crucial for later. Then, in Books II and III I 3ill co!!ent on every line.
In this cha%ter "ristotle egins his discussion of the vie3s of earlier %hiloso%hers. Fe
3ill encounter the ancient vie3 that the soul <%suche> is the cause of everything. Fe 3ill also
see ho3 the 3ord @nousA <closely connected to %syche> 3as used in Greek %hiloso%hy efore
"ristotle. Fe need to see this ecause "ristotle retains its ancient !eaning, although he gives it
!any differentiations. /ous is usually translated @!indA or @intellect,A ut no English 3ord can
translate it. 0ou 3ill gras% it est fro! its conte6ts.
"ristotle is near the eginning of our history of %hiloso%hy ut he co!es at the end of a
long line of Greek %hiloso%hers. ?e likes to save, !odify, and ado%t as !uch as he can fro! all
of the!. In IB) he co!ined the 3ay the dialecticians and the %hysical reductionists define
things. In this cha%ter 3e 3ill hear es%ecially aout one !ore %hiloso%her, "na6agoras, fro!
3ho! "ristotle takes so!e !a9or strands.
,(+'(B'' *or our study of soul it is necessary . . . to call into council the
vie3s <o> of . . . our %redecessors . . .
,(+'IB'2 T3o characteristic !arks aove all others have een held <dokei>
to distinguish that 3hich has soul fro! that 3hich has not4
movement and sensation . . .
"ristotle devotes distinct %arts of the De Anima to !ove!ent <IIIB1B))>, and to the
senses <IIBI B IIIB'>. ?e retains these t3o characteristics of the soul, ut adds nutrition and
,(+'1B+) . . . elieving that 3hat is not itself !oved cannot originate
' IB'
!ove!ent in another, they arrived at the view that soul
belongs to the class of things that move.
"ristotle 3ill argue that the soul cannot e !oved at all. It !oves the ani!al and other
things, ut it does not !ove and cannot e !oved. ?ere he %oints out that !ost %eo%le think
that so!ething !ust itself e !oving in order to i!%art !otion to anything else. "ristotle denies
,(++)B,(,aI This is 3hat led De!ocritus to say that soul is a sort of fire and
hotE his for!s <> and ato!s are infinite in nu!erE those
3hich are spherical he calls fire and soul, and co!%ares the! to
the !otes in the air 3hich 3e see in shafts of light co!ing through
3indo3sE together, these seeds of all sorts he calls the elements
of the 3hole of nature. . .
8ne !a9or %hiloso%hy in "ristotle5s ti!e 3as this early version of the ato!ist
reductionis! 3hich has een so successful in our recent centuries <and then left ehind y the
further develo%!ent of !odern %hysics>. Like our /e3tonian classical %hysics, De!ocritus
%ro%osed rendering everything in the universe as co!inations of inani!ate atoms in motion,
and elements 3ith certain geometric characteristics. But don5t take sides. Cethods and
a%%roaches are not true or false. Each can o%en a 3hole real! of avenues that other3ise stay
hidden. "ristotle is arguing that so!ething need not !ove in order to cause !otion. ?e has
another 3ay of thinking.
In the ne6t %assage notice the 3ord @nousA and try to say 3hat it !eans here.
,(,a'IB'2 -i!ilarly also Anaxagoras <and 3hoever agrees 3ith hi! in
saying that nous set the whole in movement>
declares the !oving cause of things to e soul.
/ous 3as held to i!%art !otion to the universe. -o the 3ord @nousA cannot :uite !ean
3hat the English 3ords @intellectA or @!indA !ean, since those 3ords connote a %rocess that
ha%%ens only in us. *or "na6agoras <and for "ristotle> @nousA is not only in us. It is not even
IB' +
%ri!arily in us. /ous originates and is the order of the universe, and e6ists also in a certain 3ay
in us. "ristotle 3ill later give the 3ord @nousA his s%ecial, 3ell differentiated !eaning, ut he 3ill
not change the !eaning 3hich this ancient 3ord long had in Greek %hiloso%hy4 so!ething that
e6ists in the 3hole universe and also in the hu!an soul.
,(,)BJ "na6agoras . . . in !any %laces he tells us that the cause of
eauty and order is nous, else3here that it is soulE
it is found, he says, in all living things, great and s!all, high and
ut nous as when we speak of prudence 3 phronesis % opvcoi >
a%%ears not to elong alike to all living things,
and indeed not even to all hu!an eings. . . .
"ristotle does not disagree 3ith "na6agoras that nous is in the universe and not 9ust in
us. ?e does not argue against the vie3 that 'nous( !oves and orders everything. Fe see that
nous in so!e 3ay includes, controls, overarches both our o3n %rocesses of understanding and
also the order of the universe and 3hat got it !oving.
"ristotle no3 turns to the second !ark of the soul4 sense %erce%tion.
,(,=B)( "ll . . . 3ho looked to the fact that 3hat has soul kno3s or
perceives 3hat is, %laced the soul a!ong the first %rinci%les.
" little later in the cha%ter "ristotle says4
,(Ia)+B)1 Anaxagoras, as 3e said aove, only seems to distinguish
et3een the!, but in practice he treats soul and nous as a
single nature,
e6ce%t that it is nous that he s%ecially %osits as the first %rinci%le
of all things4
"t any rate 3hat he says is that nous alone of all that is, is simple%
unmixed% and pure. ?e assigns both characteristics% knowing
, IB'
and origination of movement, to the same first principle% when
he says that it was nous that set the whole in movement.
/ote @si!%le, un!i6ed, and %ureEA "ristotle 3ill later say so!ething very !uch like this
aout the nous %art of the soul <IIIBI>.
If there is any dout, 3e can see here that @nousA 3as al3ays taken to include
so!ething like kno3ing <understanding, !ind, intellect>, since "ristotle assu!es this, concluding
that "na6agoras attriutes !otion and knowing to the sa!e %rinci%le @3hen he says that nous
set the 3hole in !otion.A
"ristotle cites another ancient %hiloso%her, one 3ho is 3idely discussed again today.
,(Ia'IB'J ?eraclitus too says that the first principle% . . . of 3hich,
according to hi!, everything else is co!%osed, is soul . . .
The %hiloso%hers 3ho held this vie3 3ere not in the !a9ority. "ristotle says else3here
that !ost %eo%le are inclined to think that the Universe consists of soulless odies. <De Caelo
'1'a'(>. /evertheless, it 3as an ancient and 3ide s%read %hiloso%hical vie3 that the universe
is ani!ated y %syche or soul, or y so!ething 3hich is not shar%ly distinct fro! soul or nous.
" little later in the cha%ter "ristotle discusses the %hysical reductionists again4
,(I)I The language they all use is si!ilarE like, they say, is known by
This is a si!%ler version of a theory 3ith 3hich 3e !oderns are fa!iliar. .ision and
touching are e6%lained in ter!s of the sa!e che!ical ele!ents and %rocesses that also e6%lain
the o9ects that are seen and touched. That 3hich does the %erceiving consists of the sa!e
ele!ents as 3hat it %erceives. This 3as e6%ressed as @like <is kno3n or %erceived> y likeA
,(I)IB)2 as the soul kno3s everything,
they construct it out of all the first %rinci%les.
The soul !ust e !ade of all the ele!ents, since if it 3ere !ade of only one kind of
thing it couldn5t %erceive or kno3 the other things y its likeness to the!. It 3as an ancient vie3
that the soul in so!e 3ay is or can e all things. <"ristotle gives his version of this vie3 in IIIB=.>
,(I)2B'+ ?ence those 3ho ad!it ut one cause or ele!ent, !ake the soul
also one <e. g. fire or air>, 3hile those 3ho ad!it a !ulti%licity of
first %rinci%les !ake the soul also !ulti%le.
The e6ce%tion is AnaxagorasE he alone says that nous is
unaffectable <, a%athe> and has nothing in common 3ith
anything else. But, if this is so, how or in virtue of what cause
can it knowG That "na6agoras has not e6%lained, nor can any
ans3er e inferred fro! this.
Let us notice that "ristotle doesn5t disagree that nous cannot e affected and has
nothing in co!!on 3ith anything else. ?e only says that this %oses a %u77le ho3 nous can
kno3. "ristotle gives his o3n ans3er in IIIB,.
IB+ )
,(I+)B ,(Ja, Fe !ust egin our e6a!ination 3ith !ove!entE for, doutless,
not only is it false that the substance of soul is . . . 3hat !oves . .
. ut it is i!%ossile for !ove!ent to elong <u> to it.
Fe have already %ointed out that there is no necessity that 3hat
originates !ove!ent should itself e !oved.
"ristotle 3ill no3 sho3 3hy the soul :ua soul cannot e !oved and does not !ove. 8f
course it can e in !otion indirectly 3hen the ody !oves.
,(Ja,BJ There are t3o senses4 . . . <a> indirectly . . . e.g., sailors in a shi%,
. . . are . . . #indirectly !oved#, ecause they are in a !oving
vessel. . .
,(Ja))B)+ 3hat 3e have to consider no3 is
3hether the soul is <> directly !oved . . . . .
There are four species of movement8
loco!otion, alteration, di!inution, gro3th
"ristotle uses the 3ord @!otionA to include changes of every kind <ut not generation or
destruction>. ?ere he has @:ualitative !otionA <3hat 3e call @changeA>, :uantitative !otion
<gro3th and di!inution>, !otion in res%ect of %lace <loco!otion>. -o!eti!es he lists generation
and destruction as a s%ecial case, not e6actly a change or !otion. I don5t kno3 3hy di!inution
is listed se%arately since he usually lists it 9ust as :uantitative change, the contrary of gro3th.
"ristotle 3ants to e dialectical in Book I rather than stating settled vie3s, ut even so there is a
reason 3hen he deviates fro! his usual classifications.
"ristotle argues against those 3ho held that the soul consists of ra%idly !oving ato!s
3hich !ove the ody y their !otion.
' IB+
,(J)2B'' "n e6a!%le of this is De!ocritus, 3ho uses language like that of
the co!ic dra!atist Phili%%us, 3ho accounts for the !ove!ents
that Daedalus i!%arted to his 3ooden "%hrodite y saying that he
%oured :uicksilver into itE
-i!ilarly De!ocritus says that the spherical atoms <to,
indivisiles> 3hich according to hi! constitute soul, o3ing to their
own ceaseless movements dra3 the 3hole ody after the! and
so produce its movements.
?ere 3e can recogni7e an early version of the classical Festern elief that everything is
reducile to the activity of ato!s <electrons, %rotons etc., indivisile odies>. "ristotle disagrees.
Fithout having yet said !uch aout living things, ho3 can he sho3 that this is not the kind of
loco!otion that characteri7es @livingGA
,(J''B'+ Fe !ust urge the :uestion 3hether it is these very sa!e ato!s
3hich %roduce rest also. ?o3 they can do so is difficult .. to say.
Universally the living thing does not a%%ear to e !oved y the
soul in this 3ay, ut y so!e act of choice and thought.
< c t q>.
"ristotle argues that the !otions of ato!s cannot e6%lain ho3 ani!als not only act ut
also rest and then resu!e their lifeBactivities. "ccording to his Physics every inani!ate natural
ody also has an internal %rinci%le 3hich deter!ines ho3 it !oves and rests, ut inani!ate
natural things always do 3hatever they do. The stone 3ill al3ays fall if not sto%%edE it 3ill never
rest of its o3n accord in !idBair. 8f its o3n accord it 3ould rest only at the center of the earth.
The fire 3ill urn as long as there is fuel. The rusting of iron 3ill not sto% as long as any iron is
left. 8nly living things act, rest, and resu!e their activities. In our Festern science, as 3ith
De!ocritus, life and %erce%tion are e6%lained as far as they can e e6%lained y %rocesses
that ha%%en 9ust like fire urns and iron rusts. "ristotle is also concerned 3ith the !aterial side,
ut he 3ants to gras% the !ore co!%le6 kind of order 3hich he finds in ho3 a living thing
functions, ho3 it organi7es its o3n !otions, rests, and resu!%tions fro! itself, not 9ust y the
!otions of inani!ate odies.
"ristotle no3 turns to a different theory aout ho3 the soul !oves. In this vie3 !otions
IB+ +
of the soul 3ere su%%osed to e si!ilar to the !otions of the heavenly odies.
,(J'JB,(2aBI . . in MPlato5sN Timaes M+JcBdN . . .
the de!iurge <the creator, ho demiorgos>
bent a straight line into a circle;
this single circle he divided into t3o circles, united at t3o co!!on
%ointsE one of these he sudivided into seven circles Msun, !oon
and five %lanetsN. "ll this i!%lies that the movements of the
soul are identified 3ith the !ove!ents of the heavens. . . It is
evident that Plato !eans the soul of the 3hole to e like the sort
of soul 3hich is called nous, not like the sensitive. . .
Later 3e 3ill re!e!er that Plato5s De!iurge began with a straight line as the
ti!eless eginning. Plato derives the visile %erceivale universe by bending the straight line.
The curved is the rotating 3orld 3e %erceive. "ristotle 3ill later allude to Plato5s theory. "ristotle
3ill !ove fro! %erce%tion to understanding y pulling the curved line out straight againF
<IIIB,, ,'1)2>.
" little later "ristotle has this to say. I think it a%%lies to any vie3 that 3ould e6%lain the
thinking activity in ter!s of s%atial structures.
/o3 nos is one and continuous in the activity of thinking, and
thinking is identical 3ith the thoughts 3hich are its %artsE these
have a serial unity like that of nu!er, not a unity like that of a
s%atial !agnitude. ?ence nous . . . is either 3ithout %arts or is
continuous in so!e other 3ay than that 3hich characteri7es a
s%atial !agnitude. ?o3, indeed, if it 3ere a s%atial !agnitude,
could nos %ossily thinkG Fill it think indifferently 3ith any one of
its %artsG ,(2a2B)'
Fe see that "ristotle is going to re:uire an understandale tieBin to e6%lain 3hy certain
, IB+
structures of the ody are re:uired y certain soul activities.
"t the end of the cha%ter he states this re:uire!ent !ore generally4
The vie3 3e have 9ust een e6a!ining, in co!%any 3ith !ost
theories aout the soul, involves the follo3ing asurdity4 they all
9oin the soul to a ody, or %lace it in a ody, 3ithout adding any
s%ecification of the reason of their union, or of the bodily
conditions re9uired for it. 0et such e6%lanation can scarcely e
o!ittedE for so!e co!!unity of nature is %resu%%osed y the fact
that the one acts and the other is acted u%on, the one !oves and
the other is !ovedE interaction al3ays i!%lies a special nature in
the t3o interagents. ,(2),B')
Let us look for and e6%ect "ristotle5s o3n account of 3hat it is aout each living ody
3hich enales it to e the body of a soul 3ith the given activities and functions.
?e continues this line of argu!ent. "t the start of the ne6t cha%ter.
IB, )
"ristotle argues that the soul cannot be the alances, co!%ositions, or ratio of
ingredients of the ody.
There is yet another theory . . . Its su%%orters say that the soul is a
kind of har!ony, for <a> har!ony is a lend or co!%osition of
contraries, and the ody is co!%ounded out of contraries
"ristotle !eans the ele!ents of odies 3hich are defined y the contraries4 hotOcold,
fluidOdry, softOhard, etc..
?ar!ony, ho3ever, is a certain %ro%ortion or co!%osition of the
constituents lended, and soul can e neither the one nor the
other of these. *urther, the %o3er of originating !ove!ent cannot
elong to a har!ony, 3hile al!ost all concur in regarding this as a
%rinci%al attriute of soul. It is !ore a%%ro%riate to call health...
That soul is a har!ony in the sense of the !ode of co!%osition of
the %arts of the ody is a vie3 easily refutaleE for there are !any
co!%osite %arts and those various co!%ounded...
the !i6ture 3hich !akes flesh has a different ratio et3een the
ele!ents fro! that 3hich !akes one...
-o 3e 3ill e interested in 9ust 3hat kind of %recise link "ristotle 3ill find et3een soul
and ody such that only this soul and this ody fit together, and yet the soul is not 9ust the %arts
or %ro%ortions of the ody.
"ristotle continues to argue that the soul itself cannot e affected or !oved. The soul is
the %o3er for active functioning. Fhat can e affected or !oved is the 3hole soulBandBody
ani!al. -EE E/D/8TE J T8 C?"PTE; IB) 8/ F?0 T?E;E ";E /8 P"T?E PECULI";
T8 T?E -8UL.
Fe need to notice that "ristotle 3ill introduce a distinction et3een t3o different kinds of
thinking 3ith t3o different Greek na!es, oth translated as @thinking.A The first kind a%%ears
' IB,
,(=a+,B,(=I Core legiti!ate douts !ight re!ain as to its !ove!ent in vie3 of the
follo3ing facts. Fe s%eak of the soul as eing %ained or %leased, eing
old or fearful, eing angry, %erceiving, thinking 3 dianoeisthai %
i4. "ll these are held to e <dokei) My earlier %hiloso%hers and
!ost %eo%leN !odes of !ove!ent,
and hence it !ight e su%%osed that the soul is !oved.
This, ho3ever, does not necessarily follo3.
This list includes sensation and thinking <dianoeisthai> along 3ith the e!otions. But one
needs to take note of the fact that "ristotle uses a different Greek 3ord @dianoeisthaiA for this
thinking. This is another of the fe3 Greek 3ords the reader needs to learn. Fe have seen
@nous( <and its ver for! 'noein(> in conte6t. /o3 this 3ord @dia noei sthai A is a for! of
dianoia, engaging in dianoia. It !eans so!ething like @throughnoeinA or @y !eans of noein,A
not %ossile 3ithout noein, ut a less asic kind of thinking. Dianoia ha%%ens only inside us ,
and differs fro! nous which happens between us and the things in the universe. "s 3e sa3
earlier, @nousA is the also ordering of the universe in 3hich 3e so!eho3 %artake. "ristotle takes
u% our nous in IIIB,, IIIBI, and IIIBJ, ut in our cha%ter he 3ill no3 !ark the difference et3een
dianoia and nous. Dianoia is performed not by the soul as such, but rather by soul-and-
,(=IB1 Fe !ay ad!it to the full that eing pained or pleased% or
thinking 3 dianoeisthai 4% are !ove!ents, and each of the! is a
#eing !oved#, and that the !ove!ent is originated by the soul.
*or e6a!%le 3e !ay regard anger or fear as such and such
movements of the heart, and thinking 3 dianoeisthai 4 as such
and such another !ove!ent of that organ, or of so!e otherE . . .
This thinking <dianoeisthai> involves !ove!ent in so!e odily organ. Even if it is
originated y the soul, it is not the soul that is !oved <or affected>. "ristotle is not co!!itting
hi!self on 3hich organ this is. -ince an organ is a odily %art, this %assage says that dianoia
involves oth soul and ody. Therefore4
,(=))B)I To say that it is the soul 3hich is angry is as ine6act
IB, +
as it 3ould e to say that it is the soul that 3eaves 3es or uilds
It is doutless etter to avoid saying that the soul pities or learns
or thinks 3 dianoeisthai 4.
It is etter to say that it is the hu!an 3ho does this 3ith the soul.
$o dianoeisthai is an acti%ity of the whole person &soul and body! by means of the
soul. The soulBandBody %erson engages in 3eaving and in this kind of thinking <dianoeisthai>.
But didn5t "ristotle say in IB) that noein !ight e se%arate fro! the odyG That %ossily
i!!aterial %rocess is not dianoia ut noein 3hich is a for! of nous. ?e 3ill differentiate nous
and dianoia elo3.
"s 3e see here, dianoia <dianoeisthai> is correctly translated as @thinking,A since it is
rather like our Festern notion of @thinkingA as a %rocess inside us. Fe need to re!e!er that
dianoia involves not only the soul ut also the ody, 9ust like 3eaving and %itying. Fe can
e6%ect to hear shortly aout the other kind <nous>. @/ousA shouldn5t really e translated
@thinking.A I 3ill often translate it as @understandingA ut since no English 3ord fits, I 3ill
so!eti!es use @thinkingA as 3ell. I 3ill carry the Greek 3ord along in %arentheses so that 3e
can kno3 3hich of these t3o very different things "ristotle is talking aout.
"ristotle is concerned here to sho3 that the soul itself <the ani!ation as such> is never
!oved or changed y any !ove!ent of any kind.
,(=)IB)= Fhat 3e !ean is not that the !ove!ent is in the soul, ut that
sometimes it terminates in the soul and sometimes starts from
it, e.g., sensation co!ing fro! 3ithout in3ards,
and recollection starting fro! the soul and ter!inating 3ith the
!ove!ents, actual or residual, in the sense organs.
"ccording to "ristotle, sensations and !e!ory i!ages do involve !ove!ents, ut they
don5t !ove the soul. &rom the sensed thing a !otion !oves the odily organ, ut this !otion
is not yet the sensation. The sensation is the senseBfor! actively %ro%ortioned y the sensing,
as 3e 3ill see in Book II.
"ristotle says 3hen 3e try to recall so!ething, @a !otionA originates from the soul to
the memory)organ <3hich is the @co!!onA organ and also the touch organ>. Then the soughtB
, IB,
for !e!oryBi!age !oves fro! the organ in res%onse. ?e discusses this !otion in a se%arate
ook, !emory and "ecollection. Ce!ory is !entioned again at ,(='2B'1 3here I co!!ent
on it further.
,(=)=B'' But nous is probably <c> an inde%endent substance
i!%lanted 3ithin the soul, incapable of being destroyed.
If it could e destroyed at all, it 3ould e under the lunting
influence of old age. Fhat really ha%%ens in res%ect of
nous in old age is% however% exactly parallel to what
happens in the case of the sense organsE if the old
%erson could recover the %ro%er kind of eye, he 3ould see
9ust as 3ell as a youth.
"ristotle is distinguishing the odily %art fro! the ca%acity to function. *or e6a!%le, a
dancer5s artistic aility to dance 3ould re!ain even if her legs 3ere da!aged. Codern
technology has since orne out his e6a!%le4 In the eyes of old %eo%le 3e re%lace the cloudy
natural lense 3ith a %lastic one, and find that, indeed, the seeing function has not aged. It isn5t
the soulBfunction 3hich decays ut the odily instru!ent. !o% if seeing could happen
without eyes% or walking without feet% these functions would be eternal. But they are
activities of ody %arts, so they could survive in old age only if one ac:uired a ne3 %air of eyes
or a ne3 ody.
"ccording to "ristotle, nous is an activity that occurs 3ithout any odily instru!ent. ?ere
he asserts this only as @%roale,A ut in IIIB, he 3ill argue that nous has no odily %art.
But if it has no odily %art, ho3 can it e that !any aged %eo%le eco!e senile and lose
their ca%acity for nous as 3ell as for seeing and hearingG
,(=''B'I The inca%acity of old age is due to an affection not of the soul
but of its vehicle% as occurs in drunkenness or disease.
Thus it is that in old age
T'()*()+ <noein4 and contemplating 3 theorein! decline only
through the decay of so!e other in3ard %artE
itself it is unaffectable <q>.
t i q t i t d t c c, t c
c ct.
-o senility does not indicate that nous and theorein involve a odily %art 3hich 3ears
out, ut rather of eing affected through the ody as in drunkenness or illness. In those states
one5s ca%acities for understanding and conte!%lating are not lost, only te!%orarily oscured y
a odily condition. "ristotle uses this co!%arison also in Phys .IIB+, <',2)I> 3here he says
that nous is al3ays co!%lete. Fhen the odily effect of drunkenness 3ears off, nous is
i!!ediately fully active again.
The function of seeing would be eternal and could e only te!%orarily disru%ted y
odily conditions, if seeing did not re:uire eyes. The understanding <nous> function is
<%roaly> eternal, and only te!%orarily disru%ted y the ody5s affectaility, if <as he argues in
IIIB,> nous is not the function of any odily %art.
*or "ristotle @!atterA <the ody> means Aaffectale.A The AaffectionsA of a thing are the
3ays in 3hich it can e affected, i.e. the 3ays in 3hich it has !atter. The affectaility of the
ody$soul ani!al is the ody. Fhat is not the ody is not affectale. ?ere @unaffectaleA
<q, a%athes, often translated @i!%assileA> !eans that noein and theorein are not
Please note that @conte!%latingA <theorein> is added to noein here. @/oeinA is the ver
for @nous.A "lthough the 3ord @theoreinA has !any uses, 3e 3ant to re!e!er that one kind of
theorein is eternal.
In contrast4

,(='IB'2 T'()*()+ 3 dianoeisthai! , loving, and hating are affections
3pathe4 not of it Mthe soulN, ut of that which has it.
t c i q i ct c ,
t ti ct ci, q ci c <,(=.',B'2>.
"his @thinkingA <dianoeisthai> is an affection 9ust like loving and hating. -o!e
translations have "ristotle say that @thinkingA does not decay and is not an affection <c,
a%athes>, ut in the ne6t sentence they have hi! say that @thinkingA does decay, and that it is
one of the affections <, %athe> 9ust like loving and hating. Fe have no t3o English 3ords to
corres%ond, so one !ust al3ays find out 3hich 3ord "ristotle is using. 8viously one cannot
translate these t3o Greek 3ords oth as @thinkingA and !iss "ristotle5s distinction. <I 3ill al3ays
indicate in %arentheses 3hich 3ord it is.>
"ristotle is contrasting t3o kinds of thinking. The distinction could not e shar%er. -ne
kind perishes; the other does not. ?e uses different 3ords for the! in Greek4 The thinking
that %erishes is dianoia <dianoeisthai> <not noein, ut only derivative fro! noein>, 3hereas
3hat does not %erish is nous <or its ver for! 'noein(> and also contemplating 3theorein4
3hich "ristotle often %airs along 3ith nous. In IIIB,B= he 3ill e6%lain 3hat he !eans y @nous.A
!** *+,+-"* G -+ "/* ,I&&**+C* #*"$**+ ,IA+-IA A+, +-5!
,(='2B'1 That is 3hy, 3hen this vehicle decays, memory <u> and
love ceaseE they were not of it Dthe soulE but of what is
common Mto soul and ody, the koine organN 3hich has %erished.
+ous is, no dout, so!ething !ore divine and unaffectable.
tut c t u t i c q, ti
i, o o o c i oto t c ct.
Both here and earlier <,(='I> "ristotle characteri7es nous 3ith the sa!e 3ord <,
a%athe> 3hich he :uoted fro! "na6agoras <IB', ,(I)1>. In IIIB,, I and J "ristotle 3ill derive the
unaffectaility of nous.
Ce!ories are affections <%athe> of the co!!on <koine> organ, he says at the start of
!em. There he sho3s 3hy !e!ory is not 3ithin the sco%e of the De Anima. Ce!ory is not a
%o3er or activity of the soul :ua soul, ecause it consists of !otions fro! the i!%rints on the
%hysical organ. <
-ee E/D/8TE 1= in IIIB+ 8/ F?0 CEC8;0 I- /8T I/CLUDED I/ T?E D# ANi!A
,))aIB2 By !eans of the straight line 3e kno3 oth itself and the curved.
The car%enter#s rule enales us to test oth, ut 3hat is curved
does not enale us to distinguish either itself or the straight.
Bet3een t3o %oints there are endlessly !any curved lines ut only one straight one. The
!any degrees of curvatures are @!easuredA or %ro%ortioned y their deviation fro! the straight
line. Fhen 3e co!e to IIIB, 3e 3ill recall 3hat "ristotle says here.
In the ne6t s%ot 3e 3ant to look at, "ristotle thinks of @soulA as oth 3hat it does and as
the for! and sha%e of the odyB%art it @holds together.@
,))),B)1 The :uestion !ight also e raised aout
the parts of the soul4 $hat is the separate role of each in
relation to the bodyH
*or, if the 3hole soul holds together the 3hole ody, we should
expect each part of the soul to hold together a part of the
body. #ut this seems 3 c > an impossibility;
it is difficult even to i!agine 3hat sort of odily %art nous 3ill hold
together, or ho3 it 3ill do this.
"ristotle said earlier that nous is 3ithout any odily %art. But this s%ot is also an
argu!ent for this. If there 3ere such a odyB%art, 3hat %art 3ould it eG "ristotle is al3ays
concerned 3ith the odily side, and !ost of the soul5s functions are not conceivale 3ithout the
odily %arts 3hich their activity involves. But for "ristotle the function deter!ines the needed
characteristics of the odyB%art. Therefore "ristotle sees no reason 3hy every function has to
involve odily %arts. It 3ould de%end on the function.
"ristotle no3 continues the discussion of %arts of the soul and ho3 they relate to %arts of
the ody. ?e 3ill !ention the follo3ing e6%eri!ent in IIB' and IIB+, ut he e6%lains his
conclusion fro! it !ore elaorately here. If you cut an insect in half
,)))1B', It is a fact of oservation that %lants and certain insects go on
living when divided into segmentsE
this !eans that each of the seg!ents has a soul in it
identical in s%ecies, though not nu!erically,
for oth of the seg!ents for a time %ossess the %o3er of
sensation and local !ove!ent. That this does not last is not
sur%rising, for they no longer %ossess the organs M!outh or
sto!ach etcN necessary for selfB!aintenance.
-elfB!aintenance is the nutritive activity. -ince only the one half has a !outh, and the
other a sto!ach, the t3o halves cannot long continue to enact the nutritive soul, and !ust
therefore soon die. -ince each half senses, !oves, and lives, each half has a 3hole soul. -o
3e see that there is not a %art of the ody corres%onding to each @%artA of the soul.
,))',B'2 But, all the sa!e, in each 3divided4 part <> there are
present all the parts of soul <t o t >,
the sa!e in s%ecies in each %art as in the 3holeE
this means that the several parts of the soul are not
separable from one another,
although the 3hole soul is divisile.
The e6%eri!ent sho3s that the 3hole soul is divisile P P ut into t3o 3hole souls. 8n
the other hand, the @%artsA <the functions> of the soul are not divisile fro! each other. They
cannot e se%arated as if they 3ere odily %arts. The soul is al3ays one.
In the 86ford !anuscri%t the last line has @although the 3hole soul is not divisile.A
Either version is %ossile, since "ristotle has sho3n in 3hat sense the soul is divisile and in
3hat sense not. Fhereas the %arts are inse%arale, the 3hole soul is divisile into t3o actual
souls. But since each is again a 3hole soul, not half a soul, he could also have said that a
3hole soul is not divisile.
/o3 that he has sho3n that sense and loco!otion are in one unity 3ith the nutritive
soulB%o3er, he is in a stronger %osition to say4
,))'2B'= It see!s <c> also that the first %rinci%le <arche, q, source>
found in %lants is also a kind of soulE
This is still %art of his tentative discussion here at the end of Book I, ut it leads directly
into the start of his for!al scientific %resentation in IIB'.
,))'=B+( for this is the only %rinci%le 3hich is co!!on to oth ani!als and
%lantsE and this can e6ist Min %lantsN se%arately fro! the %rinci%le
<arche> of sensation, though there is nothing 3hich has the latter
3ithout the for!er.
#ook II
IIB) )
-tarting 3ith Book II, "ristotle no3 %resents everything in the %ro%er order. In 3riting this
he is at the end of his scientific laors, having investigated !any kinds of ani!als and
s%eci!ens, and having organi7ed his data in the 3ays he descries in the Posterior Analytics.
?e is no3 ale to arrange his infor!ation so that the causes and classifications enale hi! to
de!onstrate fro! the!. In the De Anima he 3ill at ti!es %resent de!onstrations, at ti!es also
retrace the %ath of discovery. ?is ne3 @startA here is not the start of an in:uiry, ut the start of
an organi7ed %resentation.
"ristotle egins 3ith @sustanceA <> 3hich he sudivides into !atter, for!, or
!atterBandBfor!. Then for! is sudivided into t3o kinds.
"t ,)'a)) "ristotle classifies bodies under !atterBandBfor! sustance, and sudivides
odies into natural and artificial ones. Then he sudivides the natural odies into inani!ate and
ani!ate ones. This enales hi! at )'a'( to give the first state!ent of the definition of the soul.
?e e6%ands this definition <through four versions> u% to ,)')'. If you look ack fro! a
later versions of the definition to see 3hat "ristotle has sustituted for the 3ords in an earlier
version, you can see 3hat the earlier 3ords involved.
" second %art of the cha%ter egins at ,)')(. It e6%lains 3hat @first actualityA !eans.
" living <S ensouled> ody is organi7ed into %arts that have s%ecific functions. But artificial
odies <the things 3e !ake> also have distinct %arts for different functions. <*or e6a!%le an
a6e has a handle and a head 3ith a shar% edge that cuts.> The difference et3een a living ody
and an a6e leads to a fifth <,)'))> and si6th <,)')I> version of the definition. In living things
the defining for! also enacts their activities. -uch a defining for! is a first actuality.
' IIB)
,)'a+ Enough has een said of . . . our %redecessors. Let us start
again as it 3ere fro! the eginning, and try to determine what
the soul is and 3hat 3ould e its most comprehensive
definition <logos, o>
"ristotle egins ane3, after the revie3 of other %hiloso%hers in Book I. ?e is seeking a
definition <a defining account, logos> of @soulA <or @livingA> 3hich 3ill a%%ly to all living things.
,I'aJB1 /o3 3e s%eak of one kind of existent things <c c t t
t> as substance <>
"ristotle egins again 3ith everything that e6ists, and divides and sudivides. ?e refers
to his ook Categories , and I 3here he %resents the !ost general classifications of 3hat
e6ists, one sudivision of 3hich is sustance. -ustances are inde%endently e6isting things
that act fro! the!selves. *or "ristotle anything else <such as :uantities, :ualities, relations>
e6ist only as :uantities, :ualities or relations of that about which 3e say the! <that of 3hich
3e %redicate> i.e., so!e sustance.
and under this heading we so speak of it as
matter% which in itself is not a particular 'this%(
or as sha%e and form, in virtue of 3hich so!ething is spoken of
as a 'this,A
and thirdly as the product of these two <t c tut>.
?e divides sustance into !atter, for!, and !atterBandBfor!. Each of the three is in a
3ay that of which 3e %redicate everything else. @CatterA is 3hat "ristotle calls @the sustrateA
or @su9ectA <t u>, @3hat underliesA all attriutions. <?ere the Latin 3ord @su9ectA
!eans @3hat underlies,A not the gra!!atical @su9ectA of a sentence.> If you take a3ay
everything 3e can %ossily say aout so!ething, then 3hat is left is a featureless sustrate
3hich "ristotle calls @!atter.A
The 'form( is 3hat first !akes a %articular thing. To e6ist, a thing has to e in so!e
IIB) +
for!. Then, fro! oth, a for!BandB!atter thing is the third kind of sustance.
,)'a1 "nd !atter is potentiality,
Fhy does "ristotle say @!atter is %otentialityGA The !eanings of "ristotle#s ter!s have
to eco!e clear fro! seeing the! used in !any conte6ts. -ince 3hat he says here aout
matter %resu%%oses so!e of his other 3orks, I !ust introduce @!atterA to the reader.
Matter for "ristotle is that, in a thing, 3hich is changeale. *or e6a!%le, the 3ood is the
!atter of a ed. The for! <3hat it is to e a ed> cannot e rokenE only these 3ooden %ieces
can e roken. Then they are not a ed any!ore, although still 3ood. But 3ood is not only
!atterE it is also !atter and form. The for! <3ood> doesn5t urn, 8nly this 3ood can urn.
"nything that exists has so!e for! 9ust no3, ut if it is changeale there is so!ething in it
3hich has the %otentiality <u> to e either as no3, or to e changed into so!ething else.
Fhat can e either 3ay is 3hat "ristotle calls its @!atter.A
In classical Festern %hysics the ato!s, electrons, and other %articles are called
K!atter,K ut in "ristotle5s ter!s they have a for! as 3ell as a !atter. "nything you can identify
has so!e for! as 3ell as the %ossiility of changing. -o the s!allest %articles 3e can identify
still have so!e for! and can also change. If you go do3n far enough in "ristotle5s 3ay you end
u% 3ith a @!atterA that doesn5t e6ist at all y itself, rather only in this or that for!. Catter y itself
3ould e 9ust a @could e,A 9ust %otentiality.
The !atter is @3hat underliesA<t u>. But this e6ists only in some for!. In
"ristotle5s ter!s it has to e so!e degree of hot or cold, and fluid or dry. *or "ristotle, 7ust
!atter cannot e6ist alone <De Generatione IIB), +'1a',ff>. "lone it 3ould e only %otentiality,
nothing actual. Fhy 3ould it e only %otentialityG Because it 3ould e in no actual 3ay.
There cannot e 9ust a @canBchangeA 3ithout anything actual that can change. Pure %otentiality
cannot e6ist.
@Catter y itself,@ he said 9ust aove, @is not a %articular this.A *or "ristotle, any e6isting
thing, anything to 3hich you could %oint, any 'this( has so!e actual characteristics, 3hich is to
say it e6ists in so!e for!E it is not 9ust !atter ut so!e kind of !atter. Catter alone is not
anything actual.
!** *+,+-"* I -+ 'MA""*( A+, '!5#!"A+C*(
, IIB)
,)'a)(B)) 3hile form is actuality <literally co!%leteness, entelecheia) ))
and that in two ways,
on the one hand as kno3ledge is, and
on the other hand as conte!%lating <theorein) is.
*or! is actuality <co!%leteness> as 3hen a living thing has achieved its co!%lete
!ature for!.
But actuality <co!%leteness> co!es in t3o kinds4
a> like having achieved actual kno3ledge, or
> like not only a4 but also actively conte!%lating <understanding or considering>.
"ristotle 3ill !ake this distinction clear elo3 <,)'a''B'I> 3here it co!es u% again. I
3ill co!!ent on it there and in E/D/8TE )+.
?a!lyn5s translation <@conte!%lationA> should have said Kconte!%lating <theorein>,A
ongoing activity. The achieve!ent of kno3ledge is one kind of co!%letion, ut the higher kind
of co!%letion is thinking in act.
-everal ti!es in this cha%ter "ristotle first deals 3ith for!, then turns to the !atter of
3hich it is the for!. ?e does this no34
,)'a))B)' It is bodies es%ecially 3hich are held to be 3 dokousi!
U% to no3 he has only offered the e!%ty divisions4
sustance OO :uantity :ualityE
for! OO !atter OO for!BandB!atter co!%ound,
for! S actuality,
t3o kinds of actuality4 like kno3ledge OO like considering.
?e had not yet %laced anything into the!. /o3 he has %laced bodies into the slot of
sustances,ut 3ith the @held to eA <dokousi, y co!!on o%inion>. That leaves it %roale ut
,)'a)'B)+ and of these es%ecially natural bodiesE
for these are sources of the others.
?e is distinguishing within odies. 8f odies so!e are natural, <for e6a!%le stones,
%lants, %eo%le> and these are the sources <archai, > of the others. Fhich are @the othersGA
"rtificial odies, the ones 3e !ake, a6es, 3alls, thresholds
, houses, furniture, !achines, 3orks of art, and other things.
Fhy are the natural odies the @sourcesA <%rinci%les, starting %oints> of the artificial
onesG It is ecause the i!%le!ents are !ade out of natural odies <e.g., out of 3ood, or
!etal>, designed and !ade y us <3e are natural odies>, and used for our %ur%oses.
,)'a)+B)I 8f natural odies, some have life and some do notE
and it is self)nourishment, gro3th, and decay that 3e s%eak of
as life.
?e sudivides4 Fithin natural odies there are two kinds8 so!e are alive <ani!ated>,
and so!e are inanimate. ?e also told us the defining characteristic, the reason 3hy a ody
goes into the @aliveA slot4 it goes there if it has self)nutrition. Later he 3ill e6%lain that this is the
cause of eing alive.
natural T T T T artificial <e.g., i!%le!ents, 3orks of art, etc.> !achines
O Q later it 3ill turn out that these are not sustances
living inani!ate <e.g., stones>
!** *+,+-"* .. 3.2a.A)214 -+ "/* M*"/-, -& ,I>I!I-+.
Fe !ust notice that "ristotle first divides natural odies fro! artificial odies, and only
secondly BB i.e., 3ithin the natural ones BB does he distinguish ani!ate fro! inani!ate. If 3e
%onder this, it !ay see! 3rong to us. "ren#t i!%le!ents inani!ate as 3ellG -houldn5t he have
divided all odies into ani!ateOinani!ate, and then divided the inani!ate ones into natural and
artificial odiesG But then he could not have classified living odies under @natural.A The living
odies 3ould have een alone 3hile stones and tools 3ould have fallen together. "ristotle
needs living things and stones together under @naturalA odies. ?e 3ill soon sho3 us e6actly
3hat stones and living things have in co!!on, that is so crucially different fro! artificially !ade
things. *or "ristotle the distinction et3een natural and artificial odies is asic. Fe cannot
understand his a%%roach to living odies 3ithout first gras%ing ho3 natural odies differ fro!
artificial ones. Let !e e6%lain.
"ccording to his earlier ook, the Physics, each ody has its o3n @natureA <its phsis,
u> according to 3hich it ehaves as it does. Its nature is its o3n inner source of its kind of
!otion <arche, q, also translated @%rinci%leA or @starting %ointA>. "ristotle defines the different
kinds of natural odies y how they move. If the su%%ort under a cold ody is re!oved, it
!oves down. Bodies that eco!e heated, eva%orate i.e., they !ove up. <8f course, there is
also an earlier, e6ternal cause of their !otion, 3hatever heats it or re!oves the su%%ort under
it.> *or "ristotle all natural odies, <oth the living and the inani!ate> have their o3n natural
!otion and direction. If not forced, their !otions arise fro! their o3n internal characteristics.
"ll natural odies are defined y their o3n @internal %rinci%le of !otion.A -ince living odies are
a sudivision of natural odies, 3e 3ill e asking aout the kind of internal source of !otion
3hich defines the living odies, i.e., ho3 they !ove and function of their o3n accord.
IIB) 2
Fe need to notice 3here "ristotle5s kind of science differs greatly fro! ours. ?is
conce%ts of @natural odiesA !ay see! :uaint to us at first, ut do not take sides. /o sensile
%erson could denigrate !odern science and its i!!ense contriutions, ut to understand
"ristotle 3e cannot re!ain 9ust 3ithin the usual assu!%tions. Fe !ust often co!%are and see
the differences, so that 3e can notice and understand his unfa!iliar 3ay of thinking.
In our Festern science the e6clusion of internallyBarising functions is a conse:uence of
the essential !ethod. Cethods are neither true nor false. They o%en fields of study 3hich
3ould re!ain closed other3ise. "ristotle is o%ening a science of internallyBarising <@naturalA>
activities. Later in the cha%ter 3e 3ill see e6actly ho3 "ristotle5s t3o starting distinctions !ake
his science very different fro! ours. *or no3 3e hold on to his division4 Bodies are either
artificial or natural, and the natural ones are either inani!ate or alive.
,)'a)IB)2 /ence every natural ody 3hich %artakes of life 3ill e a
sustance, and substance of a composite kind.
!ince it is indeed a ody of such a kind
for it is one having life,
Fhen "ristotle says4 Khence,A or @it follo3sK, Kso,K Knecessarily,K Kit !ust,K Ksince,K
@ecause,A or @for,A he thinks he is %roving so!ething. ?e is de!onstrating, or at least %ursuing
so!e chain of argu!ent. -o 3e al3ays 3ant to check 3hether 3e follo3 his chain of
reasoning. ;ight here, 3hat is the argu!ent in 3hich he uses the 3ords @hence,A @sinceA and
@for...AG Can 3e follo3 itG
Earlier "ristotle said !erely that odies are generally held to e sustances <dokousi>,
ut no3 he has 9ust shown that living odies are sustances of the co!%osite !atterBandBfor!
kind, since the t3o %redicates @naturalA and @livingA are t3o kinds, i.e., t3o for!s.
Fe sa3 that odies co!e in t3o kinds, natural and artificial, and the natural ones again
in t3o kinds, inani!ate and living. The @kindA of ody is its @form,A and the individual odies are
the matter of that kind or for!. -o it follows that a natural living <kind S for! of> body is
sustance in the sense of a co!%osite, i.e., for! and !atter.
"ristotle no3 goes on 3ith the argu!ent4
,)'a)= the soul 3ill not e odyE
= IIB)
for the ody is not something predicated of a su9ect
<uc>, ut e6ists rather as su9ect and !atter.
This is the first ti!e the soul is !entioned since the first sentence of the cha%ter.
Everything since then has led u% to it. The :uestion "ristotle is no3 ans3ering is4 Fithin this
!atterBandBfor! co!%ound, 3hich is the soulG Is it the ody, or the for! @natural livingGA
In Book I at the start of the De Anima "ristotle says that @the soul is as it 3ere the
%rinci%le <or source> of living things.A -ince the soul is the @having life,A it is the kind <of ody>,
and kind S for!. *ro! this he concludes that the soul must% then% be the for!.
@LivingA and @naturalA are t3o predicates or for!s 3hich are attriuted to the !atter of a
ody of that kind. Therefore the su9ect, 3hat underlies, the uc is the ody of 3hich
3e say that it is of this or that kind.
,)'a)1B'( "he soul must% then% be substance 9ua form of a natural body
which has life potentially.
This is the first state!ent of the definition of the soul
The soul is the for! <or living kind> of a for!BandB!atter sustance.
!** *+,+-"* .1 -+ "/* '=--&( A" .2a.A.
Fhy does he say a @ody 3hich has life potentiallyAG Doesn5t it actually have lifeG The
ans3er is that if 3e say Ka ody 3hich has life,A 3e are already saying oth ody and soul. If
3e 3ant to s%eak of the ody aside fro! the for! 3hich !akes it so!ething actual, 3e have to
s%eak of it <in "ristotle5s ter!s> as @%otentiallyA that for!. -o 3e s%eak of the kind of ody 3hich
can be alive and can have that for!. -%eaking 9ust on the ody side, a living ody is one that
can have that for!. Fhat disturs us is that "ristotle see!s to say that the soul is the for! of a
ody that is only %otentially alive. But he does not say Konly.K Potentially alive !eans @can e
aliveA and of course the actually alive ody can e alive.
!** *+,+-"* .2 -+ =-"*+"IALI"< I! =*!*>*, I+ AC"5ALI"<
,)'a')B'' "nd sustance <> as for! is actuality <co!%leteness,
IIB) 1
"he soul% therefore% will be the actuality <entelecheia,
of a body of this kind. Mi.e., of a natural ody having life
"his is the second statement of the definition of the soul.
?e has re%hrased the first definition y sustituting @actualityA for @for!.A
,I'a''B'+ But @actualityA is so s%oken of in t3o 3ays, on the one hand
as knowledge is, and on the other
as contemplat in, <theorein> is.
It is clear then that the soul is actuality as kno3ledge isE
@"ctualityA is a Latin 3ord. Entelecheia !eans co!%lete e6istence. Fhen kno3ledge
has een ac:uired, it e6ists. It is one kind of @actualityA or co!%leteness. Then, e!%loying it in
ongoing conte!%lating <considering> is a further stage of co!%leteness, the highest kind
"ristotle distinguished these t3o classes of @actualityA earlier <,)'a)(B))>, 3hen he 3as
not yet %lacing anything in the!. /o3 he has %laced the soul into one class. I!!ediately he
gives the reason <3hat is often called the @!iddle ter!A> for %utting the soul into that division
rather than the other4
,)'a'+B'J for oth slee% and 3aking de%end on the e6istence of soul, and
waking is analogous to contemplating 3theorein, i> and
sleep to the possession but not the exercise <activityE
energein) of kno3ledge.
8nce 3e have ac:uired kno3ledge, 3e can either actively think so!ething 9ust no3, or
not. Fe %osses the kno3ledge also 3hen 3e are eating or slee%ing. Just as 3e have the
kno3ledge both 3hen 3e are actively conte!%lating, and 3hen are not, so the living thing has
)( IIB)
its soul both 3hen it is engaged in its lifeBactivities 9ust then, and 3hen it is not. Therefore the
soul is the kind of actuality that having kno3ledge is. /otice that "ristotle is not 9ust telling us
his conce%tE rather he is making the conce%t freshly right here. Fe gras% the conce%t through
his %ro%ortion4
soul S kno3ledge
ongoing activities conte!%latin,
Everyone understands that once 3e ac:uire kno3ledge, 3e have it oth 3aking and
slee%ing, not only 3hen 3e are actively conte!%lating so!ething. By %ro%ortioning the soul to
this, he lets us !ake and gras% the conce%t4 an intermediate kind of completeness%
complete but perhaps now also in action% perhaps not. In !ost ooks 3e are handed
conce%ts as finished things 3hich 3e have to re!e!er. The conce%t of an actuality like
kno3ledge is ne3. ?e derives it freshly, so that 3e are !aking it along 3ith hi!. Fe 3ant to
notice 3hen "ristotle !akes a ne3 conce%t. ?o3 does he do itG ?e often %oints to a
relationshi% 3hich everyone recogni7es, <e.g., kno3ledge related to active thinking> and !akes
the ne3 conce%t fro! using it in a %ro%ortion 'Just as . . . so. . .(
!** *+,+-"* .6 -+ "$- KI+,! -& *+"*L*C/*IA8
,)'a'J In the sa!e individual, kno3ledge is in origin first
In the order of the universe its o3n order co!es firstE our discovery and understanding
co!es later. But if 3e consider 3hat co!es first in one individual5s life, then learning and
kno3ing so!e ideas co!es first. " %erson has to learn and %osses a fe3 thoughts <conce%ts,
understandings, gras%s, for!s or kinds, universals> efore eco!ing ale to use the! and think
<conte!%late> 3ith the!. The %otentiality !ust first e there efore the activity can ha%%en.
The kind of actuality <co!%leteness> that is like kno3ledge and the soul, is first <>. This
is the source of the ter! @first actualityA 3hich a%%ears in the ne6t line.
,)'a'2B'= /ence the soul is the first actuality <tc q >
of a natural ody 3hich has life %otentially.
IIB) ))
"his is the third statement of the definition.
@&irst actualityA has een sustituted for 9ust @actualityA efore.
/o3 "ristotle turns to the odily side again4
,)'a'=B,)', Fhatever has organs MtoolsN 3ill e a body of this kind.
Even the %arts of %lants are organs . . . the leaf is a covering for
the %od and the %od for the fruitE
3hile roots are analogous to the mouth,
for oth take in food.
The living ody has characteristics of its o3n. U% to no3 "ristotle has al3ays descried
the ody !erely as the kind of ody that can have a soul, i.e. @%otentially alive.A But 3hat !arks
it as that kind of ody can e descried on the odily side. It has differentiated 3tool)like4
parts that have different sha%es and different roles, i.e. perform different functions. This is
3hat enales the ody to engage in the life activities.
Aristotle makes the concept of a functional definition y co!%aring the roots to a
!outhE they look very different ut they are analogous in function.
Take for e6a!%le an artificial tool. -ay you see a thing in a dra3er that looks so!e3hat
like %liers ut 3ith a 3heel 3ith little teeth. 0ou ask aout it. The ans3er 3ill e4 @This is a can
o%ener. The 3heel is to gri% and !ove along the edge of the can, and, see, this shar%Bedged
3heel cuts into the can.A " ody that does not have different %arts could not e a can o%ener,
ut a totally differentBlooking tool could e. Perha%s it has a cutting edge you %ush in, and a
notch to hold the edge of the can. "ll tools have differentiated %arts. 0ou !ight use a stone as
a threshold, ut you 3ould first %olish the to% and sha%e the rest, so it could fit under the door
and function as a threshold.
/o3 take living things. Fhen you notice so!e little oddBsha%ed %art of a %lant, you ask4
@Fhat is thisGA The ans3er 3ill e its function. The %od is a hard covering to %rotect the fruit.
The roots are analogous to our !outh. Fhy do they have fine little hairBsha%ed e6tensionsG *or
!ore surface, to asor !ore. If the ody 3ere a single unifor! %iece, it could not %erfor! its
)' IIB)
functions such as digesting and re%roducing.
/otice that the reason these are @%artsA is not ecause so!eone divided the! in s%aceE
they are %arts ecause they function differently. 0ou could cut the %od in half and say it has t3o
@%arts,A ut those 3ould not e %arts in this functional sense. /or 3ould reaking the living thing
do3n into ato!s give you its functional %arts.
Fe 3ant to recall "ristotle5s argu!ents in Book I <the end of IB+ and the start of IB,> that
each ty%e of soul and its ty%e of ody have to e inherently related. ?e has no3 given his o3n
version of the soulOody relationshi%. <?e 3ill e !ore s%ecific in IIB'.> It is the organs of the
ody 3hich relate that ody s%ecifically to the activities of that soul.
Aristotle said earlier that form is 3actuality which is4 either ongoing activity or the
power for an activity. #ut how is activity a formH +ow we see that a bodys organs for
the activities are the form of that body.
/o3 3e can descrie a ody that can e alive4 It has differentiated, functional %arts
called @organs.A
,)',BJ If then 3e are to s%eak of so!ething co!!on to every soul% it is
the first actuality of a natural body which has organs.
"his is the fourth statement of the definition.
"ristotle has sustituted @has organsA for @has life %otentially.A ?is definition is eco!ing
!ore s%ecific. Fe can al3ays look ack to the earlier ones and notice 3hat is eing e6%anded.
Fhen one %hrase can e sustituted for another 3e therey learn so!e of 3hat the earlier
%hrase involved. " ody that @has life %otentiallyA <can live> is a ody that has organs.
But e on guard. " ody that @has life %otentiallyA does al3ays have organs, ut a ody
<e.g., !y can o%ener> can have @organsA and yet not e ale to live. Fhat !akes the difference
3ill soon e sho3n in this cha%ter.
Is the soul <or living> si!%ly the ody5s organBorgani7ation, its organB%atterningG The
relation is very close. But no, the definition says (the first actuality of ' a ody 3hich has
organs. Fhat does @first actuality of a ody 3ith organsA say, that @having organsA does not sayG
?e 3ill soon sho3 3hat !ore it !eans. Let us leave the difference till then.
*or no3 let us e6a!ine in 3hat 3ay soul and ody are two different interlocking strands
of one sa!e thing4 If so!eone can dance, this @canA !ust include healthy leg !uscles and
IIB) )+
tendons, rightly arranged. These are the odily side of the @can dance.A *or e6a!%le, let us
say the dancer hurts her leg. Then she kno3s the effect of the in9ury on her dance <the
functional side>, 3hereas on the odily side it is the %hysician 3ho kno3s the in9ury in her
!uscles and tendons. Fe cannot 9ust sustitute either side for the other, ut although they are
different, they are two aspects of the same thing. Therefore "ristotle !oves i!!ediately fro!
this version of the definition to the ovious unity of ody and soul.
,)'J ?ence too 3e should not ask 3hether the soul and ody are one, .
. .
?e 3ants to ring ho!e that 3e cannot even ask aout dividing soul and ody, since the
soul is the actualityBof, <the for! or first co!%letenessBof> the organBorgani7ed ody.
,)'2 any !ore than 3hether the 3a6 and the i!%ression are one. . .
This refers to the 3ay 3a6 3as used to seal letters. " design on a ring 3as %ressed into
the 3a6. 8f course, the 3a6Bi!%ression is lost if you try to se%arate it fro! the 3a6. /o one
even asks 3hether one can do that.
!** *+,+-"* .0 3.2bB4 -+ $AC A+, "/* I+,I>I!I#ILI"< -& !-5L)#-,<.
,)'2B= or universally <' > 3hether the matter of each thing and
that of which it is the !atter are one.
"ristotle !oves fro! t3o instances <soul and ody, sealBi!%ress and 3a6> to a single
universal 3 4 aout the oneness of !atterBandBtheBthingBofB3hichBitBisBtheB!atter <i.e.,
!atter and for! as a single thing>.
,)'=B1 *or, 3hile unity and being are so s%oken of in !any 3ays, that
3hich is !ost %ro%erly so s%oken of is actuality <entelecheia)
/otice that his @holosA arrives at 9ust one ter!, although this conclusion follo3s fro!
%aired ter!s <soul and ody, 3a6 and i!%ression, !atter and thatBofB3hich ...>. It is a unity.
"ctuality is the chief !eaning of @unity.@ Fhen 3e s%eak of @ody and soulA they see! t3o, ut
the soul is the co!%leteness of the body, one living thing, one actuality <co!%leteness>. "nd
), IIB)
as he 3ill say later on, nous in act is not the actualityBof, rather 9ust actuality.
-EC8/D P";T 8* T?E C?"PTE;
,)')(B)) It has then een stated universally <o>
what the soul is <tUV ct>E for it is substance <>,
that corres%onding to the %ro%er account <t t o>. "nd this
is the
what it is for it to be what it was
of a ody of such a kind.
"his is the fifth statement of the definition.
*or @first actualityA he has no3 sustituted @sustanceA 3hich 3e had in the first version,
ut 3here he had said @in the sense of for!,A he no3 sustitutes this long set of %hrases 3hich
are !uch !ore s%ecific, ut are the for!. Logos !eans not 9ust a veral @definitionA ut in the
thing, 3hat it is.
!** *+,+-"* .@ 3.2b.14 -+ L-?-! A+, 'W'AT (T ($ -./ (T T. 01 W'AT (T
This version is again circular like the early ones. The soul is the defining @3hat it isA of a
certain kind of ody. Fhat kind of odyG Fell the kind that has a soul as its defining essence.
8ther than this 3e have seen only that it is a ody that has differentiated functional %arts
<@organsA>. But at the ne6t line this circularity 3ill o%en.
/o3 at last he 3ill sho3 ho3 @first actualityA <or first co!%letion> is !ore than 9ust the
organBorgani7ation. "rtificiallyB!ade odies can also have an organBorgani7ation, ut they have
no first actuality. ?e 3ill sho3 ho3 first actuality <the soul> is !ore than the organBorgani7ation
y co!%aring the soul to the for! of an artificial tool, e.g., an a6e.
The 3ood and !etal of an a6e are natural odies, ut 3hat !akes an a6e an a6e <the
organi7ation of its @organsA> is artificial. "ristotle %hrases his %oint as a su%%osition4 If an a6e
3ere a natural ody. It is notD But, if it 3ere ...
,)'))B)I Co!%are the follo3ing4 If a tool, e.g. an a6e, were a natural ody,
then its substance would be 3hat it is to e an a6e,
and this 3ould e its soulE
if this were removed it 3ould no longer e an a6e, e6ce%t in
na!e only.
But as it is, it is an a6e
,)')IB)2 for it is not of this Ma6eN kind of ody, that
the soul is the #3hat it is for it to e 3hat it 3as#
and the definition 3lo,os!,
ut of a certain kind of natural body having within itself a
source <arche, q> of movement and rest.
/ere now is the sixth statement of the definition.
@The soul is . . . 3hat defines . . . a certain kind of natural ody 3hose defining for! or
sustance is also its internal source <arche, q> of !ove!ent and rest.A
The shar%Bedged head and the handle of an a6e are differentiated functional %arts
<@tools,A the Greek 3ord for toolsA is organsA>, ut its sustance is not eingBanBa6e. If its
sustance 3ere its eingBanBa6e, then it would contain 3ithin itself the source of its essential
defining a6eB!otion, i.e., cutting. If an a6e were a ody that has that kind of@3hatBitBis,A then it
would initiate cutting and resting fro! inside itself. Then the a6e 3e have in our tool chest
would be a dead a6e, or only the facsi!ile of an a6e. But the one 3e have is in fact a real a6e,
ecause what it is to be an a6e is not the kind ody 3hose sustanceBfor! is also a canB!ove
and canBrest fro! inside itself.
-o here 3e can tell the difference et3een an organBorgani7ation and a soul. "n organB
organi7ation is 3hat a !ade thing does have, ut a first actuality is 3hat only living things
have. The a6eBody5s form has differentiated organs ut is not also an internal can)move and
/o3 3hat is ne3 hereG Fe al3ays kne3 that a6es don5t cut unless 3e !ove the!. "n
artificial organBody is eing contrasted 3ith a natural organBody, so that 3e can understand
the natural functional organi:ation of the living body, i.e., 3hat the soul is. It is the source
of the living ody5s !otion<s> and rest<s> 3hich defines 3hat living is.
Fe have to kno3 that for "ristotle all natural odies <including inani!ate ones like
raindro%s and stones> have 3ithin the!selves a source of !ove!ent and rest. "ll natural
odies have their o3n characteristic !otions if they are not i!%eded or forced. Earthen odies
are !oved do3n, fiery ones are !oved u%. <-ee De Coto 2((a)J on their eing !oved,
although in accord 3ith their internal nature.> In !odern ti!es the theory has changed, ut of
course these things still !ove as they did in "ristotle5s ti!e.
"n a6e is !ade of 3ood and !etal 3hich fall do3n. If 3e think of it as an a6eBthing, 3e
can see that its functional organi7ation is se%arate fro! its 3ood and !etal. The sha%es of its
%arts do not enact their functions. " living ody enacts the functions 3hich its organB%arts are
"ristotle defines living things y co!ining t3o contrasts4 The artificial things have a
functional organi7ation ut it does not originate functional !otions. The inanimate natural
things deter!ine their !oves ut have no functional differentiation. 8nly living things have oth.
The 3ood of the handle and the steel of the head are natural odies and do have their
o3n internal source of !otion, ut only downward. If you %ull the shelf out fro! under the
a6e, the 3ood and !etal 3ill only fall do3n. 8f course 3e %refer the a6e to cho% 3ood rather
than to fall do3n, ut in the !odern vie3 there is no asic difference et3een these t3o kinds of
!otion. *or "ristotle falling do3n is different fro! cutting. &alling down does not employ the
differentiated parts. &alling is not the activity in which head and handle have different
roles. Being an a6e is having the for! of the organBstructure for cutting <,)''2>, ut unlike a
living ody 3hat it does from itself is a different kind of !otion unrelated to its organBstructure.
!** *+,+-"* .A 3.2bA4 -+ A M*"A,*&I+I"I-+ A+, A !CI*+C* -& LI>I+?
/o3 he 3ill sho3 3hat it !eans on the bodys side to have the source of its functional
activities 3ithin itself. It !eans that each of the organs !oves and functions fro! itself.
,)')2B'' Fe !ust consider <theorein, i> 3hat has een said in
relation to the parts of the ody also. *or if the eye 3ere an
ani!al, sight 3ould e its soul. . . and if this fails it is no longer an
eye e6ce%t in na!e 9ust like. . . a %ainted eye.
IIB) )2
Fhat sounded so t3isted 3hen su%%osed of the a6e, does fit the eye. If it loses
its o3n inner source of action, it is no longer a real eye. The ca%acity to enact its o3n seeing
defines 3hat an eye is.
,)''+B'I . . .for as the %art is to the %art,
so analogously is %erce%tion as a 3hole to the whole sentient
body as such.
<it q t t lto, q tit>
"ristotle is saying that an ani!al5s whole body has the sensation %o3er. I need to
alert the reader. Please re!e!er that for "ristotle sensation is an activity of the whole
animal body. 8f course 3e see 3ith eyes, not 3ith the 3hole ody, ut we are sentient
3touch)sensitive4 all over our bodies. This is ovious, ut for "ristotle it has a vital i!%lication
3hich runs through the ook4 ?e says that the touchBsensation organi:es the whole animal.
In ani!als sensation is not 9ust added to %lantsE sensation reorgani:es the 3hole ody. -ne
soul is the one for! of a living thing5s ody. In IIB+ he 3ill discuss this.
I !ust insure that the reader 3ill not forget this easily overlooked s%ot 3here "ristotle
says of ani!als, <in distinction fro! %lants,> that touch organi7es their whole bodies, 9ust as
seeing organi7es the eye.
?e concludes this fro! one of his characteristic %ro%ortionings. ?e has co!%ressed it.
@Just asA the %artBactivity is to the odily %art that can do it, so is sensing to the 3hole ody that
Fe easily gras% that a %art can have a function BB 3e !ean that it has a role in so!e
3ider activity. It is !ore difficult for us to gras% that the whole ongoing activity is a functioning.
The 3hole life %rocess is not less organi7ed than the activity of a %art. *or e6a!%le, the function
of the eyes is to see, ut can 3e understand hu!an life as hu!an functioningG *or "ristotle
living is a functioning. "n ani!al5s functioning includes sensing, as 3ell as desiring, going after
so!e of the things it senses, and so!eti!es findinig food. " hu!an eing has !ore functions.
,)''IB'J It is not that 3hich has lost its soul 3hich is %otentially such as to
live, ut that 3hich %ossesses it.
)= IIB)
" ha!ster that has 9ust died !ay see! to have all its organs and look no different than a
slee%ing one, ut its ody is not %otentially alive. *ro! death it is no longer the case that it can
?ere he states e6%licitly <as I said earlier> that a @%otentially aliveA ody is al3ays also an
actually alive one. But could there e a ody that is only %otentially aliveG
,)''JB'2 -eeds and fruits are potentially of this kind.
Their canBlive is douly %otential. 8f course the seeds do not nutri7e, 3hich 3as our
defining characteristic <!iddle ter!> for @living,A They do not engage in any of the activities of
living. That is 3hy they can still s%rout after thousands of years. " seed is only %otentially
@%otentially alive.A -eeds saved in a o3l cannot act. But they have a canBact once re!oved. If
they fall on !oist ground, then they canBact.
-o here 3e have 3hat 3e couldn5t find at first, a %otentiallyBalive ody that isn5t actually
alive, ut it is douly %otential, 3hile a dead one is not %otentially alive at all.
,)''2B,)+a' Just% then, as the cutting and the seeing <horasis, o>,
so too is the 3aking state MfullN actuality <entelecheia, ctc>,
3hile the soul is like Mthe ca%acity forN sight <opsis, >
and the %otentiality of the instru!ent.
"he body is that which has this %otentiality.
-u!!ing u%4 ?ere are three4 a> full actuality, > first actuality, +> the ody. The first
actuality <the soul> is in between. It is the %otentiality for the full action, ut it is the actual
<co!%lete, !ature> for! of the living ody. The soul is the @!iddle ter!A et3een activity and
,)+a'B+ But 7ust as the %u%il and Mthe ca%acity forN sight <opsis, o>Oyi9>
!ake u% an eye,
so in this case the soul and ody !ake u% an ani!al.
IIB) )1
It is the capacity for sight 3hich is analogous to the soul of the 3hole ani!al.
!** *+,+-"* .G 3.6a24 -+ "/* =-=-"I-+ &-M "/* *<* "- "/* $/-L*
!*+!I"I>* A+IMAL.
,)+a+BI That therefore the soul <or certain %arts of the soul, if it is
divisile,> cannot be separated from the body is :uite clearE
for in some cases the actuality <entelecheia> is of the %arts
The soul and the ody are not t3o things ut t3o as%ects of a single thing, in as !uch
as the soul is the actuality <<entelecheia, the co!%letion or for!> of the !atured ody, or of
so!e %art of the ody <for e6a!%le the for!Bof the eye, as he argued 9ust aove.> "ristotle
finds it ovious that the for! or co!%leteness of the ody cannot e se%arated fro! it.
,)+a+BJ /ot that anything %revents at any rate some %arts fro! eing
se%arale, because of their being actualities of no body.

?e adds that the soul !ight e6ist se%arately 9ust as soul only if so!e %art of the soul
turns out not to e the for!Bof <a %art of> the ody. ?e does not co!!it hi!self here as to
3hether this is so or not.
,)+a=B1 *urther!ore, it is not clear 3hether the soul is the actuality
<entelecheia) of the body in the 3ay that the sailor is of the ship.
The :uestion aout the sailor <recalling Plato> is4 "s the source of loco!otion, can the
soul e6ist se%aratelyG The sailor is the !oving cause, the source of the !otion of the shi%
ecause he !oves the shi% y ro3ing and steering. Can the soul as the source of !otion @get
off the shi%GA 8f course not, insofar as 3hat !oves the living ody is also the first co!%letion
or !ature for! of the ody <or its %arts>.
In asking aout the sailor, "ristotle %oses the :uestion of se%araility together 3ith the
'( IIB)
discussion of the soul as !oving cause 3hich follo3s i!!ediately in cha%ter '. "ristotle did not
!ake the cha%ter divisions. They 3ere !ade closer to our ti!e, and in an e6cellent 3ay. But
"ristotle 3rites 3ithout cha%ter reaks. Therefore it often hel%s to look at the continuity fro! the
last %art of a cha%ter to the first %art of the ne6t cha%ter. The :uestion in 3hat sense the !oving
cause !ight e se%arale co!es 3ith us into the ne6t cha%ter. In IIB' "ristotle 3ill distinguish
different sorts of @se%araility. @
IIB' )
Beginning fro! easily oserved !otions, the cha%ter %roceeds to the <also oservale>
soulB%arts, the !oving <@efficientA> causes of these activities.
The geo!etric analogy fits 3hat this cha%ter 3ill %rovide. " good definition !ust say
ho3 3hat it defines is generated.
"t the end of IIB) "ristotle asked in 3hat sense the !oving cause !ight e se%arale. Is
it like a sailor 3ho %o3ers the oars and steers the oat, and can also ste% off the shi%G Is the
soul se%arale fro! the ody, and are the %arts of the soul se%arale fro! each otherG "ristotle
ans3ers this throughout the cha%ter. But he 3ould not ans3er such a :uestion y saying KyesK
or Kno.K "s is his usual 3ay, he distinguishes <se%arates> various kinds of se%aration. -o!e
are !erely theoretical distinctionsE others divide et3een se%arately e6isting things.
8nly one kind of se%araility classifies the living things. Fe 3ill 3ant to understand 3hy
that one does, and the others do not.
In the first %art of the cha%ter "ristotle !ay see! re%etitious ut he is not. Fhen he
see!s to re%eat 3e have to ask ourselves 3hat ne3 %oint he is !aking. Then 3e 3ill see it.
There is first a list of activities and !otions <,)+a',>. Later there is a differently ordered list of
%arts of the soul <,)+)+>. "fter that he gives no third list, ut he tells a 3ay 3hich does
classify the living things <,)++'Ba+>. Fe 3ill 3ant to see 3hy this 3ay does it.
The ne6t section <,),a,B)=> is a %roof. Fe 3ill e6a!ine it.
*ro! the %roof "ristotle leads u%3ard to the to% category 3ith 3hich he egan IIB). The
order of this cha%ter is the reverse of IIB). Fe 3ill see 3hy.
,I+a -ince it is from things 3hich are oscure ut !ore ovious
that we arrive at that 3hich is clear and !ore intelligile
' IIB'
according to its %ro%er account <logos>
3e !ust try again in this 3ay to treat of the soulE
for a state!ent <logos> that defines should
not only !ake clear the fact, as the !a9ority of definitions do,
ut it should also contain and reveal the cause for it.
"ristotle is announcing a ne3 order different than IIB). /o3 3e egin fro! the oscure
ut !ore ovious, i.e., 3hat is not 3ell understood ut easily oserved. *ro! this 3e 3ill !ove
to 3hat is !ore understandale, the %ro%er account.
!** *+,+-"* .I I+ $/A" $A< I! C/A="* 2 A+-"/* &*!/ !"A" I+
*LA"I-+ "- II).H
,)+a)JB'( "s things are, the state!ents <logos> of the definitions are like
conclusions. *or e6a!%le, 3hat is s:uaringG The construction of
an e:uilateral rectangle Ma s:uareN e:ual in area to Ma givenN one
3hich is not e:uilateral.
But such a definition is a state!ent <logos, o> of the
conclusionE 3hereas one 3ho says
that s:uaring is the discovery of the mean proportional
states the cause.
In 3hat 3as called @s:uaringA you 3ere given a rectangle and the %role! 3as to !ake
a s:uare e:ual to the rectangle in area. But "ristotle says that the definition of @s:uaringA 3hich
I 9ust gave is not a good one. " good definition 3ill say ho3 3e can make that s:uare. To
!ake it, 3e need to e told ho3 to find the line that 3ill e the side of the s:uare, so that 3e
can generate 3moving cause4 that s:uare. -:uaring is finding a s:uare e:ual in area to a
given rectangle by finding the line 'x( that is the !ean %ro%ortional et3een the longer <a>
and the shorter <> sides of the rectangle, either y !eans of the %ro%ortion4
a S 6
i.e., y !ulti%lying the rectangle5s sides <a ti!es > and then taking the s:uare root of
IIB' +
ut since that doesn5t usually co!e out to a finite nu!er, the geo!etric 3ay <3hich 3as
3ell kno3n> is etter4 The !ean %ro%ortional line can e found y !aking a circle 3hose
dia!eter consists of the t3o sides laid end to end <aW>. The !ean %ro%ortional line is the
%er%endicular fro! the circu!ference to the %oint 3here the t3o sides 9oin.
!** *+,+-"* 21 -+ "/* A+AL-?< I! I"!*L& A+ *CAM=L*
,)+a'(B'I Fe say, then, !aking a eginning of our in:uiry, that
that 3hich has soul is distinguished fro! that 3hich has not y life.
But life is so s%oken of in !any 3ays, and 3e say that a thing
lives if ut one of the follo3ing is %resent4
movement and rest in res%ect of %lace,
and further!ore the movement according to nutrition, i.e., oth
decay and gro3th.
Fe egin 3ith 3hat is !ost oservale BB the activities and !otions4 Fhat see!s !ost
ovious aout living things is <in %eo%le> that 3e think, and in other living things that they
%erceive, !ove, and gro3. *or "ristotle the 3ord @!otionA includes change, for e6a!%le
gro3th. These oservale !arks are not the causes, rather only 3hy 3e ordinarily say that
so!e thing is @alive.A
"ristotle lists these !otionsOactivities fro! the to% do3n, in the order of nature, the
highest one first.
,)+a'IB'J &or this reason all %lants too are held <dokei) to live, . . .
This follo3s since gro3th 3as one of the oservale !arks for the general o%inion
<dokei> of attriuting @livingA to %lants, ut no3 efore he gets to the 3ord @gro3A <elo3>,
"ristotle %uts so!ething ne3 in et3een4
,)+a'JB'1 for they evidently have in the! such a potentiality and first
, IIB'
principle% <ct u q> through which they co!e to
grow and decay in o%%osite directions.
*or they do not gro3 u%3ards 3ithout gro3ing do3n3ards,
/o3, for the first ti!e, 3e hear of a %otentiality, i.e. a %o3er <dnamis) and internal
@%rinci%leA <arche>, the starting %oint or origin, the source of the !otion <in Latin the @efficient
,)+a'1B+) ut they gro3 in oth directions alike and in every direction . . .
and continue to live% as long as they are ale to receive
"hat they grow is oservale. Fe also easily oserve that they gro3 in all directions,
i.e., not like stones that only fall do3n or fire and s!oke that !ove only u%. " child can oserve
But the cause of gro3th is also oservale, although this re:uires relating so!e
oservations and arriving at an understanding. Usually the child has to e sho3n4 -ee, they
gro3 only Las long as they are able to receive nourishmentL. They die if they don5t get 3ater
or the soil gets e6hausted. That is a !ore refined oservation and an understanding <nous>.
"ristotle is often !isunderstood as if his @internal %rinci%les of !otionA 3ere
unoservale and unnecessary. In one fa!ous !isunderstanding, "ristotle5s internal %rinci%les
3ere ridiculed as if they 3ere like saying that 3e slee% ecause there is in us a @dor!itive
%rinci%le.A The %oint 3as that @dor!itive %rinci%leA 3ould add nothing to 3hat 3e kno3 aout
slee%. But notice that asor%tion of food adds the cause to 3hat 3e kno3 fro! oserving
gro3th. "nd 3hile the @dor!itive %rinci%leA added nothing oservale in addition to slee%, foodB
asor%tion is oservale a%art fro! gro3th. <In IIB, he 3ill say !ore aout it.> In "ristotle5s
e6a!%le, the !ean %ro%ortional line, once found, is 7ust as observable as any other line. But
it has to e found through a relation et3een the lines that 3ere there. -i!ilarly, to oserve
foodBasor%tion as the cause, one has to notice the relation4 It gro3s only as long as it
asors 3ater and food. It 3ithers 3hen it doesn5t.
?o3ever, once 3e gras% the cause, the ter!s are no longer se%arate. Fe have
,rasped the @3hat it isA of a single for!, the nutritive soul.
-EE E/D/8TE =
" cause like this nutritive soulB%o3er is 3hat is called a @!iddle ter!EA it has the role
3hich he de!anded in the o%ening analogy. Fe don#t define %lants as alive only ecause they
gro3. @ ;ather, 3e say that they are @aliveA ecause they take in food and 3ater, and taking in
food and 3ater causes the! to gro3.

,)+a+)B+' This can exist apart from the others,
ut the others cannot exist apart from it
in mortal beings.
!** *+,+-"* 2. -+ 'M-"AL #*I+?!(
,)+a+'B,)+' This is ovious in the case of %lantsE for they have no other
%otentiality of soul.
This kind of @e6isting a%art fro!A is the first kind of Kse%arateK4 In this 3ay 3e can say
that the soul has @%arts.A /utrition can exist apart from other soulB%arts ecause 3e oserve
that %lants have nutrition 3ithout <, occur se%arately fro!> the other %o3ers for the
lifeBactivities on our list. But the other soulB%o3ers are not found se%arately fro! this one.
,)+'B, It is, then, ecause of this first %rinci%le that living things have life.
But it is first because of sensing that they are ani!al,
for even those things 3hich do not !ove and change their %lace,
ut 3hich do have senseB%erce%tion, 3e s%eak of as ani!als
and not !erely as living.
"ni!als that sense ut don5t have loco!otion are i!%ortant to "ristotle throughout.
?ere they sho3 that sense can e6ist 3ithout loco!otion. These ani!als <for e6a!%le s%onges>
re!ain al3ays in one s%ot, ut dra3 ack if touched.
Fe classify the! as ani!al @firstA <et> ecause of sensing. ?ere 3e see 3hat he is
doing4 giving the %ro6i!ate or first !iddleBter! or cause for each ne3 ascri%tion. 8f course a
creature that senses !ay also have loco!otion, ut loco!otion is not the immediate cause for
attriuting @ani!al. '&or( 3e s%eak of so!e 3ho stay in one %lace also as @ani!als,A if they
have sensation. -o sensation is the first attriute that !akes a living thing an ani!al.
,)+,B2 &irst of all in %erce%tion all ani!als have touch.
Just as the nutritive faculty <threptikon> can e6ist a%art fro!
touch and fro! all senseB%erce%tion,
so touch can e6ist a%art fro! the other senses.
?e does within sensation e6actly 3hat he 9ust did to living4 8ne sense can e found
3ithout the other four. -o this is the one ecause of 3hich 3e first and proximately say
so!ething has sensation and is therefore an ani!al.
"s so often, he does it y a %ro%ortion, @9ust as . . . , so . . . '4
"ristotle has a ne3 3ord here for @nutritive faculty,A i.e., soul)power <threptikon,
t>. "his is a new term% first mentioned here. By adding @konA or @koA the 3ord co!es
to !ean an activeBagent. In English 3e !ight say the @nutri7er. A
+ow he explains his new term8 it is a soul)part8
,)+2B1 Fe s%eak of as the nutri7er that part of the soul in 3hich even
%lants shareE
all ani!als clearly have the toucher <haptikon, uto, the faculty
of touch>.
These are %o3ers, %arts of the soul. ?e e6%lains his ne3 ter! , the nutri7er, 3hich he
derived aove> and no3 also the sa!e kind of ter! for touch, the tocher, that 3hich does it.
?e derived it fro! the %ro%ortion <@9ust asA> in the %revious line.
,)+1B)( The reason for this 3e shall state later.
IIB' 2
?e !eans the reason 3hy ani!als have sensation and 3hy so!e ani!als have only
touch and lack the other senses. ?e gives these reasons at the end of the ook in IIIB)' and IIIB
,)+))B)+ *or the %resent let it e enough to say only that
the soul is the source <arche) of those !entioned aove,
and is defined y the! B
the nutri:er% perceiver% thinker% and by movement.
t, lt, t,
@ThinkerA here is dianoetikon, the !ortal %art of the nous soul. Later and also in IIB+
"ristotle several ti!es !entions and distinguishes the eternal directBgras% %art of nous. In
E/D/8TE ++ I co!!ent on dianoetikon.
Fe notice that he did not give loco!otion <kinesis) the for! of @!overA <KK>. In
E/D/8TE +' I e6%lain 3hy.
"he order of this list of soul)powers is also the order of the sections of the De
Anima . <Fe can look ack to his earlier list at )+a'+. It consisted of activities or !otions, not
soul %arts, and it had a different order.>
The soulB%o3ers are usually translated as @faculties.A -tudents rightly ask4 @Fhat does
Aristotle !ean y Rfaculties5GA Fe can use @the faculty of,A if 3e kno3 that "ristotle uses a
singleB3ord e6%ression <nutri7er, toucher> and ho3 he develo%ed these ter!s. They are soulB
%arts, %o3ers, ca%acities, e6%lanations of ho3 it is done, !oving causes.
,)+)+B)J Fhether each of these is a soul or 3hether they are a %art of one
and if a %art, 3hether it is such as to e separate only in
definition <logos) or also in place,
are :uestions . . . 3hich . . . in so!e cases . . . %resent difficulty.
This :uestion is aout two other kinds of separabilityMinseparability different fro! the
= IIB'
one 3e had aove. *or e6a!%le, I can run and I can 9u!%, ut these t3o %o3ers cannot e
se%arated in !e s%atially, although they are very different in definition. But !y students and I
are se%arale oth in definition and in space.
?e ans3ers again 3ith a %ro%ortion4
,I+)JB)1 &or , 7ust as in the case of %lants so!e clearly live 3hen divided
and se%arated fro! each other,
the soul in the! eing one in actuality <entelecheia> in each
plant, though potentially many,
The %lant can e cut into t3o s%atially se%arate things, ut then the soul is 3hole in each
half, since each halfB%ant continues to asor food and 3ater and to gro3. -o the nutritive soulB
%o3er is 'always actually one% and Lpotentially manyL 3hich !eans it can e divided. If you
divide, you get t3o 3hole souls, never actually half a soul.
,)+)1B'' so 3e see this ha%%ening also in other varieties of soul
in the case of insects 3hen they are cut in t3oE
for each of the parts has sense)perception and locomotion
As in %lants, so the soul of each insectBhalf is al3ays one, since each has senseB
%erce%tion and loco!otion. 0ou can oserve each half eing sensitive to your touch and
!oving a3ay.
"s he said in IBI <,)))1B',>, the halves cannot live long ecause he does not assu!e
that each %art can gro3 the %arts it !isses<as %lantBsections gro3 roots>. "lso else3here <8n
Longevity, ,J2a''> he says K*or this reason it lives on only for a short ti!eK ... @ecause the cut
%arts don5t have the necessary organsA <for e6a!%le, the !outh is only in one of the halves>.
The ani!al is sentient all over, 9ust like the %lant is nutrient all over <can gro3 roots.>.
-entience 3orks for ani!als as nutri7ing does for the %lant. Fe see this via "ristotle5s
%ro%ortioning4 @as .. so..A
This 3as still another kind of se%araility4 can e divided, ut each side is not half a soul
ut actually one 3hole soul. The soul has %arts ut these are not se%arale 3ithin a soul.
-enseB%erce%tion and loco!otion are not se%arale in each cut half. They are inse%arale in
IIB' 1
one soul, if the ani!al has oth.
,)+''B'+ and if senseB%erce%tion, then also i!agination and desire.
If a living thing has sensing, then it also has i!agination and desire <ore$is) ut no3 he
3ill give the !iddle ter!s for this assertion. /otice that "ristotle egins this %assage 3ith the
3ord @*or...A
,)+'+B', &or, 3here there is senseB%erce%tion, there is also both pain and
pleasure% and if these, there is of necessity also 3anting.
I!%licit in this %roof is4 @"nd 3anting is a kind of desire,A as he says in IIB+ <,),I> and
IIIB)( <,++a'I>.
Pleasure and %ain constitute a !iddle ter!4 If sensation then %leasure and %ain, and if
%leasure and %ain, then desire. This is a %roof ecause a sensation is inherently %leasant or
%ainful, and a %leasure or a %ain is inherently a desiring <desiring !ore, or desiring not to have>.
This senseB%ainBdesireBitBtoBeBgone is also i!agination. Pleasure and %ain are the !iddle
ter!s also for 3hy senseB%erce%tion inherently involves i!agination, the i!%lied condition of
having !ore of the %leasant sensation or not having the %ainful one. I!agination is the role of a
%otentially sensed condition 3hich does not otain. These are all i!%lied in the single act of
!oving a3ay fro! the %ainful cut.
?ere 3e see why although they are not the sa!e, sense, %leasure and %ain, desire, and
i!agination never exist one 3ithout the othersE they are one thing separable only in function%
i.e.% in definition. They are not different soul %artsE they are %erfor!ed y the sensing soul
,I+',B'2 Concerning nous and the soul)potentiality for contemplation
<t> the situation is not so far clear, ut it see!s to e a
different kind of soul, and this alone can exist separately,
< >, as the everlasting can fro! the %erishale.
)( IIB'
This is still another kind of se%arate BB "ristotle5s main sense of @se%arate,A y 3hich he
!eans se%arate fro! !atter <i.e., fro! changeaility>. /otice the 3ord Kas.K To derive this kind
of @se%arate,A "ristotle %ro%ortions it to the 3ay the eternal is se%arate fro! the %erishale.
,)+'2B+' But it is clear fro! these things that the other %arts of the soul are
not se%arale, as so!e sayE
although that they are different in definition <logos) is clear.
*or eing able to %erceive and eing able to o%ine <t>
are different, since %erceiving too is different fro! o%ining and
like3ise 3ith each of the other %arts 3hich have een !entioned.
-ensing al3ays !akes for an o%inion aout 3hat is sensed <ut in ani!als not the kind
of o%inion that is ased on reasoning, as he says in IIIB)), ,+,a)(>.
"ristotle has already sho3n that so!e soul %arts never e6ist a%art fro! each other ut
differ only in definition, i.e., in 3hat they are <sense, %leasure and %ain, and desire>. /o3 he
adds other %o3ers that are se%arate in definition, for e6a!%le the activities of sensing and
o%ining <for!ing o%inions>. -o, the soulB%art that does it <one !ight call this one the @o%inerA>
differs only in definition fro! the %erceiver. "ristotle clai!s here that he has succeeded in
listing all soulB%o3ers that are se%arale either fro! the ody, like nous, or y e6isting in living
things that do not have any further %o3ers. ?e argues that any divisions 3hich have een
%ro%osed y others are se%arale !erely in definition.
!** *+,+-"* 22 -+ KI+,! -& '!*=AA"*( A+, 'I+!*=AA#L*(
-o far 3e have se%arated only !otions and soulB%arts. +ow at last he uses these to
separate and classify the species of the li%in, thin,s 4
,)++'B,),a+ Coreover, so!e living things have all these, others only so!e of
the!, and others again one alone, and
this will furnish distinctions between the living things.
Fhat is the reason for this 3e !ust consider later.
.ery !uch the sa!e is the case 3ith the senses, for so!e living
things have the! all, others only so!e, and others again one only,
the !ost necessary one, touch.
IIB' ))
This kind of classification is so fa!iliar and ovious to us today, that 3e !ay !iss the
%oint. "ristotle is sho3ing ho3 one !ust arrange one5s data. This %art of his !ethod has een
ado%ted y Festern science. If the %ro%erties are classified and arranged in a certain order,
then fro! a single one found so!e3here a scientist can conclude all aout the ani!al. This
kind of one cannot exist without such and such a ty%e of legs 3hich are used only on hard
ground, and can occur only in ani!als that feed on such and such a kind of vegetation. Take
"ristotle5s !ethod of classifying here as an e6a!%le of ho3 to organi7e oservations so as to
eco!e ale to say @" can be found without B, and B 3ithout C, ut C is not found 3ithout "
and B.A
!** *+,+-"* 26 -+ "/* -,* I+ "/* LI!"!
!** *+,+-"* 20 -+ $/< "/* M->I+? CA5!* ,I&&**+"IA"*! "/*
T?E -ECTI8/ 8/ T?E P;88*4
%et me &irst comment on the main premises and the conclsion' ( comment on the parts
in small print later.
,),a,B), is a %roof. The %hrase @that 3hereyA na!es the source of the activity, the
!oving cause. The %roof has t3o %re!ises and a conclusion.
Pre!ise ) "hat whereby <c c > we live and perceive
is s%oken of in t3o 3ays,
"s is that y !eans of 3hich 3e kno3
<3e so s%eak in the one case of kno3ledge,
in the other of soul,
for y !eans of each of these 3e say 3e kno3>.
)' IIB'
-i!ilarly, 3e are healthy
in the first place <t c> y !eans of health <u>
and in the second, <t c> y !eans of a %art of the ody
or even the 3hole.
/o3, of these kno3ledge and health are
)> sha%e and a kind of form and proportion )logos), the activity
<energeia> of
'> the recipient,
in the one case Mthe reci%ient isN that 3hich is ca%ale of kno3ing,
in the other Mthe reci%ient isN that 3hich is ca%ale of health
<for the activity <energeia) of the agent <!aker, poietikon, t> is held
<dokei) to take %lace in that 3hich is affected and dis%osed>.
Pre!ise ' /o3 the soul is primarily <protos) that by means of which 3e
live, %erceive, and think <dianoeisthai)
Conclusion4 /ence the soul will be a kind of logos and form,
and not !atter or su9ect.
0ou can see that the conclusion follo3s %rovided 3e can take @in the first %laceA as
!eaning @%ri!arily.A "reviated, the %roof is4
'"hat whereby( is primarily a form, and secondarily the !atter or reci%ient <of that
The soul is primarily 'that whereby.A
Therefore the soul is a for!.
Now ( comment on the part ( pt in small print*
U/DE; P;ECI-E ) he sho3s t3o 3ays of s%eaking of @that 3hereyA <the !oving
IIB' )+
cause> of living and perceiving. The t3o 3ays of s%eaking are a> 7ust the form, in contrast to
> the whole formed thing. The first e6a!%le is4 @as 3e can say that R3e kno35 either a> 9ust
y !eans of kno3ledge, or > y !eans of the soul.A <This %art of the soul is for!ed y
The second e6a!%le is @as 3e can say 3e are healthy a> y !eans of the healthBfor!,
or > y !eans of the healthy ody.A
Hno3ledge and health are forms and activities. -oul and ody are the recipients
3hich can receive those for!s. The for! is active in 3hat has the for!, since in living things
the for! is form)and)internal)source of motion.
The duality <t3o 3ays of s%eaking>4 either )> the for! alone, or '> the !atterBasBhavingB
thatBfor! <never the !atter alone>. "s usual 3ith "ristotle, the distinction is not et3een soul
and ody, rather the soul alone is distinguished fro! the co!ination of soulBandBody.
-EE E/D/8TE- 8/4
2@ N5*!"I-+! -+ "/* =--&
2A K+-$L*,?* I+ "/* !-5L
2B I! "/* AC"I>* ).2$ =A" -& "/* !-5L I+ "/* *CAM=L* I+ "/* &I!"
2G /*AL"/ A+, "/* =-=-"I-+ -& !-5L A+, #-,<
2I =--& I+ II). C-M=A*, "- =--& I+ II)2
"lso <aove in s!all %rint> "ristotle said aout activity4
,),a))B)' 'for the activity 3 ener,eia! of the agent 3maker% poietikon! is held
3dokei4 to take place in that which is affected and disposed.( "ristotle has e6%lained this in
earlier 3orks. *or e6a!%le, our ha!!ering <a nail in> is the sa!e single activity as the nail
going in <eing ha!!ered in>. It5s one actionE 3here does it ha%%enG *or "ristotle it ha%%ens
in the nail going in. If the nail ends and doesn5t go in, that 3asn5t ha!!eringBin in the strict
sense. 8r, for e6a!%le, teaching ha%%ens in the students. If they don5t learn, %erha%s the
teacher 3as s%eaking, gesturing, 3orking, ut not teaching, and %erha%s the students 3ere
struggling and thinking, ut not learning. Teaching and learning are t3o 3ords for a single
activity, the teachingBha%%eningBinBtheBstudents. "he agents activity is always actuali:ed in
), IIB'
the patient. <Physics IIIB+, '(''(>.
Crucial here is to gras% that there are not t3o activitiesE there is only a single ongoing
activity 3hich ha%%ens in the reci%ient.
Aristotle is saying that the cause by means of which we live and perceive is the
form which is also the moving cause of the internal forming)activity of growing% and of
our activity of perceiving. Fe can say that 3e live and %erceive y !eans of this for!B
!oving cause, or y !eans of the for!BandBody.
!** *+,+-"* 61 -+ "/* !*L&)-?A+IOI+? -& ?-$I+? A+, =*C*I>I+?
,),a),B)1 -ustance is so s%oken of in three 3ays, as 3e have said,
and of these cases one is for!,
another is !atter,
and the third the %roduct of the t3oE and
of these matter is potentiality and form actuality 3 entelecheia 4.
"nd since the product of the two is an ensouled thing%
the ody is not the actuality <entelecheia) of soul, ut
the latter is the actuality of a certain kind of body .
Fe recall that he defined @for!A as @actualityA of t3o kinds, either the %o3er for an
activity or the ongoing activity. The lifeBactivities deter!ine 3hat the ody and its organs have
to e. The ody is generated y the nutritive O re%roductive soulB%o3er 3hich egins as the
living in the e!ryo. This is ho3 activities can e the for! of a for!BandB!atter sustance.
In this cha%ter the order is the reverse of IIB), so 3here IIB) egan is 3here 3e have 9ust
arrived. ?aving egun 3ith oservation, and having defined the different kinds of soul, 3e are
no3 again s%eaking of for! and actuality.
-o 3e should no3 e ale to tell ourselves !ore fully 3hat @actualityA <entelecheia,
co!%leteness) !eans, !ore than 9ust @for!.A Fhen he says @for! is actuality,A 3hat does this
The ans3er is that a living thing5s co!%leteness or actuality is its %o3er for the ongoing
functioning, its various lifeBactivities. In contrast to IIB), here in IIB' each lifeBactivity 3as
se%arately !entioned. "nd as 3e sa3 in IIB), 3hat "ristotle calls @firstBste% actuality,A i.e., the
soul, is the co!%letenessBfor! of the ody and also the %otentiality or %o3er for the activity.
,),a)1B'= "nd for this reason those have the right conce%tion 3ho hold
<dokei> that the soul does not e6ist 3ithout a ody
and yet is not itself a kind of ody.
&or it. . . e6ists in a . . . ody of such and such a kind.
/ot as our %redecessors su%%osed, 3hen they fitted it to . . . <9ust
any kind of> ody . . .
it is clear that one chance thing does not receive another.
Those 3ho thought that any kind of soul could e in any kind of ody or any kind of
!atter didn5t understand that the soul is the for!BandB!oving cause of the ody, i.e., of the
In our 3ay it ha%%ens in accord 3ith reason <logos)
&or the actuality <entelecheia ) of each thing comes about
in that which is already such %otentially and in its %ro%er !atter
<tq l iq>.
The %hrase @co!es aoutA no3 states in ter!s of the generative !ovingBcause 3hat he
said in IIB) in ter!s of the for! alone, that the actuality is one 3ith that of 3hich it is the actuality
<co!%letion>. -o, of course the soul couldn5t e in any other kind of ody than the kind of 3hich
it is the generating and the actuality <the co!%leteness>.
"ristotle concludes fro! the argu!ent that the 3hole living <for!ed> ody co!es aout
together 3ith the activities it can enact. Each living creature5s functional activities create or
deter!ine the !atter of their odies. It is an error to translate this as @a%%ro%riate !atterA 3here
I have @%ro%erA aove. @"%%ro%riate !atterA sounds as though the ones could e !ade of any
hard !atter, and the skin of any %liale !atter. 'Any appropriate matter( can be used in
artificial things% but to say this about living things would be like saying that /2- can be
the formula of any appropriate matter. It is %recisely "ristotle5s argu!ent here and
throughout, that the soul is the for!al and !oving cause of <and in> its kind of ody. ;ight here
he is %ointing out the inherent connection 3hich he has defined. The ody of each living thing is
its o3n <as it 3ere @ho!eB!adeA> !atter, the !atter of 3hich the soul is the co!%letion and
-o he concludes4
*ro! all this it is clear that the soul is a kind of actuality
<entelecheia) and %rinci%le <logos) of that which has the
potentiality to be such.
The last %art of the last sentence is already continuous 3ith the ne6t cha%ter, IIIB+, 3hich
is aout @that which( has the %otentiality to e such, i.e. !atter, the ody.
IIB+ )
"fter IIB) on the for!al cause and IIB' on the efficient cause, this is the cha%ter on the
!aterial cause.
The cha%ter has t3o %arts4
U% to ,),'(4
Desire <a%%etitive, ore6is> 3as not listed efore ecause each soulB%o3er in IIB' could
e found in so!e living things 3ithout the rest of the soulB%o3ers on the list. ?ere in IIB+ desire
is listed. In this list the soulB%o3ers need not occur se%arately.
The ne6t on the list may reorgani:e the previous. In ani!als sensation is not 9ust
added to the 3ay nutrition e6ists in %lants. ;ather, in ani!als nutrition is reBorgani7ed y
sensation. "ristotle says e6actly ho3 ani!al nutrition 3orks %artly y !eans of sensation.
*ro! ,),'(4
In the second %art of the cha%ter "ristotle dra3s an analogy et3een the series of soul
%arts and the series of figures <triangle, :uadrilateral, %entagon> to sho3 3hy there has to e a
different account of the soul <the kind of ody> 3hen another soulB%art is added.
"ristotle continues fro! the last sentence of IIB' aout these %o3ers.
,),a'1B,),) 8f the %otentialities 3hich have een !entioned, so!e living
things have the! all, as 3e have said, others so!e of the!, and
so!e only one. The %otentialities 3hich 3e !entioned are
nutri:er% desirer% perceiver% mover% and thinker <to,
oto, lto, to t to, to>. Plants
have the nutri7er onlyE
others have oth this and the %erceiver.
Desire 3as mentioned in IIB' <,)+''>, ut it 3as not in the lists of soulB%o3ers,
' IIB+
ecause desire does not e6ist 3ithout sensation. The order in IIB' 3as @" can e6ist 3ithout
BCDE. B doesn5t e6ist 3ithout ", ut can e6ist 3ithout CDE. In contrast, in the list here in IIB+
the order is 4 If the living thing has E, it 3ill also have DCB". E presupposes D and C and B
and ". Po3ers not listed in IIB' !ight no3 e listed, if they are al3ays there if E is there, even
if they cannot occur 3ithout E.
The ca%acity for desire <the a%%etitive, orektikon, oto> co!es in the list before
sensation. In so!e !anuscri%ts it has een %laced after sensation. I co!!ent on this in
E/D/8TE +) after his long %roofs aout it. "t any rate, in the ne6t line he turns to %rove that @if it
has sensation then also desire.A
This list also differs fro! those in IIB' ecause the %o3er for thought <dianoetikon, not
nous> 3as never the last one. ?ere it co!es last ecause it %resu%%oses all the others. If a
living thing has the soulB%o3er for thought <dianoetikon>, it also has all the others. Fhat is
listed earlier is presupposed y the later ones.
<?e said earlier that @only in !ortal eingsA does the highest function %resu%%ose the
lo3er ones <,)+a+)B+'>. -ee E/D/8TE ').>
The %o3er of loco!otion co!es after sense and before thought since it %resu%%oses
sense, ut so!e living things can !ove although they do not have thinking <dianoia>. But all
those that have thinking can !ove. Loco!otion is not %resu%%osed y sense, since so!e
ani!als do sense ut lack loco!otion.
There are five %o3ers <soul %arts> here. In IIB' there 3ere four, the four %o3ers for the
four se%arale activities. /o3 3e see that one can also define other @%o3ersA ut those do not
have their o3n separable activities. Later <IIIB)( ++a+)> "ristotle says that 3e could define a lot
!ore %o3ers of this sort, 3hich are not defined y se%arale activities. In IIIB)( 3e 3ill see in
3hat res%ect desire has no se%arale activity of its o3n.
,),)B' And if that of senseB%erce%tion, then that of desire alsoE
?e has stated the conclusion, and 3ill no3 %rovide the !iddle ter!s4
,),'BJ for desire co!%rises wanting, %assion, and 3ishing.
All ani!als have at least one of the senses, touch,
and for that 3hich has sense)perception there is oth
IIB+ +
pleasure and pain
and oth that which is pleasant and that which is painful4 <qq
t u t qu t o,>
and 3here there are these, there is also wanting <c>
for this is a desire for that which is pleasant.
"ssure yourself of follo3ing the logical ste%s of this %roof. -i!%lified, they are4
If sense then %leasure and %ain and %leasant and %ainful things
and if %leasure and %ain and %leasant and %ainful things, then epithmia
3hich is a kind of desire for %leasant things.
"herefore4 If sense, then desire.
The conclusion follo3s logically fro! the %re!ises. Let us digress for a !o!ent to see
3hether 3e can agree 3ith the %re!ises. Fhy 3ould sense involve %leasure and %ainG Fhen
there is %leasure or %ain, isn5t it the sensation itself 3hich is %leasant or %ainfulG -o %leasure or
%ain is not so!ething different fro! sensation. The %leasure or %ain is not another thingE rather
it is the sensation itself. -o if you have sensations, the sensations themselves are pleasant
or painful. <"ristotle considers !iddleBrange ones %leasantE e6tre!e ones are %ainful.> -o 3e
can agree or at least understand the first %re!ise @If sensation then %leasure and %ain.A
/o3 the second %re!ise4 If %leasure and %ain then desire. "gain 3e have to ask4 Is
desire so!ething added to %leasure, or is it already %art of %leasureG Isn5t the very sensation of
%leasure already also a 3anting to have it, to kee% it, to have it !oreG "nd %ain already also
the desire not to have itG "gain those aren5t t3o different things. 0ou don5t have 3hat you call
%ain and then think a 3hile aout it and 9udge that you don5t 3ant it. ;ather, %ain is inherently a
sensation that has in it the 3ish not to have it. That5s 3hat @%ainA is. There need not e any
i!age of a different condition, 9ust the inherent desirale or aversive :uality of the %resent
/o3 %lease notice that sense %resu%%oses not only %leasure and %ain ut also @that
which is %leasant or %ainful, i.e., %leasant or %ainful things. #pithmia is <defined as> a desire
for the %leasant things, not 9ust for the %leasure. *or "ristotle sensing is an interaction
et3een the living thing and the real 3orld. ?e doesn5t assu!e that 3e are al3ays right aout
the thing 3e are sensing, <it !ight s!ell s3eet, yet e %oison>, ut 3hen 3e sense so!ething,
, IIB+
this is caused y so!e thing. Fe don5t sense 9ust a sensation, rather al3ays so!e thing.
Pleasure and %ain presuppose desire ecause desiring !ore of a %lesasant thing and less of a
%ainful thing is inherent in 3hat %leasure and %ain are.
/o3 that he has sho3n that sensation involves desiring things, the ne6t %art of the
argu!ent 3ill sho3 3hat these desired things are.
,),J *urther!ore, they have a sense concerned 3ith foodE
for touch is such a senseE Mi.e., a sense for foodNE
?ere he asserts that touch is the sense for a certain kind of thing, na!ely food. "gain
he first states this conclusion, then he %rovides the !iddle ter! for asserting it4
for all living things are nourished y dry and li:uid and hot and
cold things,
and touch is the sense for these
/otice again that "ristotle says e6%licitly that touch is a sense not 9ust for dry and hot ut
for the dry and hot things. q uq t t i ui i i.
The things are defined y their tangile :ualities dryOli:uidOhotOcold. Touch is the sense
for these things. *ood is hotBcoldBli:uidBdry things. -o touch is the sense for food.
,),1B)) and only incidentally for the other o9ects of %erce%tion.
&or% sound and color and smell contribute nothing to
3hile flavor is one of the o9ects of touch.
Fhy does he say thisG Isn5t it ovious that ani!als cannot e nourished 9ust on
sensationsG The %oint is that the ani!als sense the things <food>, not 9ust colors and s!ells.
<In IIBJ and IIIB) and ' he 3ill e6%lain ho3 3e sense things, not 9ust sense for!s.>
-o touch is <essentially in its definition> the sense for food. Touch senses the hotOcold
and the fluidOdry food. In Greek science t3o of these four :ualities defined each of the four
ele!ents. -o the things that are food are !ade of 9ust 3hat the sense of touch senses. <?e 3ill
e6%lain this in IIB)), and did so in De Gen + Cor.) Touch is also <ut not essentially> the sense
for other hot and cold things and for rough and s!ooth, hard and soft things. Fe have no3
seen that the sense for food <its role in nutrition> is touch, so in ter!s of for!al and final causes,
nutrition is prior to touch and defines touch <and sensation, since the other senses
%resu%%ose touch>. /o3 he 3ill add !iddle ter!s to link the sense for food to desire.
,),))B)J ?unger and thirst are for!s of 3anting )epithmia>,
hunger is wanting the dry and hot,
thirst 3anting the li:uid and coldE . . .
for no3 let us say this !uch, that
those living things 3hich have touch also have desire.
?unger and thirst are desires <@3anting,A epithmia) for these tangible things 3hich are
food. -ensation always involves touch 3hich is the sense for the hotBcoldBfluidBdry 3hich are
food for 3hich hunger and thirst are a kind of desire. Therefore sensation al3ays involves
desire. "ristotle links his de!onstrations through 3hat each linking !iddle thing is.
"nother %oint here is i!%ortant for the second half of the cha%ter4 In contrast to %lants,
an ani!al5s nutrition ha%%ens within sensation. "ni!al nutrition 3orks through touch.
"ni!als have to find, sense, select, and contact their food. Let us remember for the
discussion which now follows% that we have seen how animal nutrition no longer works
alone as such. ather% it is now organi:ed partly by the function of the touch sensation.
!** *+,+-"* 6. -+ "/* ,*!I* &- &--, =*!5==-!*, I+ "-5C/
,),)JB)1 The situation 3ith regard to i!agination is oscure and !ust e
considered later.
-o!e ani!als have in addition the faculty of !ove!ent in res%ect
of %lace, and others, e.g. hu!ans and any that are similar or
superior to humans% have that of thought 3 dianoetikon ,
to> and nous.
?e %ost%ones i!agination until IIIB+. It is %resu%%osed <al3ays %resent 3ith> sense as he
said in IIB' <,)+''B',>, ut there are different kinds as IIIB+ and IIIB)) 3ill sho3.
,),'(B') It is clear, then, that one account <logos) of soul is like one
account of figure
?e 3ill sho3 elo3 3hy a single definition or account covering all @figuresA <triangles,
s:uares, %entagons, etc.> is like a single definition of all kinds of soul. -uch a definition is
%ossile ut not e very satisfactory. They are si!ilar, ecause4
,),')B'' for in the for!er case there is no figure over and above the
triangle and the others 3hich follo3 it in order,
nor in the latter case is there soul over and above those
There is no figure in co!!on to figures, only the triangle and :uadrilateral the!selves.
Fhat all figures share is not again a figure. Each is a different %attern, so they have no %attern
in co!!on.
,),'B'I Even in the case of figures there could e %roduced a co!!on
account <logos) 3hich 3ill fit all of the! ut 3hich 3ill not e
%eculiar to any one.
-i!ilarly too 3ith the kinds of soul !entioned.
" co!!on geo!etric definition of the! all 3ould not tell us any of 3hat 3e kno3 aout
triangles, s:uares, or %entagons, etc. -o also4 *ro! 3hat all ty%es of soul have in co!!on 3e
cannot infer the %ro%erties of any soul <or any kind of ody>.
,),'IB'= *or this reason it is foolish to seek oth in these cases and in
others for a common account <logos) 3hich 3ill e a %ro%er
account <logos) of no actually e6isting thing and
IIB+ 2
3ill not corres%ond to the %ro%er indivisile s%ecies,
to the neglect of one which will.
"ristotle does not !ean that a co!!on definition 3ould e foolish. ?e gave an overall
definition in IIB). ?e 3ould surely go ack and cross it out, if he thought that it 3as foolish.
;ather, 3hat is foolish is to neglect seeking the s%ecific definitions for each.
,),'=B+' . . . souls MareN. . . si!ilar to . . . figuresE
for in the case oth of figures and of things 3hich have soul
that which is prior always exists potentially in
what follows in order,
e.g. the triangle in the :uadrilateral on the one hand, and
the nutritive faculty in that of perception on the other.
Fhat does @e6ists %otentially inA !eanG ?e says this is ho3 the nutritive %o3er is 'in(
the %o3er of %erce%tion, ut 3hat does @inA !ean hereG Fe sa3 aove that the nutritive %o3er
in ani!als ha%%ens only through sensation <touch>. <Taste is a kind of touch as he said aove
<,),=> and later e6%lains <,''a=B)(>. "ni!als do of course have the nutritive faculty, ut ho3
it acts is no3 %art of the sensing activity <touch>.
This is like the order of figures in that 3hen a side is added to the triangle, this is a new
shape% not a triangle with a fourth line sticking out. But then, KinK the :uadrilateral, 3here is
the triangleG The :uadrilateral does have the three sides 3e 3ould need to !ake a triangle, ut
it doesn#t have an actual triangle. There can e triangles, if 3e dra3 a diagonal. Then 3e see
t3o triangles 3hich are LpotentiallyL in that sa!e s%ace 3hich is actually %atterned y the
/o3 3e need to recall that the soul is the active organi7ation or %atterning of the ody.
-o there is no single %attern of living odies.
/otice that he is no3 s%eaking of the living bodies, not 9ust the soulB%o3ers. ?e says
<,),+(> K... figures and things which have soul ...K
In ani!als the lo3erBorder %o3er is still there, ut not as it 3as 3hen it 3as alone.
Fhen nutrition 3as alone in %lants, it %atterned the 3hole %lantBody. +ow sensation 3the
next)higher one4 patterns the whole body <IIB), ,)''+B'I>, and nutritioin <the lo3er one> is
= IIB+
only %otentially thereE it is changed. /o3 it does not actually %attern the ani!al ody.
The sensingBsoul is not !erely added to nutritionE rather it reorgani7es nutrition and the
3hole ody. "n ani!al is a different kindBofBody. The sensitive function as for!Bof the ody
differs fro! the %lants, so that different properties follow fro! their definitions, 9ust as
different %ro%erties follo3 fro! the definition of threeBsided and fourBsided figures.
0ou can see it y this error4 -u%%ose 3e say4 @Professors are hu!an, hu!ans think, and
this %resu%%oses sensation. -ince all living things that have sensation are ani!als, therefore
%rofessors are ani!als. That 3ould e right. But su%%ose 3e continue in the very sa!e 3ay4
@"ny eing that has sensation !ust also have nutrition, and 3hat has nutrition is a %lant,
therefore %rofessors are %lants.A Fhy is this 3rongG
There is still the nutritive activityE food is asored and turned into the ody5s for!, ut
that 3hich can do it <the nutritive soulB%o3er> is not the for!Bof the ani!al ody. *ro! %lant to
ani!al the odyBorgani7ation changes. Instead of roots there is a !outh 3ith taste uds, and
there is touchBsensation all over. There are also se6ual organs for re%roducing. But fro!
ani!al to hu!an this doesn5t change.
Nuadrilaterals have totally different laws than triangles. Their angles don#t add u% to
)=(. Their area can e co!%uted y !ulti%licating t3o sides. The %ro%erties of triangles do not
a%%ly to the!. -o the t3o %otential triangles are not the :uadrilateral, e6ce%t !aterially, in the
sa!e s%ace.
*igures have no useful co!!on set of %ro%ertiesE neither do souls. The co!!onalities
3ould not e the for!s of any ody. ;ather, all the properties 3e learn in geo!etry are
peculiar either to triangles or to fourBsided figures, and the %ro%erties 3e 3ant to derive of soul
are %eculiar either to %lants or to ani!als.
Fe recall that he said in advance <Book IB), ,(+a)> that a single treat!ent covering all
the kinds of soul in one definition 3ill e @dialectical and to no %ur%ose if the %ro%erties of living
things are not de!onstrale fro! it.A Fe need definitions fro! 3hich the %ro%erties follo3. Fe
need to define each kind of soul <i.e. for!BofBody> 9ust as 3e define each figure y its ne3
%attern. Plants and ani!als are each one organi7ation BB one unity, one body)organi:ation%
which means it has only one soul.
/ence 3e !ust in:uire in each case
3hat is the soul of each thing, 3hat is that of a %lant, and 3hat is
that of a hu!an or a east.
IIB+ 1
?ere he s%eaks of the soul of s%ecifically a %lant, a hu!an, or an ani!al. -ne soul
organi:es one body)organi:ation. " soul !ay have several activities and %o3ers, i.e.
@%arts,A ut only one of the! organi7es the 3hole ody.
Let us see 3hich nu!ers a%%ly to the different ite!s 3e had4
) "here is one soul in each living thing S one function is the one that organi7es
the ody. " figure is organi7ed either as a triangle or as a :uadrilateral, never oth. The soul
is a unity in any living thing in an analogous 3ay. The ody of a living thing !ust e either a
%lant ody organi7ed all over y nutrition, or an ani!al ody organi7ed all over y sensation.
' "wo kinds of body)organi:ation e6ist, %lants %atterned y nutrition, and
ani!als %atterned y sensation.
The reorgani7ation does not ha%%en 3hen touch has other senses added to it, nor
et3een ani!als and hu!ans. Fhy understanding is not a for!BofBody is taken u% later.
+ "hree ob7ects <three kinds of @for!A>4 a> the ody5s for! into 3hich nutrition
turns the foodE > the senseBfor!s <colors, s!ells, etc.> and c> the thoughtBfor!s.
Loco!otion ai!s at an o9ect fro! sense andOor fro! thought. It has no other o9ect of
its o3n. There are only three kinds of o9ects.
, &our soul)powers)for)activities8 nutri7ing, sensing, understanding, and
loco!otion. </utri7ing is really t3o 3orks, as 3e 3ill see.> The four sections of the De "ni!a
concern the four soulB%o3ersBforBactivities.
I &ive soul)powers are listed in IIB+, desire <the a%%etitive> eing the one added.
Later he says that one can define and add !any such %o3ers. Desire is al3ays only %otential,
as he 3ill e6%lain later. -ee endnote ),I.
)( IIB+
!** *+,+-"* 62 -+ +5M#*!
,)Ia)B2 *or 3ithout the nutri7er there does not e6ist the %erceiverE
ut the nutri7er is found a%art fro! the %erceiver in %lants. "gain,
3ithout the toucher none of the other senses e6ists,
ut touch e6ists 3ithout the othersE for !any ani!als have neither
sight nor hearing nor sense of s!ell.
"nd of those 3hich have the %erceiver, so!e have the !over
<to> in res%ect of %lace 3hile others have not. *inally and
!ost rarely, they have reason <logismos) and thought <dianoia)
/o3 he %uts IIB' and IIB+ together. ?e uses oth Kthis can e6ist 3ithout thatK and Kif that,
then thisK <is %resu%%osed>.
,)Ia2B)' for those %erishale M!ortalN living things 3hich have reason
<logismos) have all the rest, ut not all those 3hich have each of
the others have reason. #ut so!e do not even have i!agination,
3hile others live y this alone.
"he contemplative nous <i to> re9uires a separate
discussion <logos).
?e says again that nous re:uires an entirely different discussion than
logis!os and dianoia. Fe sa3 this difference in Book I, cha%ter ,, and 3e 3ill e noting
it right through the De Anima.
!** *+,+-"* 66 -+ ,IA+-*"IK-+
,)Ia)'B)+ That the account <logos) therefore, a%%ro%riate for each of these is
!ost a%%ro%riate for the soul also is clear.
The last sentence#s conclusion holds for the 3hole De Anima* fro! no3 on. Fe do not
IIB+ ))
hear anything further aout defining Kthe soulK, rather each of the various soulB%o3ers is defined
in turn.
IIB, )
The cha%ter can e divided into t3o sections4
U% to ,)I'=4
In the first %aragra%h "ristotle says that %o3ers <faculties, i.e., ca%acities, i.e., soulB%arts
each a @koA> are defined y the activities, and he says that activities are defined y their o9ects.
"ristotle egins 3ith the %o3er of nutri7ing. Later in the cha%ter he e6%lains nutri7ing and
re%roducing, and then discusses its o9ect.
This is the cha%ter on the final cause <after IIB) for!al, IIB' efficient, IIB+ !aterial cause>.
The final cause organi7es the other three.
"ristotle says that there are t3o kinds of final cause. Eternity is one kind of final cause
of all of nature including the soul, 3hile the soul is itself the other kind of final cause. The soul is
the cause <or e6%lanation> of the living thing in three 3ays4 final, for!al, and efficient.
"s the efficient cause the soul is the source of three ty%es of !otion or change4 The third
kind is gro3th.
*;8C ,'I'=
Gro3th is then the to%ic for a long 3hile. "ristotle sho3s 3hat is lacking in the %hysical
reductionist e6%lanations 3hich o!it the selfBorgani7ing of living things <the soul>, therey
sho3ing !ore %recisely 3hat the soul does. ?e distinguishes the living kind of gro3th fro! ho3
a %ile of ele!ents can @gro3,A and ho3 fire @feedsA and @gro3s.A 8nly after that does he
actually discuss the o9ect4 food. The food is different fro! the living ody efore digestion, ut
after digestion the food has the sa!e for! as the ody.
"ristotle continues fro! the end of IIB+4
,IIaI,. "nyone 3ho is going to engage in in:uiry aout these MsoulB
%o3ersN. . . . MTELT -?8;TE/ED "T T?E D8T-N
,)Ia)JB'( . . . But if 3e !ust say what each of them is% e.g.% 3hat is the
' IIB,
faculty of understanding <noetikon) or of %erce%tion or of nutrition,
3e !ust again first say 3hat thinking and %erceiving areE
<ot ct tc t t i t t l>
for activities <energeia, cc> and actions <> are, in
res%ect of an account <logos, o>, %rior to their %otentialities.
" ca%acity <%o3er, %otentiality, soulB%art> is al3ays the ca%acity for so!e activity. "s I
said earlier, if you clai! to have a s%ecial ca%acity, 3e 3ould ask you @a ca%acity for doing
3hatGA Ca%acities are defined y activities.
,)Ia'(B'' "nd . . . %rior to Mthe activitiesN 3e should have considered first
their correlative o9ects <t>. . .
e.g. aout food and the ob7ects of perception and thought
< t lti ti>.
"ctivities are defined y their o9ects. *or e6a!%le, if you clai! that you are engaged in
sensing, 3e 3ould ask you what you are sensing. If nothing, then you aren5t really sensing. If
the @o9ect@ you are sensing is sound, then you are hearing. If the o9ect is color, you are
seeing. *or "ristotle the form of the ob7ect is also the defining form of the activity. In
3hat "ristotle calls @the order of natureA the o9ect 3e eat, sense, or think deter!ines 3hat the
activity is. But 3hen 3e first study so!ething, 3e co!e to kno3 things in the o%%osite order,
@the order of discovery.A In our %assage here "ristotle %resents oth orders at once. ?e tells us
both that o9ects define activities 3hich define %o3ers, and also that we are no3 going to !ove
from the discussion of %o3ers to the discussion of activity, and 3ill later in the cha%ter consider
its o9ect <food>. ?e tells us fro! the start that food is the o9ect, ut 3e really discuss it only in
the second half of the cha%ter <fro! ,)Ja)1 on>. Later in the ook 3hen he discusses sensing,
he 3ill again egin fro! %o3er and !ove to activity in IIBI, and then the senseBo9ects in IIBJ.
/o3 let us look over this first %aragra%h, and notice4 There are three %o3ers <soulB%arts,
kos>, and three o9ects as 3e 3ould e6%ect. <*or 3hy three, see !y co!!entary on IIB+ under
@/UCBE;-A>. But 3hy are only two activities <thinking and %erceiving> !entionedG The
nutri7er is !entioned as one of three powers, 3hy not three activitiesG ?e tells us 3hy
IIB, +
,)Ia'' /ence, 3e !ust first s%eak aout nourish!ent and re%roductionE
for the nutritive soul <threptike psche, tq q> elongs
also to the other living things and is . . .
the power <dnamis) of the soul in virtue of 3hich they all have
Its functions <3orksE erga) are
reproduction and the use of food.
The nutritive %o3er, instead of enacting one activity <energeia) enacts two @3orksA <or
functions, erga>, re%roduction and the asor%tion of food.
*+,+-"* 60)6@ A" 0.@a20 +*I"/* -+* AC"I>I"< +- "$-
/o3 that he has !entioned <not yet discussed> the re%roductive function of the nutritive
soul, he can e6%lain the first kind of final cause.
,)Ia'JB,)I' for it is the !ost natural 3ork in living things . . .
to %roduce another thing like the!selves . . .
in order that they !ay %artake <tc> of the everlasting and
divine in so far as they canE
for all desire that,
and for the sake of that they do whatever they do
in accordance with nature.
Even %lants @desireA <oregetai> in this res%ect, and for the sake of this they do everything
natural that they do.
*+,+-"* 6A -+ .@b. -+ $/*"/* =LA+"! ,*!I*
,)I'B+ <But that for the sake of 3hich is t3ofold B
, IIB,
the for which <to t u>, and the by which <t >.
In Greek he na!es the t3o kinds of final cause only y these t3o %re%ositions, so 3e
!ust let hi! sho3 us 3hat he !eans. I 3ill co!%are the! at ,)I)1 3here he re%eats the!.
?ere let us e6a!ine 9ust the first kind.
Please notice that it is the living things the!selves 3hich do all they do for the sake of
this. They arrange themselves in relation to eternityE they are not arranged y it.
I can %rovide an analogy4 Fe can say that fairness <or 9ustice> @causesA !uch of our
ehavior, although fairness itself does not do anything. It is rather we 3ho try to e fair. The
9udge 3orks to devise a fair 9udg!ent in a uni:ue situation. Xustice doesn5t already contain a
9ust 3ay to deal 3ith the contested %ro%erty in a given court case. ;ather, 9ustice is 3hat the
9udge aims at. Xustice is the final cause in this first sense of 'final cause.( It does not !ove,
yet causes other things to !ove in certain 3ays. But this is only my e6a!%le, although one 3ell
kno3n in ancient Greece.
"ristotle usually interrelates final and efficient causes in this 3ay. The final cause !oves
things y eing desired, 3hile the efficient cause <the source of the !otion> is in the things that
move. ?ere he says aout the living things in nature that they !ove to3ard eternity, 9ust as 3e
!ove to3ard an o9ect of desire. The desired thing need not !ove. 8ur desire %rovides the
!otion. /ature ai!s at eternity. This is the first of the t3o kinds of final cause.
,)I+B2 -ince, then, they cannot share <i> in the everlasting and
divine y continuous e6istence, ecause no %erishale thing can
%ersist nu!erically one and the sa!e,
they share <!etechein, tc> in the! in so far as each can,
so!e !ore and so!e lessE
and what persists is not the thing itself ut something like itself,
not one in nu!er ut one in s%ecies.
Fhat %ersists is not the s%ecies ut al3ays again another individual. "ristotle says that
the s%eciesBfor! does not e6ist as suchE it e6ists only in the !ind of so!eone or in the %articular
things, i.e. in the successive individuals. The living things do %artake <!ete6ein, tc> of
eternity B to the e6tent they can.
T?E P;88*-
,)I=B)' The soul is the cause and source of the living ody.
But these Mcause and sourceN are so s%oken of in !any 3ays, and
si!ilarly the soul is cause in the three ways distinguishedE
for the soul is itself the cause
as that from which the movement is derived,
as that for the sake of which it occurs, and
as the substance <ousia> of odies 3hich are ensouled.
The soul is the cause of the ensouled body in three 3ays. This 3ill no3 e sho3n.
"ristotle5s four @causesA are four kinds of e6%lanations, four kinds of ans3ers to the :uestion
@3hyGA <-ee IB) for a discussion of the!.> The soul is the cause of the ody in all 3ays e6ce%t
for the !aterial cause.
,II I '. That it is so as sustance is clearE
for sustance is the cause of being in all things,
and for living things it is living that is eing <>,
and the cause and source of this MlivingN is the soul.
*urther!ore, the actuality <entelecheia> is the %rinci%le <logos>
of that 3hich is such %otentially.
?ere is a si!%lified version of the %roof4
sustance is the cause of being in all things
in living things their being is living
soul is cause of living
"herefore soul is the sustance <for!al cause> of living things.
Both @eingA and KlivingK serve as !iddles.
,)I)IB)= "nd it is clear that
the soul is cause also as that for the sake of which.
&or 7ust as nous makes <poiein) for the sake of so!ething
/ous :ua activity !akes for the sake of nous :ua the good.
-EE T?E L"-T P";T 8* E/D/8TE +2 8/ T?E TF8 HI/D- 8* *I/"L C"U-E-
in the same way also does nature,
and this so!ething is its end <telos) . .
/ous needs to e se%arated fro! the rest of the %roof ecause nous is not the for! of
the living thing. /ous is not %art of 3hat "ristotle calls @natureA )Physics IIB)>. /or is nous a
nature )phsis). " nature is the for!BandBinternalBsource of !otion in a ody. "nd, nous is not
a telos, i.e. not the for! of a ody 3hich gro3ing co!%letes. Therefore nous has to e
!entioned se%arately, and "ristotle says that nature !akes like nous !akes.
"ristotle 3rote a long 3ork on the !aterial %rocesses of re%roduction and
gro3th<Generation o& Animals>. In the De Anima he is concerned 3ith the functioning 3hich
deter!ines 3hat those !echanics have to e. ?e oserves a %attern of develo%!ent fro! an
e!ryo to a co!%lete for!. In the Physics <IIB=> he says @Fhen a thing is %roduced y nature, the
earlier and successive stages lead u% to the finished develo%!ent in the sa!e 3ay as in art .. for the relation of
antecedent to conse:uent is identical in art and in nature.A <)11a)(B'(>. "ristotle5s iological @teleologyA has
een 3idely !isinter%reted. *or "ristotle the telos of a living thing is not so!ething !ysterious,
not so!ething in 3hich 3e !ay or !ay not elieve. ;ather, 3e oserve that each living thing
has its !ature for!, its natural li!it, its @co!%letion.A Fe kno3 that the child 3on5t gro3 a third
IIB, 2
set of teeth, nor gro3 = feet high, and so 3ith every other creature. It has its o3n co!%lete for!
and its li!its fro! inside itself This is its co!%letion or @endA 3hich its gro3th ai!s at and
,)I)2B') of this sort Man endN is the soul in living things according to
for, all natural odies are instru!ents for the soul . . .
sho3ing that they Mthe natural odiesN e6ist for the sake of soul.
But @that for the sake of 3hichA is so s%oken of in t3o 3ays,
for which and by which.
<tt c t u c, to t u t .>
The soul uses natural odies <food> for the sake of achieving gro3th into the co!%lete
for! of the ody, i.e. into the soulBasBfor!Bof the co!%lete ody.
The for)the)sake)of)which is an end <telos, the !atured for!)
/atural odies are tools for the soul, sho3ing that the soul is an end <co!%letion>
Therefore the soul is the forBtheBsakeBofB3hich.
The t3o kinds of final cause can e distinguished right here. In !aking the ody, the
soul5s o3n activity ai!s at eternity, the final cause of the soul, ut since it uses the natural
odies <the ele!ents, food> to !ake the ody, and since the soul also is the !ature for! of the
ody, the soul is itself a final cause of the natural odies 3hich the soul uses to generate the
co!%lete for!BofBody. "ristotle called this second kind of final cause the @by which( <t > the
3ork is done. ?ere 3e can see ho3 the t3o kinds of final cause differ4 The natural odies do
not act to aim at the soul, as the soul acts to ai! at eternity. The food doesn5t ai! at eing
eatenE iron and 3ood do not !ove the!selves into an a6e. Earlier 3e had 'for which,( <to t
u>, the kind of final cause that is ai!ed at ut does not itself !ove. /o3 3e 9ust sa3 the kind
he calls @by which,A the kind 3hich does the 3ork itself.
= IIB,
The soul ai!s at eternity. But it is itself the !aker y 3hich the co!%letion is achieved.
Eternity "nalogously to soul
soul natural odies
In this relationshi%s et3een the t3o kinds of final cause, the soul is the !iddle ter!.
!** *+,+-"* 6B% .@b.I -+ "$- KI+,! -& &I+AL CA5!*
The efficient cause is the source of three kinds of @!otion.A "ristotle uses the 3ord
@!otionA <kinesis> to include @change.A ?ere he 3ill cite his three kinds of !otion4 change of
%lace, :ualitative change, :uantitative change.
,)I') ) Coreover, the soul is also that fro! 3hich change of place is first
ut not all living things have this %otentiality.
' Alteration and growth also occur in virtue of soulE
for %erce%tion is held to e <dokei> a kind of alteration,
and nothing perceives which does not partake of soul.
+ "nd the situation is si!ilar 3ith gro3th and decayE
for nothing decays or grows naturally unless it is nourished%
and nothing is nourished 3hich does not share in life.
?ere is an outline of %roofs <'> and <+> on the source of the !otion4
sensation is a change in 9uality
sensation only if it has soul
IIB, 1
"herefore soul is cause of this change in :uality
no decay and growth without ,eing &ed )trephomenon)
and no food )trephetai) without sharing living
Msoul is the cause of livingN
"herefore soul is cause of gro3thBdecayBchange
/o3 3e have had these %roofs to sho3 that the soul is the cause <or e6%lanation> of the
@!otionsA <changes> of the living thing. Xust aove <,)I)'B'(> 3e had the %roofs that the soul
is the cause as for! <sustance> and as final cause <that for 3hich>.
*+,+-"* 6G -+ "/* A?5M*+"! &- "/* *&&ICI*+" CA5!*
"ristotle takes the efficient cause u% last, <although in his first listing of the three causes
<,)I)(> he %ut it first>. ?e takes it u% last ecause he 3ill re!ain 3ith this cause through the
rest of the cha%ter. It is the cause of gro3th 3hich he discusses ne6t.
*+,+-"* 6I -+ $/< "/* *&&ICI*+" CA5!* C-M*! LA!" /**.
?e 9ust said Kfor nothing gro3s or decays 3ithout food <,)I'J>,K ut he doesn#t yet
continue 3ith food. Fe are still discussing gro3th, not yet food.
,II '=. E!%edocles did not s%eak 3ell 3hen he added this, that gro3th
takes %lace in %lants, 3hen they root the!selves do3n3ards
ecause earth naturally !oves in this direction, and 3hen they
gro3 u%3ards ecause fire !oves in that 3ay. *or he does not
have a good understanding of u% and do3n
3for up and down are not the same for all things as they are for
the universe, ut the roots of %lants are as the head in ani!als,
if we are to speak of organs as different or the same in virtue
of their functions <ergois>>.
)( IIB,
The for! of the ody is deter!ined y its lifeBactivities. Fe notice that 3e !ust redefine
LupL and LdownL functionally for a ody of organs. -uch a ody does not consist 9ust of
ele!ents defined y their o%%osing u%BorBdo3n !otions. In living things the directions of
!otions are deter!ined y their function 3ithin the ody5s o3n organi7ation. The roots feed the
ody as an ani!al5s head feeds the ody. The !otion of food and 3ater see!s to e u% in
%lants and do3n in us. "s !otions they are o%%osites, ut as deter!ined y functional activity
they are the sa!e.
,)JaI In addition to this, 3hat is it that holds together the fire and
the earth, given that they tend in o%%osite directionsG *or they
3ill e torn a%art, unless so!ething %revents the!E ut if there
is, then this is the soul and the cause of gro3th and nourish!ent.
"ristotle defines a !otion y its direction and end%oint. Earth and 3ater !ove to3ard
the center of the earth 3hich is @do3n.A *ire and air !ove @u%.A -o a %lant 3ould co!e a%art if
the ele!ents !oved in their o3n different directions. But the !atter of the %lant has functionally
deter!ined !otions. -ince the ele!ents don5t %ull a%art, there is so!e further organi7ation <the
soul, the %o3er for life activities 3hich is also the kind of !atter> 3hich is the internal cause of
the !otions and changes in the ody.
*+,+-"* 01 -+ /-L,I+? "/* *L*M*+"! "-?*"/*
,)Ja1B)=. -o!e think that it is the nature of fire 3hich is the cause :uite
si!%ly of nourish!ent and gro3thE for it a%%ears that it alone of
odies Mor ele!entsN is nourished and gro3s. *or this reason one
!ight su%%ose that in oth %lants and ani!als it is this 3hich does
the 3ork.
It is in a 3ay a contriutory cause, ut not the cause si!%lyE
rather it is the soul 3hich is this. *or the gro3th of fire is unli!ited
3hile there is so!ething to e urnt, ut in all things 3hich are
naturally constituted there is a limit and a proportion oth for
si7e and for gro3thE and these belong to soul% but not to fire,
and to %rinci%les rather than to !atter.
IIB, ))
t ct c o c t q titc , '
o, o u q i.
Fe can see that living things differ fro! fire ecause they have certain %ro%ortions and
li!its 3hich fire lacks. Unlike fire, gro3th sto%s 3hen the living thing5s o3n %ro%ortions are
reached. "lso at any one ti!e the living thing5s feeding sto%s at a certain %oint, sho3ing that it
has its o3n organi7ation and li!its. In contrast, fire doesn5t sto% @feedingA as long as there is
3ood. " !erely reductive e6%lanation in ter!s of che!istry doesn5t get at the further
organi7ation 3hich every living thing sho3s.
"ristotle thinks that heat <as in fire> is a contriutory cause to digestion. ?e is al3ays
concerned 3ith the !otions and che!ical %rocesses involved in living activities. ?is e6%lanation
of living %rocesses is never only in functional ter!s. But he 3ants to sho3 that the !otions
and che!ical changes are further organi7ed y the functional activities of living. This
overarching organi7ing is the to%ic of the De Anima.
,)Ja)1B') -ince it is the same power of the soul 3hich is nutritive and
reproductive, 3e !ust first deter!ine the facts aout food;
for it <the one soul %o3er> is distinguished fro! the other %o3ers
y this 3ork <function, ergon, c>.
In act, se6, %regnancy and irth are not the sa!e as the asor%tion of food. Therefore
they are not one activity. In Generation o& Animals 2,(+(B+= "ristotle sho3s in !ore detail
that, although it is the sa!e %o3er, the genesis of the fetus y the %arents is a different @workA
than its o3n later gro3th. But then, 3hy does "ristotle say that oth are enacted y one and
the sa!e powerG
"ristotle says that the one %o3er 3hich has the t3o 3orks <or functions, erga> is the
nutri7ing soulB%o3er of asoring food.
+ow at last he moves to the ob7ect 3food4. As we will see% the ob7ect is also the
same for both works. Therefore he 3ill kee% the t3o 3orks together fro! no3 on <as ,)J))
also sho3s>.
*+,+-"* 0. 30.Aa.I)2.4 -+ $/< &--, I! "/* -#J*C" -& *=-,5C"I-+
)' IIB,
,)Ja)1 B ,)Ja+, It is thought that so!ething is food for its contrary, though not in
all cases, ut 3herever contraries receive not only generation
fro! each other ut also gro3thE for !any things co!e to e fro!
each other, ut not all are :uantities, e.g., the healthy co!es to e
fro! the sick.
/ot even those 3hich do receive gro3th fro! each other see! to
constitute food for each other in the sa!e 3ayE but water is food
for fire% while fire does not feed water.
It seems% then% that it is especially in the simple bodies that
one thing is food% the other the thing fed.
The ele!ent @3aterA included all li:uids. "ristotle is thinking of oil 3hich feeds fire. The
@si!%le odiesA are the four ele!ents, <earth, air, fire, and 3ater>. *or the !o!ent "ristotle
%oses this as a %role!4 -ince oil @feedsA fire ut not vice versa, this does look like the living
kind of feeding. ?e 3ill differentiate this fro! the living feeding activity at ,)Ja+, elo3.
,)Ja'1. But there is a difficulty hereE for so!e say that the like is fed by
like, as is the case 3ith gro3th,
3hile others, as 3e have said, think the reverse, that one thing is
fed by its contrary, since the like is unaffected y like
3hereas food changes and is digestedE and in all cases change is
to the o%%osite or to an inter!ediate state.
Those 3ho thought that @like is fed y likeA 3ere thinking only of :uantity. By adding
!ore salt to a %ile of salt, the :uantity gro3s. But !ere addition does not e6%lain ho3 food
turns into flesh. 8n the other hand, those 3ho said @a thing is Rfed5 y its contraryA 3ere thinking
of cool things eco!ing hot, and vice versa. Fhen the hot heats 3hat 3as cool, there is !ore
and !ore of 3hat is hot. The hot @feedsA on its contrary. They thought the gro3th of living
things !ust e e6%lainale y such che!ical %rocesses.
-o fire is fed y 3ater <!eaning li:uid, that is to say oil> ut even this is !ore
co!%licated and not reversile since oil is not fed <i.e. increased> y fire. -o the %rocess of
contraryBchange <fed y unlike> doesn5t e6%lain even this.
IIB, )+
,)Ja+,B,)J+ *urther!ore, food is affected by that 3hich is fed, ut not the
latter y the food, 7ust as the carpenter is not affected by his
material, ut the latter y hi!E
the car%enter changes !erely fro! idleness to activity <energeia).
This is a crucial e6a!%le often used y "ristotle4 The car%enter at 3ork is not changed in
for!, only the 3ood changes. The food is changed y the living thing 3hich is fed. The food is
changed into the for! and !atter of the living ody. But the living ody is not changed in its
for! and kind of !atter.
?ere 3e can co!e to understand "ristotle5s conce%t of @activityA <energeia> and of
@3orksA <erga>. There is no English 3ord for an @activityA that does not change. Fe need to
gras% his conce%t of activity <energeia> to understand the rest of the ook.
If you eat so!ething that changes your form, for e6a!%le a %oison, "ristotle says that
this 3as not the activity of nutrition. If so!ething you s3allo3 eats your sto!ach, this is not
nutri7ing either. 8nly if you are not changed, ut the food is changed into you, then it is the
activity of nutrition.
"nything that changes the %attern of the activity is not %art of the activity. In this res%ect,
an ongoing @activityA re!ains unchanged throughout. 8f course the !uscles of car%enters
change 3hen they get u%, ut that change does not change the activity of car%entry. If a finger
gets sa3n into so that the car%entry is affected, that sa3ing 3as not organi7ed y the activity of
car%entry. Car%enters !ove aout, ut these changes are organi:ed by the activity of
carpentryE they do not change the activity.
"n ulcer is not one of the changes that are %art of digestion. If the digestive che!icals
are too strong and egin to RdigestA the sto!ach so that digestion is changed, that change is not
%art of @the activity ofA digestion. ?ere 3e can gras% this conce%t 3hich is asic for "ristotle4
An 'activity( is an active organi:ing which does not itself change as it organi:es motions
and changes.
"ristotle usually re!inds us of this y saying that the car%enter doesn5t change, only the
3ood changes.
), IIB,
!** *+,+-"* 02 -+ "/* M*A+I+? -& 'AC"I>I"<( I+ C-+"A!" "- M-"I-+
A+, C/A+?*
/o3 he solves the %role! of fed y like and unlike4
,)J+. It !akes a difference 3hether the food added Mto the living thingN
is the last thing or the first. If oth are food,
ut the one undigested and the other digested,
it 3ould e %ossile to s%eak of food in oth 3aysE
,)JJB1 In so far as the food is Mas yetN undigested, the contrary is fed y
the contrary, in so far as it is digested, the like y like.
-o that it is clear that in a 3ay oth s%eak rightly and not rightly.
,)J1B)) But since nothing is fed 3hich does not %artake of life, that 3hich
is fed 3ould e the ensouled ody, 3ua ensouled , so that food
too is relative to that 3hich is ensouled, and this not
8nly a living <S having soul> ody is fed. It is fed not as having color, or si7e or any
accidental characteristic ut 9ua ensouled S living, i.e., :ua this kind of ody.
-o the che!ical %rocess of foodBasor%tion 3ould not e enough of an e6%lanation. Fe
need the for! of the living ody since the food is turned into that for!. "he food is turned into
a body that can engage in the activity of turning food into that form of body. Its @for!A is
this activity <!ore e6actly the %o3er for this activity>.
,)J))B)+ But eing food and eing ca%ale of %roducing gro3th are
differentE for it is in so far as the ensouled thing is so!ething
having :uantity that food is capable of producing growth,
ut it is in so far as the ensouled thing is a particular and a
substance, that so!ething is food.
To e food !eans to e ca%ale of eing changed into the for! or @sustanceA of a
living thing.
Gro3th as !ere :uantitative change into a larger si7e is distinguished fro! the nutritive
3ork 3hich doesn5t 9ust add :uantity ut turns the food into the ani!al for!. *ood does add
:uantity, ut that is not 3hy the food is food. It is food ecause it can e converted into the
living thing5s for!BofBody. 8f course, if the %otato 3ere added unchanged at the to% of your
head under your scal%, it 3ould increase your :uantity, your si7e and 3eight, ut this 3ould not
e nutrition. *ood is defined in relation to the form of the living thing 3hich the food eco!es.
?e follo3s this i!!ediately 3ith the re%roductive 3ork of the sa!e %o3er <the %o3er to
change food into the ani!al for!>.
,)J),B)2 &or the ensouled thing maintains its sustance and e6ists as
long as it is fedE
and it can ring aout the generation% . . .of so!ething like itE
for its sustance is already in e6istence
<q ct ti q ,>,
and nothing generates itself, ut rather !aintains itself.
?ence this first %rinci%le <q> of the soul is a %otentiality such as
to !aintain its %ossessor as such,
3hile food is the i!%le!ent <> for its activityE
for this reason, if de%rived of food it cannot e6ist.
Both in nutri7ing and in re%roducing the sa!e %o3er changes the sa!e o9ect <food>
into sa!e for!. "ristotle is discussing oth 3orks together.
,)J'+B'I -ince it is right to call all things after their end, and the end is to
generate so!ething like oneself, the %ri!ary soul 3ill e that
3hich can generate so!ething like itself.
In res%ect of the final cause, the re%roductive 3ork defines the nutritive %o3er.
,)J'(B'+ -ince there are three things,
that which is fed,
that by which it is fed, and
that which feeds,
that 3hich feeds is the %ri!ary soul,
that 3hich is fed is the ody 3hich has this, and
that by which it is fed is the food.
t c ct q et q,
t c t c tut ,
c , q tq.
"ristotle has a si!ilar trio for loco!otion4
c c t i,
ut ` i,
ct tt t u,
3hat does the feeding S soul %o3er tre%hon tc
fed S the ody tre%ho!enon to
that y 3hich it is fed S food tre%hetai tct
,)J'IB'1 "hat by which one feeds is t3ofold, 9ust as that by which one
steers is, i.e. oth the hand and the rudder,
the one !oving and eing !oved, the other eing !oved only.
/o3 it is necessary that all food should e ca%ale of eing
digested, and it is heat 3hich effects the digestionE
hence every ensouled thing has heat.
The efficient cause or source of the !otion is also called 'the means( or 'that% by
IIB, )2
which( it is done <>. The efficient cause ty%ically involves one original un!oved !over source
<in our case the soul> and a chain of !oved !overB!eans <food, heat>. *or e6a!%le, in steering
a oat, the ro3erBsailor originates the !otionE the hand is !oved and also !oves. The chain of
!eans e6tends to the rudder, 3hich is only !oved.
The heat aids digestion, he says. *or "ristotle the heat is one of the !eans in the chain.
Fhat nourish!ent is has no3 een stated in outlineE ut 3e !ust
elucidate it later in the a%%ro%riate 3ork
The cha%ter is aout senseB%erce%tion. It falls into three sections4
U% to ,)2a), he sho3s that the sensing soulB%art in us is only %otential. ?e !eans that
sensing is not an activity inside the ody or inside the living thing, ut is active only 3ith an
e6ternal thing that activates the sense.
In the !iddle section ,)2a), B ,)2' he distinguishes two stages of potentiality.
In the last %art he discusses the transitions from firstBstage %otentiality to the second,
and then from secondBstage %otentiality to full activity.
?e gradually sho3s that these transitions should not e called @changes.A
*irst he says @Let us s%eak as ifA co!ing into act were si!%ly a case of @eing affectedA
<changed, or altered>.
"fter a 3hile he says that these t3o transitions are either not a eing affected, or a
special kind of @eing affected.A
"t the very end he concludes that they are not cases of @eing affectedA at all, ut since
there is no other 3ord, 3e have to use this 3ord also for co!ing into act, as if that 3ere a kind
of eing affected.
?e then uses the 3ord in the last sentence.
The cha%ter is not difficult, e6ce%t for the difficulty of recogni7ing at each s%ot 3hich of
the t3o kinds of %otentiality he is discussing, and then 3hich of the t3o transitions. -o it hel%s
to 3atch for this.
,)J+'B++ /o3 that these !atters have een deter!ined
let us discuss generally the whole of perception.
?ere egins the %art of the De Anima concerned 3ith %erce%tion. It continues till the end
of IIIB'. This and the ne6t cha%ter are aout %erce%tion as a 3hole, not yet aout each
%articular sense.
,)J++B+I Perce%tion consists in eing !oved and affected, as has een
saidE for it is held to be <dokei) a kind of alteration.
/otice @dokei.A "ristotle 3ill argue that %erceiving is either a very s%ecial kind of
alteration, or really not an alteration <i.e. not a eing affected or changed>.
,)J+I -o!e say too that M%erce%tion is e6%lained yN like affected by
The ato!ist %hiloso%hers held that @like can sense likeEA they !eant that %erce%tion
ha%%ens ecause the che!ical ele!ents in us !eet the like elements in the things 3e sense.
Theirs 3as an early atte!%t to e6%lain %erce%tion as a %hysicalBche!ical %rocess of the ato!ic
"ristotle argues that their vie3 %oses the follo3ing t3o %role!s <3hich he 3ants to
raise any3ay>4

,)2a'BJ There is a %role! 3hy %erce%tions of the senses themselves
does not occur, and
3hy they do not generate %erce%tions without external ob7ects,
although there is in the! fire, earth, and the other ele!ents,
of which, either in the!selves or in res%ect of their accidents,
there is perception.
Let us see 3hy this is an argu!ent against the %hysicalBche!ical e6%lanation of
%erce%tion. The "to!ists said that sensing co!es aout 3hen the ele!ents in the senseBorgan
!eet the ele!ent outside. "ristotle argues that if this 3ere the e6%lanation of sensing, i.e., if fire
and 3ater sensed fire and 3ater, then 3hy don5t the ele!ents do this sensing also insideG The
sense organs are !ade out of the ele!ents. -o each it of the organ should sense the other
its in it. "ccordingly, the senseBorgans ought to %erceive the!selves. There ought to e
sensing going on inside the organs too.
!** *+,+-"* 06 -+ "/* !*+!*! +-" !*+!I+? "/*M!*L>*!
/o3 let us consider the t3o :uestions4
a> Fhy don5t the senses sense the!selvesG <Fhy doesn5t the eye see itself, or 3hy do
%arts of the eye not see the other %arts of the eyeG>E
> Fhy do the senses not @generate sensations without an external ob7ectGA
<Fhy do the senses not turn on of their o3n accordG>
?is ans3er is4
,)2aJB1 It is clear, then, that the faculty <soulB%art or %otentiality> of senseB
%erce%tion does not exist as activity 3 ener,eia! but only as
8f course. -ince the senses have to e ready for all colors and all sounds and s!ells,
the senses the!selves are %otential and need so!ething actual to deter!ine 3hich colors and
sounds 3ill e actively sensed.
for this reason the %erce%tion does not occur,
7ust as fuel does not urn itself of itself <t ` ut>
3ithout so!ething that can urn itE other3ise it 3ould urn itself
and 3ould need no actually e6isting fire <entelecheia, ct
Fhen "ristotle says @It is clear, then . . .A he thinks this conclusion follo3s. Fhat does it
follo3 fro!G *ro! the fact that no active sensing is ha%%ening inside. The sense organs do not
sense the!selvesE they sense only an e6ternal o9ect. The senses do not activate the sensing
on their o3n. They need so!ething other than the!selves to activate the!. This fact is 3hat
he !eans y saying that they are @only %otential.@
"ristotle is freshly generating the conce%ts of @actualityAOA%otentiality,A so 3e can
generate the! ourselves if 3e follo3 hi!. Food urns. It turns into fire and s!oke, ut 3ood
does not do this on its o3n. It does not ignite itself. Fe cannot say that 3ood does not urn.
Fhen 3e say @3ood urns,A <iron doesn5t urn> 3e really !ean that it can urn. To e fuel is to
e potential fire.
Fith his K9ust asK "ristotle generates the conce%t of @%otentialityA fro! the analogy. 8nly
an actually existing <entelecheia> fire can activate the %otential fuel into urning activity
3energeia4. In the sa!e 3ay, the senses can sense, ut need an actually e6isting thing to
!ake the! active.
*+,+-"* 00 -+ =-"*+"IAL &I* A+, *+"*L*C/*IA M *+*?*IA
,)2a1B)' -ince 3e s%eak of sensing <aisthanesthai, the gerund> in t3o
<for 3e s%eak of that 3hich %otentially hears and sees as hearing
and seeing, even if it ha%%ens to e asleep, as well as when
active <energein>
-ensation <aisthesis, the noun> too, 3ill e s%oken of in t3o
3ays, . . .
Fe say that ani!als @hear and seeA ut %lants do not. Fe !ean that ani!als can do so.
But 3e also say @they hear and seeA 3hen 3e !ean that they are actively doing so no3. In
other 3ords, 3e can !ean the %otentiality or the activity.
?e states the asic distinction4
,)2a)+B), -i!ilarly sensing <aisthanesthai) can e
potential <duna!ei> or activity <energeia>.
<<In the 86ford !anuscri%t @o9ectA <lto> a%%ears 3here I have @sensingA fro!
the C-- version. Either !akes sense, ut @o9ectA see!s so!e3hat !ore likely
not to co!e until it is discussed near the end of the cha%ter <,)=a,> 9ust efore
cha%ter J on o9ects.>>
'ere be,ins the middle section4 the transitions4
,)2a),B)J *irst, then, let us s%eak as if
being affected <paschein) or eing !oved <kineisthai) and
becoming active <energein) were the sa!e thingE
"ristotle includes all kinds of eing affected under @eing !oved.A Fhen actual fire
ignites 3ood, this certainly affects the 3ood and soon consu!es it. But 3hen an e6ternal thing
activates our sensing, is this surely not the sa!e kind of @eing affected.A By saying @as ifA he
i!%lies that eing activated is not a case of eing @affectedA <paschein>.
i kineisthai S to e !oved, i.e. changed <kinein S to !ove>
paschein S to suffer <active infinitive, to e affected>
ci energein S an active infinitive <to e activated>
<<?a!lyn5s translation is confusing here. "ristotle te!%orarily includes eing in
activity or eco!ing active under @eing affected MchangedN, or !oved.A>>
?ere is the reason why, for the !o!ent, 3e s%eak as if they 3ere the sa!e4
,)2a)JB)2 for indeed !ove!ent is a kind of activity <energeia), although an
inco!%lete one <atelos) as has een said else3here. "nd
"ristotle defines !otion as inco!%lete activity, and so can treat it as @a kind ofA activity.
Cotion is al3ays inco!%lete, al3ays on the 3ay fro! ... to, and 3hen it arrives it sto%s
altogether. "ctivity, for e6a!%le seeing, is co!%lete at any %oint.
8/ "CTI.IT0 -EE T?E C0 E/D/8TE ,' I/ IIB,.
*irst he !erges co!%lete and inco!%lete activity in order to say so!ething that is true of
the! oth4
,)2a)2B)= everything is affected and !oved by what can ring this aout
<poietiko !akes this> and is as activity <energeia).
To e affected or !oved re:uires so!ething active <energeia>. To !ove, change, or
affect so!ething is activity. The activity 3hich does this does not need to !ove or change itself,
or e affected. <"ctivity is the fullest kind of @actuality,A as 3e sa3 in IIB).>
/o3 this enales hi! to reinter%ret and ado%t oth the likeOunlike and the likeOlike theory4
,)2a)=B'( &or this reason, in one way, as 3e said, a thing is affected y
like, and in another y unlikeE
,)2a'( for it is the unlike which is affected%
although in undergoing <> it is like.
In the case of food 3e have already seen @the unlikeA 3hich is affected so that it changes
during digestion fro! unlike to like. "fter3ards the @foodA ac:uires the ody5s for! and
eco!es AlikeA the ody. ?ere, in the case of sensing, "ristotle is saying so!ething si!ilar.
*or "ristotle a thing can e changed only y so!ething unlike itself. *or e6a!%le, lue
cloth cannot e affected y a lue dye of the sa!e shade. -o!ething can5t e heated y
so!ething of the sa!e te!%erature. Fhen you o%en your eyes or turn to look at a lue thing, it
changes 3hat you sense to lue. But as you sense it, the lue of the thing and of your sense
are the sa!e sensing of lue. This is ovious, of course, ut it !eans that in the sensing the
sense and the thing are 'like( in form.
The motion of light or sound fro! the thing affects your sense organ, and this is a
change, ut it also activates your sense <%erha%s fro! slee%ing>. The shift fro! %otential to
active sensing is not an affecting, not a change, as he 3ill no3 argue. ?e 3ill discuss at length
the shift fro! %otential into act.
*irst he announces !aking distinctions4
,)2a')B'' But 3e !ust !ake distinctions concerning potentiality and
actuality <entelecheia)E for at the !o!ent 3e are s%eaking, of
the! in an un:ualified 3ay <haplos>.
-aplos <see also ,)2)> !eans @unconditionallyA or K3ithout <or efore> :ualification.K
/o3 he 3ill discuss the t3o kinds of @%otentiality,A using kno3ledge as his e6a!%le as
he did in IIB).
,)2a''B', *or there are knowers in that 3e should s%eak of a !an as a
kno3er <cto> ecause !an is one of those 3ho can e
kno3ers and have kno3ledgeE
"ny !e!er of the hu!an race can e called a @kno3er,A a ho!o sa%iens, the kind of
eing that kno3s, even if this individual is ignorant.
,)2a',B'I then there are knowers in that 3e s%eak straighta3ay of the !an
3ho has kno3ledge of gra!!ar as a kno3er.
This one has already ac:uired the kno3ledge, for e6a!%le gra!!ar.
/o3 he states the difference et3een the t3o kinds of %otentiality.
,)2a'JB'= <*ach of these has a %otentiality, ut not in the sa!e 3ay BB
the one ecause his genus <class, or kind>, his !atter is of this
the other ecause he can if he so 3ishes contemplate <theorein)
as long as nothing e6ternal %revents hi!.
<o ` t t i, . . .>
"ristotle often calls any roader category or kind the @genus,A and says that it is @!atterA
in relation to the !ore s%ecific for! 3hich any instance of it 3ill have.
-o 3e no3 have t3o kinds of @%otentialities4A so!eone 3ho ecause of eing hu!an
can learn ut has not, and a learned %erson 3ho is 9ust no3 eating or slee%ing, rather than
thinking. "nd then of course, <as in IIB)>
,)2a'=B'1 There is thirdly the one 3ho is already conte!%lating <theorein>,
the knower 3ho is in actuality 3 entelecheia! and in the
controlling <> sense kno3ing this particular A. <o ` q
, ct e ct to t A. <,)2a.'2B
The third is the one 3ho, in the controlling i.e., fullest sense of actuality <entelecheia,
co!%letion>, is no3 kno3ing so!e %articular e6isting thing. Both the second and the third are
@actual,A i.e., co!%lete, ut the third is ongoingly kno3ing a %articular thing and this is the
fullest, !ost @co!%leteA kno3ing, the controlling sense of eing a @kno3er.A
). any hu!an can co!e to learn and kno3 <is only a %otential kno3er>.
' the gra!!arian actually kno3s and can conte!%late 3hat he kno3s 3henever he
+ the gra!!arian is no3 actually conte!%lating this %articular letter @".A
"ristotle has not yet discussed ho3 one gets fro! ) to ', or fro! ' to +. ?e 3ill no3 first
discuss the transition fro! ) to ', and then fro! ' to +. The transitions egin right after the
letter K".K
)ow the transitions4
"A+!I"I-+ . "- 28
,)2a+(B+) Thus, oth of the first t3o are %otential kno3ers, ut the one
eco!es altered through learning and fre:uent changes from
an opposite disposition <he$is, ha.ing, c,>
o c q c ct te
Ignorance and kno3ledge are not the usual ty%e of contraries ecause they are one and
the sa!e nature, differing only in 'disposition 3hexis% having4.( " @he6isA is a kind of nature
3hich !ay or !ay not eco!e co!%leted. Later in the cha%ter <,)2)I> 3e 3ill understand this
ter! @he6isA !ore e6actly.
"A+!I"I-+ 2 "- 68
,)2a+)B,)2' The other in another 3ay from MalreadyN having <e$ein) arith!etic
and gra!!ar 3ithout activity to its active exercise. <energein).
o ' c ti tq tq q tq tq, q ci
c, l t ci, d to.
<Canuscri%ts vary in this %assage.>
-o these are the t3o transitions, co!ing fro! !erely %otential to first actuality, and
co!ing fro! firstBactuality into full actuality, i.e. activity <energein>.
/o3 the :uestion 3ill e4 "re these transitions really cases of eing affected, i.e. eing
changedG Fe have een s%eaking @as ifA they 3ere a eing affected, ut4
,)2' Being affected <paschein) is not a single thing <ha%los> eitherE
"ristotle 3ill !ake a distinction. Being affected has t3o senses4
,)2'B+ it is first a kind of destruction of something by its contrary,
Fhen red cloth is died lue, the lue KdestroysK the red. The red is not !aintained. This
is the usual kind of @affectedA in contrast to4
,)2+B, and second it is rather the maintaining of that 3hich is so
%otentially y that 3hich is so actually <entelecheia).
Destruction <phthora) is contrasted to eing !aintained <t). In the latter case 3hat
it already %otentially 3as is !aintained.
The first kind of @affectedA is a change into something differentE
The second kind is a change into what it was potentially, i.e. into an actual version of
its own nature>.
?ere "ristotle is !aking a ne3 conce%t, again one 3e do not have in the !odern Fest.
-o!ething can @changeA into itself, into its o3n nature, into 3hat it %otentially 3as all along. <I
co!!ent further in the E/D/8TE at ,)2)J 8/ C?"/GI/G I/T8 8/E5- 8F/ /"TU;E.>
,)2,BI and is like it in the 3ay that a %otentiality !ay e like an actuality
<entelecheia). &or . . .
Fhat has led u% to this sentence enales us to understand this s%ecial @likenessA
et3een the %otentiality and its actuality. But in this sentence "ristotle sounds redundant. ?o3
are %otentiality and actuality alikeG Fell they are alike in the 3ay in 3hich a %otentiality can e
like an actuality. But of course he has 9ust sho3n ho3 <like @!aintainedA y like>. This is an
e6a!%le of a very i!%ortant 3ay in 3hich "ristotle often %roceeds. Fhen he !akes a ne3
conce%t, he does not si!%lify. ?e does not sustitute a si!%ler %attern for a co!%le6ity he
finds. /e lets the pattern he finds become the concept. It is as if he says4 @Fhat does this
ne3 conce%t !eanG Fell it !eans this here, as 3e 9ust found it. This is a very useful 3ay to
estalish a ne3 conce%t directly fro! a ne3 %attern. Then one can enter further into it. Let us
oserve this, as "ristotle no3 e6%lains it !ore e6actly4
-o far he said that a potentiality may be maintained rather than destroyed y the
actuality. "ctuali7ing is not the usual affecting 3hich changes so!ething into so!ething else.
/o3 he 3ill sho3 that oth transitions are cases of likeness et3een %otentiality and actuality
<and therefore of our s%ecial @kindA of eing affected, i.e., not a change into so!ething different.
In the ne6t line it is easy to eco!e confused ecause "ristotle takes u% the second
transition first, %erha%s ecause it is !ost oviously not a change into so!ething else. This is
the transition fro! already having kno3ledge to active conte!%lating.
"gain the transitions ,)2I
transition 2 to 68
,)2IB1 *or that 3hich has kno3ledge co!es to conte!%late <theorein>,
and this is either not an alteration Mat allN
<for its development is into itself and actuality <entelecheia),)
or a different kind of alteration.
<i t t c tq ctq, q ct
i <l ut q c l ctc> q ct
c e.
*or this reason it is not right to say that so!eone 3ho is %rudent is
@alteredA 3hen e6ercising %rudence,
c c t i, t q, i,
any !ore than a uilder Mis alteredN 3hen he uilds.
This is the second transition fro! already having kno3ledge to kno3ing <S theorein,
theori7ing>. It should not e called @changeA at all, not eco!ing different, alloi>, or 3e
could call it another kind of change. It is a @changeA into itself% into its own completion
7ust as <hosper) a uilder is not changed into so!ething else y starting to 3ork.
,)21B)' "he shift <d c > of
an Malready develo%edN having of nous and %rudence
to MfullN actuality <entelecheia) should not e called instruction,
ut should have another na!eE
8viously activating one5s o3n kno3ledge does not re:uire a teacher. 8ne e!%loys
3hat one already kno3s in active understanding.
<?a!lyn shouldn#t have said KleadsK for d c , since it is done y the
individuals the!selves, 3hereas KleadsK sounds like eing led y so!eone.>
In contrast, the earlier transition does re:uire a teacher4
transition . to 28
,)2)'B)I 3hile that 3hich, starting fro! eing %otentially such,
learns and ac9uires knowledge
by the agency of that 3hich is actually <entelecheia) such and
an instruct
either should not be said to be 'affected%( as has een said,
or else 3e should say that there are two kinds of alteration,
"ristotle says e6%licitly here that the first transition <) to '> also should not e called
@changeA or @eing altered.A Xust aove he said this of the 'B+ transition. -o oth transitions are
either not alterations at all, or not the usual kind of alteration. The t3o kinds 3ould e4
,)2)I one Mkind isN a change to conditions of privation,
*or e6a!%le, cold is the @%rivationA of hot. Fhen so!ething is cooled, the hot is
destroyed. In contrast4
,)2)J the other Mkind isN to a thing#s disposition <he6is, having> and
@PrivationA !eans that 3hat 3as is no3 gone. The change of so!ething into its %rivation
destroys it. Change to %rivation is distinguished fro! change into a thing5s o3n natural
dis%osition <he$is). "he latter case applies to both transitions. This is consistent 3ith his
earlier use of the 3ord Khe$isK for both the )B' and the 'B+ transition ,)2a+(B'>.
8ne !ight o9ect to his distinction4 -ince hot can eco!e cold, isn5t hot @%otentiallyA
cold, so that everything is al3ays already %otentially KlikeK 3hat it can e changed intoG /oE the
hot has to e destroyed to get the cold. But 3hy couldn5t 3e say that the %otentiality of
eco!ing cold is saved and @!aintainedA y the actual coldG Fe cannot. /ot is not the
inherent disposition 3hexis% having4 of cold% nor is cold the complete nature of hot. But
kno3ledge is the inherent dis%osition <having> and co!%lete nature of the %otential nous soul.
*+,+-"* 0@. 0.Bb.A -+ C/A+?I+? I+"- -+*! -$+ +A"5*
In the transition from . to 2 the potentiality for learning is not destroyed by
learning. "nd si!ilarly4 in the transition from 2 to 6 the already)ac9uired knowledge is not
changed by actively thinking.
/o3 he 3ill discuss senseB%erce%tion in ter!s of the distinctions he otained y !eans
of the e6a!%les fro! kno3ledge. In the case of senseB%erce%tion, 3hat is analogous to the t3o
kinds of %otentialityG "nd, is it again true that their actuali7ation is not really a changeG
The transition fro! ) to ' in the case of senseB%erce%tion4
,)2)JB)= The first change in that 3hich can %erceive is rought aout y the
%arent, and 3hen it is orn it already has senseB%erce%tion in the
sa!e 3ay as so!eone 3ho has Malready ac:uiredN kno3ledge.
The ca%acity for sensing is co!%letely develo%ed at irth. The transition fro! I to ' has
already ha%%ened in the e!ryo as it gre3 in the 3o!. The ne3orn can see and hear
3henever it 3ants.
/otice %lease4 the sense itself is only potential, like having kno3ledge. The sense
needs an e6ternal thing to activate it, as he e6%lains ne6t.
/o3 the second transition <' to +> in the case of senseB%erce%tion4
,)2)1B') Active <energeia) sensing is so s%oken of in the sa!e 3ay as
conte!%lating )theorein), ut there is a difference4
in sensing, the things 3hich are ale to %roduce <poietikon) the
activity <energeia) are external, i.e. the visile and the audile
MthingsN, and si!ilarly for the rest of the o9ects of %erce%tion.
"t the start <,)2a,> "ristotle said that the senses need e6ternal o9ects, ut no3 he can
also tell us why they have to e e6ternal. ?e e6%lains4
,)2''B'= The cause <aition) is that
active <energeia) perception is of particulars,
3hile kno3ledge is of universals <katholo)
and these are so!eho3 in the soul itself.
&or this reason it is o%en to us to think<noein) 3hen 3e 3ish, ut
%erceiving is not si!ilarly o%en to usE
for there !ust e the o9ect of %erce%tion.
"he situation is similar 3ith the knowledge dealing 3ith the
%erce%tile, and for the sa!e reason <aition) that the %erce%tiles
are particular and e6ternal.
The o9ects of %erce%tion are e6ternal because they are particular things. The
universals <katholo> are conce%ts, ideas, haits in the soul. "herefore 3e can think the
universals 3henever 3e 3ish, ut since sense is of %articular things and %articulars are al3ays
e6ternal, the sense cannot !ake sensations 3ithout the things, ut !ust e activated y the!.
/o3 "ristotle adds4 /either can there e MactiveN knowledge of sensile things, and for
the sa!e reason. -ensile things are %articular e6ternal things and so 3e cannot kno3 one
!erely y kno3ing universal conce%ts.
*+,+-"* 0A .Bb2A 0A -+ K+-$L*,?* I+ AC" I+ "/* C-+"-LLI+? !*+!*
*+,+-"* 0B. 0.Bb2G -+ K+-$L*,?*)I+)AC" -& !*+!I#L* "/I+?!
*+,+-"* 0GM0I C-M=AI!-+ $I"/ K+-$L*,?*
-u!!ing u%4
,)2+(B+' . . . let it e enough to have deter!ined this much P that%
3hat is s%oken of as %otential is not 3ithout distinction,
one eing so s%oken of as 3e should s%eak of a boy as a
potential general,
another as 3e should so s%eak of an adult.
In "thens a !an could instantly e a%%ointed to lead a !ilitary e6%edition and e its
general, if the asse!ly so voted. ?e 3as usually an e6%erienced soldier, ut there 3as no
for!al re:uire!entE any adult could e voted in as the general of an e6%edition.
8ur t3o transitions are contrasted. Transition ' to + is illustrated 3hen an adult is
a%%ointed general, the already develo%ed ca%acity eco!ing actuali7ed <like the uilder getting
u% to uild>. 8n the other hand, it is transition ) to ' 3hen a oy eco!es a general since he
!ust first develo%, only then can he e a%%ointed.
/o3, 3hich transition is it, 3hen an o9ect activates our sensingG
,)2+'B,)=a) As 3e should so s%eak of an adult,
MsoN it is . . . 3ith that 3hich can %erceive.
"t irth the senses have the fully develo%ed kind of %otentiality 3hich can e
i!!ediately activated.
,)=a)B+ But since the difference et3een the t3o has no na!e, although it
has een deter!ined that they are different and ho3 they are so,
3e !ust use #to e affected# and #to e altered# as though they
3ere the %ro%er <krios) 3ords.
-ince there is no other 3ord, 3e 3ill after all use the 3ord @affectedA for the transitions,
oth of the!, although here he is e!%hasi7ing the difference et3een the t3o transitions.
"ristotle has een talking aout t3o kinds of %otentiality. /o3 he can say e6actly 3hat it
!eant, at the start of the cha%ter, that the sense is @only %otential.A The sense is the kind of
%otentiality 3hich is already fully develo%ed so that it is already %otentially like the o9ects it !ay
,)=a+BJ That 3hich can %erceive is, as 3e have said, potentially such
as the o9ect of %erce%tion already is actually <entelecheia).
It is unlike the o9ect, then, when it is being affected y it,
ut once it has been affected it eco!es like it, and is such as it
"s 3e sa3 <,)2a'(> the sense egins unlike the o9ect ut 3hen activated y the o9ect,
the sense has the o9ect5s for!.
"ristotle has arrived at a state!ent aout the senseB%otentiality 3hich he 3ill a%%ly in
each of the cha%ters on the five senses. The %o3er <the canBsense> is %otentially as the o9ects
are actually. </ot as the o9ect is @actively,A since 3hen the o9ect is not sensed, its senseBfor!
is only %otential, although the o9ect is actually red or highB%itched.> Fhen activated y the
!otion fro! the o9ect, the sense co!es to have the o9ect5s <no3 active> sense for!. Fhat
this !eans 3ill e 3orked out in cha%ters 2B)'.
?ere 3e have arrived at the reason 3hy 3e !ust KeginK 3ith the o9ect. "s he said and
did in IIB' and IIB,, in the order of discovery one egins 3ith the soulB%o3er 3hich is the cause,
then co!es to the activity 3hich defines that %o3er. The sense is only the %o3er <only
%otential>. "ristotle has een sho3ing ho3 the sense is rought into activity y an e6ternal
o9ect. /o3 3e !ust discuss the e6ternal o9ects 3hich, in the order of nature are the
eginning, since they give for! to the sensing.
Fithin the cha%ter he has !oved from %o3er to activity and thence to o9ect. ?e has
sho3n that the sense is only %otential, and has taken us across the t3o kinds of transitions, to
first actuality <co!%lete at irth>, and to activity.
Cha%ter J at last takes u% the o9ects. "fter3ards there 3ill e cha%ters on each sense.
The 3ords @%erce%tion,A @sense,A and @senseB%erce%tionA are here used interchangealy,
as I have done throughout.
By a translator5s convention the English 3ords @incidentalA and @accidentalA are oth
used to translate the sa!e single Greek %hrase <kata sm,e,ekos>. The %hrase does not have
either English !eaning. It !eans %ro%erties that are not essential to a thing. The thing 3ould
e 3hat it is 3ith or 3ithout that %ro%erty.
In IIBI 3e !oved fro! the %o3er of sensing to the activity, and no3 in IIBJ 3e take u% the
sensile o9ects. <This is the order he set out at the start of IIB,.>
There are three kinds of sense o9ects4 ) s%ecific to each sense like color for sightE '
co!!on across the five like !otion and si7eE + the thing, for e6a!%le, 3ater or a ird. *or
"ristotle all three are sensed, although in different 3ays.
,)=a2 Fe !ust s%eak first of the o9ects of sense in relation to each
/ote that these are sense o9ects, sensiles. "n ani!al can sense these. Fhere the
translation has @o9ect of senseA "ristotle uses the single 3ord aistheton, si!%ly a sensile
!** *+,+-"* @1 -+ '-#J*C"!(
,)=a=B)) But o9ects of sense are so s%oken of in three 3aysE
of these 3e say that 3e
%erceive two in themselves <kath ata, ' ut>,
and one incidentally <kata sm,e,ekos, t o>.
8f the t3o, one is s%ecial to each sense, the other co!!on to all.
-o first he divides4 in themselves OO +. incidental
Then he suBdivides4 O Q
). s%ecial to each '. co!!on to all five
sense, <ideon> senses <koinon>
/o3 he 3ill tell us aout each kind.
)> The s%ecial sense o9ects
,)=a))B)J I call s%ecialBo9ect 3hat cannot e %erceived y another sense,
and about which it is impossible to be deceived,
e.g. sight has color, hearing sound, and taste flavor, 3hile touch
has !any varieties of o9ect
But at any rate each discri!inates <krinein, i> these, and is
not deceived as to the fact that there is color or sound,
ut rather as to what or where the colored thing is,
or as to 3hat or 3here it is that !akes the sound.
*or e6a!%le, sight is never deceived that there is 3hite, although 3e can err aout 3hat
the 3hite thing is, or 3here it is. *or "ristotle a sensed 3hite never e6ists aloneE there is so!e
thing that affects your organ to !ake 3hite.
!** *+,+-"* @.. -+ $/< $* CA++-" #* ,*C*I>*, #< A !=*CIAL !*+!*
24 "he common sense ob7ects
,)=a)2B'( . . . 3hile those that are s%oken of as common are
movement% rest% number% figure% magnitude <megethos),
for such as these are not s%ecial to any, ut co!!on to all.
&or certain !ove!ents are %erce%tile y oth touch and sight.
<?a!lyn ought not to translate @!egethosA as @si7eA here and @!agnitudeA in IIIB
,. " !egethos is a sensed thing.>
Cove!ent </otice that !ove!ent co!es first.>
-ha%e <sch/ma, >, figure
Cagnitude " megethos )c> is a si7ale thing, a thing 3hich has @di!ensionA
<-ee De Caelo IIB)>
These are not !athe!atical astractions here. They are sensed. -ensiles are al3ays
%articular e6isting things.
!** *+,+-"* @2. !*+!I+? -+?-I+? M-"I-+% +-" A"-MIC "IM*!
!** *+,+-"* @6. "/* LI!" -& C-MM-+ !*+!I#L*!
6. "he 'incidentally( sensed ob7ects
,)=a'(B'+ "n o9ect of %erce%tion is s%oken of as incidental,
e.g. if the white thing 3ere the son of ,iaresE
for you %erceive this incidentally, since
this 3hich you %erceive is incidental to the white thing.
0ou look over there and see your friend, the son of Diares. Fhat is essential to seeing
is seeing the color. The light fro! the 3hite directly affects your eyes. -eeing hi! co!es
along 3ith seeing the 3hite. 0ou see hi! indirectly. "ristotle says that you do see the son of
Diares BB ut this is an incidental %ro%erty of seeing. Essential to seeing is seeing color.
Let us re!e!er for later, that the son of Diares is sensed, not so!ething inferred. ?e
is a sense)ob7ect <aistheton>, "ristotle5s third kind. "ristotle is not saying <as taught in Festern
%hiloso%hy> that you @don5t reallyA see the son of Diares, only the 3hite. Xust the o%%osite,
"ristotle is listing the son of Diares as a kind of senseBo9ect.
-enseBo9ects are 3hat ani!als can sense. If the son of Diares has a dog, that dog
sees the son of Diares, not 9ust colors and !otions, ut seeing hi! is @incidentalA to seeing the
3hite thing directly.
,)=a'+B', ?ence too you are not affected y the MincidentalN o9ect of sense
as such.
0ou see hi!, ut only the color affects your senseBorganE That he is the son of Diares
does not affect your eyes.
!** *+,+-"* @0. -+ ACCI,*+"AL M I+CI,*+"AL
,)=a',B'I 8f the o9ects 3hich are %erceived in the!selves
it is the s%ecialBo9ects 3hich are o9ects of %erce%tion %ro%erly
<kri0s, >, and
it is to these that the essence of each sense is naturally relative.
IIB2 )
In !odern %hysics light is found to have %ro%erties of oth 3aves and %articles. Fhen a
3ave is considered as a %article, the %article see!s to e in !any locations at once. "ristotle
denies %articles ut has so!ething like our 3ave theory according to 3hich light is s%read out
over a 3hole field.
Light has een %eculiar in every kind of %hysics. In the !odern theory, light virations
are not virations of anything <unlike for e6a!%le sound 3hich consists of virations of air.> In
!odern %hysics it took a long ti!e to acce%t that light is a 3ave !otion ut not of anything.
*or "ristotle si!ilarly, light is not the activity of so!ething else like air. But he has a
s%ecial kind of conce%t for this sort of thing. *or hi! there can e an activity 3hose %otentiality
is 9ust the onOoff %otentiality for that activity. "ristotle calls that sort of thing a @he6is.A This
conce%t is of s%ecial interest to us ecause the activity of understanding is also a he6is <IIIB,, I>.
I 3ill gradually e6%lain he6is.
"ristotle calls the %otentiality for light @the trans%arent.A -ince air and 3ater don5t change
and yet they don5t trans!it color 3hen they are dark, oviously the trans%arent is not the air or
the 3ater. "ristotle e6%resses this y saying that the trans%arent can have its natural activity
<light> or can lack it <darkness>. Light is the activity of the trans%arent.
But 3hat is the trans%arentG " he6is is @a natureA that can e onOoff, activeOinactive.
The trans%arent has its co!%lete nature only 3hen it has its activity 3hich is light. -o light is
not only the activity <energeia> but also the actuality <entelecheia, co!%lete e6istence> of the
@?e6isA is "ristotle5s conce%t for an activity that is not the activity of so!ething else. The
active !ediu! of seeing color is light.
The second %art of the cha%ter fro! the !ention of E!%edocles <,)='(> on, argues
that a !ediu! is necessary BB in each of the five senses. The cha%ter sto%s 3ith the !ediu!.
?o3 the different colors are %ro%ortioned in the eyes is discussed only in the ne6t cha%ter y
co!%aring colors to sound %itches.
' IIB2
,)=a'JB'2 That of 3hich there is sight, then, is <the> visile <t>.
The visile is color
"ristotle egins 3ith 3hat can e seen, the potential senseBo9ects, the visible. There
are t3o kinds, color and the %hos%horescents <such as fish scales> 3hich are a different kind of
,)=a'2B'= and also so!ething 3hich !ay e descried in 3ords <logos) ut
ha%%ens to have no na!eE
3hat 3e !ean 3ill e clear as 3e %roceed.
?e 3ill e6%lain the %hos%horescents later.
,)=a'1B+) *or the visile is color, and this is that which overlies
what is in itself <kath ato) visile B
in itself visile not y its definition <not on its o3n account, logos),
ut because it has 3 4 in it <en eauto>
the cause of its visibility.
-o three4
). the color is the visible <the %otential senseBo9ect, only %otential>.
Color lies on to% of
'. a surface that has in it the cause of visiility
+. the cause of visiility.
"ristotle al3ays includes the cause even 3hen he cannot yet sho3 it. ?e starts 3ith a
co!%ressed state!ent, then e6%ands it at length.
The color lies on the surface of a thing. The surface is inherently visile ut not ecause
of 3hat the surface itself is. ;ather, the surface is visile ecause it has a third thing BB the
cause of the visiility <3hich he doesn5t na!e>.
;eadings of this sentence differ as to 3hether @the cause of its visibilityA is color or
IIB2 +
light, ut the ne6t fe3 lines state their relationshi%.
!** *+,+-"* @@. -+ *A,I+? 0.Ga2I)6.
,)=a+)B,)=+ Every color is capable of setting in motion <to>
that 3hich is actively <energeia) transparent%
and this is its nature.
&or this reason <o> it is not visile 3ithout light,
ut the color of each thing is al3ays seen in light.
Fhile hearing needs only sound and air, seeing involves a third factor, an onOoff factor,
not 9ust color and air ut also the light. Color is certainly one cause of visiility since it can
move <to> the trans%arent to trans!it the color, ut it can do that only if the trans%arent
is already actively trans%arent. /o3 he says 'for this reason( color is seen only in light. ?is
%hrase @for this reasonA indicates that, of course, light is 3hat !akes the trans%arent actively
!** *+,+-"* @A. -+ "$- CA5!*!8 KI+*"IK-+ A+, =-I*"IK-+
?e fills in the links4
,I=+BJ /ence 3e !ust first say 3hat light is.
There is, surely, so!ething trans%arent.
"nd I call transparent 3hat is visile,
not strictly s%eaking <u> visible in itself <' ut>
but because of the color of so!ething else.
Fe don5t see the trans%arent et3een here and there, rather 3e see the colors of the
things over there. -o, of course the trans%arent isn5t visile @in itself,A ut ecause of the color
of so!e other thing.
,)=JB1 8f this sort Mtrans%arentN are air, 3ater, and !any solid odiesE
, IIB2
-olid odies, for e6a!%le crystals.
for it is not 1a 3ater or 1a air that these are trans%arent,
ut ecause there e6ists in the! a certain nature
Fhen the light is off, the air 3on5t let the colors through. The air and 3ater don5t change,
so 3hatever lets the colors go through or not isn5t the air or the 3ater, ut a certain nature
3hich is the sa!e in the! Mair and 3aterN oth,
and also in the eternal body above.
The trans%arent is oviously also u% there in the sky. *or "ristotle there is no e!%ty
s%ace so that the 3hole thing 3e see u% there is a field of !atter all of 3hich looks trans%arent.
?e calls the trans%arent a @nature.A In another ook, De Sens, he adds @and a %o3erA
,+1a')>. The co!%lete nature is the trans%arent and light, the %otentiality 3hen it has its
activity. ?e calls such a %otentialityOactivity %air a @he6is.A I 3ill e6%lain it further elo3.
,)=1B)( Light is the activity <energeia) of this,
the trans%arent 9ua trans%arent.
Light is the activity 3hich defines 3hat the trans%arent is. 8nly 3hen it has light is the
trans%arent what it is, i.e., trans%arent.
,)=)(B)) =otentially% 3herever this MlightN is, there is darkness also.
The trans%arent can be either active or !erely %otential. The air, 3ater, or crystals
re!ain unchanged, ut the trans%arent is an onOoff thing.
,)=))B)+ Light is a sort of color of the transparent,
3hen it is !ade actually <entelechia, co!%leted) trans%arent,
by fire, or so!ething such as the ody aoveE
Fith the %resence of the sun <or fire> the trans%arent co!es to e6ist actually
<entelecheia>. The light u% there is not trans!itting the color of anything, ut "ristotle says that
the light (is( its o3n 'sort of color.( "ristotle !eans the @rightnessA <the shining> that is
visile in the sky )De Sens ,+1'>.
"ristotle said earlier that the activity <energeia> of the trans%arent is light. /o3 he has
added that light is also the actuality <co!%leted e6istence, entelecheia> of the <other3ise only
%otential> trans%arent. Light is oth. In a he6is the %otentiality has the activity as its co!%lete
nature or actuality. I say !ore aout this conce%t <@he6isA> a fe3 lines further do3n.
,)=)+ Fhat then the trans%arent is and what light is has een stated,
?e su!!ari7es4
,)=),B)2 i.e. that it MlightN is not fire
nor body generally <holos) nor an effluence fro! any ody
<for it 3ould e a ody in that case also>,
ut the presence <> of fire <or so!ething of that kind>
in the trans%arent.
*or it is i!%ossile for t3o odies
to e together <d ha!a> in the sa!e %lace,
"ristotle says that light is the presence of something in something, na!ely fire in the
trans%arent. /ote this odd relational cluster4 the %resence of one thing in another. Light is not a
ody ut the presence of fire in the %otentiality for light.
,)=)=B'( Light is held to e <dokei) the o%%osite of darkness, and
since darkness is the privation of such a hexis
fro! the trans%arent,
it is clear that the presence of this DhexisE is light.
-o the trans%arent and light <its actualityBandBactivity> is not an ordinary thing, ut rather
an instance of that odd "ristotelian conce%t, a @hexis.A Fe have to kee% the Greek 3ord
ecause the conce%t does not e6ist in English. The 3ord is usually translated as @dis%ositionA
<ut that is also used to translate a different Greek 3ord, diathesis, !eta ., )('')>. In Latin
he6is is @ha,itsA 3hich !eans @a having,A or hait <so!eti!es oddly translated as @a stateA or
@a sort of stateA>.
Light P the he6is P is the co!%letion. The co!%lete nature of the trans%arent is the
having of light. " he6is consists of a %otentiality 3hich can e on or off, can have or not have its
activity. The activity is also its co!%lete nature. <Ceta .IIIBI, )(,,++>.
*or e6a!%le, you have the %otentiality to learn to !ake furniture. If you have not
actually learned this, in 3hat 3ay is there a %otentialityG Fith our usual 3ays of thinking 3e
3ould say that this %otentiality is your !uscles, your rain ca%acity for attention, and 3hatever
other factors are necessary. "ristotle 3ould say that these are all necessary ut you have the!
any3ay. They are not the %otentiality of furnitureB!aking. That %otentiality is not an additional
e6isting thingE it e6ists no3 only as %otentiality. -i!ilarly, su%%ose you can !ake furniture, ut
not 3ell. The %otentiality for doing it 3ell is again not another e6isting thing, !erely a
%otentiality. In darkness the trans%arent doesn5t have its co!%lete e6istence 3hich is light. "nd
only as light does it act trans%arently.
" @he$isA is not e6actly t3o things since it is the having of the activity. But a he6is isn5t
e6actly one thing either, since the %otentiality can lack the active.
The fire is 9ust in one s%ot, yet there is light all over. This allBover rightnessBlight does
not travel.
,I='(B'' E!%edocles .. 3as 3rong to say that light travels and arrives
at so!e ti!e et3een the earth and that 3hich surrounds it,
3ithout our noticing it. . . . *or it !ight esca%e our notice over a
s!all distance, ut that it does so over the distance fro! east to
3est is too ig an assu!%tion.
IIB2 2
"ristotle is thinking of the dis%ersed light 3hich is suddenly all over 3hen a fire is lit or
the sun co!es u%. As one motion this 3ould e gigantic at dayreak. *or hi! light is activity
at once all over. But in the ne6t cha%ter he 3ill discuss ho3 light also !oves, ounces ack,
reflects and dis%erses. If it did not, he says, it 3ould e dark every3here e6ce%t 3here light
shines directly on so!ething. But the overall activity is not reducile to these !otions.
!** *+,+-"* @B. -+ ,I!=*!I-+% *&AC"I-+% A+, AC"I>I"<
,)='JB,)1a) It is the colorless 3hich is receptive of color, and the soundless
of sound. "nd it is the trans%arent 3hich is colorless,
as is also the invisile or arely visile,
as dark things are held to e <i i t to>.
The trans%arent is of this kind, not when it is actually
<entelecheia) transparent% but when it is potentially soE
for the sa!e nature is so!eti!es darkness and so!eti!es light.
The %assage can see! to say that color is transmitted 3hen the trans%arent is only
%otential, i.e. dark. But "ristotle does not say that it @trans!itsA 3hen dark. ;ather, the
trans%arent can take on the color of so!ething else ecause it has no color of its o3n.
The dark is not really @invisileEA it is also an o9ect of sight. *or e6a!%le, if you 3ant to
kno3 3hether it is dark outside or not, you !ust o%en your eyes and see that you don5t see, i.e.,
that it is dark, as "ristotle says in IIIB'. In other cha%ters "ristotle also !entions the soundless,
tasteless, etc.
Before "ristotle can e satisfied 3ith the argu!ent, he has to account for the
%hos%horescents since they are oviously not 9ust %otential in the dark.
,)1a)BJ /ot everything is visile in light, ut only the color %ro%er to each
thingE for so!e things are not seen in the light ut ring aout
%erce%tion in the dark, e.g., those things . . . such as . . . scales,
= IIB2
and eyes of fishE ut in none of these is the proper color seen. .
?e %ost%ones e6%laining ho3 they are seen in the dark, ut argues that 3hat 3e see in
the dark is not their %ro%er color. Indeed they do have a different <greenish> color in light.
,)1a2B)) This !uch is clear for no3, that 3hat is seen in light is color.
&or this reason too it is not seen 3ithout lightE for this is 9ust 3hat
it is to e color, to e ca%ale of setting in !otion <t>
that which is actively <energeia) transparent;
Color is 3hat can !ove the active trans%arent,
,)1a))B)I and the actuality <entelecheia, co!%lete e6istence> of the
trans%arent is light.
and the trans%arent e6ists only as light.
"here is a clear indication of this; for
if one %laces that 3hich has color u%on the eye itself,
one 3ill not see it.
?is e6%eri!ent of %utting so!ething directly on the eye is !eant to sho3 that there is no
vision 3ithout so!ething that e6ists in et3een <a !ediu!>.
In De Sens "ristotle has a very co!%le6 theory of the !aterial side of the trans%arent
!ediu! ut this is not necessary to understand hi! here.
!** *+,+-"* @G. -+ "/* M*,I5M I+ ,* !*+!5 A+, C-M=AI!-+ "- "/*
=-"*+"IAL +-5!
In fact, the color !oves something transparent like the air, and
the sense)organ is moved in turn by this 3hen it is continuous.
IIB2 1
"ristotle5s sentence reaches right across fro! the thing to the sense organ. In other
cha%ters "ristotle also has such a sentence reaching across fro! the thing through the !ediu!
to the organ.
,)1a)IB)= *or De!ocritus did not s%eak rightly, thinking <lo> that,
if the intervening <t, !ediu!>, 3ere to eco!e empty
<o>, then even if an ant 3ere in the sky
it 3ould e seen accuratelyE for this is i!%ossile.
*or seeing takes %lace 3hen that which can perceive
is affected by something.
8nly so!ething actual <i.e., e6isting> can affect our eyes. "ristotle argues that if nothing
e6isted in et3een, 3e 3ould not see. "s he says in the ne6t cha%ter, if light didn5t ounce
ack off everything, 3e 3ould see only 3hat is directly shined on. 8ddly enough he 3as right
that such an ant is not visile unless sunlight shines directly on it <IIB=, ,)1+)>. There is e
darkness in the asence of a !ediu! that is light all over. 8uter s%ace is indeed dark.
De!ocritus held that light <and everything else> consists of ato!s, little %articles 3hich
travel across e!%ty s%ace. "ristotle5s Physics %recedes the De Anima. To understand hi!
here, 3e !ust already kno3 his argu!ent <contra De!ocritus and /e3ton> that e!%ty s%ace
<the void, the e!%ty> does not e6ist. Catter e6ists every3here, ut for "ristotle !atter does not
consist of odies. Fhat 3e think of as s%ace in classical %hysics is for "ristotle a continuu! of
!atter, so!e3hat analogous to the !odern conce%t of a @field.A In !odern %hysics s%ace has
field %ro%ertiesE it is not !ere e!%tiness. But "ristotle thought that the field is trans%arent all the
3ay u%.
!** *+,+-"* @I. -+ *M="< !=AC*
!** *+,+-"* A1. -+ C-M=AI!-+! $I"/ M-,*+ =/<!IC!
,)1a)=B)1 /o3 it is i!%ossile for it Mthat 3hich can seeN
to e affected by the seen colorE <ti oc et>
The seenBcolor is the resultE it is not 3hat affects us. Fe don5t see it if it is directly on
the eye.
)( IIB2
!** *+,+-"* A.. -+ 'IM=-!!I#L* "- #* A&&*C"*, #< "/* C-L- $/IC/ I!
,)1a)1B'+ It re!ains for it to e affected by what is intervening,
so that something must exist between <t i tu>
But if it 3ere to eco!e e!%ty, not only should 3e not see
accurately, ut nothing 3ould e seen at all.
"he reason why color !ust e seen in the light has been stated.
The long argu!ent has stated the reason why it is so.
,)1a'+B'I *ire is seen oth in darkness and in light,
and this is necessarily soE
for the trans%arent eco!es trans%arent due to it.
-eeing fire see!s to need no !ediu! since 3e see it in the dark. But it is 9ust the
%resence of fire 3hich !akes the !ediu! actual. "ristotle is still asserting the need for a
,)1a'IB+( The sa!e account <logos) a%%lies to oth sound and s!ell.
*or none of these %roduces sense %erce%tion when it touches
the sense)organ,
ut the intervening medium is moved y s!ell and sound,
and each of the sense)organs by this in turn.
"nd 3hen one %uts the sounding or s!elling o9ect on the senseB
organ, it %roduces no %erce%tion.
?e asserts the need for a !ediu! in the other distance senses <sound and s!ell> y
co!%aring the! to color and light, and y %erfor!ing the analogous e6%eri!ent.
"s 3e 3ill see in the ne6t four cha%ters, "ristotle derives !uch of 3hat he says aout
each sense y a%%lying 3hat he can sho3 in the case of another sense.
IIB2 ))
,)1a+(B+) The sa!e a%%lies to touch and taste, though it is not oviousE
the reason 3hy 3ill e clear later.
?e se%arately asserts a !ediu! to the t3o contactBsenses <taste and touch>. They
seem not to need a !ediu!. ?e %ro!ises to sho3 that there is a !ediu! for those as 3ell.
,)1a+'B+, The !ediu! for sound is air, that for smell has no name.
*or there is a :uality <> co!!on to air and 3ater, and
this M:ualityN, 3hich is %resent in oth, is to that 3hich has s!ell
as the trans%arent is to color.
/ote the %ro%ortioning y 3hich "ristotle thinks so often. This s!ellB!ediu! relates to
3hat has s!ell, as the trans%arent relates to color.
*or even ani!als that live in 3ater
see! to have the sense of s!ell.
-ince the fish co!e to feed on so!e of the things 3e s!ell, it see!s that s!ell goes
through 3ater as 3ell as through air. But 3hile for sound the !ediu! is the virating air itself
<or the 3ater>, "ristotle thinks that s!ell is not an activity of the air or the 3ater. ;ather, he
infers a s!ellB!ediu! in the!, analogous to the trans%arent. The !ediu! of s!ell has no
na!e. ?e doesn5t kno3 3hat it is.
Fe notice that the cha%ter on vision ends 3ith the discussion of the !ediu!. The
different colors are discussed in the ne6t cha%ter along 3ith the different sound %itches.
!** *+,+-"* A2. -+ "/* -,* I+ A+, #*"$**+ "/* C/A="*! -+ "/*
But !an and those land ani!als 3hich reathe
cannot s!ell unless they reathe. <' o c d, t
)' IIB2
i, ti ou q ct.>
That is 3hy it !ay see! to us that the !ediu! of s!ell is the air.
The reason for these things 3ill e studied later.
IIB= )
The cha%ter continues fro! IIB2 <the cha%terBdivisions are not "ristotle5s> 3here 3e 3ere
not yet told e6actly ho3 light is refracted all over, <in co!!enting I added so!ething fro! IIB=>,
or that the different colors are %ro%ortioned in the eyes 3hen the !ediu! reaches the!. Those
%arts of his treat!ent of color and seeing co!e in this cha%ter y analogies 3ith sound.
T?E C?"PTE; C"/ BE DI.IDED I/T8 *8U; -ECTI8/-4
)> %otential sound
'> 3hat !akes sound active,
+> ho3 the !ediu! generates a thing5s @o3nA for!
,> -ection on voice
Fhat "ristotle concludes aout sound is fa!iliar, ut let us 3atch ho3 he goes aout it.
In this cha%ter one can learn, a!ong other things4
)> -o!ething vital aout 3hat "ristotle !eans y @%otentialEA
'> The difference et3een actuality <entelecheia> and activity <energeia>E
+> "ristotle5s @realis!A 3hich is neither @naive realis!A nor @constructivis!.A
" sensile for! is neither the for! of a thing as such, nor su9ectiveE it is the for!Bof an
ongoing activity.
)> P8TE/TI"L -8U/D4
' IIB=
,)1,BI . . . -ound e6ists in t3o 3aysE
for there is sound 3hich is so!ething in act <energeia)
and sound 3hich is so potentially.
"ristotle egins 3ith the o9ect, sound. ?e divides it into active and %otential, and
discusses the %otential o9ect, i.e. of things 3hich can !ake sound.
,)1JB= *or, so!e things 3e say do not @have a sound,A
e.g. s%onge or 3ool, 3hile others do, e.g. ron7e
and anything solid and smooth <%lain, ciu>
ecause they can !ake a sound,
-o!e things have no potential sound, i.e., they cannot !ake a sound. There is no
sound of 3ool. "ristotle defines 9ust 3hat it is aout a thing 3hich enales it to have a %otential
sound. It has, if it is solid and has a flat surface.
"t ,'(a' he says that y @s!oothA he !eans @a single surface.A *or e6a!%le, a !etal
cage 3ill !ake !ore noise 3hen dro%%ed on its flat otto! than 3hen dro%%ed on its side.
Everyone kno3s that solid things clang, 3hereas soft, fu77y 3ool doesn5t, ut for our
further study of "ristotle this instance hel%s us to notice4 -o!ething @%otentialA is not, as so!e
co!!entators say, @a lesser degree of eing.A It is not so!ething vague and !ysterious, not a
later effect no3 still hidden. Potential sound is not a sound hidden in the silent thing. ;ather,
"ristotle tells 3hat is actually there 3hen so!e activity is not ongoing, ut !erely %otential.
?ere, as in other instances, 3e can ask4 Fhen so!ething is %otential, 3hat does this
%otentiality consist inG -o far he has told us that the thing5s %otential <@canA> sound is its actual
hard surface.
,)1=B1 that is they can %roduce an active <energeia) sound between
<ctu> themselves and the organ of hearing.
"ristotle often egins 3ith a state!ent that has the 3hole cause in it, ut 3ithout
e6%laining it. To @%roduce an active sound between <in the !ediu!> the!selves and the organ
of hearingK is the cause of the 3hole %rocess. "t the start, a fe3 ter!s hold the s%ace for the
IIB= +
!any intervening ter!s 3hich co!e later. Fe 3ill soon see hi! inserting !any %recise linking
ter!s et3een these road ter!s4 @can %roduceA and @active sound et3een.A
@!eta$A <ctu> !eans @et3eenA or @intervening.A In the Latin language 3hat is
et3een is called @the !ediu!.A The Greek 3ord !eans @the et3een.A "t the end of the last
cha%ter "ristotle argued that 3e cannot sense any sensile for! directlyE rather a @et3eenA
needs to e6ist and also eco!e active to carry the sensile for! to us. In the case of sound the
!ediu! is the air itself, so "ristotle need not argue as he did in the last cha%ter, that the
et3een !ust e !ade to e6ist actually, since the air is al3ays actual. But he 3ill again argue
that there has to e an activity of the et3een, and he 3ill sho3 3hat is involved in activating
the air.
'> "CTI.E -8U/D4
,)11B)) "ctive <energeia) sound is al3ays of something in relation to
something and in somethingE
for it is a blow 3hich %roduces it. &or this reason it is i!%ossile
for there to e sound 3hen there is only one thingE
/o3 he has defined active sound4 /otice that it is so!ething relational, <two things,
oth of the! in the air, and a blow>. -ound is a fourB3ay relation.
,)1))B)+ for the striker and the thing struck are different. ?ence the thing
3hich !akes the sound does so in relation to so!ethingE
and a lo3 cannot occur 3ithout movement.
/o3 he has added !ove!ent to this string of !iddle ter!s4 active sound needs a
striker and a struck, oth in the air, 3ith a lo3, and a lo3 re:uires !ove!ent.

,)1)+B)J But, as 3e have said, sound is not the striking of any chance
thingE for 3ool %roduces no sound if it is struck, ut ron7e does,
and any smooth and hollow o9ect. Bron7e does so ecause it
, IIB=
is smooth,
/o3, fro! the !ove!ent he can further define so!ething aout the %otential side <the
:ualities of the soundBca%ale thing. ?e reiterates Ks!oothK <surfaced> fro! efore. But
instead of KsolidK <3hich returns at ,)1'(> he gives so!ething even !ore soundBca%ale,
na!ely @hollo3.A ?ollo3 things %roduce echoes that revererate !any ti!es.

,)1)JB)= 3hile hollow o9ects %roduce many lo3s after the first y
that which is set in !otion eing unale to esca%e.
?e gives the e6%lanation of revereration4 @that 3hichA <he has not said 3hat> @is set in
!otion eing unale to esca%e.A
/o3 he 3ill say 3hat that is in which the striking occurs, 3hich 3ill lead hi! a ste%

,)1)=B)1 *urther!ore sound is heard in air ... and 3ater... ut it is not the
air or the 3ater 3hich is res%onsile for the soundE rather,
This is %arallel to IIB2 ,)=J KIt is not 1a 3ater or 1a air that these are trans%arent. . .@
8f course for sound the air is the !ediu!, ut only 3hen actively virating.
/ote that he says 3e hear in 3ater.
/o3 he tells ho3 the !ediu! is activated4
,)1)1B'' there !ust e solid o9ects striking against each other and
against the air. This ha%%ens 3hen the air remains after eing
struck and is not dispersed.
These are refine!ents of the !iddle ter!E 3e have had that the air cannot esca%eE no3
3e have a !ore %recise link4 @not esca%eA leads to its not dis%ersing. /o3 this, in turn, leads to
the !ore %recise cause4
,)1''B'I *or this reason it !akes a sound if it is struck :uickly and forcilyE
for the !ove!ent of the striker !ust e too :uick for the air to
dis%erse, 9ust as if one 3ere to strike a lo3 at a hea% or 3hirl of
sand in ra%id !otion.
The 3hi% is his !odel. It sho3s that the air has sound, not the solid things. "his is the
sound of air itself alone, not the sound of a thing like ron7e or 3ood <analogous to
@rightnessA in IIB2, 3hich is a sort of color of the trans%arent>.
The striking has to e :uicker than the air dis%erses. *ro! the tra%%ed air he can no3
e6%lain revereration and echo 3hich lead to one !ore causal !iddle ter!4
,)1'IB'2 "n echo occurs 3hen the air is !ade to ounce ack like a all
fro! air 3hich has eco!e a single mass on account of a
container 3hich has li!ited it and %revented it fro! dis%ersing.
"nother !iddle ter!4 The container !akes the air into a single mass. /o3 he can
!ake the co!%arison et3een sound and light 3hich enales hi! to s%eak of light as refraction4
Xust as there is not al3ays an echo so there is not al3ays a ea! of light ounding ack. Light
and sound al3ays reflect ut they are usually dis%ersed..
,)1'2B+) It is likely that an echo always occurs, although not a distinct
one, since the sa!e thing surely ha%%ens 3ith sound as 3ith light
tooE for light is always reflected <other3ise there would not be
light everywhere, ut there 3ould e darkness outside the area
lit y the sun>,
"ristotle has 3aited 3ith lightBrefraction until he can derive it fro! a co!%arison 3ith
sound echos. ?e develo%s !any %oints y co!%arisons et3een the senses.

,)1+)B++ ut it is not reflected as it is fro! 3ater, or ron7e, or any other
s!ooth o9ect so as to %roduce a shado3, y 3hich 3e deli!it the
The tree 3ill not cast a shado3 in nor!ally dis%ersed light. There is a shado3 only if a
ea! of light co!es across it. -i!ilarly, 3e see our reflection 3hen the reflecting surface is
s!ooth so that the light is ke%t together and returned as a ea!.
,)1++B+I The void is rightly said to e res%onsile <kupie> for hearing.
*or the air is held to e <dokei) a void, and it is this 3hich
%roduces hearing, 3hen
In a real void, there 3ould e no !ass of air that !oves. Fe 3ould not hear anything.
This is %arallel to his argu!ent against the void of De!ocritus in the %receding cha%ter
-o!e %eo%le <dokei> call it the @voidA although it is really the air. It is active only 3hen8
,)1+IB,'(a' it is !oved as a single, continuous !ass. But, ecause of its lack
of coherence, it !akes no noise, unless that 3hich is struck is
smooth. Then the air eco!es a single !ass together <du>
because of the surface of the o9ectE
for a smooth ob7ect has a single surface.
-o @s!oothA is no3 further defined4 If s!ooth, the o9ect has one surface rather than
!any s!all surfaces that 3ould send the air in different directions. *ro! @s!ooth and hollo3A
3e note that he doesn5t !ean @flatA since he !eans a container. " single surface is necessary
to !aintain the single !ass of air.
,> T?E 8;G"/
IIB= 2
,'(a+B, It is, then, that 3hich can !ove air which is single
ecause continuous as far as the organ of hearing
3hich can %roduce sound.
In this sentence 3hat !akes the !ediu! active <the single !ass> also reaches to the
"s in the cha%ter on light, 3hen he has sho3n all the causes for ho3 the o9ect !oves
the active trans%arent, he is ready to sho3 that the !ediu! <here the single !ass of air>
reaches to the sense organ.
,'(a,BJ Air is naturally one with the organ of hearingE and ecause this
is in air, the air inside is !oved 3hen that outside is !oved.
*or this reason the ani!al does not hear 3ith every %art of it, nor
does the air %enetrate every3here . . .
Co!%ared to touch 3hich is all over the ani!al, sound is received only in the organ.
,'(a2B1 The air itself is soundless ecause it is easily dis%ersedE ut
3hen it is %revented fro! dis%ersing, its !ove!ent is sound.
"s he does in each cha%ter <co!%are )='J>, he rings u% that 3hich lacks the senseB
o9ect, here the soundless, for three reasons4
)> The soundless is an o9ect of sense. To sense if there is silence one !ust e ale to
'> The soundless is ca%ale of taking on any sound.
+> The !ediu! can e either inactive or active.
,'(a1B)I The air inside the ears has een 3alled u% inside so as to e
i!!ovale, in order that it !ay accurately %erceive all the
varieties of !ove!ent. "hat is why 3e hear in 3ater too,
ecause the 3ater does not %enetrate into the very air 3hich is
= IIB=
naturally one 3ith the earE Fhen this does ha%%en, there is no
nor is there if the ty!%anu! !e!rane is in9ured,
7ust as 3ith the cornea of the eye M3hen it is in9uredN.
The air in the ears !ust e i!!oile so as not to have its o3n virationsE else it 3ouldn5t
%ick u% the thing5s o3n characteristic for! of virating.
/e6t he sho3s that sound is the soundBof things, and not 9ust a hearingBeffect in the
ear. ?e e6%lains that if there is a constant echo or !ove!ent in the ear, this is not @hearingA.
,'(a)IB)1 *urther, an indication of 3hether 3e hear or not is %rovided y
3hether there is al3ays an echoing sound in the ear as in a hornE
for Min that caseN the air in the ear is al3ays !oving 3ith a
!ove!ent of its own.
But sound is something external and not private to the ear.
"nd that is 3hy they say that 3e hear y !eans of 3hat is empty
and resonant . . .
Fhat can receive !any different for!s !ust have no for! of its o3n. If so!eone5s ear
has its own ringing, 3e say that the %erson does not hear. "ristotle re9ects the already then
co!!on reductive theory that 3e hear virations. /o, 3e hear the sound of things, 3ood or
ron7e <y !eans of the virations>.
,'(a)1B'+ Is it the thing struck or the striker 3hich !akes the soundG 8r is it
indeed. both% but in different waysH &or sound is the
!ove!ent of that which can be moved in the way in which
things reound fro! s!ooth surfaces 3hen thro3n against it.
To 3hich does the sound elongG "t first 3e think he !eans it elongs to oth, <in so!e
3ay, of course it is oth>. Then 3e reali7e, no, he said @in different 3aysEA he !ust !ean that
sounding is !ore truly the sound of the !oved i.e. the struck one. The striker is the efficient
cause <the lo3 is like fire in IIB2>. ?e see!s to say that 3hat does the sounding is the struck,
IIB= 1
that 3hich @can e !oved. . . ,A so it see!s to e the struck 3hich is !ainly doing the virating.
But, at last 3e see that the sound 3ill elong to 3hichever thing has the s!ooth surface, so as
to !ake a single continuous !ass of air.
If a rod strikes a ron7e gong, the gong 3ill sound the !ost. If you take a ron7e gong
and you strike a rod 3ith it, still the gong 3ill sound the !ost. Fe could say it 3ill virate :ua
struck, i.e., !oved, des%ite the fact that it is doing the striking. -o 3hichever has the single
s!ooth surface does the sounding. Fhat if oth doG If one ron7e gong hits another, oth 3ill
give their sound. "nd ho3 aout t3o rodsG B B AhaF /o3 3e have arrived at 3hat "ristotle
rings u% ne6t4
,'(a'+B'J Thus, not everything, as has een said, !akes a noise 3hen it is
struck or striking so!ething,
e.g. if a needle strikes anotherE ut the o9ect struck !ust e of
even surface, so that the air !ay reound and virate as a mass.
If oth striker and struck are needles, there is no sound <even though their !atter as
such BB !etal BB does have %otential sound>. It sho3s that a surface is necessary to !ake the
!ediu! active as a continuous !ass.
I> T?E PITC?E- "/D T?E C8L8;-
,'(a'J The differences et3een the things which sound
are revealed in the active <energeia) soundE
@"ctive soundA is the characteristic sound of some thing <the sound of ron7e or of
3ood>. It has so!e %articular %itch, @9ust asA each thing has its characteristic color. "ctive
sound is the for! of one activity 3hich involves thing, !ediu!, and organ.
8nly if and 3hen the !ediu! is in activity, can the thing give this activity a for!, and
only therey does the thing have an active for!.
This @"ristotelian ;ealis!A is :uite s%ecial to hi!. ?e assu!es neither that the things
already are as 3e %erceive the! <naive realis!>, nor that our %erce%tions are su9ective and
9ust !ade y us <constructivis!>. Fhen the !ediu! is active, the thing can deter!ine the for!
)( IIB=
of the !ediu!5s activity 3hich then affects our organs and there eco!es a certain %itch of
sound. Fe find this kind of o9ectivity again and again in "ristotle, neither si!%ly a co%y nor
su9ective. If the et3een is active, then the ron7e has @its o3n soundA on that activity.
!** *+,+-"* A6MA0. -+ $/A" I! &-M A+, /-$ ,-*! I" "A>*L
/o3 3e co!e to the role of the sense4
,'(a'2B+) for 7ust as colors are not seen 3ithout light,
so sharp and flat in pitch are not %erceived 3ithout sound.
These are so s%oken of y transference fro! tangile o9ectsE for
that 3hich is shar% moves the sense to a great extent in a little
time, 3hile that 3hich is flat moves it little in much time.
?ere 3e need to notice his !any co!%arisons of the senses. "ristotle co!%ares three
senses, not 9ust %itches and colors ut tangile shar%ness and dullness. Later he e6%lains
:uite a lot aout the unity of the five senses fro! the fact that they can e co!%ared. Fhen 3e
co!e to that section, let us re!e!er ho3 often 3hat "ristotle says aout each sense is ased
on such co!%arisons.
,'(a+)B++ /ot that the shar% MsensationN is :uick and the flat slo3, ut the
!ove!ent in the one case is such ecause of s%eed, in the other
ecause of slo3ness
The shar% and flat sensations are not :uick or slo3, 9ust the movements that cause
them. "ristotle said in IIBI that sensations are not !ove!ents or changes, although 3hat
rings the organ into action are !ove!ents. The movements are :uick or slo3.
,'()B, There see!s to e an analogy with the shar% and lunt in the
case of touchE for the shar% as it 3ere stas, 3hile the lunt as it
3ere thrusts, ecause the one %roduces !otion in a short ti!e,
the other in a long,
IIB= ))
so that the one is MonlyN incidentally :uick, the other slo3.
-o !uch for our account of sound.
?is %hysical e6%lanations are so fa!iliar to us that 3e !ay !iss how he derives them.
Fith !odern e:ui%!ent 3e can !easure 3ave lengths and fre:uencies of light and sound. But
"ristotle has only the hy%othesis that colors and %itches are due to different a!ounts of
!ove!ent %er ti!e in the !ediu!. By co!%aring the! 3ith touch he can a%%eal to our ovious
e6%erience of different rates and kinds of !otions that !ake these different touchBsensations.
,'(IBJ >oice is a sound made by something with a soulE
/o3 voice is discussed in a long section 3hich has no %arallel in the cha%ters on the
other senses. 8nly sound <not color, s!ell, taste or touch> is e!itted to signify !eaning
<oquvtiko, ,'(+'>. In contrast to the other senses, ani!als not only hear ut also e!it sounds
to each other. -o the sense of hearing includes sounds that are e!itted to e heard.
8ne !ight argue that "ristotle should have discussed fireBflies in IIB2 since they e!it
light, ut "ristotle did not kno3 that they do this to co!!unicate. -kunks e!it s!ell ut that is
to %rotect against other s%ecies. -o the sense of hearing see!s to stand alone as an interB
co!!unicative t3oB3ay function a!ong ani!als.
for nothing 3hich does not have a soul has a voice,
although so!e things !ay e said, y 3ay of likeness., to have a
e.g. the %i%e, lyre, and any other things 3hich lack a soul ut have
variation in %itch, !elody, and @s%eechA <oiucktov>.
there is a likeness here ecause voice too has these
%ro%erties . . .
"ristotle distinguishes voice fro! 9ust sounds. ?e 3ill gradually sho3 in 3hat 3ay the
soul !akes voice different fro! si!ilar sounds.
)' IIB=
But !any ani!als do not have a voice,
e.g. those 3hich are loodless
"ristotle 3ill e6%lain elo3 3hy !any ani!als have no voice although it has a valuale
co!!unicative function. ?e 3ill also e6%lain 3hy it is the loodless ani!als that have no voice.
as 3ell as fish a!ong those 3hich do have lood.
"nd this Min fishN is reasonale enough, since sound is a
!ove!ent of air.
But those fishes 3hich are said to have a voice, e.g. YthoseZ in
the "chelous,
!ake a sound 3ith their gills or so!e such %artE
ut voice is !ade not 3ith any chance %art of the ody.
In the case of fish it is clear 3hy they don5t e!it sound and have no voice.
,'(),. But since everything 3hich !akes a sound does so ecause
something strikes something in something, and this last is air,
it is reasonale that only living things 3hich take in air have voice.
/ote again this relational cluster of sound in act4 @so!ething strikes so!ething in
"ni!als that don5t live in air don5t have voices, since sound is a !ove!ent of air.
"ristotle did say that 3e hear in 3ater <,'(a)'>, ut I think he !eans sound in 3ater that
originated fro! so!ething struck in air.
But since voice has an i!%ortant function, it is a :uestion 3hy ani!als that live in 3ater
do not have it. The ans3er is that even those that live in air do not have the voice as the
primary function of taking air in. "ristotle e6%lains4
,'()=B'( *or nature then uses the air reathed in for t3o functionsE
7ust as it uses the tongue for oth tasting and s%eech <oiucktov>,
IIB= )+
and of these tasting is essential . . .
3hile e6%ression <cpqvciu > is for the sake of well)being,
so also nature uses reath oth to !aintain the inner 3ar!th, as
<the reason 3ill e stated else3here>,
and also to %roduce voice so that there !ay e well)being.
-o that is 3hy so!e ani!als don5t have the voice function des%ite its value. It is not
essential for e6isting, only for wellBeing. "s he does so often, "ristotle !akes his %oint y
co!%aring t3o senses. The tongue serves for oth tasting and s%eaking. Breath like the
tongue is essential for life <for recogni7ing food>, 3hereas voice and s%eech have a function
only for @3ellBeing.A
,'(''. The organ of reathing is the throat,
and that for which this %art e6ists is the lungE
for it is through this %art that land ani!als have !ore 3ar!th than
It is also %ri!arily the region round the heart which needs
/ence the air must pass in when it is breathed in.
"ristotle kne3 that reathing relates to the lood. <?e thought it had to do 3ith the
lood5s heating and cooling <De ;es%ir. ,2J'I>. /o3 he has e6%lained the reason 3hy the
loodless ani!als are the ones that have no voice. It is ecause reathing is for the lood.
Fithout lood these ani!als don5t need the reath function. Therefore they lack the secondary
function of reath, the voice.
/o3 he has derived 3hat is re:uired for voice fro! 3hat is re:uired for reath.
Breath is needed inside the ody. This sho3s that the air comes into the ody for the
function of reath <the lung>, not 9ust for voice. The air entering for reath also %roduces the
voice <3hen reath is held> as a secondary function.
,'('2. -o, the striking of the inreathed air u%on 3hat is called the
), IIB=
due to the soul in these %arts constitutes voice.
*or, as 3e have said, not every sound !ade y an ani!al is voice
<for it is %ossile to !ake a sound also 3ith the tongue, or as in
ut that 3hich does the striking !ust have a soul
In sound %roduction the striker is the active agent. The soulBandBody ani!al <that
3hich has the soul> does the striking. This is the @3eA fro! IB,, <,(=))B)I>. The soul doesn5t
do itE 3e do it 3ith the soul. The soul is a !eans, a .
,'(+'B,')a) and there !ust e a certain imagination%
for voice is a sound 3ith meaning <oquvtiko>,
and not one !erely of the inreathed air, as a cough isE rather
I!agination is of having !ore of a desired sensation than no3 otains or of avoiding an
aversive state that is not no3 eing avoided. "ristotle i!%lies that ani!als e6%ress and
co!!unicate their needs and desires. Ceaning re:uires i!agination 3hich can concern 3hat is
not %resently the case.
In ter!s of function <final cause> the sense of hearing includes e!itting and hearing the
meaningful sounds of voice.
,')a' 3ith this air the ani!al strikes the air in the windpipe
against the 3ind%i%e itself>. "n indication of this is the fact that
ut only 3hen holding the reathE
for one 3ho holds his reath %roduces the !otion y its !eans.
/o3 he has e6%lained ho3 voice e!%loys the ody %arts that the reathing function
it is clear too 3hy fish have no voiceE for they have no throat.
They do not have this %art ecause they do not take in air or
reathe in. The reason for this re:uires se%arate discussion.
-ince the reathing function is not %ossile in 3ater, fish do not need the odyB%arts
3hich the reathing function re:uires. <*ish cool the lood 3ith the gills. De ;es%ir. ,2JaIB)(>.
A@. *+,+-"* -+ C-M=AI!-+ -& "/* !-5+, A+, LI?/" C/A="*!
AA. *+,+-"*8 I! !-5+, "/* AC"I>I"< LIK* LI?/" - I! I" "/* -#J*C" LIK*
AB. *+,+-"* -+ *+"*L*C/*IA vs. *+*?*IA
AG. *+,+-"* -+ "/* -,* I+ "/* !*+!A"I-+ C/A="*!
IIB1 )
Cost of 3hat "ristotle says aout s!ell e!erges fro! co!%arisons 3ith other senses.
The different kinds of s!ells are largely %arallel to the kinds of tastes. "ristotle doesn5t kno3
3hat the !ediu! of s!ell is. "s light trans!its color, so!ething co!!on to air and 3ater
%erfor!s the function of a !ediu! of s!ell.
,')a2B)( It is less easy to deter!ine <oto> s!ell
and the ob7ect of smell <the s!ellable, o>,
than that of those already !entionedE for it is not so clear
of 3hat sort <io t> s!ell is, as it is 3ith sound or color.
"he reason for this Mlack of clarityN is that
this sense is, in our case, not accurate <oukupi>
ut is 3orse than 3ith !any ani!alsE
"ristotle egins 3ith the potential , the s!ellale, i.e., 3hat in the things can !ake
s!ell, and says that he does not kno3 3hat that is. ?e argues that it is difficult to know this
ecause the sense is inaccurate. This i!%lies that thinking de%ends on sensing. In "ristotle5s
vie3 theoretical understanding develo%s in and fro! sense. Fithout an accurate sense of s!ell
you cannot devise a good theory of 3hat s!ell is.
,')a)(B)+ for !an can s!ell things only %oorly, and
he %erceives none of the o9ects of s!ell
unless they are painful or pleasant,
ecause the senseBorgan is not accurate.
' IIB1
Fe !iss s!ells that are not strong enough to e %ainful or %leasant.
,')a)+B)J It is reasonale to su%%ose that it is in this 3ay too
that hardBeyed ani!als %erceive colors, and that
the varieties of color are not distinct for the!,
e6ce%t in so far as they do or do not ins%ire fear.
-o too is the hu!an race 3ith regard to s!ells.
?e conce%tuali7es the inaccuracy y co!%aring it to ani!als 3ith %oor sight. ?u!ans
s!ell 3ell enough to avoid danger, 9ust as insects see 3ell enough to avoid danger, i.e. o9ects
that cause fear <the desire to avoid> 3hich co!es 3ith %ain <IIB+, ,),'>.
"ristotle uses another co!%arison et3een the senses to define the things 3e s!ell.
,')a)JB'' *or it see!s that s!ell is analogous 3ith taste,
and si!ilarly the s%ecies of flavor to those of s!ell,
ut in our case taste is !ore accurate
because it is a for! of touch, and it is this sense 3hich is !ost
accurate in !an, for in the others he is inferior to !any ani!als,
ut in res%ect of touch he is accurate aove all others.
The :uestion is why taste is !ore accurate. It is because taste is a for! of contact
<3hich is the sa!e 3ord as @touchA in Greek>, like the sense of touch in 3hich hu!ans are the
!ost accurate.
,')a''B'+ &or this reason he is also the !ost %rudent <phronim0taton,
ett> of ani!als.
This is again a co!%arison. Fe share %rudence <@%hronesisA> 3ith the higher ani!als.
Fe !ust not 9ust %ass y this assertion. *ro! the usual reading of "ristotle 3hich
se%arates thought fro! sense it 3ould follo3 that he could not %ossily have 3ritten these lines.
Fe see here that for "ristotle the sense of touch is very !uch involved in our thinking, since the
IIB1 +
fineness of our touch is the KreasonK < > 3hy 3e are the s!artest ani!als.
@PrudenceA !ight e read variously, ut notice the 3ord @dianoiaA in the ne6t line4
,')a'+B'J "n indication of this is the fact that in the hu!an race
natural aility or the lack of it de%ends on this senseBorgan
and on no otherE
for %eo%le 3ith hard flesh are %oorly endo3ed for thought
<dianoia), 3hile those 3ith soft flesh are 3ell endo3ed.
Fe have already discussed dianoia <dianoeisthai> 3hich de%ends on the ody and dies
3ith the ody <IB,, ,(=a+,BI>. Cost hu!an thought is dianoia <Ceta%hysics .IB,, )('2'+B
++>. This close de%endence of thought on sense needs to e ke%t in !ind for the rest of the
"ristotle didn5t say that nothing else deter!ines individual endo3!ent for thinking, 9ust
that no other organ deter!ines it. 8ur thinking %rocess re:uires the touch organ 3here the
senses co!e together. Fe 3ill see its roles !ore e6actly in Book III.
!** *+,+-"* AI -+ C-M=AI+? "/* !*+!*! A+, "/*I *LA"I-+ "-
?e returns to the analogy et3een s!ell and taste4
,')a'JB'1 Xust as flavors are s3eet or itter, so are s!ells.
But so!e things have a corres%onding s!ell and taste
<I !ean, for e6a!%le, s3eet s!ell and s3eet taste>
3hile other things have an o%%osite s!ell and taste.
The thinking you are doing here ha%%ens in your senseBi!ages. 0ou could not agree to
these co!%arisons if you could not have an i!age <a leftBover sense> of these tastes and
, IIB1
,')a'1B,')+ -i!ilarly too a s!ell !ay e %ungent, itter, shar%, or oily. But, as
3e have said, ecause s!ells are not very distinct, as flavors are,
they have taken their na!es fro! the latter in virtue of
a rese!lance in the things 3' oott t t>
for s3eet Ms!ellN elongs to saffron and honey
and itter to thy!e and such like, and si!ilarly in the other cases.
The potential sense :ualities of the things are 3hat sensing %uts into action. -o the
rese!lance et3een the taste of honey and its s!ell lies in the actual :ualities of honey.
,')+B= -!ell is like hearing and each of the other senses, in that as
hearing is of the audile and inaudile, and MsightN of the visile
and invisile, so s!ell is of the odorous and odorless.
-o!e things are odorless ecause it is i!%ossile that they
should have a s!ell at all% others ecause they have a little and
faint s!ell. The tasteless also is so s%oken of si!ilarly.
"gain he co!%ares the senses. The i!%erce%tile is a kind of senseBo9ect in each
sense. The i!%erce%tiles are o9ects of sense ecause, for e6a!%le, you can sense that
so!ething is tasteless only y tasting.
"fter the %otential o9ects co!es the !ediu!, as usual in his order in these cha%ters4
,')1B)+ -!ell too takes %lace through a medium <meta2, tu>, such
as air or 3aterE for 3aterBani!als too see! to %erceive s!ell .
3hether they have or do not have lood
9ust as those 3hich live in the airE for so!e of these,
dra3n y the s!ell, seek for their food from a great distance.
"ristotle does not clai! to kno3 3hat the !ediu! of s!ell is. Fhereas sound consists of
revererations of air, he kno3s that s!ell is not a revereration of the air. There is no s!ell
echo. The !ediu! of s!ell is not 9ust air since 3ater ani!als co!e a long 3ay for the sa!e
things that 3e s!ell. The !ediu! isn5t a viration or activity y the air or the 3ater the!selves.
-o the !ediu! of s!ell is neither 9ust air nor 9ust 3ater ut so!ething co!!on in oth, as he
said at the end of IIB2.
The 3ord @tooA in the first line is a co!%arison 3ith the other senses. ?e has no direct
oservation of the s!ell !ediu!.
!** *+,+-"* B1. -+ "/* M*,I5M -& !M*LL
,'))+B)= ?ence there a%%ears to e a %role!, if all Mani!alsN s!ell
si!ilarly, yet man s!ells only 3hen reathing MinN ut not 3hen
instead of reathing he is e6haling or holding his reath
o ' d c, q c
' cc q tc " out,
no !atter 3hether the o9ect is distant or near,
or even if it is %laced on the nostril.
That 3hat is %laced u%on the senseBorgan itself should e
i!%erce%tile is co!!on to all ani!als,
The lack of sensing directly on the nose is fa!iliar to us since it is consistent 3ith 3hat
he has already sho3n in IIB2 <,)1a))B)I>.
"ristotle says here that only humans cannot s!ell 3hile e6haling or holding the reath.
But later in the cha%ter <,''a2> he says rather that all reathing ani!als can s!ell only 3hen
they reathe. ?e has 3ritten !any volu!es aout the e6act differences et3een ani!als, for
e6a!%le different s%ecies of herons and different kinds of %ri!ates. In De -ensu . he
discusses !any of these sa!e issues at length and also !entions a kind of s!ell that only
hu!ans sense, ut he does not say there 3hat he says here. I have no satisfactory reading of
the hu!an uni:ueness 3hich he t3ice asserts here.
,'))=B)1 ut the inaility to %erceive 3ithout reathing is %eculiar to
<t d ti q l c t >
this is clear from experiment.
-o far he has een concerned 3ith a difference et3een hu!an and other animals that
breathe. /o3 he contrasts the hu!an to a different grou% of ani!als, the loodless ani!als of
3ho! he says that they dont breathe. ?o3 do they have the sense of s!ellG
,'))1B'' -o that the loodless ani!als, since they do not breathe
<cq c,>
3ould see! to have another sense a%art fro! those s%oken of.
But that is i!%ossile, since they perceive smellE
Is their %erce%tion a different senseG The ani!als that don5t reathe do respond to the
same things that 3e s!ell. If the o9ects are the sa!e, then it !ust e the sa!e sense.
,')''B'J for, the %erce%tion of the odorous 3hether it e
foul or fragrant% is s!ell.
Coreover, they are evidently destroyed y the sa!e strong odors
as !an is, e.g., itu!en, sul%hur, and the like.
They !ust, then, s!ell ut 3ithout reathing < ct>.
*oul or fragrant are the o9ects. It is the o9ect 3hich deter!ines 3hat sense this is, so
given the sa!e o9ects, this is s!ell.
In the ne6t %assage and fro! here on, hu!ans are 9ust one of the ani!als that reathe,
in contrast to those that do not reathe4
,')'JB,''a2 It see!s that in !an this sense)organ differs fro! that of the
other ani!als,
This ti!e he !eans ani!als that don5t reathe, as the end of the %assage sho3s.
7ust as his eyes differ fro! those of hardBeyed ani!als B for his
eyes have eyelids, as a screen and sheath, as it 3ere,
IIB1 2
and he cannot see 3ithout !oving or raising the!.
But the hard)eyed animals have nothing of this sort,
ut see straighta3ay 3hat takes %lace in the trans%arent.
8f course he kno3s that hu!ans are not the only ani!als that have eye lids. -ince the
air 3ould ring the s!ell to the ani!al5s olfactory surfaces 3ithout the need to %ush air forcily
against those surfaces, "ristotle hy%othesi7es that ani!als 3ho reathe need the forced airB
flo3 to lift so!e sort of a cover over the organ. The inhaling %art of reathing is 3hat 3ould lift
such a @lid.A
In the sa!e 3ay, therefore, the senseBorgan of s!ell
is in so!e creatures uncovered, like the eye,
while in those which take in air it has a covering,
which is removed when they breathe <ot>, o3ing to
the dilatation of the veins and %assages.
8f course "ristotle has not found those @lids.A ?e is using an analogy to eyelids so that
he can offer a %ossile e6%lanation 3hy so!e ani!als cannot s!ell 3ithout reathing.
"nd for this reason those animals which breathe
<t ct> do not s!ell in 3aterE
for in order to smell they must first breathe <ut>,
and it is i!%ossile to do this in 3ater.
This %assage says that all reathing ani!als sense s!ells only if they Afirst reathe.A
-!ell elongs to what is dry, 9ust as flavor does to 3hat is li:uid
"lthough 3e s!ell the dry only if it is !oist, 3e do s!ell the dry, 3hereas to taste
so!ething 3e have to take the 3hole li:uid into the !outh. <-o 3e can safely s!ell things that
3ould e %oisonous to taste.>
= IIB1
and the senseBorgan of s!ell is potentially of such a kind MdryN.
The last sentence of the cha%ter states a !a9or %lank of "ristotle5s theory of all the
senses. The organ is potentially like its o9ects. In IIBI he already told us that the sense !ust
e @%otentially such as any o9ect of %erce%tion already is actually <entelecheia)3 <,)=a+BJ>. ?e
said there that a%art fro! an o9ect the sense is %urely %otential <,)2aJB1 and )2B)1>. If the
sense of s!ell 3ere actually itself so!e s!ellBfor!, it could not sense all s!ells. Fe 3ill see
this clause again in !ore detail in the ne6t cha%ters.
!** *+,+-"* B.MB2 -+ '=-"*+"IALL< -& !5C/ A KI+,.(
IIB)( )
The tasteale thing is a fluid !i6ture, so!ething dry dissolved in the saliva. The
tasteale thing is freshly !ade on the tongue. "ristotle says e6%licitly later that the tongue is
not the organE the tongue is the !ediu! of taste. The organ is further in the ody. But in this
cha%ter he does not !ake this clear. Fe !ust 3ait until the ne6t cha%ter to understand ho3 all
flesh <including the tongue> is the !ediu! of the touch sensaitons, and ho3 the tongue in
addition also activates and trans!its taste.
Fhat he does !ake clear fro! the start is that taste is a s%ecial kind of touch.
,''a=B)( The o9ect of taste is so!ething tangible
<T c to ct # t>
and this is the reason why it is not %erce%tile through the
!ediu! of any foreign odyE for no more is it so with touch.
KThe o9ect of taste <, the tasteable> is tangile, i.e., touchale, contactale,
<uatov, the sa!e 3ord in Greek !eans @touchaleA and @contactaleA>. Like touch it is not
%erce%tile through the !ediu! of any foreign <ot> ody <such as air or 3ater>. This
!ight see! to say that there is no !ediu!, ut "ristotle 3ill sho3 that touch and taste do have
a !ediu! ut it is the flesh itself, including the tongue, %art of the living ody, not a foreign
The tasteale thing is a !atterBandBfor! thing. The tasteale thing is a tangile ody
dissolved in fluid.
,''a)(B)) "nd the body, the tasteale <to>
' IIB)(
in which resides the flavor <o>,
is in fluid as its matterE and this is a tangible thing.
<The Loe translator 3rongly inserts here the 3ord @!ediu!A 3hich does not a%%ear in
"ristotle5s te6t. In the sentence after this one "ristotle says e6%licitly that the fluid !atter is not
a !ediu!.>
@*luidA <uo> can also e translated @li:uidA @!oistA or @3et.A /ote that flavor, the
sensile for!, is in a ody, i.e., in a for!BandB!atter.
The fluid <the saliva> is the matter of the tasteale <not the !ediu!>. -o!ething dry
eco!es %otentially tasteale <has a flavor> 3hen dissolved in fluid. The !i6ture for the
solution is the saliva. The solution is freshly !ade on the tongue. The solution is not the tasteB
for! ut a !i6ture. " !i6ture is a for!BandB!atter thing.
,''a))B)I ?ence even if 3e lived in 3ater 3e should %erceive so!ething
s3eet thro3n into itE ut
the %erce%tion 3ould not have come to us through a medium,
ut ecause of the !i6ture 3ith the fluid, 9ust as in a drink.
The tasteale co!es to us y direct contact 3ith the tasteale thing. /othing see!s to
function as a !ediu!.
!** *+,+-"* B6. -+ $/< "/* &L5I, MIC"5* I! +-" A M*,I5M.
,''a)I But color is not seen in this 3ay as the result of !i6ture
nor through effluences.
"here is nothing then% here corresponding to a mediumE
but 7ust as the visile is color, so the tasteale is flavor.
Color is not a !atterBandBfor! thing like a !i6ture or like effluences 3ould e, <little its
of the thing>. Color co!es to us not as the colored thing ut rather as the for! of a !ediu!
activity <light>. But the tasteale thing <the !i6ture of dry and !oist> is directly touched. -o far
3e have not yet seen ho3 a touchale for! co!es to e se%arate fro! the thing.
IIB)( +
In the ne6t cha%ter he 3ill state his theory that the tongue is the medium 3hich takes
the tasteBfor! from the !i6ture and trans!its it to an organ 3hich he assu!es to lie further in
the ody. But "ristotle cannot say this here ecause he needs the ne6t cha%ter to e6%lain ho3
direct contact involves a !ediu!, the flesh including the tongue. -o he discusses only the fluid
on the tongue 3hich !akes so!ething tasteable.
,''a)= /othing !akes the sensation of flavor without !oisture
<uott>, ut it !ust have moisture actually or potentially,
as is the case 3ith salt.
*or it is easily dissolved and acts as a solvent on the tongue.
The tasteale is either actually a li:uid <a drink>, or %otentially solule as our dry food
eco!es !oist in saliva and therefore tasteale in the !outh.
,''a'(B+) !ight is of oth the visile and the invisible 3for
darkness is invisile, and sight discriminates <krinein> this too,
and further of that 3hich is excessively bright <for this is invisile
ut in a different 3ay fro! darkness>. -i!ilarly too hearing . . .
"nd one thing is s%oken of as invisible 9uite generally, like the
i!%ossile in other cases, 3hile another is so s%oken of if it is its
nature to have the relevant 9uality but it fails to have it or has it
i!%erfectly, %arallel to the footless or kernelBless. -o too taste is
of the tasteale and the tasteless, the latter eing that 3hich has
little or %oor flavor or is destructive of taste.
The sense is a :uantitative continuu!. This is "ristotle5s usual !ention of the
i!%erce%tile as a kind of senseBo9ect. But in IIB2 and IIB= he only sho3ed that the !ediu!
can e dark or soundless. ?e didn5t say e6%licitly that these are senseBo9ects. <?o3 can 3e
kno3 that it is dark in the roo!G Fe do it y sight BB y o%ening our eyes 3e see that it is dark.>
?ere he gives the cause4 @-ight is of . . . the invisile <for darkness is invisile, and sight discriminates this
too>.A Let us notice here again that "ristotle !akes !any %oints aout one sense y
co!%arison 3ith the others.
, IIB)(
There are also ne3 distinctions here4 Fhat never has taste is distinguished fro! 3hat
usually has taste ut lacks it in this instance. -aying that the food today is @tastelessA has a
different !eaning than saying that 3ater is @tasteless.A The @e6cessiveA and @destructiveA as a
senseBo9ect of each sense is no3 added as 3ell. ?e did !ention destructive s!ells <,')J>
ut that 3as not %art of the state!ent aout the soundless and the odorless as senseBo9ects
<,')+>. Fhy do these ne3 distinctions aout the senses co!e 9ust here in relation to tasteG
Fhat is it aout taste 3hich leads hi! to include the @e6cessiveA <the overly intense> 9ust hereG
?e e6%lains4
,''a+) But the %rinci%le <arche) of this is held to e <dokei)
the drinkable and undrinkable
The %rinci%le or source of @thisA <distinction et3een tasteale and tasteless or
destructive> 3hether 3e can drink it or not. This is vital ecause the undrinkale can kill us. "
ad taste can !ark the undrinkale 3hereas 3hat 3e can safely taste is @the drinkale.A <The
drinkale includes the edile since 3ith saliva it eco!es li:uified, i.e., drinkale.> Taste is the
only one of the five senses in 3hich sensing re:uires taking so!e of the sensile thing into our
odiesD -o the @e6cessiveA is not 9ust a good or ad taste ut rather indicative of 3hether or not
the ani!al can drink it.
,''a+)B+, <for oth are a for! of taste, ut the latter is bad and
destructive% 3hile the for!er is natural>E and
the drinkale is an o9ect common to touch and taste.
The distinction drinkale O undrinkale concerns the tasteale thing, not the taste for!,
not 9ust the flavor. The distinction has a functional asis since the tasteale is tangile and
ingested. In the distanceBsenses discussed %reviously, a too right light or loud sound can at
3orst da!age the senseBorgan, ut a ad taste !ay indicate that this tasteale can kill us.
"ll this aout the drinkale rings ho!e 3hat he said at the start, that the tasteale is
tangile. It does not co!e to us like color as a for! of an e6ternal !ediu!. The tasted !i6ture
of dry and fluid is a !atterBandBfor! thing, a tangible o9ect @co!!on to touch and taste.A
/e6t as usual he says that the organ !ust e ca%ale of receiving <%otentially e> every
for! of that sense 3ithout actually changing.
,''a+,B,''+ -ince the tasteale is fluid <u>, its sense organ <ltq>
too !ust neither actually <entelecheia) be fluid <u>,
nor incapable of eing made moist <ut u>.
*or taste is affected y the tasteale, 1a tasteale.
The organ !ust e %otentially fluid, ut 3ithout itself dissolving. It !ust retain its o3n
nature, and yet e ca%ale of eing !ade !oist.
,''+BJ "he sense)organ <ltq> of taste, therefore,
3hich is ca%ale of eing !ade !oist 3hile eing %reserved
intact, ut 3hich is not itself !oist, must be made moist.
These lines see! to i!%ly that the tongue is the organ since the tongue eco!es !oist
3ith saliva 3ithout dissolving itself. But he neither affir!s or denies it. In the ne6t cha%ter he
e6%licitly denies that it is the organ.
An indication of this is the fact that the tongue does not %erceive
either 3hen it is very dry or 3hen it is too !oist <u>.
"ristotle does not say that the tongue is the organ, only that it doesn5t sense 3hen there
is too little or too !uch fluid. "ristotle long considered the tongue to e the organ. In several of
his ooks on odily %arts he call it the organ. <-ee %art ' of E/D/8TE 2+.> I cannot e sure of
course, ut I think that 3hen he decided that the tongue is not the organ, he hedged his te6t
here only 9ust enough so that it does not contradict his final vie3. "fter e6%laining the touch
sense in the ne6t cha%ter, he can tell us that the tongue is not the organ ut the !ediu! of
taste. The tasteBfor! travels through the tongue to an organ located so!e3here inside
/o3 as in the other cha%ters <the ear cannot hear if it has a sound of its o3n>, "ristotle
!akes his usual ne6t %oint4
,''JB)( for in the latter case Mtoo fluidN there is a contact 3ith the fluid
3hich is there first,
9ust as 3hen so!eone first tastes a strong flavor and then tastes
another, and as to sick %eo%le all things see! itter ecause they
%erceive the! 3ith a tongue full of fluid of that kind.
The tongue5s o3n taste in its o3n fluid 3ould e like drinking so!ething strongBtasting
first, so that the second thing isn5t tasted.
"s usual after discussing the organ, "ristotle turns ne6t to the different :ualities
<analogous to the different colors> 3hich are %ro%ortioned at the organ.
,'')(B)J The kinds of flavor, as in the case of colors, are, 3hen si!%le,
opposites8 the sweet and the bitterE
ne6t to the one the oily and to the other the saltE and et3een
these the %ungent, the rough, the astringent, and the shar%.
These are held e <dokei) 9ust aout all the varieties of flavor.
/o3, as at the end of IIB1, he ends 3ith the sentence on eco!ing like the o9ect4
Conse:uently, that 3hich can taste is %otentially such Mas the
taste :ualitiesN, 3hile that 3hich !akes the sense actually so
<entelecheia, co!%lete> is the o9ect of taste <the tasteale>.
"s 3ith every sense, the sense of taste is %otentially all its %ossile o9ects. The sense
eco!es actually like the tasteale <the actual ne3 !i6ture 3ith the saliva>.
IIB)) )
The cha%ter falls into t3o %arts4 U% to ,'+'2 "ristotle %oses t3o %role!s4 Fhy are
there !any different touch :ualitiesG Is the flesh the organ or the !ediu!G ?e solves the t3o
%role!s y relating the! to each other.
The flesh is the !ediu!. The organ of touch lies dee%er in the ody. <*ro! other ooks
3e kno3 that it is the heart although he doesn#t say so.>
"fter ,'+'2 he sho3s ho3 3e sense the tangile :ualities hotOcold, fluidOdry.
,'')2 Concerning the tangile and touch the sa!e account <logos) !ay
e givenE
"ristotle egins as usual 3ith the %otential. Fhat is it in things that !akes the!
@The sa!e accountA refers to the %revious cha%ters, es%ecially the last sentence of the
%revious cha%ter <@... that 3hich can taste is %otentially such, 3hile that 3hich !akes it so, actually, <entelecheia)
is the o9ect of taste.A>
,'')2B)1 for if touch is not one sense ut !any, then
the o9ects %erce%tile y touch !ust also e !any.
"ristotle says @forA ecause4 if the sense is %otentially as the ob7ect is actually, then if
either of the! is !any, so is the other.
,'''(B'+ It is a %role! 3hether it is !any or one and also
' IIB))
what is the sense)organ for that 3hich can %erceive y touch,
whether it is the flesh <or 3hat is analogous to flesh in other
creatures>, or whether it is not, ut the flesh is the medium,
3hile the %ri!ary senseBorgan is so!ething else 3hich is internal.
Later he sho3s clearly that the flesh is the !ediu!, not the organ.
?ere he has stated t3o %role!s, that the o9ects of touch are !any, and 3hether the
flesh is the !ediu!. /o3 he discusses the first in detail. Fhat is it in the things that is
,'''+B'2 *or every sense is held to e <dokei) concerned 3ith one pair of
opposites, e.g. sight 3ith 3hite and lack, hearing 3ith high and
lo3 %itch, and taste 3ith itter and s3eetE
ut in the o9ect of touch there are many pairs of opposites%
hot and cold% dry and wet% rough and smooth% and so on for
the rest.
-o in having !any contrarieties, !any different senseB:ualities, touch see!s different
fro! the other senses.
,'''2B++ There is a solution to this %role! at any rate, that there are
!any %airs of o%%osites in the case of the other senses also, e.g.
in vocal sound there is not only high and lo3 %itch, ut also
loudness and softness, and s!oothness and roughness of voice,
and so on. There are other differences of this kind in the case of
color too.
But what the one thing is which is the sub7ect <hpokeimenon,
s,strate4 for touch as sound is for hearing is not clear.
-ound is one thing 3hich underlies oth loudOsoft and different %itches. Fhat is the
single underlying sensile in the case of touchG
IIB)) +
/o3 he goes into the second %role!4
,''+,B,'+a' Fhether the senseBorgan Mfor touchN is internal
or 3hether it Mthe organN is Mnot internal ut isN the flesh directly
is not settled )dokei) 3ith the indication of the fact that %erce%tion
occurs together )hama) 3ith contact. &or
"ristotle argues that the ovious direct contact does not indicate that flesh is the organ.
Fhy notG
,'+a'BI even as things are, if so!eone 3ere to !ake a sort of !e!rane
and stretch it round the flesh, it 3ould co!!unicate the sensation
in the sa!e 3ay i!!ediately 3hen touchedE
and yet it is clear that the sense)organ would not be in thisE
If so!e !aterial 3ere 3ra%%ed around the flesh like cloth or a 3e or !e!rane, 3e
3ould still sense contact through it. *or e6a!%le, <as CerleauBPonty si!ilarly argued> you can
feel roughness or s!oothness of a surface at the other end of a %encil. That 3ould not !ean
that the %encil is your senseBorgan.
,'+aIBJ and if this 3ere to eco!e naturally attached,
the sensation 3ould pass through it still more 9uickly.
The 3e is not a senseBorgan. It is not sensitive, yet the contact sensations flo3 through
it, and 3ould travel even more 9uickly if it 3ere an attached %art of the ody. It is clear that
"ristotle thinks of the touchBsensation as traveling. -ince he says @still !ore :uickly,A clearly
this travel takes ti!e.
,'+aJB)( ?ence, the %art of the ody 3hich is of this kind Mi.e., attachedN
see!s to e to us as the air 3ould e if it 3ere naturally attached
to us all roundE for 3e should then have held <dokei) that we
perceived sound% color% and smell by virtue of a single thing,
, IIB))
and that sight, hearing, and s!ell 3ere a single sense.
If the air 3ere attached to us 3e 3ould not reali7e that color, sound, and s!ell are
different senses, since they 3ould all co!e to us in the sa!e %lace, BB i.e., at the outer edges of
the attached !ediu!. Fe 3ould not kno3 that eyes, ears, and nose are different organs at
different locations inside. Like the flesh is in fact, the airBenvelo%e 3ould e all around the ody,
so that 3e 3ould see! to see and hear all over, as 3e no3 have touch sensations all over the
3hole ody.
*or the !any touchBcontraries this is the condition 3hich otains. Fe don5t kno3 if there
are different organs for different touch :ualities. Fe feel all the different touchBsensations at the
outer edge of the flesh. -ince flesh of the 3hole ody is touchBsensitive <not like an organ
3hich is only at one location>, therefore the flesh is the !ediu!.
/o3 he has related his t3o %role!s and is solving the! through each other. The !any
different touchBo9ects see! to us to e the o9ects of one sense ecause they all reach us
through the flesh 3hich is not the organ ut the !ediu!.
,'+a)(B)' But as things are, ecause that through 3hich the !ove!ents
occur is se%arated fro! us,
the senseBorgans !entioned are !anifestly different.
But in the case of touch, this is, as things are, unclearE
Fe differentiate eyes, ears, and nose ecause although 3e receive sound, hearing, and
s!ell through the air, 3e receive the! at different locations. If a ag of the air 3ere attached to
us, 3e 3ould receive all three sensiles at the outer surface of the ag. In that case 3e 3ould
think that color, sound, and s!ell are one sense. "ristotle says that this is e6actly 3hy 3e think
the !any touchBsenses are all one sense. Different organs for the several touch :ualities !ay
e hidden y the attached !ediu!.
!** *+,+-"* B0. -+ MA+< "-5C/)C-+"AI*"I*!
The attached !ediu! is not !ade of air, as he no3 e6%lains4
,'+a)'B)+ for the ensouled ody cannot e co!%osed of air or of 3ater,
for it !ust e so!ething solid.
Because the attached !ediu! is %art of the ody, it has to e !ade of so!ething solid
rather than air or 3ater 3hich are the usual !edia.
,'+a)+B)J The re!aining alternative is that it is a !i6ture of earth and these
Mi.e. earth %lus air and 3aterN,
as flesh <and 3hat is analogous to it> tends to eE
The attached !ediu! can only e a !i6ture, since according to "ristotle only !i6tures
are solid odies. Fater, air, and fire are not solid, and co!%letely dry earth falls a%art into a
%o3der. <De Sens ., ,,Ia'+, De Gen +Cor ++('+, ++Ia)>.
hence, the naturally adhering medium for that 3hich can %erceive
y touch has to e a ody,
and %erce%tions co!e through it, !anifold as they are.
-o he thinks he has shown <@henceA> that the attached !ediu! 3hich e6%lains the
!any touch :ualities, !ust e the flesh.
,'+a)JB)= That they are !any is !ade clear y touching 3ith the tongueE
for it %erceives all tangile o9ects 3ith the sa!e %art as that 3ith
3hich it %erceives flavor.
The tongue senses not only taste ut also hot and cold, hard and soft, rough or s!ooth.
This sho3s that !any different sense o9ects can indeed e %erceived through one attached
!ediu!, <in this case, the tongue>.
,'+a)1B') If, then, the rest of the flesh %erceived flavor, taste and touch
3ould e held to e <dokei) one and the sa!e sense, ut
as things are they are t3o, ecause they are not interchangeale.
If all the flesh 3ere like the flesh of the tongue 3e could sense taste and touch all over.
In that case 3e 3ould not kno3 that they are t3o different senses 3ith t3o interior organs.
-i!ilarly 3e don5t no3 kno3 3hether the different touch :ualities are different senses 3ith
different organs further inside.
,'+a''B,'+) 8ne !ight raise a %role! here. Every ody has de%th, and that
is the third di!ension, and if et3een t3o odies there e6ists a
third it is not %ossile for the! to touch each other. That 3hich is
fluid or 3et is not inde%endent of ody, ut !ust e 3ater or have
3ater in it. Those things 3hich touch each other in 3ater !ust,
since their e6tre!ities are not dry, have 3ater et3een the!, 3ith
3hich their e6tre!ities are full. If this is true, it is i!%ossile for
one thing to touch another in 3ater, and si!ilarly in air also <for air
is related to things in it as 3ater is to things in 3ater, although 3e
are !ore liale not to notice this, 9ust as ani!als 3hich live in
3ater fail to notice 3hether the things 3hich touch each other are

Even 3hen t3o things see! to e touching <in contact>, there 3ill e so!e 3ater or air
on their surfaces. !o contact has to go through something anyway.
,'+)B' Does, then, the %erce%tion of everything take %lace si!ilarly,
Do all sensations travel through a !ediu!G
,'+'BJ or is it different for different MsensesN
as it is no3 held <dokei) that taste and touch act y contact, 3hile
the other senses act fro! a distanceG But this is not the caseE
rather we do perceive the hard and the soft through
IIB)) 2
something other also,
9ust as 3e do that 3hich can sound, the visile, and the odorous.
But the latter are %erceived fro! a distance, the for!er fro! close,
and for this reason the fact esca%es our noticeE since 3e %erceive
everything surely through a !ediu! ut in these cases 3e fail to
notice. 0et, as 3e said earlier, even if 3e %erceived all tangiles
through a membrane 3ithout noticing that it se%arated us fro!
the! we should be in the same position as we are now when
in water or in airE for 3e su%%ose that 3e touch the o9ects
the!selves and that nothing is through a !ediu!.
Fe 3ould not notice if touch had to travel through cloth or a !e!rane. In air and 3ater
3hen 3e see! to touch a thing directly, 3e do it through so!ething et3een. -i!ilarly, 3e
don5t notice that the flesh is et3een the thing and the organ. "ristotle says that all senseB
for!s travel through something else, i.e., a !ediu!.
,'+)'B)2 But there is a difference et3een the o9ect of touch and those of
sight and hearing, since 3e %erceive the! ecause the medium
acts 3 i 4 on us , 3hile 3e %erceive o9ects of touch not
through the agency of the !ediu! but together 3 hama! with
the medium, like a !an 3ho is struck through his shieldE
for it is not that the shield is first struck and then strikes the
man, ut 3hat ha%%ens is that both are struck together 3hama4
!** *+,+-"* B@. -+ /AMA
-o the contactBsensation travels through its !ediu! like the other senses, ut the flesh
!ediu! <and the fil! of air or 3ater> function in a different 3ay than the !edia of the distance
senses. In the latter, the !edia are affected, and se%arately affect us in turn. It is not the shield
that hits the !an. The i!%act travels through the shieldE it is not an action of the shield. It is not
like the air 3hich first revererates and then, in turn, !oves the ears. -i!ilarly, the flesh is not
first hit and then actively hits us in turn. ;ather, the touch organ and the flesh are affected
together. The i!%act travels through the flesh to an organ located dee%er in the ody.
= IIB))
/o3 he states the conclusion4
,'+)2B'( Universally <hol0s), 7ust as air and 3ater
are to sight, hearing, and s!ell,
so the flesh and the ton,ue
are to their senseBorgan as each of those is.
/ote that in this s%ot "ristotle says e6%licitly that the tongue is the medium of taste%
not the organ.
?is conclusion is4 9ust as those are the medium for sight and hearing, so the flesh
<including the tongue> is the medium of touch, not the organ.
,'+'(B'+ "nd neither in the one case nor in the other 3ould %erce%tion
co!e aout 3hen contact is !ade 3ith the senseBorgan itself,
e.g. if so!eone 3ere to %ut a 3hite ody on the surface of the
eye. *ro! this it is clear that that 3hich can %erceive the tangile
is internal.
*or then the sa!e thing 3ould ha%%en as in other casesE
for 3e do not %erceive 3hat is %laced on the sense organ
ut we do perceive 3hat is %laced on the flesh.
/o3 in this argu!ent "ristotle can use 3hat at first see!ed not to a%%ly to touch. -ince
flesh is in contact 3ith the thing and yet we do sense, therefore flesh cannot e the organ.
,'+'J /ence the flesh is the medium <$> for that 3hich can
%erceive y touch.
-EC8/D P";T 8* T?E C?"PTE;
"s in the other cha%ters, after !ediu! and organ "ristotle ne6t discusses the various
:ualities, such as the %itches or colors.
IIB)) 1
,'+'2B'1 It is the defining 9ualities <> of body, 3ua body , 3hich
are tangible. The :ualities 3hich I s%eak of are those 3hich
define the ele!ents, hot and cold% dry and fluid,
of 3hich 3e have s%oken earlier in our account of the ele!ents.
" ody could e defined in !any 3ays, for e6a!%le as a %rofessor or a stone, ut as
considered 9ust @:ua odyA it is defined in ter!s of these four :ualities.
"ristotle is referring to De Gen and Cor, 3here he defined each ele!ent y a %air4 hot
and fluid <air>, cold and fluid <3ater>, hot and dry <fire>, cold and dry <earth>.
"ll four touchB:ualities are also 3hat odies are !ade of. Color and sound do not
constitute a ody. They are only potential in odies. Bodies have no active color in the dark,
and there is no sound in ron7e unless it is struck. In contrast, the touchBsensiles are 3hat
odies actually are, a !i6 of so!e ratio of hotBcold and fluidBdry.
This !ust not esca%e the reader. In "ristotle5s vie3 touchBsensing %ro%ortions and
defines the concrete :ualities that define odies. In the usual !odern vie3 sensation is
so!ething e6tra, so 3e !ight !iss the fact that for "ristotle ani!al sensing is an activity in
nature. The sensile <touchale> :ualities define the elements. "nd, for "ristotle, hot, cold,
fluid, dry are not 9ust @:ualities,A ut forces. In a ody the hot holds the other three together.
Every ody is a !i6ture of these four, and the degree of a odyRs softness or solidity de%ends
on the ratio of its !i6ture. In "ristotle5s vie3 odies are their contactable i.e.% touchable
9ualities. This vie3 3ill e i!%ortant in a nu!er of 3ays in the rest of the De Anima.
*ro! his conce%t of @!i6tureA "ristotle derives the degree of solidity. *ro! their solidity
he derives their definite e6tre!ities. *luids have no definite li!its 3hich enale the! to
@contactA each other 3ithout !erging. Bodies %ro%erly @touchA only 3hen their e6tre!ities co!e
@togetherA 3ithout !erging. By touch 3e also sense the lesser tangiility of fluids and 3ind
3hich do not have definite li!its.
"gain I e!%hasi7e that in Greek @touchA and AcontactA are the sa!e single 3ord. In
English usage the 3ord @touchA refers to sensing, 3hereas @contactA is used for inani!ate
things, ut this distinction is foreign to "ristotle5s te6t. In using the t3o different 3ords 3e
ha%%en to have in English, translators naturally use the! as fits our linguistic haits. But 3e
have to e on guard lest 3e i!%ose our !odern vie3 that %erce%tion is an e6tra, that 3hat is
@realA is e6%lained only y inani!ate :ualities. *or "ristotle nature and the universe are not
)( IIB))
e6clusively inani!ate. In the De "ni!a fro! the characteristics of life he develo%s conce%ts
3hich he considers basic to nature. *or "ristotle, living and %erceiving are as natural as
ele!ents and heat, and they are studied 3ithin natural science. "ristotle uilds %erce%tion in as
a !a9or activity in the order and %ro%ortions of nature.
8f course, 3hen inani!ate odies touch they don5t %erceive each other, ut their
contactaility 3ithout !erging de%ends on their ratio of heat energy to cold, and dryness to
fluidity, and these are 3hat the sense of touch contact %erceives. Fhichever English 3ord is
used, 3e need to think the other 3ord as 3ell.
!** *+,+-"* BA. -+ !-LI, Q "-5C/A#L* #-,I*!
,'++(B,',a, Their senseBorgan, that of touch <@contactA>,
in 3hich the sense called touch <i.e, @contactA> %ri!arily resides,
is the %art 3hich is %otentially such as they are.
&or perceiving is a kind of being affectedE
"t the end of IIBI "ristotle said that 3e have to use the 3ord @affectedA for @co!ing into
act,A although 3hen so!ething co!es to enact its o3n nature this is not the usual kind of
affecting. "s he e6%lained in IIBI, co!ing into act is not a change. But it can re:uire ordinary
affecting as well. *or e6a!%le the light affects a change in the eyes and therey activates
<does not change> the %otentiality to see every color.
,',a) hence, that 3hich is itself in act <energeia) !akes that %art like it,
3hich is %otentially already so.
?a!lyn, ;oss and ?ett should not sustitute @actualA <entelecheia> 3here "ristotle says
@in actA <energeia>. They 3ould not 3ish to have "ristotle say that the flesh actually eco!es
hot or hard 3hen it touches so!ething hard. Like the eyes and ear, the flesh is affected y the
sensile things ut therey eco!es active so as to sense every hotOcold and hardOsoft 3ithout
itself co!ing into the actuality <co!%lete e6istence> of eing these. The sensing does not
actually eco!e hot or cold, rather it actively registers ho3 !uch an o9ect is hotter or colder.
&or this reason 3e do not %erceive anything 3hich is e:ually as
IIB)) ))
hot or cold, or hard or soft, ut rather 3hat e6ceeds these,
But ho3 can the touch organ !aintain its o3n co!%osition 3hile still eing !ade active
<ut not changed into> the thing5s hotOcold and fluidOdryG ?e e6%lains this4
,',a,B2 the sense eing a broad mean <ott> et3een the contraries
<hotOcold, fluidOdry> in the o9ects of %erce%tion.
"nd that is 3hy it discri!inates <i> the o9ects of %erce%tion.
*or the mean <meson, c> can discri!inate <to>E
for it becomes to each extreme in turn the other extreme.
*or e6a!%le, an averageBsi7ed %erson is taller)than so!e %eo%le and also shorter)
than others, without changing. " %oint on a line discriminates et3een the t3o seg!ents.
"lthough the %oint doesn5t change, it is to each seg!ent the start of the other seg!ent. " !idB
%oint creates a %ro%ortion et3een the t3o seg!ents. 8n a 3eighing scale the alance %oint
!easures all other 3eights. "ll :uantities can e e6%ressed as deviations fro! a !ean.
"ristotle says that the solid ut %liale flesh is a !i6ture that is 9ust at the !ean et3een
hot and cold, and et3een fluid and dry. "lthough staying the sa!e, the !ean eco!es the
3ar!er one 3hen so!ething colder affects it, and the cooler one, 3hen the other thing is hot.
-o it co!es to have the sensation of hot 3hen the o9ect is hotter, and vice versa.
$ithin a middle range the internal touch)organ maintains its own temperature and
consistency% and senses only the ratio by which the ob7ect differs from it. -o, the flesh
and the touchBorgan do not become 3hat the thing actually isE rather they are active in
discri!inating it y eco!ing its contrary although staying at the !ean <3here the ratio of cold
to hot is e:ual>.
/otice that the organ <!ade of flesh> defines the touch :ualities, not vice versa. The
@hotA in things is defined as a @touchaleA sensile :uality. The !ore %leasant 3ord @tangileA
hides the <to us 9arring> fact that "ristotle defines %hysical and che!ical odies in ter!s of
:ualities 3hich he defines as touchale. 8f course he doesn5t think stones and !etal %erceive
each other 3hen they touch, ut they consist of %erce%tile factors. The sense organs %rovide
the %ro%ortions that define the sensile :ualities. Fe !ight assu!e that orderly relations e6ist
9ust alone in nature, and %erce%tion is e6%lained y un%erceived factors. But "ristotle e6%lains
odies y their 'tangible( <%erce%tile> :ualities.
)' IIB))
!** *+,+-"* BB. -+ M*,I5M% M*A+% A+, #-A, M*A+
,',a2B)( "nd 7ust as that 3hich is to %erceive 3hite and lack must be
neither of them actively 3 ener,eia, cc 4,
although oth %otentially <and si!ilarly too for the other senses>,
so in the case of touch that 3hich is to %erceive such !ust e
neither hot nor cold.
"lthough in this different 3ay <y eing in the !iddle>, the touch sense is like the others,
%otentially all degrees 3hile itself neither hot nor cold <i.e., neither !ore hot than cold, nor !ore
cold than hot>.
,',a)(B)J "gain, 7ust as sight 3as in a 3ay of oth the visile and the
invisile, and 9ust as the other senses too 3ere si!ilarly
concerned 3ith o%%osites,
so too
touch is of the tangible and the intangible <t>E
and the intangile is that 3hich has to a very s!all degree the
distinguishing characteristic of things 3hich are touchale,
as is the case 3ith air,
and also those touchale things 3hich are in excess% as are
those which are destructive.
The situation 3ith res%ect to each of the senses, then, has een
stated in outline.
The %erce%tile is a range, a :uantitative continuu!. "ristotle is uilding u% to the ne6t
cha%ter <he did not have cha%ter reaks> 3here his argu!ent de%ends on the fact that eyond
the !iddle range the senseBorgan is disru%ted and hurt, or senses nothing. This is ecause the
sense is a %ro%ortion, as he 3ill no3 sho3.
IIB)' )
"ristotle has not yet discussed 9ust ho3 organs !anage to take on a sensile for! fro!
a !ediu!. *or e6a!%le, in the case of sound he sho3ed only that the air is continuous 3ith air
encased in the ear, ut did not say ho3 a thing like the ear could %otentially enact all the for!s it
can hear, 3hile eing actually none of the!. ?e sho3s it in this cha%ter.
The cha%ter says that the sense is a %ro%ortion in the sense organ, and can therefore
receive %ro%ortions, 7ust as a string instru!ent is tuned y proportions between the strings,
so that its strings can e %lucked to enact all %ossile !elodies 3ithout any change in the lyre5s
o3n %ro%ortions et3een the strings.
The cha%ter egins 3ith a 9u!% to the universal level fro! the five senses 3e have
,',a)2B'( Universally <KkatholoK>, with regard to all sense)perception,
3e !ust take it that the sense is that 3hich can receive
perceptible forms without their matter,
as 3a6 receives the i!%rint of the ring 3ithout the iron or gold,
The !eta%hor is again <as in IIB)> the seal ring 3hich %resses its %attern on the 3a6.
The sha%e on the 3a6 3ill e the sa!e regardless of 3hether the ring is of gold or ron7e. The
3a6 leaves the !atter of the ring and takes on only the for!.
The ne6t sentence reiterates in a !ore intricate 3ay that the sense does not sense 3hat
the things are <gold or ron7e>, ut does sense the kinds of sensiles, i.e. color, sound, s!ell,
taste and touch.
,',a'(B', and it takes the i!%rint 3hich is of gold or ron7e,
' IIB)'
but not 3ua gold or bron:e . -i!ilarly too in each case, the
sense is affected y that which has color or flavor or sound ,
i.e., the things
ut y these not in so far as they are what each of them is
spoken of as being,
It is not :ua eing a ring, or a %lant, or a shirt that it has a given color or !akes that
but in so far as they are of a certain kind and
The %hrase @of a certain kindA refers to 3hat !akes things %otentially seen or heard.
They are of so!e sensile kind
,',a', in accordance with their proportion <tt o>.
.ague translations of @logosA such as @%rinci%leA or @accountA 3ill not do here. The
translation needs to e @%ro%ortion.A " fe3 lines further do3n "ristotle likens this @logosA in
senseBorgans to the tuned strings of a lyre. That leaves no dout as to 3hat RAlogosA !eans
here. Fhen 3e sense the sensiles 3e sense their proportion.
!** *+,+-"* BG. -+ L-?-!
The %ri!ary senseBorgan is that in 3hich such a %otentiality
resides. ltq c t c % q tut u.
The 'primary( senseBorgans <e.g., eye, ear, nose> are 3here the sensations are first
!ade. This is in contrast to the @ultimateA or @lastA senseBorgan <eschaton, ct > 3hich is
the touch organ as the organ to 3hich the other sensations are conveyed to it <IIIB', ,'J)J and
IIIB2, ,+)a)1>, and 3here they ter!inate.
IIB)' +
The relation et3een a sense and its senseBorgan is eing clarified here. The organ is
the !eans, by which <> there is sensing. The organ is the instru!ent, the !atterBandBfor!.
The senseB%o3er is %art of the soul, the ca%acity to function and also the for!Bof ody <here the
for! of the senseBorgan>. "s "ristotle said in IIB' <,),aI>, @that y !eans of 3hich 3e senseA
can e said to e either 9ust the soul, or the soulBandBody co!ination.
,',a'IB'J These are then the sa!e,
although what it is for them to be such is not the sa!e.
"ristotle often says that a single concrete thing has different !odes of eing, i.e., it can
e defined in different 3ays. If you %oint at !e, @thisA is a ody and also a %rofessor. If you
%oint at an eye, @thisA is oth the sense of sight and the senseBorgan. /o3 he 3ill differentiate
the t3o 3ays of defining this4
,',a'JB'= &or the instrument 3hich %erceives <lo> !ust e a
%articular e6tended !agnitude <megethos),
3hile 3hat it is to be able to perceive <lt > and the sense
<> is surely not a !agnitude ut rather
a certain proportion <logos) and %otentiality of that thing.
The organ is a threeBdi!ensional thing <@a !agnitude,A> 3hile the sense is not, ut is
rather the ca%acity for functioning.
!** *+,+-"* BI -+ AI!"/*"*I-+.
" K!agnitudeA <megethos) is a si7ale thing <not an astract !athe!atical :uantity, and
not a :uantity as in the Categories>. It is a thing, like an eye, a nose, or a rock.
-EE E/D/8TE )('. 8/ CEGET?8-
?e concludes that the sense is a %ro%ortion or ratio <logos>, and a %o3er or %otentiality
of that e6tended thing.
, IIB)'
,',a'=B+) It is clear from all this too why excess in the o9ects of
%erce%tion destroys the senseBorgans <for if the !ove!ent is too
violent for the senseBorgan, its proportion 3 lo,os! is destroyed
BB and this we saw the sense <> to be ))
c q ltc ti lt q , ut o o tit
` q q
/ow is this 'clear from( 3hat 3ent eforeG "ristotle has often told us that e6cess is
destructive of the sense, ut no3 he gives the reason why. E6cess of rightness or sound
volu!e or heat destroys the %ro%ortion, and the sense is a %ro%ortion. This is the key to a great
!any :uestions.
#ecause Kthe sense is a %ro%ortion <logos>,K @that is why e6cess destroys...K Clearly
3e have to read @logosA as %ro%ortion.
,',a+)B+' 7ust as the consonance <smph0nia, > and %itch of the
strings are destroyed 3hen they are struck too violently. e
q &' o to c o t .
In the case of a !usical instru!ent, %lucking or anging too hard disru%ts the @tuning,A
i.e, its %ro%ortions. It does not destroy the instru!entE only the %ro%ortions are disru%ted. The
length and tension of the strings changes slightly so that they no longer have their e6act
relationshi%s to each other.
" @consonanceA <smph0nia) also !eans a chord, a har!onious togetherBsounding.
The lyre 3ith its strings is a concrete e6tended thing, of course, ut its capacity to have
melodies played on it consists of the proportions between the strings. The lyre and the
stringB%ro%ortions are one and the sa!e thing, ut 3ith different @!odes of eing,A i.e., the
concrete thing includes the 3ood and string !aterial, its sha%e, the lengths and tensions of the
strings. 8n the other hand, the ca%acity to %lay a tune consists not in the strings or even their
lengths and tensions, ut only in the %ro%ortional relations et3een the!. 8n a !uch larger
instru!ent all those !aterial factors 3ill have different :uantities, ut the %ro%ortions 3ill e the
8n tuned strings you can %lay every and any tune. Fe recall "ristotle saying so often
that the senseBorgan !ust e ca%ale of <e %otentially> all the senseBo9ects 3hile actually
eing none of the!. But until no3 he didn5t offer an e6a!%le. ?o3 could anything e like that BB
%otentially every kind, actually none of the!G /o3 3e have the tuning %ro%ortions of the strings
on a lyreE they are %otentially every tune, actually no tune at all.
E6actly ho3 is a lyre ale to %lay any tune, 3hile itself eing none of the!G It is
ecause the strings are tuned, and tuning is a syste! of %ro%ortions. Let us see if 3e can !ake
it clear to ourselves, 3hy %ro%ortions 3ork in this 3ay.
8ne for! <one tune> is not the 3hole syste! of %ro%ortions. " for! is rather @in accordA
<kata> 3ith it. ?ere is the difference4
"he proportion consists of relations along the 3hole range, all notes or all colors in
relation to each other. A form is so!e %articular %attern 3ithin that 3hole %ro%ortion, or as he
says, @according toA <kata> the %ro%ortionBsyste!, for e6a!%le one !elody, or even one note,
say the @DA aove @!iddle C.A The @DA can e defined and %layed only on the syste! of
%ro%ortions y 3hich the strings are tuned. Distinct sounds do not co!e first alone, only later
eing %ut into relations 3ith each other. " @DA is the sound that is one notch aove @!iddle C,A
3hich is the center of our syste! of octaves. In the instrument every single sound is
located within a proportioned system of its relations to all other sounds. This syste!
stretches indefinitely u% and do3n, even if the range of the given instru!ent ha%%ens to e 9ust
a fe3 octaves.
The syste! of %ro%ortions is %rovided only y the organ. " given air viration is
%otentially a certain sound 3hich !eans that 3hen it is heard the organ 3ill receive is as having
certain %ro%ortions, certain relations to other sounds. But 3ithout the organ it 3ould not have
-o!eone !ight grant all this, ut still find it a fanciful idea that sensing, like tuning, is a
%ro%ortioning. But 3e can recogni7e that so!ething asic is involved, considering ho3 the idea
has continued. *or e6a!%le, ?u!e !ade only one e6ce%tion to his rule that @all ideas co!e
fro! i!%ressions.A ?e said that having seen t3o shades of lue, one can i!agine the shade in
et3een, even if one has never seen it. Hant took this over as his second @Category,A the
intensity of sensations as :uantitative relations. It is a longBlasting idea that sensations co!e in
gradations of intensity 3hich can e !easured y !athe!atical %ro%ortions. -o a given sound
is not only this one soundE a single %itch is a certain %ro%ortional relation to all other notes.
Fe !ight think that every sound has :uantitative relations to other sounds 3ithout any
hearing, !easuring, or thinking activity. "ristotle calls that character of things @%otential.A
Pro%ortions co!e fro! the %ro%ortioning of the sensing activity.
8f course, "ristotle is not i!agining that senseBorgans have strings 3hich so!eone
tunes regularly. ;ather, the idea of %ro%ortion <or ratio> is a asic 3ay "ristotle looks at the
order in the universe. Fe notice that he is constantly saying @9ust as ..., so.....A In IIIB, he 3ill
discuss ho3 understanding arises fro! sense, and it 3ill then e vital to recall that the sense is
a %ro%ortion.
Pro%ortions are such a key conce%t for "ristotle ecause %ro%ortions are separable
fro! things. Let us see 3hat this !eans4 The %ro%ortions or ratios on a given instru!ent are
not li!ited y the %hysical construction or si7e of that instru!ent. The instru!ent is !ade in
accordance 3ith the %ro%ortions. It is characteristic of %ro%ortions that they can e se%arated,
co%ied, and re%eated on so!e other thing. *or e6a!%le4 ?o3 is it %ossile that a little flat
%hotogra%h is a %icture of youG It is ecause the %ro%ortions of eyes, ears, nose, and the
%ro%ortion of the 3idth and length of the face are BB the %ro%ortions of your face.
Let us not take this lightly. Fe 9ust assu!e that there can e %ictures of things. ?o3
can your face a%%ear on a %iece of %a%erG Fe have to sto% and let it co!e ho!e to ourselves,
that pictures are possible only because of proportions. " %icture is a grou% of %ro%ortions
that have traveled. Pro%ortions <ratios> are inherently re%eatale else3here. They are
se%arale fro! that of 3hich they are the %ro%ortions.
It is due to this characteristic of %ro%ortions, that a sensile for! can co!e to e
se%arale fro! the thing and can travel BB i.e., can eco!e the for! of so!ething else.
*or e6a!%le, a reci%e is a syste! of %ro%ortions. It says ' %ounds of tofu and [
teas%oon each of four s%ices, ut of course you kno3 you can use one %ound and half that
!uch of each s%ice. The reci%e is inde%endent of the %articular stuff in your kitchen and it is
se%arale fro! any one set of nu!ers.
" !elody can e %layed in !any keys BB it does not consist of certain notes. It is
se%arale fro! the notes. 0et, if you untune the strings, the !elody cannot e %layed at all.
"ristotle thinks of the senseBorgan as active in !aking the %ro%ortional interrelations
et3een the colors, and et3een the sounds. The organ has the syste! of %ro%ortions. 8ne
thing has only one %ro%ortion. In this 3ay "ristotle can e6%lain ho3 an organ !ight receive a
se%arale for! or %attern 3ithout the thing, 9ust the %ro%ortion. ;eceiving one tune does not
change the tuning. ;eceiving a single %ro%ortion does not change the syste! of %ro%ortions in
the organ.
" sensile for! is inherently a set of %ro%ortionsE this is 3hy it is se%arale, 3hy it can
IIB)' 2
travel, 3hy it can eco!e the for! also of so!ething else <first of a !ediu!, then of the organ>.
-o let us not 9ust airily say that a for! is se%arale fro! !atter, that it can so!eho3 travel, and
e received. ;ather, a form is 3hat can e in !any %laces, 3hat can e se%arated fro! one
thing and re%roduced in another because it is a %ro%ortion or a set of %ro%ortions.
,',a+'B,',+ It is also clear 3hy %lants do not %erceive, although they have a
%art of the soul
and are affected y tangile o9ectsE for they are cooled and
The reason is that they do not have a broad mean <ot>, nor
a first principle <arche) of a kind such as to receive the forms
of o9ects of %erce%tionE
rather they are affected by the matter as well.
"lthough they can e affected y the tangile :ualities, the %lants lack the active @road
!eanA <ot>, i.e., the syste! of %ro%ortional relations. Therefore the %lants cannot take on
a relation to a !ean, so they cannot receive a se%arated for!, only for!BandB!atter. They are
heated y heat and fro7en y cold, ut cannot receive 9ust %ro%ortions alone.
,',+B= -o!eone !ight raise the :uestion 3hether that 3hich cannot
s!ell !ight e affected y s!ell, or that 3hich cannot see y
colorE and si!ilarly in the other cases.
If the ob7ect of smell is smell% then smell must produce, if
anything, s!elling <>E
hence nothing 3hich is unale to s!ell can e affected y s!ell
<and the sa!e account <logos) a%%lies to the other cases>,
Fhat is translated as @the o9ect of s!ellA is in "ristotle5s 3ords @the s!ellale.A
"ristotle5s 3ord @the sensileA is ltranslated throughout the ook as @o9ect of sense,A <-i!ilarly
"ristotle5s the hearale, seeale.> "he sensibles activate what can sense. The s!ellale is
al3ays so!e e6isting thing, ut it activates the nose :ua s!ellale. Considered 9ua hearable
or smellable% things can affect only 3hat can have the activity of hearing or s!elling.
= IIB)'
,',=B1 nor can 3hat is ale to %erceive <the soulB%o3er> e so affected
e6ce%t in so far as it is ca%ale of %erceiving.
The senseBorgans can e affected y the s!ellale, hearale, or visile <s!ell, sound,
or color> only insofar as they can sense, i.e. take on a %ro%ortion. Fe notice that our English
translation of the Greek ending @tonA fails. The 3ord @o9ectsA see!s to i!%ly that the @o9ectsA
in the English sense of the 3ord are the things. "ristotle uses the 3ord @t@ 3hen he
refers 9ust to the things. The %erce%tiles are the things, yes, ut only insofar as they can be
engaged in the activity of sensing. The seeales, hearales, and tangiles are color, sound, or
sensations of touch. ?ere the difference is clear. Fhereas a visible thing like a rock could
certainly affect a %lant, it cannot affect the %lant 3ith its rock color. The rock is @a visileA <thing>,
ut 9ua visible the rock cannot affect the %lant.
But 3hat if the thing that s!ells and sounds also affects the organ !ateriallyG Fhat if
not only the rock s!ell ut also the rock hits the noseG
,',1B)' Together 3ith the aove, the follo3ing also !akes this clear.
/either light and darkness nor sound nor s!ell does anything to
odies, ut rather the things that they are in, e.g. it is the air
acco!%anying the thunderolt 3hich s%lits the 3ood.
"ristotle thinks the violent urst of air that co!es 3ith thunder s%lits the 3ood. The
difference is clear. Fhen sound or color see! to affect so!ething !aterially, this is due not to
the %itch of the sound or the sensile for! of color or s!ell, ut rather due to the for!BandB
!atter thing that ha%%ens also to e sounding or s!elling.
/o3 still another :uestion4
,',)'B)+ But tangible sensiles and flavors do affect odiesE for other3ise
y 3hat could soulless things e affected and alteredG
"s he said in IIB)), the sense of touch senses the actual :ualities <hot, cold, fluid, dry>
3hose !i6ture constitutes odies, and y 3hich the odies also affect each other. "nd flavor
and s!ell are dissolved in air and 3ater. Do these sensile for!s not materially affect the air
IIB)' 1
or the 3aterG
,',), Fill those other sensile o9ects too, then, affect the!G
This is not the sa!e :uestion as the one 3e settled aove. /o3 "ristotle asks 3hether
odies can e affected y hot and cold and y taste <and s!ell> ecause these sensiles can in
fact affect odies that do not sense the heat or the s!ell.
,',),B)J 8r is it the case that not every body is affected y s!ell and
sound, and those 3hich are affected are indeterminate and
inconstant% like air 3for air smells as it has been affected4G
The !edia ele!ents <air and 3ater> hold no deter!inate sha%e. Fater has the sha%e of
the cu% or of the oceanBed. The air takes on the sha%e of the roo!E it has no solid li!its such
as 3ould kee% out heat or s!ell. "his is why air and water are media of the distance)
senses. The air can get foul, or take on the s!ell of the flo3ers or the cheese. Is this then a
case of s!ellingG
,',)JB)2 Fhat then is smelling a%art fro! eing affectedG
If air can take on s!ell, is it then like a senseBorganG If the air s!ells, is that the sa!e
thing as 3hen ani!als s!ell the airG
,',)2B)= 8r is s!elling also %erceiving,
3hereas the air 3hen affected :uickly eco!es %erce%tibleH
q t c ou l, o ` q e tc (
The fluid !edia are :uickly affected y 3hat 3e sense. ?ere again 3e can see that y
@a %erce%tileA <translated @an o9ect of %erce%tionA> "ristotle !eans neither si!%ly the thing nor
)( IIB)'
only our taste or s!ell s%lit a3ay fro! the thing. It is rather the thing considered 9ua
smellable. /o3 he distinguishes the s!ellale fro! the senseBactivity of s!elling.
In !odern science sensing is rendered as if it 3ere the eing affected <3ith
@consciousnessA as so!ething added on BB as if the sensing can e understood as !aterial
events that 3ould not inherently have to include that se%arately conceived thing 3e call
-o!e translators add the 3ord @consciousA or @a3areA or @an oserving of,A ut it falsifies
"ristotle5s vie3 to i!%ute a se%arate ter!. /o such ter! a%%ears in the te6t. The !odern
conce%t assu!es a se%arate entity, @consciousness,A 3hich can e added to events that are
conceived only !aterially, as if they 3ere co!%lete 3ithout 3hat "ristotle calls @sensing.A *or
"ristotle sensing is an essential life activity of ani!als, ho3 3e !ove, feed, and interact in !idst
of things and other creatures. This cannot consist of !ere structural events inside the ody 3ith
a se%arate @consciousnessA added to the!. " !erely oserving consciousness added to De
-ensu 3ould not constitute %erceiving. ?is contrast here is et3een sensible and sensing.
Table of Endnotes
Book I
Chapter 1
1. On the Terms in 402a1-11
2. On Substance 402a8-23
3. On 402a25 - 402b24
4. On Why Sensation Is ot an !""ection #ecu$iar to the Sou$
5. On the %motions
&. On Why There !re o #athe #ecu$iar to the Sou$ !s Such
'. On the Choice o" !ristot$e(s %)amp$es
Chapter 4
8. On the *i""erence bet+een *ianoia an, ous
Book II
Chapter 1
-. On ./atter. an, .Substance.
10. On the .#roo". at 12a1&
11. On /etho, o" *i0ision 12a1&-20
12. On #otentia$ity Is #reser0e, in !ctua$ity
13. On T+o 1in,s o" %nte$echeia2
14. On Wa) 12 3'
15. On 4o5os an, .What It Is 6or It to 3e What It Was.. 7412b108
1&-1'. On a /eta-*e"inition an, a Science o" 4i0in5 Thin5s 12b1&
18. On the #roportion "rom the %ye to the Who$e Sensiti0e !nima$ 13 !2
Chapter 2
1-. In What Way Is Chapter II-2 !nother 6resh Start in 9e$ation to II-1:
20. The !na$o5y Is Itse$" an %)amp$e 13 !1 1
21. !bout ./orta$ 3ein5s.
22. 1in,s o" .Separate. an, .Inseparab$e.
23. On the Or,er in the 4ists
24. On Why the /o0in5 Cause *i""erentiates the Species
Tab$e o" %n,notes
25. ;uestions on the #roo"
2&. 1no+$e,5e in the Sou$
2'. Is the !cti0e ous #art o" the Sou$ in the %)amp$e in the 6irst #remise:
28. <ea$th an, the #roportion o" Sou$ an, 3o,y
2-. #roo" in II-1 Compare, to #roo" in II-2
30. On the Se$" Or5ani=in5 o" >ro+in5 an, #ercei0in5
Chapter 3
31. The *esire "or 6oo, #resuppose, in Touch
32. On umbers
33. On *ianoeti?on
Chapter 4
34-35. either One !cti0ity nor T+o 7415a248
3&. On Whether #$ants *esire 7Ore5etai8 415b1
3'. On the T+o 1in,s o" 6ina$ Causes
38. On the !r5uments "or the %""icient Cause 7415 3 128
3-. On Why the %""icient Cause Comes 4ast <ere
40. On <o$,in5 the %$ements To5ether 715 3 288
41. Why Is the Ob@ect o" 9epro,uction 6oo,: 741& ! 1- to 218
42. On the /eanin5 o" the Wor, .!cti0ity. in Contrast to /otion
Chapter 5
43. On the Senses ot Sensin5 Themse$0es 741' 3 208
44. On #otentia$ 6ire an, %nte$echeiaA%ner5eia
45. On Chan5in5 into One(s O+n ature 741' 3 1&8
4&. On 1no+$e,5e in !ct in the Contro$$in5 Sense
4'. On 1no+$e,5e in !ct o" Sensib$e Thin5s 741' 3 288
48A4-. Comparison +ith 1no+$e,5e
Chapter &
50. On .Ob@ects.
51. On We Cannot 3e *ecei0e,
52. Sensin5 On5oin5 /otionB ot !tomic Times
53. The 4ist o" Common Sensib$es
Tab$e o" %n,notes
54. On !cci,enta$AInci,enta$
Chapter '
55. On 9ea,in5 418a2--31
5&. On T+o Causes2 1ineti?on an, #oieti?on
5'. On *ispersionB 9e"ractionB an, !cti0ity
58. On the /e,ium in ,e Sensu an, Comparison to the #otentia$ ous
5-. On %mpty Space
&0. On Comparison +ith /o,ern #hysics2
&1. On .Impossib$e to 3e !""ecte, by the Co$or That Is Seen. 41-a15-22
&2. On the Or,er in an, bet+een the Chapters on the Senses
Chapter 8
&3A&4. On What Is 6orm an, <o+ *oes IT Tra0e$:
&5. On Comparison o" the Soun, an, 4i5ht Chapters
&&. Is Soun, the !cti0ity 4i?e 4i5htB or Is It the Ob@ect 4i?e Co$or:
&'. On %nte$echeia 0s. %ner5eia
&8. On the Or,er in the Sensation Chapters
Chapter -
&-. On Comparin5 the Senses an, Their 9e$ation to Thin?in5
'0. On the /e,ium o" Sme$$
'1A'2. On .#otentia$$y o" Such a 1in,.
Chapter 10
'3. Why the 6$ui, /i)ture Is ot a /e,ium
Chapter 11
'4. On /any Touch Contrarieties
'5. On <ama
'&. On So$i, C Touchab$e 3o,ies
''. On /e,ium an, /ean an, 3roa, /ean
Chapter 12
'8. On 4o5os
Tab$e o" %n,notes
'-. On !istheterion2
Book III
Chapter 1
80. On One Sense Ob@ect in T+o /e,ia
81. On So$i,ity
82. On o Specia$ Or5an "or the Commons
83. 6i0e 1in,s o" Sensin5
84. On Other 9ea,in5s o" 425a14 - 425b3
Chapter 2
85. On the Wor, .4o5os. 7. 9atio. or .#roportion..8
8&. On the *eri0ation o" the *e"inition o" #$easure
8'. On !ristot$e(s *eri0ation o" the *e"inition o" #ain
88. On <ypo?eimenon
8-. On the 6$esh Is ot the D$timate Or5an
-0. On the Dnity o" the #erson 425b35
-1. On Time
-2. On the Senses To5ether
-3. On .by Sense.
Chapter 3
-4. On an,
-5. On *iscriminatin5 71rinein8
-&. On !ristot$e(s C$assi"ications
-'. On !ntsB 3eesB an, >rubs 7428a5-428a118
-8. On Why /emory Is %)c$u,e, "rom the *e !nima. The *i0i,in5 4ine "or Inc$usion2
6unction Eersus /otionF Why /emory Is a /otion.
--. On /o0in5 a #hrase "rom 428b24
100. On The 4imite, 9o$e o" Ima5ination "or !ristot$e Compare, to /o,ern #hi$osophy
Chapter 4
101. On the !na$o5y bet+een Dn,erstan,in5 an, Sensin5
102. On /e5ethos
103. On %inai an, 1atho$ou
Tab$e o" %n,notes
104. On the Strai5htB an, Other #$aces Where It Is /entione,.
105. On Thin5s That *i""er "rom Their 3ein5 Contraste, +ith Substances
10&. On 9e0ersa$ o" .3ein5 o" 6$esh an, 6$eshF. Thin5s or 9e$ations:
10'. On the 6$esh !s /ean
108. On <o+ the Same 4ine 3ecomes Thin?in5
10-. On Thin5s an, 6acu$ties in #ara$$e$2 !ristot$e(s /any .6ine. *istinctions at the %,5e
110. On /athematics
111. Thin5s +ithout /atter 430a2
112. Se$" 1no+in5sB ot /ere 1no+ns. .9e"$e)i0ity.
Chapter 5
113. On /a?in5 !$$ Thin5s 430a14-15
114. On <e)is an, Comparison +ith 4i5ht
115. On .in Substance !cti0ity. 7#er Ousia %ner5eia8
11&. On .#rincip$e.
11' On What Is 1no+$e,5e in !ct:
118. On .<o$os ot in Time. 430a20-21
11-. On the Sou$ ot in Time
120. On Technica$ Issues in the 4ast Sentence
121 - 122. On .On$y /etaphysica$.
Chapter &
123 - 12&. On oemata an, 1echorismena
12'. On Geno(s #ara,o)
128. On In,i0isib$e Substances
12-. What /a?es the Dnity o" /athematica$s:
130. On a #oint !s #ri0ation
131. On .1no+s Itse$".
Chapter '
132. The /o0ement "rom the Top *o+n an, 3ac? Dp !5ain
133. On 6our-Way Comparison
134. On the /ean 78. 431a 12 an, II-11B 424a5
135. On #$easure
Tab$e o" %n,notes
13&. On oeti?on an, *ianoeti?on
13'. On Thou5ht an, Ima5esB an, Situations
Chapter 8
138. On #otentia$ an, !ctua$ Thou5ht an, Thin5s
13-. On %)ten,e, Thin5s
140. On <o+ Dn,erstan,ab$e Thin5s !re in Sense 6orms an, Ima5es
Chapter -
141. On .*i""erent in 3ein5 an, in #otentia$ity.
142. On Stationary !nima$s 32b20
Chapter 10
143. On oeinAIma5ination
144. On ous Is !$+ays 9i5ht 33a2&
145. On *esire Is On$y a #otentia$ity
14&. On *esire in !ct Is an Interna$ /otion 433b18
Chapter 11
14'. On 1in,s o" !nima$s
Chapter 12
148. On 6ina$ Cause an, the Other Causes in the Chapter
14-. On Comparison +ith II-2
150. On <o+ /uch Is 4in?e, in the Chapter
Chapter 13
151. On Touch Is the Terminus o" the *e$a+are !nima
Book I
1. On the Terms in 402a1-11
, ' '
!"# $, ' % & ' (")' *# +, -
. / !01
23 4! 5# 6 +' , #"#!,
# 23 %7#8
9# ,: ; 1
.<0& = = 4
+' ,
$!' ># =+48
? : 2 @ ! ' (")' $ ,
==' .0 =A <B )1
Insight (@0#, line 1)
consider (!'#, theorein) line 7, fourth line above:
Theorein can refer to considering any topic but it includes the highest kind of
contemplation (!, Meta X- 1072B24). At the end of the Ethics, Aristotle says that self-
sufficiency belongs most to contemplating (theorein). Then he says: Those who have insight
(@0#) will have more pleasure than those who inquire (1177a). n the first sentence of the
Metaphysics, usually translated All human beings by nature desire to know, the word for
know is insight. C D! & " E, %7#1
For more on theorein see 408b22-27 in -4, ENDNOTE 46 in -5, and ENDNOTE 117.
,# and =, see ENDNOTE 102 N -4.
dokei (A)
Dokei appears near the start (fourth line), but why? How can it be uncertain that an
acquaintance with the soul makes a great contribution to the truth of everything? How can
any topic fail to contribute to the truth of everything? What is special, and not certain, about the
soul in this respect? Aristotle alludes to the ancient view that the soul is in a certain way all
things. n the next chapter he will mention this long held view. Plato also said The soul is akin
to all things (Meno). So it is quite appropriate to state this very big idea tentatively. Later in
-4 and -8 Aristotle will give his own well-differentiated version of the way in which the soul is
all things.
Dokei appears again near the end of this passage, since people believe (dokei) that
the soul can be affected. Therefore Aristotle for the moment considers that there might be
affections (pathe) peculiar just to the soul as such.
arche ()0)
Arche ()0, line 6) means source or principle. t might require much investigation
and thought to determine what the arche of something is, but Aristotle always means something
which can be sensed or understood directly, and which is the source of other things.
living thing (<):
The word < can mean either animal or living thing. Obviously here it means the
latter. t has the latter meaning also, for example, when Aristotle says: We hold that God is a
living thing, eternal and most good. %2 3 !3 $ $ F D# (Metaph X-7,
1072b.28). The theos or nous of the universe is alive, but is certainly not an animal; animal is
defined by having sensation and a body with sense-organs. n this widely discussed chapter
many commentators and translators miss Aristotle's elegant beginning with its systematic
divisions and subdivisions because they translate < as animal.
substance (GHIJKL ousia):
think one should not translate ousia as essence, as Hamlyn does in its first three
occurrences here, and surely not if one translates the same Greek word as substance just a
- 2 -
Book , Endnote 1. On the Terms in 402a1-11
few lines further and in other places, especially at the start of -1. Then the English reader
cannot learn its use, and cannot follow how Aristotle begins this science here and again in -1.
will comment on Aristotle's use and meaning of substance in ENDNOTE 2 after the
word appears a three more times.
nature (%7#)
A natural thing's nature determines its kind of motion and growth (Meta V, 4, 1014b18).
For Aristotle a natural thing (a rock or an animal) has its own way of moving or growing. Not
every substance is a nature. The prime mover is not a nature, since it does not move or grow.
attributes (#"0, symbebeke):
One kind of properties are affections (!, pathe). and Aristotle further subdivides
within these. Aristotle says: of these (properties), some are held to be (dokei) affections
peculiar to the soul.
By translating pathe as properties here and at 403a3, Hamlyn loses the connection to
Aristotle's mention of pathe at 403a10 where he does translate pathe as affections. Hamlyn
obscures the fact that for Aristotle there are not only passive affections, but also active kinds of
properties, e.g., habits and powers for activity. Aristotle's usual distinction between active and
passive properties (Categories 8) will be important for understanding what Aristotle means by
soul, since he means just the active attributes, i.e., what he calls habits and powers. Those
are the soul as such, and will all be included in the De Anima. This is the dividing line between
what the De Anima will include, and what it will exclude. f there were pathe of the soul as such,
the De Anima would include them, but it will turn out later that there are no passive properties of
the soul as such.
2. On Substance 402a8-23
Three mentions of substance ( +# ) so far:
(a) First . . . we must determine . . .whether [the soul] is a . . . substance . . . (402a23)
(b) those things the substance of which we wish to ascertain (402a14)
- 3 -
Book , Endnote 2. On Substance 402a8-23
(c) we want to ascertain the substance of the soul, (402a.8)
Aristotle will begin his formal treatment in Book -1 by showing that a living body is a
The above three uses of substance (+#) all refer to the whole living thing. One must
not read substance as if it were a more basic part inside a thing. t can seem so, because:
a) the whole individual living thing is a substance,
but also
b) the soul is the substance of the living thing. (402a.14)
things of which we wish to ascertain the substance (+#)
? "! , +#,)
And also, he said we want to ascertain
c) the substance of the soul,
(as he said at the start, 402a.8NOPOLQRSORTUVIQOLWRXYZL[R\OGWIKLO]J )
n the Western philosophical tradition substance has usually denoted a more basic
sub-entity in a thing, rather than simply the whole thing. f that were Aristotle's meaning, b)
could be a more basic sub-entity within a), and yet b) could also have a still more basic sub-
entity c). That would be understandable with our English habits of thought. But Aristotle is
explicit that in all its uses substance refers to the thing, not a more basic aspect of the thing.
Some translators substitute essence for substance (GHIJKL) in b) and c) above.
Although they translate ousia generally as substance, they substitute essence when
substance makes them uncomfortable. But the substitution does not let English readers grasp
Aristotle's use of substance from its contexts. One has to be able to check the Greek words
because most current translators interchange Aristotle's terms at will. They do this especially
with his most important terms, partly because there are no appropriate English words for his
many distinctions.
Translating GHIJKL as essence (even when done consistently) is confusing because
- 4 -
Book , Endnote 2. On Substance 402a8-23
Aristotle has other terms ($, einai, or 3 ^ $, to ti en einai) which is traditionally
translated as essence (Latin) or also as being. By a thing's essence or being Aristotle
means what explains how the thing exists.
For Aristotle substances have the special characteristic that they are explained neither
by something else, nor by sub-parts in them, nor by their material. They are explainable from
themselves, from their own what-they-are, their own being (einai or to ti en einai). The
being of most things depends on something else and this has to be brought in to explain them.
Such things are not the same as their being (essence). By substances he means things
that dont depend for their eistence and eplanation on something else. This is what he
means by saying that substances are not different from their being.
A particular thing is considered to be nothing other than its own substance, and the to ti en einai is called
the substance of that thing (Meta V-6, 1031a17).
_# ,: + D A $ % &%' , 3 ^ ( , $ 6 #" +#1
... the being (einai) of the soul is the same thing as the soul. (3 ,: 111 (")` $ (") +1)
Soul and the being of soul are the same. ((") 2 ,: (")` ( +, Meta 1043b.2).
the soul is the 'what it is for it to be what it was' (3 ^ $) and the definition !logos), (-1, 412b15-
(3 ^ $ a , 6 (")4)
n the special case of substances, the things don't differ from their being (essence).
That is why the thing's being (essence) can be called the substance of that thing.
n -1 Aristotle says that a living body is a substance ,(412a15) and also that the soul
is the substance of a living body in the sense of its form (412a19-20) and also that the soul is
the living thing's being (to ti en einai) and its logos (412b11-15).
So, yes, a living thing is a substance; the soul is the substance of the living thing (its
form), and also: we are investigating the substance of the soul. Substance does not mean
something more basic underlying the thing. Rather, in all its uses, substance means the thing.
(See Kosman: The substratum of the white horse is the horse. Kosman in Frede &
Charles, page 320). See also nciarte, The Unity of the Metaphysics.)
- 5 -
Book , Endnote 2. On Substance 402a8-23
Now, how can we understand this? What does it mean to say that a thing is its own
substance and not different from its being (essence), i.e., not different from what explains it?
What Aristotle calls a substance can be understood without recourse to other things.
For example, a relation is not a substance because it exists only between two other things. A
thing is not a substance if it consists of a combination of parts that exist separately. Artificially
made things (tools, paintings, houses) are not substances (Meta 1043b23). Their existence as
tools depends on someone who uses them, and makes them out of ready parts. Natural bodies
are substances but living things are in the fullest sense ! malista " substances (Meta V-8,
1034a4) They exist and are explained from themselves.
Why is this significant? Aristotle comes after a long series of other philosophers. Some
said that nothing exists independently, only a matrix of relations. With Plato, if you think further
about anything, it turns out to be its relations to, and differences from, other things. Only the
undefinable whole fully exists. Others said that all things are really atoms. For the physicists
like Democritus only atoms moving in the void really exist. No thing exists as that thing. The
thing exists as atoms, their existence and combination. n their view the many different things
in nature seem not to exist as themselves, only as particles in empty space.
Aristotle denies that empty space eists. And, there are no ultimate particles. He has a
different way of thinking about existence. #or him some individual things eist as
themselves. He calls them substances. n -4 (see ENDNOTE 105) Aristotle shows their
But what is existence for Aristotle? Existence is activity (and secondarily motion which
he calls incompleteactivity). Living substances exist as their internal power to originate their
activities. This power is what he means by soul.
3. On 402a25 - 402b24
n -1 Aristotle's answer to the question about the category of substance will be
straightforward. Regarding the other questions Aristotle will make new distinctions. When
Aristotle brings a previously-made distinction to a new topic, he often finds that it doesn't simply
apply. Rather, he lets it generate a further distinction from the new topic.
- 6 -
Book , Endnote 3. On 402a25 - 402b24
Using his distinction between potentiality and actuality, Aristotle defines the soul as a
potentiality in one respect, an actuality in another respect. At the start of -1 he creates (just for
living things) the term first actuality. The soul is the potentiality for enacting the life-activities,
but it is the actually eisting form of a body.
Concerning And we must inquire also if it is divisible or indivisible . . . we can notice something
important about Aristotle's method. n modern science we divide anything we study down to its
least parts. We say we understand something if we understand how it is constructed out of
understandable parts. Aristotle considers from the start that what he studies (here the soul or
living) might be indivisible in some respects. f it is, he implies that he will find ways of studying
it without dividing it. Chapters -2 and -3 explain in what respects the soul is always just one,
and in what respects it has a kind of parts. -6 concerns the sensing and thinking of
something that is indivisible.
But how can one study something without making distinctions in it in some way?
Aristotle asks whether every soul is of like kind or not ... and if not of like kind whether they
differ in species or genus (402b5). n -2 he explains on what basis one can divide between
the species.
Notice that by <b+) here he means living thing not animal, since he says the term can
apply to god who is living but not an animal. Animals are defined by having sense-perception.
The universal living thing is not something that exists (except in a secondary way, as
a concept in thought). The same is true of animal and other general terms, he says here.
(Metaphysics V explains this.)
A second way of dividing concerns Aristotle's meaning of the word parts here. Since
the soul is one and indivisible in each living thing, the animal's potentialities for several different
life-activities cannot be separated from each other. We will have to see in what way one soul-
potentiality can exist without the other.
On the question, which ... [parts] are really different from each other (402b9), Aristotle
distinguishes two very different kinds of soul-potentialities. Having listed the potentialities for
the various life-activities in -2, Aristotle in -3 adds a merely potential kind of distinction: He
adds desire to the list of soul-parts, but this adds no activity since it concerns only again
- 7 -
Book , Endnote 3. On 402a25 - 402b24
sensation and locomotion. Then, at 414a33 he says that one could add more potentialities
(distinctions in what an animal can do) which are presupposed in the capacity for the single
activity of sensing. Later in the book (433b1) he explains that a great many presupposed
potentialities could be distinguished, but those are not potentialities for different activities. Only
activities determine truly different soul-potentialities.
Aristotle organizes the De Anima in accord with the different activities. After -3 the De
Anima has sections on reproduction (-4), sensation (-5 to -2), thinking (-3 to -8) and
locomotion (-9 to -11).
At the start of -4 Aristotle says that since the soul-power is defined by the activity which
it is the power to enact, we ought to begin with activity, and since the object determines the
activity, we ought first to study the object. But in fact Aristotle always begins with the soul-power
and is led from it to the activity, and from this in turn to the object which determines the activity.
Then, turning back, we can say still more. As he often says, one begins with the obvious and
arrives only later at what determines that, and really comes first. We move first in the one and
then in the other order.
We see both orders also in the order of the chapters. Chapter -5 tells about all of
sensing; chapters -7-11 are about each of the senses; then in -12 he is able freshly to define
sensing as a whole. Similarly -4-5 are about nous; -6-7 deal with its objects and operations
in detail; -8 is again about nous as a whole.
4. On Why Sensation s !ot an "##ection $eculiar to the Soul
Affections are those attributes of a thing which makes it possible for it to be affected,
changed, or moved. Other kinds of attributes are powers or habits, traits which enable a thing
to act. Sensation is not an affection (pathos) of the soul but rather a power of actively
proportioning and thereby producing the sensible forms, colors, sounds, and tastes, etc.
Although what we sense changes all the while, the sensing activity does not change.
Sensing something does not change the sensing part of the soul which is the power for the
activity. Neither is it a change when the sense power comes into action. For example, when
we hear something after not hearing anything just before, Aristotle argues that this, too, is not a
- 8 -
Book , Endnote 4. On Why Sensation s Not an Affection Peculiar to the Soul
change. n -5 Aristotle concludes that going into action is a change into itself, and therefore
should not be called paschein, (being affected, which means being changed). (See also
Physics V-3).
However, sensation is also a pathos, but it is a pathos of the soul+body (De Sensu ,
436a7-10 and 436b2-10). n that regard Aristotle devotes a whole book to it. Aristotle is clear
throughout, that in sensation the ensouled body is affected. The soul actively produces
sensuous forms by proportioning the bodily effects.
The medium (air or water) which is affected by a motion from a sensible thing, in turn
affects the sense-organs. But this does not change the sensing, the soul-functioning. What
seeing is doesn't change whether red or blue light affects the bodily eye.
Aristotle makes a similar point about the sense organs. Although they are affected, and
this is a change, even the organs change only within their own proportions and limits. Seeing
must not change the eye so that it can no longer see. f overly bright light damages the eyes,
we should not call that damaging process seeing.
5. On the %motions
The emotions are not studied in the De Anima because they are affections of the soul-
and-body, But they are not studied in the books on the body either, because emotions are not
a function that defines the body or any of its parts. Aristotle thinks they are like drunkenness or
illness. Where then will Aristotle study them? They are discussed in the Ethics where he shows
(for example) that one needs to be neither too easily angry, nor too mild. But chiefly, the
emotions are taken up in the Rhetoric. There they have their essential role. n the rhetorical
arguments of public speaking one must know the emotions well, in order to appeal to them. But
there is one other vital and appropriate place which is not often mentioned. t is a long passage
in Aristotle's On Dreams.
For Aristotle the emotions are not powers by which we apprehend our situations and
therefore they cannot be explained as activities or powers. He has shown this (above) by
arguing that how strongly an emotion affects us depends on the state of the body before the
emotion-inducing situation happens. He thinks we become violently angry at small events when
the body is already in state of tension resembling its condition when we are angry. He
explains this aspect of them most clearly in what was for him an appropriate location, in his
- 9 -
Book , Endnote 5. On the Emotions
treatise concerning illusions, namely On Dreams (, 460b3-27).
We are easily deceived about our perceptions when we are in emotional states . . . so that even from a very
faint resemblance the coward thinks that he sees his enemy, and the lover his loved one. . . n a fever some
think they see animals on the walls from a slight resemblance of the patterns. . . . those who are not very ill
are aware that the impression is false ...if the illness is severe they move themselves in accordance with
what they seem to see. The reason for this is that the controlling discriminating does not happen by the
same power by which images come.
n -3 Aristotle says that we need not be in error when a large thing (e.g., the sun) is
imagined as small, because not imagination but the joining of the
five senses enables us to judge (discriminate) size, motion, and the other common
n our chapter Aristotle argues similarly that the emotions do not apprehend situations;
they are bodily states which only distort our realistic apprehensions that come through
perception: in the absence of any external cause of terror one may find oneself experiencing the feelings of
someone in terror.
Aristotle began a long-lasting depreciation of the emotions in Western history. But can
we understand why the emotions were not credited as powers to apprehend a person's real
situation? Emotions do narrow one's perceptions of situations. Even today we are taught to
count to 10 before speaking when we are angry. We are likely to speak from what makes us
angry without taking the whole situation into account. Our usual perception is narrowed when
we have strong emotions. So it is true at least in some regards, that emotions interfere with
perception and judgment. What one might miss in Aristotle's work is something like a felt
sense (See Gendlin, Philosophy of the mplicit, www.focusing.org) which is wider, more
inclusive. For Aristotle, potentiality is all defined. t has already been in act before, and will be
again. He has no room for something not actually or potentially just those forms. He dismisses
Anaximander's seeds as indeterminate (Physics -4, 187a23). Plato, in the $eno argues that
there is a superior kind of inspiration which is wiser than reasoning. Also n the %epublic he
argues for both possibilities: The tyrant's single emotion is blind, but there is also a wider
wisdom of the whole. Aristotle saves everything. Where does he have something like this?
Practical judgment in the Ethics is the closest know.
The fact that the emotions are not included in the De Anima goes against the modern
view of psychology. But the &e 'nima is not all of what might be called Aristotle's psychology.
- 10 -
Book , Endnote 5. On the Emotions
That would include many other theoretical treatises, and practical ones like the Rhetoric and
especially the Ethics. The reader might want to look at De Sensu, Memory and Recollection,
On Sleep and Waking, and On Dreams. These are all psychological topics, but they belong to
We can also say that the De Anima is not exactly psychology; rather it is the philosophy
of psychology. n Aristotle's terms: The De Anima is about determining the kind of existence and
the starting points (principles, premises) and main attributes of living things. These are the
premises for all the other sciences about living things, both in theoretical science (for example
Parts o Animals, Motions o Animals, !eneration o Animals), and in the practical sciences
(especially the Ethics).
&. On Why There "re !o $athe $eculiar to the Soul "s Such
There are pathe of the soul but they are not peculiar to it (not idia pathe) because they
are traits of body-and-soul. Of course the soul is affectable, but only by affecting the body. This
becomes obvious if we grasp the basic notion of the soul that Aristotle is building here. )he
soul is the power for active functioning. Throughout his works, Aristotle defines matter as
that, in anything, which can be affected or changed. So, of course, the matter-and-form
organism can be affected only through its matter, i.e., that in it which is affectable. Affectability
is what Aristotle means by matter. $atter *ua matter is the capacity of being affected (pathetikon) (De
!en -7, 324b18). The body is an organism's matter-formed-by the soul. The functioning of the
soul can be affected, for example in drunkenness or disease, but this happens by affecting the
soul-and-body organism through the body. f the soul as such also had an affectability, it would
have still another body. ts affectability is precisely the body. The soul is the capacity for the
active functioning. So the pathe belong to the whole organism, the soul-and-body.
Why can there be no pathe peculiar just to the active functioning as such? Take for
example your radio. You need it to be affected by the incoming signal, but you need this not to
affect what makes your radio work. So in one way the signal has to make a change in your
radio; in another way (functionally) it must not change the radio. The radio's functioning needs
to continue unchanged. f your radio stopped working just when you were listening to a
politician you despise, you might joke that he broke your radio. But you would know that its
functioning is not something that can be affected as such. Only the function-matter combination
- 11 -
Book , Endnote 6. On Why There Are No Pathe Peculiar to the Soul As Such
can be affected.
Once we make a separate definition for the function (even though it doesn't exist
separately), we can say as Aristotle does, that the embodied functions of the soul do not die of
themselves; they die only because the living body dies.
Aristotle sometimes uses the word pathe more widely. n -5 Aristotle discusses the
broad and narrow usage of affected.
'. On the (hoice o# "ristotle)s %*am+les
Two questions:
a) To illustrate how the science of nature studies both form and matter, why is
Aristotle's example a house, an artificial thing, not something that would be studied in the
science of nature?
b) And why only three causes? Why omit the builder, the source of the motion of
building the house?
a) n teaching the four causes we use an artificial thing (a statue is the typical example)
because in an artificial thing they are nicely separate. This can be misleading since Aristotle so
often finds that two or three of them are (in different respects) the same existing thing. n living
things the soul is three of the four. Of course the soul is each cause in a different respect, but
the difference is not so easily seen. And, even when the four are different, Aristotle wants
them linked in the thing, (the form in the materials for the sake of ... ).
b) But if the house is used in order to show the causes separately, why omit the builder?
Of course it might have been an oversight, but in other cases with Aristotle (and some other
authors) when an example doesn't fit, one discovers later that one has misconstrued the issue
that is being exemplified. (See, for example, Williams and Joachim at De Gen. et Cor, -7,
334a30-36, cited in my paper on prime matter and mixture.)
Elsewhere he says that living things and moving bodies have their own source of motion
- 12 -
Book , Endnote 7. On the Choice of Aristotle's Examples
from within themselves as part of what they are. Artificial bodies do not. They are products,
separated from an external moving cause. Perhaps that is why the builder is not included.
t might still seem that a living thing would have been a better example. To show a living
thing's causes takes him from -1 to -4, so here he has to use examples that do not yet require
the actual discussion. But this is not a completely satisfying explanation.
8. On the ,i##erence bet-een ,ianoia an. !ous
Most nous activity is dianoia. The word dianoia could be interpreted as through-nous,
or open to nous. The dia similarly in diapseudesthai means open to error.
With dianoia we can be mistaken because it combines (#"4). Aristotle
distinguishes dianoia from nous which does not combine.
... for falsity and truth are not in things ... but in thought (dianoia) whereas
with regard to the simple concepts and what it is, truth and falsity do not
exist even in thought (dianoia).
y8 1 1 1
the combination and the separation are in thought (dianoia) and not in the things
1 1 1 . 2 6 )* .# 6 . y ' + . A ,#, Meta V-4, 1027b.25-31).
(Similarly Meta X-8, 1065a24.)
Only the grasp of single essences, unities, understandables is beyond truth or
Every saying says something of something . . . and is true or false.
But not all nous is such. Nous that makes no assertions is never false since it
does not say something of something (-6, 430b26-29).
This passage also shows that the word nous has a more extended use. Since he says
not all nous makes assertions, evidently some nous does. There is also
nous which reasons for the sake of something (z) and is practical+
vo s vsk ou /oyisvo kdi pdkik:
t differs from the contemplative (!) nous in respect of the end. (-10, 433a14).
- 13 -
Book , Endnote 8. On the Difference between Dianoia and Nous
The word noein appears similarly extended (-3, 427b9, 17).
n the PoA (-19) and in the Ethics Aristotle makes clear that the single grasp of nous is
the source both for the first universals with which dianoia begins and also for the principles at
which we arrive last.
For nous is concerned with the ultimates in both directions. #or both the first terms and the last are
ob,ects of nous and not -ob,ects of. reasoning. a & .#) .' %8 + , % %
- + % .!% ' .%+ + )/0 (EN 1143a.35-b1)
We arrive at principles last, but cannot be proven. They have to be grasped. This is
often by analogy. For example, in the first part of Meta X-6 Aristotle gives a long list of
potentiality/actuality paired examples, and then says: What we mean can be plainly seen in the particular
cases by induction (.,,`). We need not seek a definition for everything but must immediately see the analogy
(RfjOckGNGOIHOGdwO]J) (Metaph 1048a.37).
Aristotle makes a sharp distinction in our chapter: Nous is eternal whereas dianoeisthai
belongs to soul-and-body. -7 explains: The dianoetikon makes assertions, is moved, and
guided by the sense mean. Sense and dianoia are moved by a single bodily sense mean with
different einai. That is also why imagery is required for thinking (-7, 431a16-20). But although
thinking happens in imagery, the thinking is not the images. The thinking power (dianoetikon)
perishes because it uses memory and images, but qua thinking it depends upon nous.
At the start of the Metaphysics and at the end of the Posterior Analytics Aristotle makes
explicitly clear that demonstration is derivative since it depends on the premises, and on
grasping the initial primary concepts. Everyone grasps those starting universals, like animal,
tree, and stone.
The end result of thinking is also a single grasp. One graps the causal understanding
of what something is. After much combinatory thinking (dianoia) we sometimes grasp, for
example the cause of what an eclipse is. For example, what is an eclipse? Someone might
say that it is darkness of the moon. But the cause is the earth between. For Aristotle such a
causal understanding is not a relationship added on to two things, but rather a single grasp.
Aristotle shows this by saying: f you stood on the moon during an eclipse, you would see the
earth between. That much is perceptual, but you would grasp all at once the
- 14 -
Book , Endnote 8. On the Difference between Dianoia and Nous
understandable essence of an eclipse, i.e. the being-between of the earth shutting off the light.
Your single concept of eclipse would contain the cause. )he cause is what the thing !the
eclipse" is, not a predication combining it with another thing. The earth's being between is what
an eclipse is.
n contrast, by dianoia Aristotle means a combination such as Cleon is white (-6).
- 15 -
Book , Endnote 8. On the Difference between Dianoia and Nous
Book II
/. On 01atter0 an. 0Substance0
Aristotle is usually taught to have said that the form is universal and only matter individualizes,
but we notice here that Aristotle also says that no individual thing can exist without a form. t is the form
that first makes something an individual thing, a this, ( ). By form Aristotle means what the thing
is. To exist, it can be in this way or another way, but always in some way.
Here Aristotle says:
. . . matter, which in itself is not a particular 'this,' . . .
{ |0, } !' 3 + 9# ,
Many commentators have difficulty with Aristotle's concept of matter which, considered
alone, just itself as such, is not a this, i.e. does not exist. n Aristotle's basic concept of
matter it exists only together with some form. You cannot take it out of its form and have just
the matter.
Aristotle also has a derivative concept of matter which is not just matter, but rather a matter-and-
form thing which can serve as the matter for a further form. For example, lumber is a matter-an.-#orm
thing, but it can become the matter of a bed, a table, or a statue. Giving the wood different shapes is
accidental change because the wood keeps its form so that it remains wood. ts essential attributes
remain the same. Only its accidental attributes (shape, surface polish, etc.) are changed "De !en. et
Cor. -4, 319b25-31). Since it is itself a matter-and-form, you can have it apart from the bed-form.
n both kinds of cases, Aristotle's concept of matter is inherently related to his concept
of change. What can change has matter, and what has matter can change. What cannot
change has no matter, and what has no matter cannot change. Where there is change, what
Aristotle calls matter is that which is changed from one form into another form . Matter is that which,
although now in one form, is now potentially in other forms. What he calls a thing's matter is the
thing's potentiality for change.
n the case of accidental change (for example, making a bed out of wood) we can
identify the matter. t can exist as wood apart from the bed. The wood might already be a bed,
or if it is still lumber, it is potentially a bed. The matter can exist either way.
- 17 -
Book , Endnote 9. On "Matter" and "Substance"
But can we identify what Aristotle calls matter when the wood does not remain but burns and is
turned into fire? What is the matter of wood which is potentially fire? Aristotle denies the existence of
unchanging particles like our carbon or hydrogen atoms that would remain and only be rearranged. For
him the underlying changeable substratum, which is potentially either wood or fire, has no
characteristics of its own , and cannot exist separately. t can exist only either as wood or as fire or in
still another form. Alone it is not any existing this.
What is conserved when the matter changes essentially? For Aristotle, only certain
quantitative proportions and relations: So much wood can be turned into just so much fire (De
!en et Cor. -6, 333a23).
We are accustomed to think of matter as particles, identifiable little bodies that retain
their own characteristics like electrons, protons, or neutrons. For Aristotle these would not be
just matter but rather matter-and-form. What makes something identifiable is its form.
Aristotle denies that there are unchangeable bodies, atoms, or particles. He argues
consistently against the Greek Atomists. He says that the most basic elements can change into
each other. For him, matter in its essential and controlling sense means just changeability, just
certain proportional relations when the elements mix, or when they change into each other.
When one element changes into another, Aristotle calls it the destruction (Latin: corruptio) of
the one element and the generation of the other.
Matter in the chief and controlling sense of the word is the substratum of generation and corruption. ~#
2 |0 # 2 " 3 ,# % (De!en et Cor -4, 320a2).
Matter qua matter is the capacity to be affected 6 ' |0 |0 !0 (De !en et Cor -7, 324b18).
Aristotle's concept of just matter (matter in itself, sometimes referred to as prime
matter, /0 |0) can be disturbing to anyone accustomed to the classical Western concept of
matter even though modern physics has long ago rejected this classical concept. Currently in
physics there is no identifiable unchanging matter, only the relationships of equations in which
(some of) the basic particles can change. This is more like Aristotle's physics than like
Newton's. But one should not read either classical or modern physics into Aristotle. nstead we
have to grasp his concept of matter as he defines it. There is no inherent reason why change
cannot be conceived in terms of quantitative proportional relations rather than in terms of
identifiable stuff or particles which are only rearranged.
For Aristotle matter fills the cosmos, there being no separable space in which matter
- 18 -
Book , Endnote 9. On "Matter" and "Substance"
could exist as separably identifiable; only some form gives matter any identity such that one
could speak of this matter or that matter. Matter as such is preserved only as proportional
change-relations; so much water can turn into only so much steam.
Aristotle's statement here is important for understanding him throughout, so it needs to
be remembered. /e is eplicit that matter ,ust as itself is not a this0 i.e.0 not something
that can eist without form.
Metaphysics V-3 (1029a1-30) has a more elaborate version of our passage:
Now in one sense we call the substrate matter, in another the shape, and in a third what comes from both.
( & 2 6 |0 ,, D 2 6 %4, 2 3 . 7.)
... all other things are predicated of substance, but this is predicated of matter. Thus the ultimate substrate
is in itself neither a particular thing nor a quantity nor anything else. 111 ,: D ' +# 0,A, |0
2 ' |0, # 3 9#) !' 3 #3 D + .#8 (1019a23).
f we adopt this point of view, then, it follows that matter is substance. But this is impossible; for both
separability [existing on its own] and `thisness' are thought to belong chiefly to substance.
. 2 7 !&# #" +# $ |08 7 8 ,: 3
)#3 3 ) A # ` +#y, (1029a.26).
See also Appendix, my article Aristotle on Prime Matter and Mixture.)
(See also ENDNOTE 17 below.)
10. On the 0$roo#0 at 12a1&
At the start of Book (402a5 ) Aristotle said: the soul is as it were the principle !arche" of living
things. He also several times reaffirmed in Book , that soul and life are co(etensive. (See
the first two pages of my commentary on Book .)
Aristotle says that definitions cannot be proven (Posterior Analytic) but they can be
exhibited in syllogistic form. He does this in our text.
Let us set out the syllogistic form of the definition here:
- 19 -
Book , Endnote 10. On the "Proof" at 12a16
By soul we mean living which is self-nutrition.
but living is the kind of body.
(So) soul is the kind of body.
n a demonstration the soul would be the middle term, due to which we attribute living,
since the soul is the principle of life. But here it is not the middle term because this is not a
demonstration but a definition in syllogistic form. The soul is a principle (arche). One must not
read mysterious meanings into Aristotle's word soul. The soul is not the sort of thing about
which you might wonder whether you have one. A principle (arche) for Aristotle is always a first
premise which we have directly, a self-founding premise, more obvious than everything that
follows. 1ou dont wonder whether you are alive or not. Soul means being alive. t is clear
that for Aristotle soul as principle refers to the same thing as living. But what is being
alive? ts reasons and causes, what is involved in being alive, that is what the book is about.
Here the first defining cause of living is the capacity for self-nutrizing. SEE ENDNOTE 19 FOR
11. On 1etho. o# ,i2ision 12a1&-20
n Prior Analytics -31 Aristotle criticizes the method of division as used by Plato in the
Dialogues. When Socrates sets out a distinction, the respondent seems able to answer in
which division a thing falls. For example, if diagonals are lengths, and lengths fall into two
divisions, commensurate and incommensurate, in which are diagonals? The incommensurate,
of course the person might answer. Just by posing the distinction, it seems to follow which
division a thing must fall into. But Aristotle says that this seems to prove something that is in
fact only assumed.
Aristotle represents the method of division as a syllogism with two premises and a
conclusion that does not follow. n our example it would be:
All length are either commensurate or incommensurate
All diagonals are lengths
(t doesn't follow that:) All diagonals are incomm.
What does follow is only that diagonals are either comm. or imcomm.
- 20 -
Book , Endnote 11. On Method of Division 12a16-20
n our case here it would be:
first premise: substance is either matter (body) or form or compound.
second premise: soul is a substance.
f you accept the premises it still does not follow that the soul is the form.
What follows is only that the soul must be either matter or form or compound.
To place a thing into a division requires a reason, a middle term that links the thing to the
division. Therefore Aristotle always cites the reason, the cause, what it is about the given
thing which makes it go into that slot.
n our instance here, although the soul is the source of the kind living, the middle term
(cause or reason) which links the soul to form is that it is the kind. 2ince it is indeed a body
of such a kind, for it is one having life.
12. On $otentiality s $reser2e. in "ctuality
n modern usage, we say that something is "potential" only when it is not actual, but for
Aristotle the fact that something can is most obvious when it is doing it. So the potentiality is
not gone when it is actual. The body that is "potentially alive" is a body that can be alive, and if
it is actually alive, then of course it can.
On a snowy day in Chicago when many cars don't start, might ask someone in the next
office s your car running? don't mean that it might now be running in the parking lot. mean
can it run today? But of course if get a ride and we're already going down the street, this is the
surest way to know that it can run.
When a can (a potentiality) moves into activity, the activity preserves the can.
- 21 -
Book , Endnote 12. On Potentiality s Preserved in Actuality
13. On T-o 3in.s o# %ntelecheia4
The meaning of the Greek word energein remains hidden by translating it as the
exercise of knowledge. t is one of Aristotle's main terms, activity. Knowledge as ongoing
contemplating is knowledge in act.
Aristotle says plainly that there are two kinds of entelecheia (actuality, completeness),
first actuality only, secondly the activity as well.
Two kinds of entelecheia
/ \
First actuality only The full activity also
The first actuality is the power for the activity. One has the first actuality both when one
has moved into action, and when one has not.
Clearly, energeia (activity) is only one kind of entelecheia0 the full kind. The two terms
cannot be substituted for each other.
The two kinds of entelecheia (actuality) are:
a) The possession (of a power, an ability) whether in act or not,
b) The activity (being in act)
Actuality entelecheia can mean either a" or b",
Activity energeia can only mean b".
These are two main terms of Aristotle's, and they have different meanings. They cannot
be interchanged as translators often do in many crucial places (for example -5 and
Metaphysics X). f a term covers two subdivisions, we cannot exchange it for one subdivision.
For example, if primates encompasses humans and monkeys, we cannot interchange
primate with human. Sometimes a sentence about primates will still make sense about
humans, but sometimes not!
- 22 -
Book , Endnote 13. On Two Kinds of Entelecheia:
n addition to the difference stated explicitly here, one can notice the difference between
the two terms in a many other places. For example, in comparing -7 and -8, light is the
entelecheia (completion) of the medium (because the medium is the transparent which does not
have an existence of its own without light), whereas sound is not the entelecheia of the medium
(because the medium of sound is air which exists on its own, without sound). (SEE also Meta X-1
and X-6, and ENDNOTE 67.)
14. On Wa* 12 5'
Of course the impression cannot be separated from the wax, but like most of Aristotle's
examples, the analogy goes further.
The flesh is at the midpoint of hot-cold and fluid-dry, and can therefore take on touch
sensations (-11). The heated wax is like the flesh in that its hot/cold ratio enables it to take on
the impress form.
For Aristotle wax is not what it is in our chemistry since Descartes, not the same matter
(paraffin) whether solid or liquid. n Greek chemistry solids and liquids are different elements.
But like the flesh, the power of the wax to function -- i.e., its can(take(on-and(keep impressions
-- requires a matter at midpoint between solid and liquid, just the right amount of hot versus
cold, and liquid vs. dry, so that it is just soft enough to let the seal-impression in, but hard
enough so that the impression stays. This middle-point of hot-cold fluid-dry is the material side
of the can-take-on-and-keep (-12, 435a1). The can-take-on-and-keep power of the wax is
analogous to the soul. f we heat or cool the wax too far, it loses this potentiality and is then no
longer the matter(of the form-function of taking on impressions. Similarly, excess heat or cold
destroys the solid/liquid proportion of the touch-sensing flesh.
15. On 6ogos an. 0What t s 7or t to 5e What t Was.0 8412b10)
n our definition of the soul here, Aristotle uses five terms to be noted:
#-hat it is #or it to be -hat it -as (to ti en einai)
- 23 -
Book , Endnote 15. On Logos and "What t s For t to Be What t Was." (412b10)
This famous, oddly turned phrase names that, in a thing, which a verbal definition would
define. The phrase probably arises from how Aristotle characterizes activity (energeia) in
contrast to motion or change. Motion is never complete. When it arrives, it stops altogether. An
activity is ongoingly complete, always complete every moment fully what it is and was. For
example, sensing and understanding are activities, whereas learning is a change. Aristotle
says: At any moment we see and have seen . . . we understand and have understood ...
He contrasts this with motion or change, for example: . . . we cannot at the same time learn and
have learned. (Meta 1048b20-30). Substances (especially living things) are defined by their
own internally-arising activities.
This is also
logos. This term can mean a verbal account of the thing, or it can mean that which a
verbal account would tell, i.e., what is proper to that thing. Aristotle uses another word
(horismos) for a merely verbal definition. He knowingly uses logos both ways.
Logos means proportion, proper account of that which makes a thing what it is, but it
also means definition, formula, account, and it can also have some other meanings. There are
many English translations of it, and no quite right one. Combine a proper account, definition,
what something is, what we would properly say of it and it's proportions, and you come
close. But we must keep in mind that it is a single word which brings all these meanings. They
are not separate meanings. The context interacts with the word to generate its specific meaning
in any one spot. The whole complex of meaning is brought by the word in each use. One
gradually comes to understand the import of this word.
3hat it is (ti esti). This term includes substance (-1, 402b6) but is more inclusive.
4niversally stated (kathalou, kata holos). The soul is not a universal; rather the
account of the soul here applies to all souls, i.e., all living things. For Aristotle universals exist
only in the soul.
- 24 -
Book , Endnote 15. On Logos and "What t s For t to Be What t Was." (412b10)
Here all five can apply (in different ways) to one statement, but this is not always so.
1&-1'. On a 1eta-,e#inition an. a Science o# 6i2ing Things 12b1&
Aristotle's definition of soul (i.e. of 'living) in this chapter is really what would call a
meta-definition: What defines living things is that they have a certain kind of definition, the
kind which is also the inner source of starting, stopping, and resuming its life-activities. Since
the word translated by definition here is logos, it means not just a verbal definition; rather,
logos is that, in a thing, which a definition would define. Let me therefore rephrase this meta-
definition: What makes a living thing what it is, is that its what it is is also an internal source of
its functioning, i.e., of starting, stopping, and resuming its life-activities.
n -2 and -3 Aristotle shows that different life activities and their capacities organize
different living bodies. Because of these differences Aristotle says there, that an overall
definition cannot be useful for demonstrations. But since he offers one here, we can ask: Of
what use is an overall definition of every kind of soul?
The soul as logos is best understood on a meta-level: The definition is: soul is a certain
kind of logos, the kind which enacts life-activities from inside. The internal cause of life-
activities is also their kind (or form) of matter.
We don't want his metadefinition to remain an empty Aristotelian formula; we want to
grasp the linkage Aristotle is asserting here. The cause of the life-activities is also the actuality
(completion) or form of the body -- its kind or form of matter. ts functions define its matter. n
-4 we will see how its functions also generate its matter. As the De Anima proceeds, Aristotle
explains how activity and function determine and generate the matter.
Aristotle calls what something is its form. What moves it, is its source of motion. n
the Latin tradition of Aristotle scholarship these are called the formal cause, and the efficient
cause. n that tradition, what call his metadefinition is pointed out by saying: n living things
the 'formal cause' is also the 'efficient cause.'
But let us not, with the Latin words, divide the four causes, as if formal and efficient
cause were still two different things, as if it were only a happenstance that they fall together in
living things. This is not an accidental relation. n living things they are one thing; they are the
first actuality, i.e., the soul. But we want to understand the internal link which is the crux of
- 25 -
Book , Endnote 16-17. On a Meta-Definition and a Science of Living Things 12b16
Aristotle's conceptual strategy, rather than only repeating a traditional Aristotelian formula.
Let us first take up what all natural bodies share with living things. n the Metaphysics
Aristotle says that only natural things are substances, because only these have a nature (an
internal source of motion). (. . . a house or utensil. Perhaps, indeed, neither these things themselves, nor any
of the other things which are not formed by nature, are substances at all; for one might say that the nature in natural
objects is the only substance to be found in destructible things. 1 1 1 ; #&1 @# 2 +' +# #
' +: & D ># %7# #"#08 ,: %7# 0 D !0 . A %!A +#,
Metaph V-3, 1043b.20-23.) f you have read this passage and wondered why artificial tings are not
substances, our passage in the De Anima explains why not. n a substance its defining
character, its what it is and was (its to ti en einai) enacts its activities. ts nature is an
internal source of its motions. n contrast, the motions that arise from the inside of an artificial
thing (falling down) are not those that define it as what it is (an axe or a house).
n Newtonian science the bodies are considered inert. They have to be forced to move
by external forces acting on them (for example, gravity). Everything moves only by being acted-
upon by something else. So there seems to be no major difference between natural things and
things we make, since in our science there is no inwardly arising motion. For Aristotle, stones,
rain, wood, and metal have an internal source that determines their kind of motion. Since the
De Anima is preceded by the Physics, Aristotle assumes that we know that he defines bodies by
their motions. Motions are defined by their direction and endpoint. And, the matter of all natural
bodies is inherently connected to their characteristic motions. An earthen body moves down.
Becoming fiery moves it up.
Aristotle says that the inanimate natural things always move in their own characteristic
way to their characteristic places, if they are not stopped by something else. A stone or a piece
of metal always moves toward the center of the earth, unless something impedes it (for
example, a shelf). And, the inanimate bodies also rest when they reach their natural zone, for
example, when the air moves up and then rests below the sun, or when rain drops reach the
ocean. The things still move that way today but we think about it differently. Let us now ask
about the difference.
Aristotle argues in -3 (406b22) that the movement and rest of inanimate bodies doesn't
explain how living things rest (and then resume their activities). He describes inanimate bodies
by how they differ from living bodies. On the material side we saw that inanimate bodies differ
from living ones in that the inanimate ones have no organs, no differentiated parts for different
- 26 -
Book , Endnote 16-17. On a Meta-Definition and a Science of Living Things 12b16
activities. The organ-patterning is the actual form of the existing body, but it goes along with a
further difference: Only living natural bodies rest of their own accord and then move again. n
contrast, stones and metal always fall if not impeded. They never stop for a while in midair.
Everyone knows this difference, but Aristotle is making a concept from it: The kind of
potentiality that can start, stop, and resume is the soul, the first actuality, (or first completion).
The term first actuality does not appear in the Physics since only living things have two
kinds of actuality:
Aristotle interposes a functional level of body-organization between the life-activities and
the material composition. We tend to assume that the flesh is a combination of certain
elements, and that we will soon be able to make flesh in the laboratory. Like our scientists,
Aristotle also says that bodies are composed of the elements, but in his science the composition
is determined by an overarching functional level. Aristotle agrees that flesh consists of a certain
mixture of elements, but that is not what flesh is. The what it is of flesh is its capacity to
originate the function of flesh (touch-sensing). Only what internally originates the life-functions
can determine and create the particular mixture of elements as its matter. Aristotle says that
there is also a special kind of heat in living bodies (Gen of An, 735b30-39) and a substance he
calls pneuma which is needed for living things to initiate motion. Even though the elemental
composition of flesh can last a while, and of bones even longer, the flesh without sensing is no
longer the same matter, no longer what can function as the flesh of a living animal.
Aristotle's science is primitive on the material side but very extensive. His several books
about anatomy, separately about movement and then about reproduction are not widely read,
but we need to know that he studies the material very extensively, with much longer books than
the short De Anima. The functions of living are the topic of the De Anima. Aristotle's strategy is
of interest. /e can analy5e the matter of living things in terms of its elements and material
parts0 but can first interpose determinative effects on the matter from the functioning
side. These are effects on matter from living activity. n our time we observe many such effects
and correlations, (for example, psychosomatic effects from living), but they are anomalies
because we have no modern scientific version of life-activity affecting matter.
n modern functionalism one thinks of living bodies as computer hardware; the functions
are like software programs. This approach separates matter from function, just as an axe could
be made of bronze, iron, or steel. For Aristotle only in artificial things is the function (and the
organ-organization) added to a separately defined body, so that the body could be made of iron,
- 27 -
Book , Endnote 16-17. On a Meta-Definition and a Science of Living Things 12b16
or bronze, or steel. For example, a bed can be made of metal or wood. The material is not
defined by the bed-function. Aristotle quotes Antiphon who said that if the wood in a bed
sprouted, it would produce a tree, not a bed. n contrast, a living thing has matter that cannot be
other than what the living activities determine and generate. n living things the functioning
determines0 makes0 and is the kind of matter it is.
Traditionally it was said that -1 is about the soul as formal cause, while -2 is about it
as the efficient (moving) cause. As we see, this is not completely correct. Aristotle just derived
the moving cause here in the last part of this chapter as being the form, logos, and first actuality
of the living kind of body. But it is true that all of -2 will be about the form as moving cause.
18. On the $ro+ortion #rom the %ye to the Whole Sensiti2e "nimal 13 "2
{ 2 6 '# 6 >#, | 6 .,4,# .),
{ 6 ( 6 7 & E,", 6 (")48 3 2 # 3 " 8
# E%!3 6 0 6 (, A 6 (") 3 # <.
ongoing seeing (orasis) as ongoing life-activity
can see (opsis dynamis) as soul psyche (first actuality)
pupil as body
opsthalmos kore opsis ------ psyche, soma zoon.
eye pupil can-see soul body animal
These three are our familiar two actualities and the body.
When Aristotle makes a concept, he makes it right in front of us and leads us to make it
along with him. Here he moves from the function of the part (which he has shown) to the
function of the whole. 6ust as the eye consists of its matter-and-power-to-function (its pupil-
- 28 -
Book , Endnote 18. On the Proportion from the Eye to the Whole Sensitive Animal 13 A2
and-can see), so the soul-and-body make up the animal. t is a proportion; the concept of the
function of the whole animal is jumped to from the part.
n the order in which we discover parts and wholes, the parts come first, but in nature
the whole determines the parts -- a seeing eye determines its parts. And an eye exists only
within the whole functioning animal. We jump FROM the parts TO the whole, but once we get it,
we have to say that the whole is prior, and determines the parts.
Aristotle's earlier examples were from plants. Now the examples are coming from
Did we not already have the function of the parts earlier (12b2) about the pericarp and
the leaf? But there the functions of body-parts were shown only in relation to each other. Here
we have the eye's own seeing as its own function.
Aristotle characteristically does not render everything in one whole; there are sub-
systems with independent functions and distinct limits. There is not only one overall body-
pattern. Rather, each part is again its own kind of organized whole.
1/. n What Way s (ha+ter -2 "nother 7resh Start in 9elation to -1:
Aristotle does not mean that in his own first chapter he was foolish like the people who
give definitions that fail to contain the cause. noted that he did tuck in the cause (at 412a14),
namely "self-nutrizing." This is the cause and middle term for attributing life. But he did not
show how he arrives at the cause. How to arrive there belongs to this second chapter. Aristotle
begins our chapter by saying:
Since it is from things which are obscure but more obvious that we arrive at that which is clear and more
intelligible according to its proper account (logos) . . . Everyone knows that humans are alive and also
die, that animals live and die, and that plants grow. Everyone knows water and sky and sun and
earth and food and sleep, and life and death. #or 'ristotle these familiar fu55y
understandings are the principles or sources of an in*uiry, insofar as inquiry begins
with obvious things whose nature is obscure. (P.A. -19, Metaphysics -1). n reading Aristotle
we need to remember initial principles (arche), as well as the principles (also arche) at which
we arrive last.
The chapter is arranged in the order of discovery. We begin with ordinary observations
- 29 -
Book , Endnote 19. n What Way s Chapter -2 Another Fresh Start in Relation to -1?
(of growth, for example) and gradually arrive at the causes. n contrast, in the order of nature
the complete form is prior. That was the order of -1. The causes and species are first in the
order of nature. For example, while this little plant might be just a green shoot, the plant from
whose seed it came is complete. n nature some substances are always already complete. n
contrast, the individual begins as an embryo. n the individual the complete form and power to
enact all the activities comes last. Similarly, in the order of discovery we arrive at the principles
and sources of motions last. n the order of this chapter we begin at the bottom.
20. The "nalogy s tsel# an %*am+le 13 "1 1
The same single line (x) is the long side in the little triangle, and the short side in the
big triangle. The line x is the mean proportional, the middle term of the proportion
a x
x b
Once you have found the line x, you can generate the square whose area is equal to the
given rectangle. n geometry a figure is generated by a line that moves in a certain way. For
example, a cone is made by a line fixed at one end, with its other end moving around a circle. A
square is generated by moving a perpendicular line along a line of the same length. The soul is
like the line because it is the generative cause of the living thing.
The soul or cause is the mean proportional, the middle term. t is the potentiality for the
activity, and it is also the actual form of the body.
Aristotle's examples usually have this reflexive character. For instance in P.A. one of his
examples of a middle term is the cause of an eclipse of the moon. t is the earth's coming-
between sun and moon, like a cause or middle term comes between the subject of the first
- 30 -
Book , Endnote 20. The Analogy s tself an Example 13 A1 1
premise and the predicate of the second.
A middle term comes between two terms so as to generate the conclusion. f you want
to understand and conclude that all A is C, you need a middle, a B such that A is known to be
B, and B is known to be C.
Middle terms are what classifies: f A has B then it is in class C. Classification might
work if B is merely a mark by which we can recognize class C, but Aristotle classifies by the
cause (and in this chapter, by the form-and-moving cause.) So we can expect that Aristotle will
present the causal links, the middle terms by which he will classify the living things. They will
be what generates their bodies and their activities.
n the geometric example, one line defines the one square which is equal in area to an
infinite number of differently-shaped rectangles. So also does a soul-power, for example
sensation, define many very different animal bodies, organs, and modes of sensing.
llustration: Many different rectangles are squared to the same single square.
For example, here are two rectangles: Sides 30 x 2 = area 60, and sides 12 x 5 also =
area 60. They have the same area and the same mean proportional line. The diameter of one
circle is 32, the other only 17. The same mean proportional line appears, but much closer to the
edge of the larger circle, closer to the center in the smaller one.
21. "bout 01ortal 5eings0
Only in mortal beings does living require nutrizing. God or the nous-activity of the
universe (Metaphysics X-9, 1074b35) is a living thing but without nutrition.
22. 3in.s o# 0Se+arate0 an. 0nse+arable0
Among the various types of separability/inseparability he has shown here, some occur
only in this chapter. Others, especially the first two below are familiar to readers of Aristotle.
We will meet those again.
1) Aristotle raised the question whether these soul powers (moving causes) are
- 31 -
Book , Endnote 22. Kinds of "Separate" and "nseparable"
separable from the body like a sailor from the boat. The answer was that this might be the case
only with nous.
The other soul powers are inseparable from from the body because they are forms-of-
body (or forms-of parts of the body).
These forms are the actuality (completeness) of the body. Therefore they are
inseparable from the body. Their unity is between actuality and that of which it is the actuality.
2) These parts are also not separable from each other in space. Cutting a plant or an
insect in half does not split between parts of the soul. Each half has all the soul parts together.
f the living thing has several soul-parts, they are spacially inseparable.
3) The soul (in plants and insects) can always be divided (is potentially divisible) into
two, but each half actually exists always again as one undivided whole soul with everything that
the original one had.
So this is a third kind of separability/inseparability: one in actuality, potentially many.
4) There is an actual kind of separability between the soul-powers across different
species. We see that nutrition can eist actually without the other powers in plants, and
nutrition andnsense can exist actually without locomotion, and all these without the dianoetikon.
5) Only in definition is another kind of separable. Sense, pleasure, and desire differ
only in definition. They are quite different powers but in no living thing does one of them exist
without the others.
23. On the Or.er in the 6ists
Only now is he classifying animals. To do it he will order them so that soul-powers that
can exist without others come first. The nutrizer is first, since it can exist without any others.
- 32 -
Book , Endnote 23. On the Order in the Lists
Then the senser, then locomotion, then last the thinker. 7either of the two lists he gave us
are in the order he defines here at the end. We have to recall that there are living things that
sense but do not move from place to place. Therefore animals that have locomotion have to be
classified after sense and before thinking. Neither of the two lists (413a20 and 413b13) is in the
order that would serve to divide between the species.
We have to keep in mind that he is classifying only mortal beings (413a32).
The first list (413a20) is ordered from the top down, the highest first, and activities are
listed before motions. t begins with nous which occurs only in humans who have all the other
soul-powers too, so they would all fall together. Or, if we run this list from the bottom up,
nutrition would be the right start, but locomotion could not be the second group, because
locomotion always requires sensation but some animals have sensation but lack locomotion.
So as the second group locomotion would include most but not all of the animals that have
sensation. Then sensation would not work as a separate third group.
The second list (413b11-13) begins with the nutrizer but the senser and thinker come
next, before locomotion. This is a list of soul-powers, not living things. There is not a mover
since locomotion does not involve a separate soul part. Locomotion is done by the senser, and
has both sense and thought for its objects. The sections of the De Anima are arranged in this
order because sensing and thinking are both needed to discuss and eplain locomotion. But,
since all animals that think have locomotion, locomotion could not be a separate class of
animals, if those that think are classified ahead of those that locomote.
To classify the living things as he says here, one needs an order which separates them
by adding successive powers. He says that living things that exist without the next-added
power must always come ahead of those who have the next one. But he offers no third list.
Aristotle has already used this way of dividing but only to distinguished plants from
animals (413b2-4). Now he has established this as the way to classify all living things by their
soul parts.
mmediately below, in the next chapter, he explains this order further. Before he does
so, he has to discuss the relation between the different powers and the forms of the bodies.
- 33 -
Book , Endnote 23. On the Order in the Lists
24. On Why the 1o2ing (ause ,i##erentiates the S+ecies.
Why is just the formal cause (-1) the comprehensive definition of all living things? Why
is it the moving (efficient) cause which defines and classifies the different species, rather than
the formal cause?
Since the soul is both the formal and the moving cause, could Aristotle have done the
opposite of what he did in the first two chapters? Could he have written a first chapter using
the moving cause for a comprehensive definition of all living things, and then specified the
different living things by their different formal causes? f we cannot answer, we probably don't
understand these causes. Doesn't the formal cause come in these different forms of living
bodies, as well as the moving cause? Once we have the different moving causes, aren't they
different formal causes too? Why did Aristotle keep the formal cause merely on the meta-level:
(they have the kind of form which is also the source of their moves and rests)? Couldn't he
have said the very same thing as a general statement of the moving cause of all living things?
ndeed, he gives this general statement of the moving cause here, in the proof. He calls it a
form that is active in a matter as its receiver. Couldn't he have said that first, and then used the
formal cause to differentiate the different living things?
Yes, he could have kept the moving cause general, and treated the variety as the
different forms of the living bodies, but this would leave the question why they have different
forms. )hen he would still have had to discuss each of the different activities and the
different moving causes !soul powers" for them0 so as to eplain the reasons why the
different living things have to have the different forms of body. The different activities
explain the reasons for their different forms.
n modern terms we also say form follows function (i.e. is determined by function) but
can we see why? f you see an odd shape on an animal's body, what do you ask? What is that
for? And the answer is usually something that part does, or something the animal does which
requires that part. n the case of tools and machines this is obvious. You ask What are these
little wheels for? and the answer is some role they play in some activity. n nature could it be
the other way round? Once in a long while some part happens to be there, and only later
acquires some use, but this is rare. Did giraffes somehow have long necks and only then
discover that the leaves at the top of trees taste better and are more easily digestible? Or did
the functioning activity of reaching the high leaves precede the form-of-body with the long
neck? The function of eating the more digestible leaves came first, even in modern theory.
- 34 -
Book , Endnote 24. On Why the Moving Cause Differentiates the Species.
Those who happened to have slightly longer necks ate higher up and survived more often,
thereby breeding longer and longer necks.
n instances like that of the giraffe we have a material explanation (natural selection) of
how the function causes the structure, (although modern theory has no explanation of how the
new structures of new species arise). The ubiquitous functional aspects of every kind of living
thing have been well studied in modern ethology, zoology, and botany, but no basic concepts
have been derived from them. n most cases there is a gulf between the functions and our
physiology and neurology.
Since Aristotle defines (formal cause) all bodies by how they move or function, their
different motions and functions determine the forms of their bodies. Therefore the different
species are classifiable by the internal sources of the various activities and motions which
determine their bodies.
25. ;uestions on the $roo#
a) The first premise says only "That by means of which we live and perceive is
spoken of in two ways . . ." Why is thinking not mentioned? Of course this is because we
think by means of nous which is not dual because nous does not involve the body. But then,
why is knowing said to be spoken of in this dual way? Exactly why does that by means of
which we know have this duality which that by means of which we think does not have?
b) s the active nous (as discussed in -5) part of what is meant by the soul in the
dektikon role? Where, if at all, would the active nous be placed in this proof? Of course
Aristotle cannot explain this here, but if we have read -4 and -5 we should be able to
c) Where does health fit in this proportion? f knowledge is to soul as health is to
body, what is the soul/body relationship in this proportion? must tell the reader some of what
Aristotle wrote about health in other books.
- 35 -
Book , Endnote 25. Questions on the Proof
d) n the examples, the soul is mentioned as a recipient (dektikon), but the
conclusion is that the soul is a form and not a recipient. How does the example fit with this
conclusion? Since the soul is the passive or secondary of the two in the first premise, how can
he simply say in the second premise that it is the primary of the two?
2&. 3no-le.ge in the Soul
The first premise does not include thinking, whereas the second premise includes it.
1) That whereby () we live and perceive is spoken of in two ways,
2) The soul is primarily "protos$ that by means of which we live, perceive, and t hi nk (
The soul is "primarily" that whereby ( ) we do all three, but in the case of thinking it is
not spoken of with this duality. Why not?
Since nous is not bodily, Aristotle treats the duality of the living and perceiving soul
separately from the duality of knowledge/soul. They are not the same relation, only analogous. But
Aristotle's view that the means by which we think is not bodily does not answer the question why
that with which we think is not dual. sn't that whereby we know not bodily either? And yet he says
spoken of in two ways, as is that by means of which we know (we so speak in the one case of knowledge,
in the other of soul, for by means of each of these we say we know).
Why is the means for knowledge dual in this way, whereas the means for thinking is not?
will now show in what way knowledge is the potential nous-soul's "form-and-generative
cause," the main topic of our chapter. Then we will see why this is not so in the case of active
The potential nous consists of no machinery, no organ, no additional bodily part, only the
forms which it is habituated to know and think. Aristotle says that one cannot think (dianoia,
combine concepts) until one has grasped and learned some concepts (universals). For Aristotle
the nous by means of which the soul does dianoia is not bodily and is nothing in act before it
- 36 -
Book , Endnote 26. Knowledge in the Soul
That part of the soul, then, called nous, (and speak of nous as that by which ! 1 " the soul
thinks ! .ianoeisthai " and supposes () is no existing thing in act (energeia) before
it thinks(noein) (429a22-24)
a D 7 ' (")' & , 2 & 1 % 6 (")4 +! .#
.,y A8 (-4, 429a.22-4)
There are three conditions:
a" Before it thinks at least some universals 0 this "potential nous" has no actual
b" 'f t er i t has l earned0 when i t t hi nks, it is in act nothing but the particular forms it
thinks just then
c" 8nly *ua potential is this soul all the forms it has learned 0 so that it has a kind of
existence of its own. As knowing many forms, this soul is something more than any one form
which it actively thinks. Once the knowledge-forms are acquired, the soul has the knowledge
even when we don't think, for example when we sleep. Once acquired, the knowledge of the
potential nous is its own first(actuality , an existence of its own but only potential, without
acti vel y ".$ thinking. Knowledge is a "first actuality" (.) 6 0 ) as Aristotle said in -
1 (412a27-28), i.e., knowledge is the actual form-of something (this part of the soul) and also the
potentiality for the activity.
At that point we, the soul-and-body humans, have the developed habit so that we can
think whenever we wish. And this can-think is dual, the knowledge forms and the soul.
But actively ongoing thinking is not dual. n thinking only just this or that form is enacted. Of
course we have our knowledge also during thinking, but only potentially. The habit is more than the
enacted thought, but a habit always remains potential, the power for the activity. That is why Aristotle
adds the caveat in -4 (429a28) where he says that those were right who said nous is "the place of
the forms," ecept that this is so only *ua potential.9
The knowledge is the can-think soul's formal and generative cause, (what have also called an
"internal form-and-moving cause), the kind of cause that our chapter is about. The potential nous-soul
is the receptacle of the knowledge-forms. We know "by means of the knowledge" and also "by
means of the (habituated can-think) soul." This dual relation is analogous to health and the body, an
active form-of something receptive.
Qua potential, all the knowledge is the form and first actuality of the nous soul. But this is only
the potentiality for a thinking activity. Only the form that is being enacted is in act. The activity of
thinking is not dual.
- 37 -
Book , Endnote 26. Knowledge in the Soul
2'. s the "cti2e !ous $art o# the Soul in the %*am+le in the 7irst $remise:
Some commentators doubt whether the active nous is part of the soul. n -5 Aristotle
says explicitly that the distinction between active nous and potential nous is a difference within
the soul. There he says explicitly that active and potential nous are parts of the soul. But only
the potential nous is formed by knowledge forms. The active nous does not change (Physics
V-3). The active nous is not in the role of a dektikon.
But what the active nous enacts is determined by what is being grasped just then. The
active nous does not determine whether we think of grass or the sky, nor does it determine what
color they are. t makes (enacts) their understandables just as light makes their actively-
sensed color forms. Aristotle calls the active nous the poietikon (0), the maker, like
light which makes (poiei) potential colors into active ones (-5). Similarly, the individual
carpenter does not invent the chair form. t stems from the carpentry art (and from the human
sitting function). n another book Aristotle calls the carpenter a poietikon and says that the
carpenter moves differently when making a table, than when making a chair (!en Animals ,
730b12-26$. But according to Aristotle our activity of understanding does not move at all. Just
as the carpenter only enacts the chair form into the wood, the nous (like light) does not invent
the forms of the things, but only enacts them as understanding-activity.
28. <ealth an. the $ro+ortion o# Soul an. 5o.y
Shouldn't Aristotle have said (notice: he did not say) that knowledge is to the soul as
the soul is to the body. Why not?
The proof is meant to bring home that the soul is the form-efficient cause of the body.
Knowledge is the form-efficient cause of the potential nous soul, but of course knowledge isn't
the form of the rest of the soul, only of the nous-soul. And the nous soul is not the form of the
body. So Aristotle has to split knowledge/nous-soul from living-perceiving-soul/body, although
they are analogous in that they are each a form-and-efficient cause shaping its recepticle. So
the duality is similar.
- 38 -
Book , Endnote 28. Health and the Proportion of Soul and Body
Could he have said that knowledge relates to the nous soul as the nutrizer-and-perceiver
soul relates to the body? But this isn't so either, as Aristotle says in a little read treatise:
Knowledge has a contrary ignorance and can be destroyed by forgetting, whereas the
nutrizing and perceiving soul has no contrary, and cannot be destroyed at all, except
accidentally through the body. The soul as such has no possible mode of destruction of its
own. Parts of it die only because of the destruction of the body (%ength o %ie , 465a12-b10).
The soul can exist without knowledge but the body dies without the living-perceiving
Note: )he health(form is not the soul. Health and illness corresponds to knowledge
and forgetting. One has a living-perceiving soul although sick, just as one has a nous soul
although ignorant. )herefore he uses the analogy of health.
Aristotle frequently pairs medical knowledge and health in his works. Let me say why he
does. f we take the knowledge as medical knowledge in the soul of the doctor, the knowledge
is the same in form as the health in the body. The doctor thinks the health-form as a form- of(
body0 of course, but the doctor can know the health-form and yet be sick. The knowledge-form
in the soul of an individual is not the health-form of that person's body, but they are the same in
form, i.e., the form of the body.
Let me now fill the reader in on what Aristotle has said about health in other places. The
body heals itself if nothing impedes. The healing-form is an internal formal-moving cause, like
the principle of motion of inanimate bodies in that it is always in act unless something else
impedes it. The physician only removes the impediment to the body's internal self-healing.
The health form is the active self-healing of the body. t is the formal-moving cause of
every living body as body. The doctor cleans the wound and removes impediments but then
can only wait for the body to heal itself. We still say this, although the living body's self-healing
is not well understood. For Aristotle the matter of living bodies is different from that of inanimate
bodies. One difference is their self-healing as their active internal formal-and-moving cause as
bodies. Aristotle says that health is like a medical art inside the body.
The health-form is knowledge in the doctor's soul. t is also a form-moving cause in the
living body.
- 39 -
Book , Endnote 28. Health and the Proportion of Soul and Body
medical knowledge health

soul body
The relation of soul and body does not emerge on either side. t emerges only if we view
the proportion by alternando:
medical knowledge soul

health in body ensouled body

On both sides the relation is form
2/. $roo# in -1 (om+are. to $roo# in -2
n -1 as here Aristotle proportions the soul to knowledge, ,ust as . . . so . . .; We often
see Aristotle's use of proportions to create new concepts. Let us pinpoint the difference:
The analogy here cuts across the analogy in -1: n -1 knowledge and the soul were
on the same side, (we have them when sleeping as well as when waking), as against ongoing
contemplating (theorein) and other life activities. Here in -2, differently, knowledge is in
contrast to soul. Knowledge is the active form like health, while the soul is the recipient of the
form, as the body is recipient of the health-form.
This chapter's proportion cuts across the proportion in -1. n -1 -- like knowledge --
the soul is a first actuality. Here, n -2 knowledge is the form -- whereas the soul is formed.
Back in -1 we said Oh, yes, a person actually has knowledge and a soul (is alive) both asleep
and awake; so that is what first actuality means, the can-do which is actually there whether in
action or not.
- 40 -
Book , Endnote 29. Proof in -1 Compared to Proof in -2
Here we say The knowledge-form is an internal efficient cause; it is the form which the
potential nous-soul becomes as it learns (-4&5). But this applies only to the thinking part of
the soul.
n -1 all the parts of the soul (including those that are form-of-body) are like knowledge
in being a first actuality. wondered in -1 why Aristotle chose to compare the soul to
knowledge since knowledge is not the actuality-of a body, and answered that this shows that
for Aristotle an actuality can exist as such; it need not be the actuality-of something. That is
true, but we see here that knowledge is the actuality-of the potential nous soul.
30. On the Sel# Organi=ing o# >ro-ing an. $ercei2ing
Aristotle greatly changes the meaning of form. t doesn't mean what it means for Plato,
or in common English. We see this best right here. The form is an inner forming-activity which
accounts for the living thing's form-of-body as well as its observable motions and activities.
n Aristotle's Physics the kind of motion which defines a body is due to the internal
activity (heat) which holds the body together and maintains the proportion of its elements. n
natural bodies the formal defining cause of a body also determines its motion.
Knowledge/soul and health/body are analogous to how sensation and nutrition are active
soul-forms-of the body. Aristotle will show in the coming chapters how he can study sensation
not just as a reception of outward forms, but as an internal form-and-efficient cause, an
internally active forming in the sense-organs and in the sensitive flesh. And nutrition is the
internal formation of the body from an embryo.
To understand Aristotle we need to see in what specific way his approach differs. n
modern science the living activities such as desire, perception, and nutrition are explained as
passive effects of chemicals and molecules that are moved in certain ways. These passive and
separable molecules are taken to be the body. There are no concepts for how the complex
life-functions organize the body. Since there are no concepts about this higher organizing, we
encounter it as a host of anomalies. For example, in the development of an embryo a certain
molecule stretches out into a long string, so as to effect a certain development into some organ
or later body-part. The mechanics of this is taken to be the embryonic process. Then it
becomes a puzzle why this stretching out and other such events are controlled by a
- 41 -
Book , Endnote 30. On the Self Organizing of Growing and Perceiving
neighboring molecule which is otherwise simple and chemically well-defined. f that innocent-
seeming molecule is moved, these processes do not occur. ( Pattee ). Such unanswered
questions concern higher organizing activities which seem to determine chemical and
mechanical formations, but cannot be studied within the kind of concepts of current biology.
Aristotle's strategies are still of interest, despite our vastly greater knowledge. For
example, they may become useful in the current attempts to restore self-organizing as a
concept in biology (Kaufman, Ellis).
n our passage here the basic strategy of Aristotle's life science is to consider higher
order active self(organi5ing processes as functionings and material formations. That
appears to be the meaning of a formal cause that is also an internal moving cause.
31. The ,esire #or 7oo. $resu++ose. in Touch
People have always found it easier to understand material and moving causes. Formal
and functional causes are more difficult. As moving (efficient) cause the sensation are the
pleasures or pains, and thereby the desires to pursue or avoid. n this respect sensation would
be listed first. But food is functionally prior to sensation, Aristotle demonstrates that this
function defines the sense of touch. n that respect the function of food is prior to sensation.
The desire for food is of course part of nutrition in animals since they must find and sense food.
This is prior and is the formal and functional definition of touch. On the other hand, sensation is
the material and generative cause of desire. 2o the causation goes both ways in different
The moving cause and the final cause are quite often reciprocal in this way. As the
moving cause, exercise produces health, but as the final (functional) cause one walks for the
sake of health.
For Aristotle the function (or final cause) usually determines what the other three causes
have to be, if the function is to happen. Therefore Aristotle is more likely to have put desire
ahead of sensation on the list.
Because it is easier and more common to think in terms of moving causes, therefore
people want desire to come after sensation on the list. The manuscripts differ. Apart from
my argument above, can we determine which would be Aristotle's original, and which is likely to
- 42 -
Book , Endnote 31. The Desire for Food Presupposed in Touch
have been a change that someone else made? We can make an educated guess. Since
desire obviously requires sensation, while listing desire first is more difficult to understand,
we can guess that desire was listed before sensation in Aristotle's original. f Aristotle had
originally placed it after sensation, no editor or copier would have moved it to where it is more
difficult to grasp.
For Aristotle the living of animals is integral to what nature is. Later on, in -11, Aristotle
says that touch defines the hot, cold, fluid, dry, by giving them their proportions. t is the defining
*ualities (%) of body, &ua body, which are tangible. The qualities which speak of are those which define
the elements, hot and cold0 dry and fluid (-11, 423b27-29). Touch defines the elements in his
chemistry (De !en ' Cor) (formally, by proportioning them), and touch is also defined by them
(materially, since flesh is composed of them). So for Aristotle it isn't that some of the things
which are made of hot/cold fluid/dry elements just happen to be food. Rather, the food(
function defines the sense of touch, and the sense of touch defines the proportions between
the tangible definitions of the elements of which all bodies are composed.
To understand Aristotle here we cannot just assent to the familiar facts he states. We
want to understand the approach he applies to these facts. n Western science animal
perception is given no role in defining or explaining anything. Only our theories define the
orderly relations we study. For Aristotle animal sensing is also an ordering process which
defines nature.
32. On !umbers
The three soul-parts and three object-forms are in a complex interplay with the four
The soul power for locomotion is desire (-10) but this is the same soul-part as for
sensing because it is always the sensation itself which is pleasant or painful. What pain is, is
inherently the desire not to have it. The pain is the aversive sensation itself. Conversely the
pleasant is the wanting more of it. Extremes are painful, sensations within the sense-proportion
are pleasant (-2, 426b4-6-8). Since the desire is the actual sense, therefore they are the
same soul part although desire is a different potentiality (and its object is a potential sense-
condition that does not actually obtain).
- 43 -
Book , Endnote 32. On Numbers
There are only three kinds of objects because locomotion has sensible and thinkable
things as objects and adds no additional object type of its own.
n -3 there are four activities because locomotion is a separately added activity, since
some animals sense but do not locomote (change their places).
n -2, in the list of potentialities (413b13), threptikon, aisthetikon and dianoetikon are
listed with their ko endings, but we noticed that kinesis (motion) is listed, not kinetiko (the
mover). (!, #!0, 0, 4#.) Why not? Although these four separately
existing activities involve four potentialities (-3), the locomotion-power is not a different soul-
part (which is the concern of -2). n -2 there is not a mover since desire and locomotion are
by the senser.
But in the list at the start of -3 Aristotle discusses not powers each of which can exist
without the others (as in -2), rather now he also includes powers that are never found or added
alone. Here the orektikon can be in the list, and also a kinetikon.
33. On ,ianoeti?on
n the top-down order in the starting list of observable motions and activities (-2,
413a24) nous was listed first (412a23). n contrast, in the list of potentialities (-2, 413b13) (as
also in -3, 414a29) Aristotle lists not the noetikon but the dianoetikon.
Aristotle says that nous requires an entirely different discussion than logismos and
dianoia. Dianoetikon names the soul-power to think (dianoia) and combine thoughts, partly
guided by the sensitive mean (-7). Dianoia can be mistaken because it combines (#"4,
Meta 1027b.29-30). t dies, he said explicitly in -4, because it is done by the soul-and-body. t
involves the flesh: Aristotle says that finer flesh makes one better at dianoia. People with hard flesh
are poorly endowed with thought (dianoia$ (-9, 421a23-26.$
The noetikon, in contrast, is not bodily, has no matter, and is just the soul's potentiality
for grasping forms (eidei). As just a power, just potential, it does not actually exist at all (-4,
For purposes of classifying the animals dianoetikon will do, since only humans have it
so that adding nous characterizes no further group. Only God doesn't fit since God has nous,
but no dianoetikon. That is one reason Aristotle separates nous and the theoretikon (43b24-
- 44 -
Book , Endnote 33. On Dianoetikon
27) from this classificaiton. Aristotle separates nous also because it is separate from the body,
and because he cannot discuss it here. t need not be discussed since he limits the
classification to mortal beings (413a31).
n -3 Aristotle says that the later-mentioned powers presuppose the earlier, but nous
does not presuppose the earlier ones since God and the universe have nous without the other
powers. So again he has to limit the groupings to perishable living beings (415a7-12).
The dianoetikon and nous are cited separately at 414b18 (he says that some animals
have both). At the end of the chapter (415a7-12) he says: )he contemplative nous (& !0)
re*uires a separate discussion (logos$.
On dianoia see ENDNOTE 8.
34-35. !either One "cti2ity nor T-o 8415a24)
For Aristotle life-activities are inherently interactions. What he calls the object is the
external thing with which the living thing is in interaction. n nutrition the external object is
digested and takes on the living thing's form. n sensing and understanding the living thing
takes on the object's (potential) form. n either case the activity has only one form, the form of
the interactional activity.
The two works or functions are from the same power, and they are interactions with the
same external thing, food. They also have the same form, the living thing's form. 8nly in act
do growth and reproduction differ. But since they have the same object-form, and this is what
defines an interactional activity, they are not two activities. )hat is why he calls them two
works0 neither one activity nor two activities.
n !eneration o Animals Aristotle emphasizes that the power is the same, but the two
works are never in act together; rather one continues into the other. The ensouled thing
grows itself and then -- when it merely maintains itself and has stopped growing -- only
then does it make an offspring (which then grows itself in turn).
3&. On Whether $lants ,esire 8Oregetai) 415b1
Plants don't have desire as a soul-power, but he uses the term here in a special way as
- 45 -
Book , Endnote 36. On Whether Plants Desire (Oregetai) 415b1
he does also in the Metaphysics (1072a26) in the same context as here. The first mover is
likened to an object of desire () of the whole cosmos. When we desire something, it
causes us to move. The object of desire needn't do anything. t need not move, but nature's
motions arrange themselves in relation to it. The motions come from within nature.
This is further discussed in the next ENDNOTE.
3'. On the T-o 3in.s o# 7inal (auses
Type FOR WHCH (): Does only the reproductive part of the soul have eternity as
its final cause? Aristotle says "for the sake of that (eternity) they do whatever they do
according to (their) nature. The nature in each thing is its internal moving cause. The natural
things originate their own motions and activities, aimed at eternity.
Nous is not nature, but creates in parallel with nature. At the end of this note comment
on that distinction. All soul activities have eternity for their final cause.
Type BY WHCH(): )he soul is the kind of final cause which is also the
means by which the end is achieved. The natural bodies are employed in digestion and in
making artificial things, but this is a different kind of final cause. The natural bodies do not
organize themselves in relation to the soul as their final cause. The soul is not the object of
their desire. The food does not of its own accord turn into the animal-form.
n nutrizing and growing, the soul makes the completion, the complete form-of body,
which the soul also is. Many translators misunderstand this double role of the soul as maker
and final cause. According to the English Greek grammar, the can mean instrumental or
beneficial. The latter is the source for the translators' phrase "for the benefit of whom." But the
soul is not the beneficiary of the activities; rather it enacts them. They happen by means of the
soul, and the soul is also their telos, the completion of the body. (On telos see Physics
Aristotle said a few pages ago in -2 that the soul is the primary by which we live,
perceive, and think. Notice again that the soul is that by which we live, perceive and think. n
Book , (- 4, 408b15) he said that it isn't right to say that the soul pities or thinks. Rather, we
pity and think by means of the soul (the same grammatical case as ). The appears in -
2 twice in this connection. See also -12, 424a25, and at the start of -4, 429a10 and 23, as
- 46 -
Book , Endnote 37. On the Two Kinds of Final Causes
well as at -10, the instrument of moving.) At the end of our chapter occurs four times as
means which are each also an intermediate end.
n the Metaphysics (1072b1) there is a similar distinction between two kinds of final
cause. (n both the Loeb and the Ross editions the translators insert a whole sentence about
beneficiaries which does not exist in Greek. (> 9# 3 _ . A 4, 6 #
0A8 9# ,: 3 _ , ? 3 2 9# 3 + 9#. A { ./
7 2 A.)
Aristotle says that one kind of final cause exists in eternal things, the other does not.
The eternal kind moves something without moving, rather by being loved or aimed at. The other
kind moves something by doing the moving.
n the Physics (194a28-34) also there are two kinds of final cause; again one of them is
a means. For Aristotle, the means ( ) is usually a chain. Each link can also be something
that is aimed at in turn. (Physics -3, 194a28 and 194b36.)
n our chapter, the chain of means runs through food and heat. Food as a means is
that by which it is fed, the %1 Food is also called the equipment, i.e., a means,
(%0 #"<, 16b19). At the end of the chapter, heat is cited as a means that aids
digestion. n medicine the chain of intermediate final causes includes many means. For
example, when a doctor prescribes a medicine, obtaining the medicine becomes an
intermediate aim. The art of shipbuilding aims at the ship as its telos, but the ship is equipment
and means for the sailor. Insofar as it is aimed at0 each means is also a final cause. n
contrast, a beneficiary would be separate, merely profiting but not a link in the action.
Above used justice as an analogy: Nature aims at eternity somewhat like a court aims
at justice. The court is the means by which a judgment is achieved. Justice does not move,
but it moves the judge and all the participants to arrange themselves to aim at it, so as to arrive
at a just judgment. The finished judgment is the aim of all the proceedings, the chain of
intermediate means. One aims at a court date, one works with the aim of finding witnesses,
hearing testimony. These are intermediate aims, final causes, links in the chain. The
judgement is their telos, their completion for the sake of which they are means. The court is that
by which justice is done in the situation. The court does not benefit from it (or at least, should
n our case the soul qua moving cause is the means by which the body acquires its
- 47 -
Book , Endnote 37. On the Two Kinds of Final Causes
complete form which is again the soul. And the soul is also the means by which the mature
body engages in its life-activities, one of which is its nutritive and generative work.
So we recognize that one kind of final cause is the same thing (though certainly not with
the same definition) as the moving cause. The chain of intermediate moving causes is also a
chain of intermediate final causes.
The difficulty is that we are accustomed to separate the four causes utterly. Then it
seems that the moving cause (that by which) cannot possibly also be a kind of final cause. Of
course it is not both in the same respect. That by which we live, perceive, and think (the soul) is
moving cause as the source of the activity (the can, the power). But it is also a kind of final
cause for the sake of which it uses other things.
For teaching the four causes, it helps to make clean separations between them. (See
Rosamond Kent Sprague, The Four Causes, Aristotle's Exposition and Ours. (he Monist, Vol.
52 No 2, 1968.) The favorite example is a statue. The causes are nicely separable when an
artificial thing is made: The form is put into the material by an external agent for the pleasure or
use of others. But, as Aristotle just showed, in living things the same thing (e.g. the soul) is all
three causes, although not in the same respects.
Aristotle has been discussed most often in Latin. Final cause and efficient cause are
Latin terms. Our use of them makes them seem like entities, familiar Aristotelian pieces. But
Aristotle calls the efficient cause that by which the motion comes. n Greek his terms have the
freshness of their derivation directly from ordinary language use. One recognizes the for
which as a ubiquitous aspect of things. t seems much more doubtful as the final cause.
Aristotle says that nature does not deliberate. The complete form does not exist in a
mind like the form of a thing that a sculptor would make. There is no separate form as a
purpose. There is only the form and activity of each living thing. Aristotle observes means-end
relationships and regular development. n a living thing its nature (the soul) is the making by
which the living thing arrives at its mature form of body, which the soul itself also is.
There can be an ambiguity about the phrase 8f this sort is the soul in accordance with
nature, for all natural bodies are organs of the soul." # ,: a & _ " A, 3 +3
6 %7#, & 9# +' . Can we be sure that it says that the soul is an end, a telos, a final
cause, or is the soul rather like nous and nature insofar as it makes for the sake of something?
Grammatically the sentence could be read to mean either, and both are true. The phrase "of
- 48 -
Book , Endnote 37. On the Two Kinds of Final Causes
this sort" means the sort of thing that is an end, a telos, a final cause, but of course the soul is
also the maker by which this happens.
Nous makes. t is a poetikon, (430a12). Nous makes (enacts) the forms which are the
tools for thinking, just as the hand makes (-8). Nous is that by which () we think. , 2
& A 6 (")4 (429a23).
But nous is not the completion of something. The active nous is always complete. The
individual development of our potential nous is not something generated either. Aristotle argues
in the Physics (V-3, 247b1-248a7) that the acquisition of knowledge is not a becoming. And in
the Ethics he says: The activity of nous (nou energeia) ... in theorein... aims at no end (telos) other than itself
(X-7, 1177b).
38. On the "rguments #or the %##icient (ause 8415 5 12)
The proof(s) about the source of motion differ somewhat from those about form and final
cause. On substance and on the for-the-sake-of-which Aristotle first defines that kind of cause
in the first premise by saying what it causes. Then, the second premise says that in living
bodies the soul does that. (Substance is the cause of being in anything. n living things their
being is living which the soul causes. The final cause is that for which something is made. The
natural bodies are used in the soul's forming of the body.)
For the proofs concerning the source of change, the premises are that this specific kind
of change occurs only in living bodies, and that these are ensouled bodies. The compressed
proof is: Since these motions happen only in living things, something about living accounts for
why these motions happen, and the soul accounts for living.
Only on the source of motion does he have three kinds. Perhaps this is why the proof(s)
on motion differ in this way from those on the formal and final causes. But am not sure that
this is the reason for the difference.
1 On change of place he doesn't offer a proof, saying instead that this is not
coextensive with living (i.e., soul). Not all living things have locomotion. would add: Many
non-living things also change their place. Stones roll down the hill. So change of place is
neither true of all living things nor only of living things.
- 49 -
Book , Endnote 38. On the Arguments for the Efficient Cause (415 B 12)
2 On alteration (qualitative change): Sensing is generally considered (dokei) a kind
of alteration. n the next chapter he is more specific about what aspect of sensing is change.
But since sensing is not coextensive with living, why does he provide a proof for sensing and
not in (1)? don't know why.
He adds and growth under the heading of qualitative change. We have seen and see
here again that growth is of course a change from embryo through stages and that it stops at its
completion (in contrast to the activity of nutrizing which always happens fully and completely.)
And growing to maturity is coextensive with living bodies and occurs only in living ones (as he
has argued above in contrast to fire).
3 Growth is of course also a quantitative change in size, while decay is quantitative
3/. On Why the %##icient (ause (omes 6ast <ere
When Aristotle sat down to write something, he no doubt had in front of him a mass of
collected material. He needed to organize it along several lines at once, so as to achieve the
most economical order. Aristotle rarely tells about doing this.
n our instance it does not matter much, but we often wonder whether the great degree
of organization we find in Aristotle's text is as deliberate as it seems. Are we reading it in? He
hardly ever tell us. For example, in our chapter, as usual, he doesn't say that he is placing the
moving cause last among the proofs, so that he can continue into the rest of the chapter which
will be about this cause. But at the beginning of !eneration o Animals (-1 715a15), where the
situation is quite similar, he does say it. He has just completed Parts o Animals, and now he is
continuing into his next book which treats the moving cause, as its title says. At the start,
introducing the book, he says:
[We will discuss]. . . generation about which have so far said nothing definite, and of causes we still have
the moving cause to deal with, and to explain what it is. And, in a way . . . these . . . come to the same
thing, and that is why our treatise has brought the two together by placing these parts at the end of our
account of the parts, and by putting the beginning of the account of generation immediately after them.
- 50 -
Book , Endnote 39. On Why the Efficient Cause Comes Last Here
n our chapter also, Aristotle puts the moving cause last deliberately, so that he can
continue with it for the rest of the chapter.
40. On <ol.ing the %lements Together 815 5 28)
Aristotle rejects the theory of the atomists according to which the atoms of the elements
are actually present in a mixture. Aristotle argues that the elements change completely when
they join in a mixture such as bronze, flesh, or bone. Mixture is his concept of the material
side of a further organi5ation beyond the elements. He argues that even the smallest particle
of a mixture is mixture, so that the elements are not actually present. To get an element back,
one has either to heat or to cool the mixture, and either to liquify or to dry it. Bronze, wood, or a
living body does not consist of actual fire, air, water, and earth. Each mixture is a new kind of
matter. Living matter does not consist of inanimate particles. The living nutritive function
determines the making of the matter. Aristotle rejects how Empedocles defines compounds so
that the particles retain their identity like stones in a wall (De Gen -7, 334a26.
Aristotle defines bodies by how they move, so that if particles of earth and fire were
present in a living body, they would move in opposite directions and it would come apart. But,
while a mixture is a proportion of the elements going into the mixture, the mixture itself is a
unique form of matter in which the elements change utterly and are only potentially (not actually)
For Aristotle any natural body that has dimensions and limits (for example, a stone) is
held together by the continually ongoing activity of its internal heat. A natural body has an
internal nature which is something aside from the elements (Meta V-3). SEE ALSO
Living bodies are generated and maintained not just by heat, but by a soul, i.e., a more
complex organization with different powers.
As a modern example, ethologists conclude from studies of every kind of animal that
certain fixed behavior patterns are "built into" the body, (i.e., they are inherited, not learned), but
there are no concepts with which to think how physiological structures generate behavior. t has
been found that evolutionarily more evolved species have more complex behaviors. But in our
current science there are no bridge-concepts with which to study this linkage. We can see the
outlines of such bridge concepts exhibited as Aristotle builds inherent connections from
- 51 -
Book , Endnote 40. On Holding the Elements Together (15 B 28)
internally arising activities to functions, powers, organs, the direction of motions, mixtures and
the elements, all involved in the body's organization.
41. Why s the Ob@ect o# 9e+ro.uction 7oo.: 841& " 1/ to 21)
One might have thought that "the object" of reproduction is the other species-member.
We seldom see or think of food while we are engaged in reproduction. Someone might
consider this a very sexless theory. But of course reproduction includes not only intercourse but
the whole period of generating the new organism. Very well, but why not the infant? Why is
food the object rather than the new creature?
By objects Aristotle always means something that exists and stands over against us.
The word he uses here is .(415a20). Hamlyn translates this as correlative objects.
n the second half of the sentence Aristotle says that by this he means food and the
sensible (#!0") and the understandable (0"). Although translators add the Latin
word objects throughout the book, Aristotle from now on uses only these words, rather than
objects ().
The life-activities are what call interactions. One single activity involves both the
ensouled body and the food. The one activity has one form. n act the body and the thing are
both involved making or enacting the form.
The infant is its own life activity. The mother's activity is one with the infant only in that
activity which turns food into the animal's form.
The question is the same as why the same power effects both nutrition and reproduction
(See ENDNOTE 35).
42. On the 1eaning o# the Wor. 0"cti2ity0 in (ontrast to 1otion
n sensing, the organs are affected, but their make-up and the sensing activity are not
affected. Aristotle's concept of "activity" (energeia) is basic for him.
Take for example your radio. You need it to be "affected" by the incoming signal, but you
need this not to affect the matter-and-form arrangement that makes your radio work. So in one
- 52 -
Book , Endnote 42. On the Meaning of the Word "Activity" in Contrast to Motion
way the signal has to make a change in your radio; in every other way it must not change the
radio. The radio's capacity for its activity needs to continue unchanged. f your radio stopped
working just when you were listening to a politician you despise, you might joke that he broke
your radio. But you would certainly know that its capacity for its activity is not something that can
be affected in that way. But a radio is an artificially made thing. t does not determine its activity,
the designers do. t does not generate itself by its own activities, as living things generate their
bodies from embryos and reproduction, feeding, and growth.
The concept of "activity" in contrast to motion is fundamental to Aristotle. Without it, or
something like it, he could not maintain that we are (and live among) living things which act
from themselves. A science of the living in living things would be impossible.
Aristotle has three terms where we have only two. He has "rest," "motion,"and also
"activity." An internally arising, self-ordering activity is more active (more determinative) than
the changes it makes, yet it does not change. t may be better to translate energeia as
energy despite so many centuries between, since in our usage an energy can be present
without itself changing, whereas in English an activity without change can seem puzzling.
n philosophy one has to become accustomed to ways of thinking that change what the
words usually mean, rather than assuming that everything can be said in the usual usage of
words. There is no English word whose usual use means what Aristotle means. One needs at
least a phrase to say that for him an activity can exist alone and is in fact the only thing that
can. (Motion requires a body.) Our English word energy might be used for what he means by
energeia if we try to say that in English an energy can exist independently regardless of
whatever else exists. We have difficulty imagining an activity if it doesn't act on something but
we can imagine an energy that exists as such by itself.
n Aristotle's concept, an energeia is also an active organizing. n classical Western
science energy doesn't organize anything but in modern physics it does. But most people still
unconsciously assume the classical physics according to which nature does not make order and
laws. t only "obeys" laws. Who makes the laws? The scientists do. n Western history it was
God who made the laws which nature only obeyed. n our sciences nature still only obeys, but
now nothing actively makes the laws. n the modern view nature is only organized, but does not
do active organi5ing, lawing. n Aristotle's view nature determines; it is not only determined.
Let us not try here to decide the issue. Rather, let us try to grasp how Aristotle's view
differs from our ususal approach. For Aristotle activity (or energy) is something that actively
- 53 -
Book , Endnote 42. On the Meaning of the Word "Activity" in Contrast to Motion
exists. But it can seem to be no more than just a regular pattern. With modern habits we are
comfortable with the idea that the bodies and motions of nature are lawfully organized by
regular patterns even though we assume that nature is not doing the organizing. The motions
of bodies which we observe just happen to fit into abstract patterns which we take to be just
thoughts. To Aristotle it seems observable that nature organizes itself. t consists of self-
organizing activities. Living things not only move and change; they enact their own organizing of
their moves and changes.
Motion is always unfinished, always still potential (Physics -1, 201a10 and
X-9, 1065b21). As long as the motion is happening, it is on the way to somewhere, hence not
complete. A motion is never fully actual at any point. t is always from....to. When it is
complete, it has stopped.
Aristotle defines motion (including change) as "incomplete activity, or activity of the
incomplete." n contrast, activity is both complete and ongoing, the energy of the complete.
Activity is the energeia of the tetelesmenon (-7, 431a6). 6 ,: 0# & & .,, 6 '
., , 6 & #".
For example, growth is ongoing change, always incomplete until it stops. But nutrizing is
complete at any point.
Or, for example, the ball you are seeing is not yet here, rather only on the way to your
side of the court, but your seeing is complete all the while.
)he activity is not to be e*uated with the changes which it enacts. )he activity is
the internally arising structuring and enacting of the changes. For example, the activity of
digesting is fully ongoing in each moment. Fully ongoing means that the phases are
happening as organized by the unchanging activity. The food from lunch is going through
changes, but unless you have digestive trouble, the activity of digestion is fully ongoing at any
moment or period of time.
There is change in what we sense. What affects the organ changes, but these changes
don't change the activity of sensing. f hearing a really deafening noise does change the activity
of hearing, this change could not be called "hearing." t was not one of those changes which are
enacted by the unchanging activity of hearing.
- 54 -
Book , Endnote 42. On the Meaning of the Word "Activity" in Contrast to Motion
The change that an ulcer makes is not one of the changes organized by the digesting
activity. Digestion's own changes don't change the stomach in a way that would change the
capacity for the digesting activity, whereas ulcers do.
Not only motions but also the absences of motion are organized by energeia. Consider
the rests in music. During a rest there is no motion, but the musical activity is going on. t
determines where the rests come, their length, and their effects in the music. The composer's
sense of the whole piece has actively created the spots where the rests must come. Some
changes happen only for a short period, others like the heart pounding goes on all the time. But
the constant ongoingness of living activity is not the constant heart-pounding. t is rather the
functional organizing which determines that the heart must pound all the time whereas other
parts must act only briefly at certain stages. The whole chain of motions and changes does not
itself change. So we can grasp how activity differs from motion: Activity is the self-organizing
functioning which organizes both motions and absences of motions.
For example, in a watercolor, perhaps the clouds are just white space. The painter has
moved no paint there, yet the art-activity has made it into a cloud. We might scoff: t's the
surrounding paint that makes it have the form of the cloud. n Western science everything is
explained by the bodies and motions themselves. t is the same acidic action, whether it eats
into the food or the stomach. Of course, we moderns also distinguish between digestion and
ulcers, but the difference seems to fall into an "unscientific" merely wishful realm of "values,"
which is excluded by our science. t seems to make no scientific difference whether acid works
within digestion or changes and harms it. Nature doesn't organize itself. Living things don't self-
determine their living. They are only affected by chemical and physical impacts. t is considered
accidental that certain functions are performed and living happens.
For Aristotle, living substances eist as self-organizing "activities" (with the potentiality
for enacting them from inside, and the necessary matter). Energeia is a higher-order concept
which explains what generates and connects the physical and chemical changes. He is just as
interested in the latter as our scientists are, but for him the unchanging activities are what chiefly
exists and determines what the changes have to be, and why they are as they are.
Throughout Aristotle's works, activity is prior. Activity creates or activates all the things.
Bodies continue only as long as their internal heat activity holds them together.
- 55 -
Book , Endnote 42. On the Meaning of the Word "Activity" in Contrast to Motion
43. On the Senses !ot Sensing Themsel2es 841' 5 20)
Aristotle seems to contradict this later, when he says something that may at first sound
as if the senses do sense themselves. He says "we sense that we see and hear."
The difference is: When we actually see something, then we also sense the fact that we
see. But it is always something else we see, and only thereby also that we see. We cannot
see the color of our eyes, except by seeing a mirror. We cannot sense the hot/cold of the flesh
with which we are sensing something. We can sense the cold of the snow, or the cold of the air,
or some other part of our flesh. A finger can feel the cold of the face. But if we want to sense
the cold of the finger, we need to attend from the face, to sense the finger as an object.
Sensing senses the things, not itself, even when it is actively sensing. We see that we
see only by seeing some color.
The external thing is needed in two ways: t moves the potential sense into activity and it
determines the form (red, cold, or middle C). Without a particular thing, the sense makes no
sense-forms. t has potentially all forms and actually none. The activity of sensing is the form-
having, e.g., seeing is seeing color. The object-form defines the activity.
Sensing is ready for the whole range of colors, sounds, and touches. Therefore sensing
is inherently potential in regard to any actual thing that can determine an active sensing. To
understand Aristotle from here on, let us keep with us the fact that for him sensing always
requires an external thing. t is not as if we sense sense-data; rather, we always sense an
externally existing thing. n the next chapter he takes up how we can err about what that thing
might be. But he asserts here explicitly that if there is sensing, some external thing is involved.
(For Aristotle images, dreams and hallucinations are not sensations but memories moving back
to us from a storage bank. See Mem'Recoll.. We will discuss this in -3.)
44. On $otential 7ire an. %ntelecheiaA%nergeia
Aristotle says that fuel doesn't burn itself from itself. n order to burn, the fuel needs
actually eisting (entelecheia) fire. Wood contains potential fire, but no actually existing fire.
Already in -4 we saw that the elements in a living body are not quite themselves since
they don't move in opposite directions as they would if they were actually existing. The flesh is
a mixture. n what Aristotle calls mixture the elements are not actually there; they are only
- 56 -
Book , Endnote 44. On Potential Fire and Entelecheia/Energeia
potential. (See ENDNOTE 40. The hot and dry of fire do exist in wood, but not in the extremes
of hot and dry which are fire. Therefore fire is present in it only potentially. To heat up the wood
to the extreme heat which is fire, you need actually existing fire.
Fire does not have a first actuality, a kind of entelecheia that may be not in act, like
knowledge or like the powers of the soul. When fire actually exists, it burns.
Aristotle says that actual (entelecheia) fire is needed to kindle the wood. He always
uses entelecheia when he argues that something must already actually eist in order to cause
something else. n the Metaphysics X he refers to the nous of the universe as energeia
many times, but the word entelecheia is used where Aristotle argues that a substance must
actually eist in order to cause anything else (X-5, 1071a36). That is also the relevance here
of needing actually existing fire.
45. On (hanging into One)s O-n !ature 841' 5 1&)
:hanging into its own nature is not an ordinary change, but the developing or
enacting of an activity. An ordinary change (or being affected) is change into something
else. An activity is not a change into something else since it is within a thing's own nature to
engage in that activity. So when a living thing first develops such an activity, it comes into its
own nature. Similarly, it is not a change into something else when from having been inactive,
the activity becomes ongoing.
An activity can include changes without itself being a change or a series of changes.
(See Endnote on Activity in -4, and ENDNOTE 114 on hexis). The builder considered as
builder doesn't change by getting up to build, but getting up does require changes in the
muscles and limbs. To activate the activity of sensing, the thing (via the medium) does affect
the sense organ, but this does not change the organ, nor what sensing is. The eardrum is
affected by the sound waves of bronze, but its potentiality for all sounds within a certain range is
preserved, not altered by hearing this sound.
To develop the innate power for an activity is not a change into something else. The
activity realizes a potentiality of that living thing, part of its matured form. And then, when the
matured power has developed, the transition from resting to activating it is not a change into
something else either. The whole complex activity was already all there.
- 57 -
Book , Endnote 45. On Changing into One's Own Nature (417 B 16)
But let us do more than repeat Aristotle's formula. Can we really show ourselves exactly
what it is about activating which is so different from any other change? think we can:
magine a builder who is being changed, say by fire or flood, unhappiness, ecstasy,
hunger, or falling down, -- would changing him result in some new complex activity such as
building? The result would probably be some arbitrary effect, perhaps a headache. But what if,
in some rare case, we saw that the result was a whole train of well-organized steps that all fit
together into some life-forwarding activity? Say he fell two stories down because the wooden
floor boards gave way, landed hard in front of a piano and then played Beethoven? n that case
we would surely not say that falling changed him into a piano player, but rather that he must
already have known how to play.
But even the first acquisition of knowledge is not just a change either. The learning
activates a human capacity to learn.
Could we try to argue that the fall activated his capacity for falling? A capacity yes, but
falling is a capacity in the nature of every body mixed with earth, not one that distinguishes
human nature.
Take another example: We put a tray of water out for the birds, and they come, dip into it
and then perform an immensely complex set of movements, with feather spreading and shaking
and almost dancing. We say they're taking a bath. Do we say that just water makes this
change in them? The water does indeed affect the bird, getting it all wet and cool, but can this
create such a sequence? We know that the whole sequence is already there, waiting only for a
little bit of water to elicit it. But of course some physical effect is required to elicit all this.
Similarly, sensing requires that some motion from the thing affect the sense organ.
t takes only a moment for the builder to get up, but many years to become a builder.
But neither transition is a change into just something else. Both are developments into the
human's own nature, a change into being more itself.
n Aristotle's example the boy is potentially a man. Many other things could happen to a
boy that would not be becoming a well-organized, complete, complex thing with its own form
and limits.
So we can specify both the long-term development and the instant activation as not
being changes into something else. The difference stems from recognizing a complexly
organized, unchanging functional sequence. (See Endnote on Activity in -4)
- 58 -
Book , Endnote 45. On Changing into One's Own Nature (417 B 16)
4&. On 3no-le.ge in "ct in the (ontrolling Sense
must emphasize one of Aristotle's distinctions here, because we will need it in -4-8 in
regard to understanding. We need to look more exactly at Aristotle's statement that fully
actual knowledge is ongoingly knowing a particular, for example this letter A.
Aristotle presents three ways in which one can know:
1 Just potentially, any human is by genus capable of knowing (homo sapiens).
2 A learned person can at wish enact acquired knowledge (the concepts, universals).
3 Actually knowing a present particular, e.g., the grammarian knowing this A.
n -4 Aristotle says that the enactment of (2) is still only potential ... although not in the same
way ... (429b5-9). Please note that Aristotle's fullest and controlling sense of actual
(entelecheia) knowledge is thirdly the one who is already . . . actually (entelecheia$ and in the controlling
(") sense knowing this particular '.
(a 0 !, .)y " .# %/ %2 3 . (417a.27-29).
Actualizing only the universals whenever one wishes is not the fullest actual knowing.
The fullest actuality is knowing a present particular eisting thing.
To appreciate the difference we need to know that Aristotle argues strongly and
consistently in the Metaphysics (especially Books V, V, and X) that universals are not
substance, and that universals do not as such exist in things.
n Metaphysics X-10 Aristotle asserts again that knowledge in act requires a present
existing particular. This time he explains it more clearly. He says that in one respect
knowledge is of universals, but in another respect it is not. ;nowledge of universals is only
potential and indefinite. Knowledge in act is knowing a definite particular, for instance a
grammarian contemplating that this particular alpha is alpha. } a ,,
3 D% D%8 (1087a20).
Actual (entelecheia) knowledge is knowing a present particular thing.
take the larger issue up in ENDNOTE 117. continue on this narrow point in the next

- 59 -
Book , Endnote 46. On Knowledge in Act in the Controlling Sense
4'. On 3no-le.ge in "ct o# Sensible Things 841' 5 28)
We cannot produce sensible things at will, nor do we actually know one of those merely
from the universal concepts, and this is for the same reason: Sensible things are existing
But one could object: sn't most knowledge about sensible things? Aren't most
universals about sensible things?
f we keep in mind what showed in ENDNOTE 46, we can see that here Aristotle does
not mean universal knowledge about sensible things; he means rather the fully ongoing
knowledge of a definite sensible thing. He has just explained that we can think the universals
whenever we wish, but we cannot sense the things whenever we wish because sensing
requires the presences of an existing particular. Then he adds:
)he situation is similar with the knowledge dealing with the sensible, and for the same reason (aition$
that the sensibles are particular and external. 417b25-27)
a 2 & 9) A .#4 A #!0, : + , > : #!0: !' _#
Aristotle means that knowledge fully in act requires a definite present particular.
Knowledge of universals even when enacted is only potential.
The Prior Analytic also bears out this conclusion:
For we do not know any object of sense when it occurs outside our sensation not even if we have
perceived it except by universals, and posess the knowledge of the particular without eercising
(energein) it. (Prior Anal -21, 67b1.)
+2 ,: #!0 9 ' #!4# , @#, +' - #!0 ",), { !"
9) .#40, ' +) { .,A1
48A4/. (om+arison -ith 3no-le.ge
Aristotle often makes his concepts by comparing, analogizing. n four of these first
chapters we saw him comparing the soul to knowledge:
n -1 he made the concept of first actuality from having knowledge both when awake
and asleep. The soul is a first actuality, like knowledge.
- 60 -
Book , Endnote 48/49. Comparison with Knowledge
n -2, knowledge (as a form-and-internal-moving cause in the nous-part of the soul) is
compared to the living and sensing parts of the soul (which are a form-and-internal-moving
cause in the body).
n -4 knowledge (the habit in the potential nous) is not mentioned. Rather, the activity
of the active nous in making the concepts is compared to the activity of the soul in making the
body. For just as nous makes (poiein$ for the sake of something, in the same way also does nature, and this
something is its end (telos$ . . . of this sort [an end] is the soul . . . for, all natural bodies are instruments for the
soul . . . (415b15-21).
n -5 here, most of our chapter consists of a comparison between sense and
knowledge. The difference between the long-term development and the instant actualization of
knowledge is the model for saying that the potentiality of sensing is fully developed at birth, and
that the transition from potential sensing to sensing in act is parallel to the transition from
acquired knowledge to knowledge fully in act.
50. On 0Ob@ects0
Although translated as ob,ect of sense, in Greek Aristotle speaks simply of the
sensible (#!0). So, for example, what Aristotle calls the tasteable ( ,"#) is
translated the object of taste. This is not wrong, but it can be confusing because Aristotle
means neither ,ust the thing0 nor ,ust the sensation. He means the thing insofar as the thing
is sensed.
Sensibles exist. The visible is color caused by some thing, not just the seen-color, not
just the image that is there before us. When Aristotle speaks of just sense-presentations, he
calls them #!4 (as in -7, 431a14-16).
The visible or sizeable is not just red or a size, but the red or the size of some thing that
is red or large. We may be mistaken about what or where that thing is.
- 61 -
Book , Endnote 50. On "Objects"
51. On We (annot 5e ,ecei2e.
418a16 We cannot be wrong that there is red, but we can err about what or where the
colored thing is.
)hat there is red is not to be confused with that we see red. When we see red we
can also be certain that we see (red), but Aristotle discusses this in -2. f here he meant
being sure that we see red, we would be e*ually certain that we see movement when we see
movement. But he says we can err in the latter case. We may be sure that we see movement
and yet there may not be movement. So the certainty is not just that we see red, but rather the
certainty that there is red, (> )).
When we see something moving, there may be no movement. Just what makes that
difference? Why is it not certain that there is motion when we see motion?
Whether the thing moves or not must not be confused with the fact that a motion of the
medium is what brings the special sensible to the organ. The motion which causes the white is
the only motion which reaches us directly. f the thing moves, we see this only through seeing
the white, not through still another motion that would separately affect us. Therefore when we
see white, there is white somewhere causing the sensation, but if we err about it moving, then
that motion doesn't exist anywhere; there is no fact (oti) of that motion at all.
Like motion, the other common sensibles affect us only through the special senses. f
we err in regard to a common sensible, what we sense simply isn't. f you sense four apples as
five, there is no five. f something large at a distance seems small, there is no small thing there.
The fact that we sense the thing's motion only by the motion from the white, also
explains why (as he says later, in -1) it is only by sensing across the senses that we can
discriminate the commons as distinct sensibles.
Although we can err about what and where the sensed thing is, Aristotle does assume
that the color is necessarily caused by a thing which has that color. Even if a white thing looks
red in the sunset, we err about what is red, but a red is there. However, in his book on the
sense organs, in discussing the composition of the organs Aristotle notes that When the eye is
pressed and moved, fire seems to flash out. mention this here because the finger that does the
pressing is not a red thing. But Aristotle adds: This naturally happens in the dark or when the eyes are
- 62 -
Book , Endnote 51. On We Cannot Be Deceived
closed (De Senu , 437a24). What we see in the dark or with our eyes closed is not for
Aristotle a case of sensing. mages, dreams and hallucinations are not cases of sensing (-3,
428a5-10). think pressing the eye is like a ringing in the ear.
#or 'ristotle sensing always involves some present thing whose sensible form is
only potential until it is in act as the single form of our sensing. So a thing by itself can't
just be red; it can only be potentially red which means precisely that the thing determines that
its sensible form will actualize as red in our sensing. Conversely, if we sense red this means
that some thing somewhere was potentially red. n his theory of sensation the thing's sensible
form in act is the form of the sensing activity.
52. Sensing Ongoing 1otionB !ot "tomic Times
n the modern West we tend to assume that motion is perceived by comparing bits of
momentary perception and noticing the difference. Aristotle argues against atomic bits of matter
and time throughout his works. He is sure that we perceive motion directly and not from static
momentary bits. n -1 we will discuss this further, and in -6 he takes the issue up in detail.
53. The 6ist o# (ommon Sensibles
Aristotle speaks of megethei as sensible things . n Greek to megethos, the
sizable, is a sizable thing not a mathematical abstraction (see endnote -4 on megethos).
When we see the white we see a white thing, and when we see megethos we see a sizable
n -1 his list includes one. Here he ends the list with and such as these, thereby
leaving room for other common sensibles. n -1 we will discuss why one is added there.
Sensing sweet by seeing white is not mentioned. t is first brought up in -1.
- 63 -
Book , Endnote 53. The List of Common Sensibles
54. On "cci.entalAnci.ental
We see our friend's color on his face, and also its shape, and the motion of the familiar
gestures. These affect our senses directly, i.e., !' , essentially. n the incidental
(accidental) way, indirectly, we also do sense him, the son of Diarous. n the same way we
perceive the yellow fluid directly, but we perceive only indirectly what it is (for example, that it is
bile, -1, 425b1).
To prevent confusion, it helps to distinguish what is accidental (incidental) to sense-
perception from what is accidental (incidental) to the thing. t turns out that what the thing is
essentially (kai auto), is sensed incidentally, whereas what is essential to perception is
accidental to the thing.
Of course, what a thing essentially is (this person) isn't an accident of the thing, but
perceiving what it is is an accident of the sensing. Conversely the directly (kath auto,
essentially) sensed color and motion are accidents of the thing.
55. On 9ea.ing 418a2/-31
Nothing is really riding on this sentence because Aristotle makes himself clear about the
relation of light and color in the next few lines, and then, in De Sensu, about the transparent in
Only in De Sensu does Aristotle tell us that the transparent exists also within bodies, not
only between them in air and water. n De Sensu , Aristotle says that the transparent in
bodies shows on the surface (on the limit) of defined bodies (the solid bodies that stay in one
piece so that they have limiting surfaces). A limit for Aristotle is just a surface, not a concrete
What we have called the transparent ... resides in all bodies to a greater or lesser extent. Hence just as
every body must have some bound (9#)), so must this .. and it is plain from the facts that this bound is
color. For color is either in the limit (), or is the limit () ... (De Sensu , 439a28-30)
See Endnote 58 for more detail on Aristotle's theory of color as the surface of the
transparent in things.
- 64 -
Book , Endnote 55. On Reading 418a29-31
Now we can interpret our sentence:
For the visible is color, and this is that which overlies what is in itself ! ?athC auto) visible
(namely the limit of the transparent in things)
- in itself visible not on its own account, "logos$,
(not qua transparent)
but because it has ! 4 " in itself the cause of its visibility
(Light, the hexis is the transparent's having of its complete nature which is light).
3 ,: a .# ), & ' .# 3 . & !' 3 a&8 !' 3 2 + ,b, ' > .
" 4 3 @ & $ a1
The key word is has.
The usual interpretations are not really possible, but they do no damage.
To read color as the cause of visibility isn't wrong because color is one cause of it. But
in that reading what color overlies also has color in it.
Another reading: The thing is often taken to be what is visible kath auto but not kath
auto on its own account. But Aristotle said just above in -6 that the things are seen not kath
auto. So he would not say here that they are seen kath auto but not on their own account. But
it is true, as those who read the sentence this way point out, that things do not have color in
their definition. The son of Diares who looks white, or my white shirt are not defined by their
color. And it is also true that the definition of a color does not include the definitions of the
things that have that color. Nevertheless it is not qua bronze surface or cloth surface that the
surface is visible kath auto.
As usual, Aristotle discusses the material side not in the De Anima but in another book.
(See ENDNOTE 98 and my comment to -1, 402b26, where discuss what he does and doesn't
include in the De Anima.)
We don't need it right here, but in ENDNOTE 58 take up Aristotle's theory of color and
why he would explain potential colors as forms of a transparent in bodies.
- 65 -
Book , Endnote 55. On Reading 418a29-31
5&. On T-o (auses4 3ineti?on an. $oieti?on
There are two causes:
The color is the mover !kinetikon" which moves the medium. Through the medium the
color moves to the eyes, but color can move only an already active medium.
Light is the maker0 !poietikon", the activity of the medium.
Let us be clear about these two.
For example, if a radio station is already actively transmitting, then if you speak into the
mike, your voice is the mover (kinetikon). Your voice moves the radio waves to take on the
pitch of your voice and your loud and soft, so that your voice moves to everyone's living room
and car radio.
The radio transmitter is the maker, the poietikon, the radio activity. t is the active maker
of the radio transmission. Without active transmitting your voice is only potentially a mover.
Similarly, the color-form alone is only potentially a mover, but it moves the medium when
the medium is active. The color travels; it moves through the active medium to you.
The light is the poietikon, the active mover, the medium activity.
The mover is the form that travels. The mover determines what is transmitted. The light
transmits the color which is already potential. So it transmits the green of the grass.
n other works, Aristotle calls a carpenter the maker (poetikon). The form of a chair is
only potential until the carpenter enacts the form in the wood. The chair-form moves into the
wood by moving the carpenter (if he is active). Aristotle says that the chair(form leads the
carpenter to make different moves than if he were making a table. The form is not invented
by the carpenter; it comes from the art of carpentry. Therefore Aristotle often says that the art is
the efficient cause (as well as the carpenter).
5'. On ,is+ersionB 9e#ractionB an. "cti2ity
Light enables us to see the colors of all the things simultaneously. Sound does not do
that. You hear only the sound from things being hit. f seeing were like hearing in this respect,
you would see only an object on which a flashlight is trained. Also, when several things are hit,
(or several people speak at once), the sounds merge, but the colors of the things we see do not
- 66 -
Book , Endnote 57. On Dispersion, Refraction, and Activity
merge. So there is a distinctly different effect in the case of light, which enables us to see all the
things. This overall visibility is the light of which Aristotle says that it is an activity, not a motion.
But 'ristotle also says that light does move.
Of course he knows that one can see one's face reflected in still water. n the next
chapter he says that light moves and is reflected back. He says it there because he gets the
concept of reflection from the echo of sound. As so often, he develops the concept by
comparing two senses. n -8 (419b25) he says:
An echo occurs when the air is made to bounce back like a ball . . .t is likely that an echo always occurs,
although not a distinct one, since the same thing surely happens with sound as with light too; for light is
always reflected !otherwise there would not be light everywhere0 but there would be darkness
outside the area lit by the sun"0 but it is not reflected as it is from water, or bronze, or any other smooth
object, so as to produce a shadow, by which we delimit the light.
The word for reflection () means thrown back. Light is an activity, not a
motion but it involves motions. The dispersion involves motions forward and reflection back.
He says that otherwise it would be dark and we would see only the spot on which the light
shines. Shadows make it obvious that light moves. They show exactly where the light is
So light does move. But the activity is not the motions. For Aristotle an activity does not
reduce to the motions it may involve. As in nutrition and in all sensing, the activity includes and
organizes certain motions. The overall visibility (the active transparency) is not a movement:
. . . for light . . . is not a motion !ou kinesis" . . . for spatial movements (foras) of course first reach the
intervening medium before going further, but a change of state !alloiosis" can occur in a thing all at
once... as water may freeze all at one time . . .although each part is affected by the net. All of it need not
change (metaballei) together (hama). (446b28)
58. On the 1e.ium in .e Sensu an. (om+arison to the $otential !ous.
We don't want to forget that Aristotle has many long material accounts of psychological
processes in other books. The information is primitive and not widely read today. But what we
need to understand about Aristotle is not an absence of material accounts, rather the absence
of such accounts in the &e 'nima. The reason for their absence in our book shows where
Aristotle differs from the usual modern view: The functioning, i.e., living, sensing, and
understanding are the real events for Aristotle and they determine what the physical structures
- 67 -
Book , Endnote 58. On the Medium in de Sensu and Comparison to the Potential Nous.
have to be, to make the functioning activities possible. Because the functioning determines the
structures, the De Anima can present an analysis of the functionings without discussing the
physical processes and parts which can be discussed in other books. (See ENDNOTE 98 for
a longer discussion of what is included in the De Anima.)
1. <o- an actual thing can ha2e a +otentiality that is not an e*isting thing as @ust
Aristotle's concept of hexis is so odd to us because it allows him to posit a potentiality
that isn't in itself anything concrete. Such a potentiality does not float separately; it exists with
something concrete but is not that concrete thing. The transparent is on the thing's surface; the
potential nous belongs to a person with memory and imagery; virtue involves at least ordinary
living. But for Aristotle the potentiality for light is not a trait of the thing's surface; the potential
nous is not some characteristic of memory or imagery; the potentiality for virtue is not something
concrete added to ordinary living. )he potentiality for a function need not be an additional
concrete thing.
We can bring this home to ourselves if we think, for example, of Paul Revere saying that
one light will mean the British are coming by land, and two lights that they are coming by sea.
Thereby he set up a function for the lights. No one will say that the potentiality for conveying a
message must be something concrete in addition to what torches and the lights already are.
Similarly, if we generalize we can say that in past centuries torch lights had an important
signaling potentiality which was nothing material at all beyond the usual characteristics of
torches and lights.
am trying to bring home the obvious fact that a functional connection can be added
without adding something to the material conditions.
n -5 Aristotle explained that a hexis can have two stages, the original potentiality which
isn't anything real, and a second, learned habit, a developed potentiality which is a real power.
n my example, once Paul Revere has developed a function of the lights, they are a very
real power to move the Americans and change world history.
- 68 -
Book , Endnote 58. On the Medium in de Sensu and Comparison to the Potential Nous.
The fact that all humans can learn to think is nothing before we think. But once we have
learned some concepts, the habit is a real power with which we can think whenever we wish
(of course with the active nous but that nous is always active).
The transparent in the air and water is only the colorless potentiality to take on a thing's
color, or to be brightness. But in De Sensu Aristotle develops the transparent further:
2. The trans+arent -ithin things has the +otential color.
Aristotle's theory of the material side is presented in De Sensu. There he says that the
transparent is also contained in all bodies, not only in air and water. The transparent inheres in
the bodies whose color we see, not only in the medium which brings the color to the eyes.
He speaks of the transparent in three locations:
1) n delimited (horistos) bodies, i.e., solids. Such bodies have definite extremities
(eschata) which have a definite potential color that is the same whether seen from far or up
2) n undelimited bodies (air or ocean water). These have indefinite extremities. Their
color from afar differs from how it seems up close. They have no definite color. Rather, they
have brightness or darkness. n them the transparent can have actual existence (i.e., light)
without transmitting a thing's color. We look at them and see the brightness.
3) The unbounded ones (2), air or water, can be media. The transparent in them can
take on the color of things and bring the color to the eyes.
The distinction between delimited and undelimited bodies enables Aristotle to go further.
n delimited bodies there is not light, but there is a transparent also within them. )his
transparent has a potentially colored surface.
already cited this passage in ENDNOTE 55:
What we have called the transparent ... resides in all bodies to a greater or lesser extent. Hence just as
every body must have some bound (9#)), so must this .. and it is plain from the facts that this bound is
color. For color is either in the limit (), or is the limit () ... (De Sensu , 439a28-30)
- 69 -
Book , Endnote 58. On the Medium in de Sensu and Comparison to the Potential Nous.
On all delimited bodies, the potential color is the extremity (eschaton AND peras) of the
transparent which inheres within them. With this assumption Aristotle can create his theory
of color<
Just as (hwsper) there is bright or dark in undelimited ones, so there is white or black in delimited bodies.
)hat which in the air causes light [i.e., something fiery] may be present in the transparent [in the solid
body] or not, the body being deprived of it. . . [This] in bodies produces white or black. (439b15-20)
Fire is one of the four elements which are mixed in some proportions in all bodies (), so if
there is something transparent in every body, then the fiery in every body can act to produce,
not light of course, but a transparent that has its own color-form.
The black is the privation of white in the transparent.
# 3 #0# . %$ & "& (De Sens 442a.25).
The other colors . . . come from a miing of white and black . . . (De Sensu 442a11).
7ote that the color of a miture is not made by the proportion of the four elements
but by the proportion of white and black. )he resulting color depends on how much
white is in the transparent within the ingredients0 not on what the mied elements are.
(n section 3 below will say why this is important.)
n Aristotle's concept of mixture the least possible part of a mixture is still the mixture.
(See De Gen & Cor and my paper on Aristotle on Prime Matter and Mixture).
But a mixture of bodies occurs, not merely, as some people think, by the alternation of their smallest
particles, but by a complete interfusion of all their parts, as we have said in our discussion of mixtures in
( 9# # 3 & > @ , D0 .)#
!, 4 6A : @#!0#, > 0 , # . A @0 !"
.) (De Sensu , 440a.31-b.4).
- 70 -
Book , Endnote 58. On the Medium in de Sensu and Comparison to the Potential Nous.
n such a mixture the colors must obviously be mixed as well, and that is the reason why there are many
( > ,0 ," : ) ,"#!, ', 70 $ " & : $
), De Sens 440b.13).
"What we call "transparent" resides in ... all bodies, hence just as all bodies must have a bound ( 9#)),
so must this. . . The transparent which inheres in bodies must have a bound and this bound is color. For
color either is in the limit or is this limit."
(# # ,0 $ 9#), 706 2 & %3 %7# . #b
%A .#8 & . A #/# %& 3 9#) > 2 @0 D , ', > 2 & .# 3 ), .
#" %. 3 ,: ) . .# ) De Sensu -439a20-30)
"Color is the limit of the transparent in a delimited body." "De Sensu -439b10 ff:)
05ut the limit is not a bo.yD (DeSensu, -439a32):
f we cut such a body open, it would have new surfaces, still with color.
The elemental composition of the body does not determine the color. The color is
determined by how much white or black was in the transparent of the ingredients of a mixture.
n our modern theory also, the explanation of color is inherently related to the nature of
light. Of course there must be a link between what color is and what light is. Aristotle's theory
explains color as inherently a form of its medium, the transparent. n terms of the two stages of
hexis, the transparent in bodies which already has potential color corresponds to the knower
who has already learned some forms of thought.
For us the theory also clarifies Aristotle's concept of form and how form travels.
Things don't just have sensible forms which are somehow mysteriously picked up by a medium;
rather what color is in the first place is inherently a form of that medium in things, so of course it
can become the form of that medium between things.
3. (om+aring the trans+arent an. the +otential nous4
- 71 -
Book , Endnote 58. On the Medium in de Sensu and Comparison to the Potential Nous.
The transparent and light are almost parallel to potential and actual nous (-4 and -5).
comment on the parallel in -5 (ENDNOTE 114). explain hexis, the having of the activity.
What may or may not acquire the activity is no real thing alone. The hexis is the light.
The potential nous -- like the transparent -- is no real thing when it is only a potentiality.
Once the potential nous has acquired the potential knowledge-forms (universals), it is
analogous to the transparent whose surface is the potential color. Then the light can activate
the potential color just as the active nous can activate our potential knowledge forms. Once the
universal forms have been learned, the potential nous is somewhat like an internal medium in
which the active nous can activate the forms of our thinking activity, just as light activates the
forms of our seeing activity.
The active nous itself does not turn on and off since it is pure activity. t is analogous to
the light which is always bright and active up there, near the sun. But down here the things can
be in light or covered up. The active nous is always in act but it depends on us whether we
want to think or not. The always active light does not determine whether any colors of things
are transmitted, i.e. whether there is seeing or not.
The light activates the potential colors on things just as the active nous activates the
potential understandables, the noeta (eidei, see -6) in sense and imagery. In both cases
'ristotle makes a break< The potential colors are not due to the elemental composition
although in it. Similarly, the understandable forms are not what is sensed or imaged, although
in sense and imagery. )he potential colors and the understandables are forms of a special
potentiality of their own (the transparent; the potential nous).
This question leads to the inherent relation between form and activity for Aristotle which
is always difficult for us to understand. 3e are accustomed by our science to think of forms
and structures as ,ust eisting out there. 3e moderns tend to omit our own theori5ing
activity and see no need to think of forms as forms of activity. For Aristotle all forms are
the forms of their activity, energeia, which we can try to understand in English as an active
organizing energy.
Forms don't exist alone. They are always forms of activity or forms of the potentiality for
the activity. While we sleep our knowledge-forms are forms of our potential nous.
- 72 -
Book , Endnote 58. On the Medium in de Sensu and Comparison to the Potential Nous.
Light by itself has (is) its own color; similarly, the active nous by itself is a knowledge in
act (-5, ). But light is not also itself a kind of seeing, whereas the active nous is not only
the active side of the hexis which activates the forms, but also itself a kind of understanding.
But what in the case of understanding corresponds to the presence of fire in the
transparent? Analogous to the coming of fire or the sun into the transparent is the cosmos from
where nous comes into the soul "!en Animals. -3, 736b28).
5/. On %m+ty S+ace
Aristotle does not share the modern classical assumption that space, i.e., relations
between abstract mathematical points, exists as an absolute frame. David Hume similarly
argued that the system of points in geometry is not the frame of events, but modern science has
followed Kant into the conundrum that space is both absolute and subjective. As a result the
picture presented by modern science is indeed a picture, something synthesized by us and
presented before us.
For Aristotle there is only place, a definite location determined by an actual contact
or interaction between two bodies each of which retains its limits.
Einstein rejected the empty classical Newtonian space. In modern physics0 space has
characteristics0 and indeed precisely those which the nature of light gives to it.
The classical concept of empty space was current long before Aristotle, at least since
Democritus. Aristotle presents it in great detail in order to criticize and reject it. He even has a
theory of how the concept of empty space came about:
But because the encircled content [of a container] may be taken out and replaced again and again, while
the encircling container remains unchanged . . the imagination pictures a kind of dimensional entity left there
distinct from the body that has shifted away Physics V-4, 211b15.
f such a thing should really exist, well might we contemplate it with wonder, capable as it must be of existing
without anything else, whereas nothing else could exist without it "Physics V-1, 209a1).
Einstein's characterization of the issue is nearly the same as Aristotle's.
Einstein says:
- 73 -
Book , Endnote 59. On Empty Space
f ... one is led to the view that space (or place) is a sort of order of material ob,ects and nothing else . . .
then to speak of empty space has no meaning. . . .
t is also possible however, to think in a different way. nto a certain box we can place a definite number of
grain of rice ... By a natural extension of box space one can arrive at the concept of an independent
(absolute) space . . . Then a material object not situated in space is simply inconceivable; on the other
hand . . . an empty space may exist.
These two concepts of space may be contrasted as follows:
(a) space as positional quality of the world of material objects;
(b) space as container of all material objects. . . .
[For] Newton . . . space must be introduced as the independent cause of the inertial behavior of bodies if
one wishes to give the classical principle of inertia (and therewith the classical law of motion) an exact
meaning.. . . But the subsequent development of the problems ...has shown that the resistance of Leibniz
and Huygens, intuitively well founded but supported by inadequate arguments, was actually justified.
t seems to me that the atomic theory of the ancients, with its atoms existing separately from each other,
necessarily presupposed a space of type (b), while the more influential 'ristotelian school tried to get
along without the concept of independent !absolute" space.
The victory over the concept of absolute space . . . became possible only because the concept of the
material ob,ect was gradually replaced . . . by that of the field. . . . . . f the laws of this field are . . not
dependent on a particular choice of coordinate system, then the introduction of an independent (absolute)
space is no longer necessary. . . . There is then no empty space, that is, no space without a field.
Albert Einstein (Foreword. n: Max Jammer, Concepts of Space Harper Torch
books, NY: 1954/1960 xiv - xvi.)
For Aristotle there is matter everywhere, but matter does not consist of bodies. Rather,
there is a field of continuous matter constantly varying in density and rarity (Physics ____).
Matter is changeability. Only the change-proportions, not bodies, are conserved.
(See also next ENDNOTE)
&0. On (om+arison -ith 1o.ern $hysics4
The similarity between modern physics and Aristotle's physics is often remarked upon.
Obviously Aristotle could not have known our theoretical problems and our vast array of
empirical findings. But the similarity is not accidental nevertheless. Einstein says (see previous
endnote) that when he needed to change Newton's basic approach, Aristotle's basic approach
- 74 -
Book , Endnote 60. On Comparison with Modern Physics:
was available as an alternative. t was deeply ingrained in the physics of Huygens and the
others just before Newton.
n modern physics matter is energy, meaning roughly matter stretched out. What was
classically thought of as a body is a local distortion in the field. Expressed in this simplified
way, the similarity to Aristotle's view is clear. Furthermore, for Einstein as for Aristotle, the
nature of light involves visibility, i.e. its signaling properties. There are therefore many
similarities, despite the primitive level of Aristotle's observations.
Aristotle: Light is not a body.
Currently: Although the photon is considered a particle, it has zero rest mass, no weight,
and any number of them can be in one place.
Aristotle: The entelecheia (actuality, existence) of the transparent is light ( entelecheia tou
diaphanous phws estin 419a12). Light is the transparent's actuality. Hence the
transparent is nothing but potential light. Light is an activity of what is nothing but
potential light.
Currently: Light is a wave form of nothing (oscillations in an electromagnetic field), unlike
sound which is the wave oscillation of something).
t was in the name of Aristotle that there was a long search for an ether as a
material medium of light, but for Aristotle the medium is rather the transparent. And
this, when it actually exists, is only the light itself. He did think that the potential
transparency inhered in air, water, and crystals, but he considered it to be a hexis
not a body. n the dark it is nothing other than the potentiality for light.
Aristotle: Light is not a motion, rather the transparent becomes active all over, section by
Currently: Diffraction is a wave phenomenon.
- 75 -
Book , Endnote 60. On Comparison with Modern Physics:
Aristotle: One activity (like sensing) unites object, medium, and organ with one form. The
activity of light is in many places at once.
Currently: One photon presented with two slots, goes through both. f a beam of photons is
split so that two photons travel from there in different directions, even when they
have gone far apart, if something affects one of them this has an effect on the
other. Light is in many places at once. A wave unites many places. A single
particle is often considered to be "smeared out" over infinite space. n certain
equations it has to be considered to be all over.
Aristotle: One activity organizing motions under it is not bothersome to him. t is his usual
model. With him light activates a field all at once and also moves.
Currently: n modern science there is supposed to be only one level of theory. Like him we
have both waves and photons but this duality seems troublesome to us.
Aristotle: The activity of light simultaneously all over (like our wave theory) is the functional
organization, whereas motions (refraction) are organized by the activity, (as in
digestion, see my comment in -4 and ENDNOTE 57).
Currently: Light is understood both as waves and as particles.
Aristotle: The fire in the outer cosmos is the source.
Currently: All energy comes to us from the sun.
Aristotle: Euclidian space is not the space of real events. Real events are interactions, and
only an interaction determines a location (topos). Aristotle's theory is not dependent
on location. t does not assume a space-time frame.
Currently: f momentum is calculated, space-location is indeterminate. f one needs to
determine a location in an antecedent space-location system, one cannot measure
- 76 -
Book , Endnote 60. On Comparison with Modern Physics:
n quantum mechanics many available solutions cannot be employed because the
relativity theory cannot be made consistent with them. The findings could be
written more simply if the theory permitted space, time, and particles to be
determined by the interaction, which would mean that when calculated backwards
from an interaction they are not always the same as they were coming into the
interaction. n quantum there is no absolute scheme of space-time points.
Aristotle: Space is not the same all over, not just a system of location-points. Up and down
are not the same.
Currently: Curved space is a field with properties of its own, not just mathematical points.
But it has not been realized what was lost when physics was first reduced to
mathematics. Therefore the full significance of this change back has not been
Aristotle: The colors of things are transmitted by light, but light can also exist on its own, with
only brightness.
Currently: f light waves carry a message (signaling properties), light has only one speed, but
without any message light can exceed this speed.
Aristotle: Empty space does not exist. A location or place is determined only where two
solids touch their extremities so they are together (hama) - and only this also
determines a single moment of time.
Currently: n quantum mechanics location has become indeterminate. Where a particle will
be found is on a probability-curve, and only actual interaction determines where it
There are already findings in which time symmetry is violated, i.e., time is re-determined
See also the previous ENDNOTE.
- 77 -
Book , Endnote 60. On Comparison with Modern Physics:
&1. On 0m+ossible to 5e "##ecte. by the (olor That s Seen0 41/a15-22
What does Aristotle mean here, in this link in midst of his argument?
For seeing takes place when that which can perceive is affected by something. Now it is impossible for it to
be affected by the [actual is sometimes wrongly inserted here] color which is seen; it remains for it to be
affected by what is intervening, so that there must be something intervening. But ...
Hamlyn and Hett (Loeb) mistranslate by adding the crucial word #actual) here where
Aristotle did not use it. ( +& 2 & a" )/ 78)
Aristotle says that the seen color cannot be what affects our organ because it is the
result of being affected. Something has to affect the eyes and this cannot be what comes as a
result of being affected.
Or, he may be referring back to having shown that putting the colored thing on the eye
produces no vision.
&2. On the Or.er in an. bet-een the (ha+ters on the Senses
Aristotle's order here and in each of the other sense chapters moves from the thing (the
potential sense-object -- the potential color (the material cause), to a compressed definition
containing the cause which he expands from then on. n each chapter he next turns to the
means, (the moving cause,) what first activates the medium, which in turn activates the organ.
Then(but not in our chapter) he takes up the different colors, pitches, or tastes which are the
forms (formal cause) that are created by the proportioning activity in the organ. Then he
usually discusses briefly how this sense is adaptive (final cause) for a species that has it.
n discussing the medium he usually first takes up the potential medium, then what
activates the medium, then how the medium can take up the thing's form because it has no
such form of its own.
Like the other chapters this one has this order, but it only goes as far the medium
reaching the organ. The eye is only just mentioned (419a6-14). The different colors are taken
up in the next chapter along with different pitches of sound (420a26). Aristotle does not know
every aspect of each sense. When he does not know something about a sense, he can discuss
- 78 -
Book , Endnote 62. On the Order in and between the Chapters on the Senses
it only as having a function analogous to the function of something he does know in one of the
other senses. He does not know how light vibrations are proportioned. So he will derive it by
comparison with the sound-pitches because he does know how those are proportioned in
musical instruments.
Similarly, why does Aristotle discuss the medium of smelling in chapter -7 on vision. t
is because he does not know what the medium of smell is. Therefore he can define it only in a
proportion to another sense. And since fish sense smells, the medium is not air itself, or water,
but rather just as color is to its medium, so smell must be to its medium. But unlike the
transparent, the medium of smell is always ready to transmit, so he does not say that it is a
Now let us consider the order of the chapters on the senses. Why does he take up
seeing and color before the other senses? Aristotle often discusses the most complex thing
first. That lets him make concepts which he can easily simplify in simpler cases. But if that is so
then one could ask: Why in the De Anima does he take up the least complex function (nutrition)
first? t is because it can be studied alone, since it does not presuppose the others. But in that
case one could ask: Should not the sense of touch have come before the other senses, since it
is the one that can occur alone, as nutrition does in plants? nstead touch is the last of the five
senses to be discussed.
think there are two reasons why touch comes last: Although touch (i.e. contact) is the
contact sense, (it's the same word in Greek), Aristotle will argue that touch, too, requires a
medium. Since this is not at all obvious, he must first create the concept of a medium and
explain why there cannot be any sensations without a medium.
Secondly, touch provides the meeting of all five senses.
&3A&4. On What s 7orm an. <o- ,oes T Tra2el:
One of the difficulties in reading Aristotle is that one can become accustomed to his main
assertions without really grasping what they mean. Then one repeats familiar formulae without
being able to think with them. Sensible things just somehow have sensible forms, and these
somehow travel to us through a medium. n this chapter what he really means by sensible
form can be thought through.
- 79 -
Book , Endnote 63/64. On What s Form and How Does T Travel?
How can there be a sensible form apart from the thing? This can seem mysterious. A
separate form first becomes separate by becoming the form of a medium. )he medium
provides an activity which things can affect in their different characteristic ways. The
sense-form are separate only as form of the mediums activity. The medium is not only
something through which a mysterious thing called form travels; rather, because the medium
is active, each kind of thing puts its own character onto this activity.
It is the function of a medium not only to intervene, but to provide an activity whose
forms are the sensible forms apart from their things. Because of this function of a medium
Aristotle can say in -5 that the active nous is like light. Nous is the medium-activity because it
makes, enacts the understandable forms as form of our understanding activity.
So it is not that things have forms and these somehow mysteriously detach themselves
from the things and travel in an equally mysterious way through a medium. The sensible form
does not first exist and then travel. A form is inherently something that travels, because it is
first generated as the form-of a medium's ongoing activity. So of course the form of the
medium's activity travels, since the medium's activity occurs also at the organ.
Now we can understand why Aristotle can say that the characteristic sensible form of
the thing is also the form of the reverberating air in between and hence also the form of the
reverberating air in the ear. 8ne form is common to the thing and our sensing. The form is
thing's effect on the medium-activity which reaches the organ.
The potential form in the things is only a trait such as hardness or a smooth surface.
Something about the thing which is not its sensible form generates a certain profile (as we
would say) on the activity of the medium, and only this is its separate sensible form.
We need to pay special attention to the fact that, for Aristotle, color and sound forms are
not in act in or on the things. Only if the medium is already in activity can the things give some
character to the medium. 8nly because hitting bronze or wood creates a reverberating mass of
air can bronze or wood give it their different audible forms.
The different sound pitches (forms(of the air's vibrating) have different mathematical
ratios (as in music). Aristotle explains the ratios as different amounts of motion per unit time.
This lays the basis for his later explanation of sensations as proportions.
But the proportion of the medium-activity is not yet the sensible form. Only when the
characteristic medium-activity reaches the organ, does the motion/time ratio become a certain
- 80 -
Book , Endnote 63/64. On What s Form and How Does T Travel?
sound pitch or a certain color between white and black. As Aristotle will argue in -2, the sense
receives proportions and is itself a proportion.
Throughout Aristotle's works one of his key concepts is that proportions are
separable0 i.e. can travel, can be moved from this to that. For example, a melody is a cluster
of proportional relations. The same melody (the proportional relations) can be had in many
different tones. A face can appear on a picture because it consists of proportional relations of
eyes, nose, mouth, etc. A cake can't travel but its recipe can.
Sensation, we will find as we go on, is part of nature's ordering and proportioning.
Sensing is an interaction, not a picturing of something that is already there and is only copied.
See also ENDNOTE 74 for quotations from Aristotle on ratios.
&5. On (om+arison o# the Soun. an. 6ight (ha+ters
Color on things is only potential. Sound in things is only potential.
All extended things have potential color. Only some extended things have potential
The transparency in air, water, or crystals
may transmit or not.
The air may be a reverberating unit or not.
Transparency is no actual thing; its actuality
is light.
The air is always an existing thing.
Air is actual, whether sounding or not.
Transparency is made active and actual by
The air is activated by a move that strikes
some thing in it.
Without an object, alone, light is a sort of
Without an object there can be whip-noise
just of air.
color gives its form to the light
(= to the activity of the transparent).
The struck thing gives its form to the
reverberating of the single mass of air.
- 81 -
Book , Endnote 65. On Comparison of the Sound and Light Chapters
The medium is actual and continuous to the
The medium is actual and continuous to the
&&. s Soun. the "cti2ity 6i?e 6ightB or s t the Ob@ect 6i?e (olor:
t can be confusing whether what is analogous to the word "sound" is light (the
activated medium) or color (the object, the visible). To clarify this is valuable because it lets
us examine the precise roles of the various factors Aristotle employs to explain an activity, in this
case the activity of sensing.
The variety in sound-pitch is parallel to the variety of colors. n that respect, sound is
the ob,ect0 like color. But as the activity of the medium (the vibrating of a single mass of air
reaching the ear) sound is the active medium, like light.
So sound is sometimes parallel to color and sometimes to light. Why is this? First
because the word light is already available to name the activity of the medium, whereas there
is no word for air which is a single reverberating mass continuous as far as the organ of
hearing. f the air-activity had its own name, we would not use sound both for the activity and
for the object we hear.
&'. On %ntelecheia 2s. %nergeia
Our chapter offers a chance to see clearly the difference in Aristotle's use of the words
entelecheia and energeia. (Based on the Latin:actuality usually translates entelecheia while
activity translates energeia.). The two words have two very different meanings. By no
means can they be just interchanged, as some translators do.
n the chapter on light both words appeared. n contrast, in this chapter energeia is
used 13 times while entelecheia never comes up. Why is that? t is because the sound-activity
of air is not the actuality (complete existence, entelecheia) of air (as light is the actuality of the
transparent). )he air is always actual and complete0 whether it is vibrating or not.
Therefore no question about its entelecheia ever arises. Sounding concerns only the activity.
The air is actual whether it actively vibrates or not.
- 82 -
Book , Endnote 67. On Entelecheia vs. Energeia
Although light is both the activity and the actuality of the transparent, these are two very
different considerations. n regard to entelecheia the roles of the transparent and air are
different, but in regard to energeia they are alike, since both require something else (fire, a
strike) to make them an active (energeian) medium.
&8. On the Or.er in the Sensation (ha+ters
n each chapter on the senses Aristotle begins with the potential object (Every color is
capable of ... and anything solid and smooth . . . can make a sound. He moves from the
thing (the potential sense-object -- the color on things is only potential) (material cause), to a
compressed definition which he expands from then on.
He next turns to the means, (moving cause) which is first the medium. The medium qua
potential can take on a sensible form because it has no such form of its own. (Air and water
have no color, smell, or taste if nothing is mixed with them.) He then explains what activates
the medium. Only on an active medium can the things have a form. The medium is continuous
from the sensed thing to the sense organ.
n the organ the sense creates the proportions which are the pitches, sounds, etc. (formal
cause). Then he usually discusses briefly how this sense is adaptive (final cause) for the
species that have it. We will see this order in the coming chapters.
These chapters include many comparisons and analogies between the senses, so that
quite a lot about each is said in the other chapters. One reason for this is that Aristotle cannot
take up certain concerns about a sense other than by analogy with another sense. Sometimes
he knows the detail how something works in one sense, but can only say that it must be
something analogous in the other sense. Another reason is that he often makes a new concept
from proportional relations between two things. He compares ,ust as this is to this in this case,
so that is to that in the other case. Then, if he knows something about each of them, he can go
on from them to make a general concept and also specify how they differ.
For example: Why does the section about the striker, the struck, and the single surface
(420a19-26) come here, after the organ and before the proportions which the organ provides?
This passage comes here at a spot analogous to the previous chapter where he argued
- 83 -
Book , Endnote 68. On the Order in the Sensation Chapters
against Democritus (419a15) right after he had the medium reaching the eye. The point was
that without an active medium nothing would be seen. So here, after getting to the organ he
shows that even when there is striker, struck, and organ, nothing will be heard if there is no
rebounding air . . . as a mass -- the active medium -- to reach to the air chamber in the ear,
so that it vibrates..
&/. On (om+aring the Senses an. Their 9elation to Thin?ing.
-9 is the best chapter in which to discuss why Aristotle derives his concepts about each
sense so largely by comparisons between the senses. The chapter relies largely on
comparisons and also says that the superiority of human thought depends on the organ of the
sense of touch. Later in the book we see that comparison of the senses depends on touch. To
compare them one must have the senses (or images from them) present together. They can
be present together only because they join at the touch (contact) center.
Although Aristotle emphasizes that thinking (noein) has no organ of its own, the
connections made by thought (dianoia) arise from and in the togetherness of the senses at the
sense-mean (-7, 431a10) which is located in the touch organ. Aristotle compares touch in
some way in every chapter on the other senses.
For Aristotle the material organ does not explain the togetherness of the five senses.
The materials are only necessary, not sufficient conditions. The senses join together not
because they meet in one material organ. Rather, the necessary function of their unity
determines that there must be a material organ where they terminate together.
For Aristotle the matter individualizes. He did not need to tell us that the universal
human superiority of the sense of touch (the function) re*uires (is not due to) a superior flesh
(the material). We discover the role of the flesh only as he turns to individual variations which
are due to differences in the material, the degree of softness of the flesh of the touch organ.
n a treatise coming after the De Anima, Memory and Recollection, he argues that
images are memories, and that they are an affection (pathos) of the common organ, the
koine which is again the touch organ. So the fineness of touch determines the sharpness not
only of what is jointly sensed but also of the memories and images from which all thinking arises
- 84 -
Book , Endnote 69. On Comparing the Senses and Their Relation to Thinking.
Why is this crucial assertion about the reason for the accuracy of human thought here in
the discussion of another sense rather than in the chapter on touch? t is because assertions of
more and less accuracy arise from comparison. But why smell? The question of accuracy
comes up with the least accurate in humans, compared to the most accurate.
n the West we are accustomed to consider abstract thinking so utterly separate from
sensing, that a blind person could create a good theory of color, and someone who cannot smell
could devise a good theory of smell. Aristotle denies this. Such a person could only rearrange
the words of someone else's theory.
For example, to say that smells are analogous to tastes is possible only if you are able to
bring the memory-images (for example) of the taste of honey as well as its smell, so that you
could follow him when he says that they are both sweet.
We have to be aware that in these chapters we are thinking, making concepts about the
senses and the sense-objects, understanding them. We will need to remember doing this here
when Aristotle comes in Book to discuss the ways in which thinking depends on joint sensing
and sense-images. We will need to remember how we generated concepts by means
comparing the sense-images, so that we will be able to follow him when he discusses how
understanding arises. With the matterless nous we grasp the first concepts and the final
principles in and from sensing. All the rest of human thinking depends on both nous and
connections made by dianoia.
'0. On the 1e.ium o# Smell
Why does Aristotle not accept the theory prevalent then as now, that we smell little
floating bits of the thing we smell? t is because that would be just like placing the thing directly
on the nose. According to Aristotle we could not smell it. To sense a sensible form we have to
receive it without the thing. The sensible form must first become separate by becoming the
form of a medium activity. The medium activity must take on (and thereby enact) the sensible
form without the material thing.

1 n modern science there is a similar current debate over the mechanism of primary olfaction, which has split into
two camps, those who assume that the olfactory epithelium reads the shape of odorant molecules, and those who
suggest that the electronic or vibratory aspect of the scent is crucial (See *rontier Perspecti+es, 13, 1, 2004, p.13,
and Turin L., A spectroscopic mechanism for primary olfactory reception, Chemical Senses 21(06) 773-791.
- 85 -
Book , Endnote 70. On the Medium of Smell
For example, Aristotle calls light the maker (poietikon) because it makes the separate
color form. n act color is a form of the light activity. Similarly, the sound-form of bronze is the
form of vibrating air. From the bronze alone no sound can be heard. A potential form becomes
sensible in act only because it becomes the form of a medium-activity. But in the case of smell
Aristotle does not know the medium activity.
At the end of -7 Aristotle said: The medium for sound is air, that for smell has no name. #or there
is an affection (!) common to air and water, and this, which is present in both, is to that which has smell as the
transparent is to color. The medium of smell is inferred by the comparison. Aristotle does not know
the medium-activity of smell which corresponds to the activity of the transparent, i.e., light.
n De Sensu he takes up the material side of smell. To look in De Sensu is often
clarifying but we do not need do so. Or, more exactly, according to Aristotle we need not,
because he put just the soul-functions into the De Anima and it is basic for him that these can
be understood without the material detail. We can be misled by looking in De Sensu. We are
so accustomed to material explanations that we can miss the fact that for Aristotle the material
does not explain the activities and functions. They determine what the material has to be, if the
activities and functions are to happen.
On the other hand, when what he says in the De Anima is compared with what he offers
in De Sensu, we can see exactly how Aristotle distinguishes between the two books, which is to
say how he relates the function and the material.
n De Sensu Aristotle considers taste first, and only then smell, because materially he
explains the smellable as a further effect of something that is already tasteable. He offers many
examples to show that nothing smells if it doesn't already have a taste. He says that taste and
smell are two kinds of solutions. The tasteable is a solution in water and then the smellable is a
further solution in air or water. This is consistent with the De Anima. n the next chapter (-10
on taste, 422a11-15) he says explicitly that the solution in the fluid is a mixture, a tasteable
thing, not the medium and not the sense-form in act. n the fluid on the tongue the is not the
medium but the matter for the dry. Similarly for smell, the solution (mixture) of the smellable in
the air or water is just the smellable thing. Aristotle doesn't know what medium activity for smell
inheres in air and water like the transparent. the activity which makes and transmits the color-
form without the matter.
comment further on the difference between medium and mixture in ENDNOTE 73 on
- 86 -
Book , Endnote 70. On the Medium of Smell
Aristotle says in De Sensu (445a7) that smell is a middle (meson) between the distance
senses and the contact senses (taste and touch) because the smell-form travels through air and
water like color and sound, but it is related to the tasteable which is a kind of tangible. This
middle position is probably why our chapter comes after sight and hearing in the De Anima, but
before taste and touch.
'1A'2. On 0$otentially o# Such a 3in..0
This formula applies to all five senses: The sense is potentially all its objects. n act the
sense becomes like the one object that is being sensed.
n the case of smell, taste and touch there is a special problem that doesn't arise with
sight and hearing. Since the flesh of the nose is itself a mix of hot and cold, fluid and dry, how
can it become like the many different dry things it can smell, without drying and changing?
Here we have only the formula: 2omehow the sense-organ is potentially the dry of the many
different things we can smell. f the sense organ didn't maintain its own composition, we would
no longer have the same nose after smelling something.
This question does not apply to sight and hearing because although the eyes and ears
are made of flesh, the flesh is not itself composed of color or sound. The eyes contain
transparent water; the ears contain a closed column of air. These take on the form of the
motion in the medium without the problem about the flesh posed by sensing the dry, the fluid,
and the tangible qualities.
n -11 Aristotle will tell his theory of how the hot/cold fluid/dry composition of something
else can be sensed without any change in the organ's own composition.
'3. Why the 7lui. 1i*ture s !ot a 1e.ium
One might have wrongly predicted that Aristotle would consider the saliva fluid in the
mouth as the medium of taste. Why is the saliva not the medium? Could he not have said that
the saliva takes the taste-form from the dry? n the De Anima we are not concerned with the
bodily mechanics of sensing, but in De Sensu (V, 442b28) he says that the elements (the dry,
fluid, hot, and cold) have neither taste nor smell; only their mixture tastes and smells. So the
- 87 -
Book , Endnote 73. Why the Fluid Mixture s Not a Medium
dry has no taste; the mixture is the thing we taste. We contact the mixture (the dry in the fluid)
directly; There is nothing between the mixture and the tongue. t is the tongue which must be
the medium that takes the form off from the tasteable thing.
n our passage Aristotle explains the sharp distinction between a medium and a mixture:
The mixture is a form in a matter, a thing which we contact directly, not a medium activity that
takes on a form apart from the thing. The mixture is a body in which the tasteable resides. The dry
is in li*uid as matter (422a8-15).
n the next chapter Aristotle will argue that the medium of touch (contact) is the flesh.
Like all flesh, the tongue is the medium for all the touch qualities, hot and could, rough and
smooth, etc. He explains that the tongue is a special case of flesh since it is also the medium of
taste (423b17-20). The separated taste(form travels through the tongue to an interior taste
n the contact senses (taste and touch) the role of the medium is somewhat different
from how it functions in the distance senses. Color first moves the medium which then, in turn,
moves the eyes. But in the case of touch and taste, the medium is struck together with the
organ (-11, 423b12-17). The man is not hit by his shield. Rather, the active impact comes
from the matter-and-form thing and travels through the shield to the organ. The flesh and the
tongue are like a shield through which an impact passes. Aristotle thinks of taste as a special
kind of touch-impact. The mixture made on the tongue is active, like an impact or like the
roughness of a surface which affects us through the flesh (and would also affect a pencil that
one might run along the rough surface). So, in De Sensu he says that the tasteable which is
produced in the liquid by the dry is active and can activate the sense of taste (441b20). The
effect travels through the tongue to an interior organ.
The statement(422a34) that the taste organ must neither actually be fluid nor incapable
of being made moist, must belong to his earlier view since it cannot apply to the interior taste
organ. The eyes contain water and the ears contains air, water and air being the media through
which color and sound travel. But the taste-form travels through the flesh of the tongue, not
through the fluid saliva. Hence the organ needs to be flesh and does not need to become fluid.
So it must have been the tongue (not the interior organ) which was meant when Aristotle says
that the organ of taste must become actually liquid without itself dissolving (422a34-422b9).
This is obviously what the tongue does. The statement must have been written when he
thought of the tongue as the organ. He must have changed only just enough to avoid a flat
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Book , Endnote 73. Why the Fluid Mixture s Not a Medium
contradiction with the next chapter.
My reading, although uncertain, is supported by statements about the tongue in
Aristotle's other books. n the De Anima (-11) and in De Sensu he is explicit that the flesh and
the tongue are the media, not the organs. n De Sensu he says: That which can taste (the sense) is a
kind of touch. For this reason the organ of taste and that of touch are near the heart (439a1).
n ,istoria Animalium he lists the tongue as an organ: With regard to the senses and their
organs, eyes, nostrils, tongue . . . and later the organ of taste, the tongue (533a25 and a28).
n Generation of Animals again the tongue is an organ: The sense organ of touch and of taste
is just the animal's body or some portion of the body ... (744a1)
But later in the same book: The tongue we should consider as being as it were one of the external
parts of the body like the hand or the foot . . . (786a26). Considering the tongue as an exterior surface
is consistent with the view that it is not the organ, that the organ of taste is rather somewhere
n Parts o Animals he first says about hot and cold, dry and fluid, that for them flesh is
the organ: The sense organ which deals with these, viz the flesh ... ( 3 7 #!04, 6 #, PA
647a.19).Thaah.ahatwo of the senses, touch and taste,
are evidently connected to the heart (PA 656a29).
But most interesting for our chapter, a little later in the same book (PA) he says about
touch: The flesh is either its primary organ (comparable to the pupil in the case of sight) or else the flesh is the
organ and the medium combined (comparable to the pupil plus the whole of the transparent medium) (PA
653b23-31). This either/or shows that Aristotle kept several hypotheses in play.
|0 .# %4, 70 #!04 3 & .#, 3 , # 6 0 ' (, 3
#"0, # - @ # ` 3 %2 . 2 D #!4# 7
+2 ," & ^ '# ` %7#, 3 3 . ,08 ,: # & 9#
% #!00. (PA 653b.23-30)
The flesh is surely at least the medium through which the sensation travels. The
possibility of a combination of medium and organ would best account for our passage 422a34-
422b9 where Aristotle says that the organ of taste must become actually liquified without
dissolving, which is exactly what the tongue does, and yet he does not say that the tongue is the
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Book , Endnote 73. Why the Fluid Mixture s Not a Medium
'4. On 1any Touch (ontrarieties
What in the case of touch is analogous to sound, i.e. that one underlying thing which
can be loud/soft, high-pitched/low-pitched, and also sharp/flat? Aristotle says that we don't
know. But why doesn't he say that the one underlying quality is the basic set of tangible
qualities, the hot/cold, fluid/dry? Why is that not what underlies the hard/soft, the rough/smooth,
n another book Aristotle does seem to say this, but he does not mean it as we might
think. After discussing the hot-cold and fluid-dry he says: fine and coarse, viscous and brittle, hard and
soft and the other differentia are from () these (De !en -2, 329b33-35). But for Aristotle this from
is not reductive. He regularly derives more complex things from simpler ones, but considers
them new forms not explained by the simpler. The proportion of the mixture of elements
determines the fine, viscous, and hard, but we must know: #or 'ristotle a ratio or proportion
is a different thing with its own more comple form0 not a combination of the simpler
ingredients. Let us understand this.
For Aristotle all solid bodies are mixtures, but a mixture is a new more complicated thing.
He says: But the essence [of a mixture] is the proportion of one quantity to another in the mixture; no longer a
number, but a ratio of the mixture of numbers [ !1 (Metaph. XV-5, 1092b24).
A body (a mixture) is not the kind of combination in which the ingredients are still there. n
what Aristotle means by a mixture even the smallest bit is the mixture. The ingredients are no
longer there, next to each other. Rather, the proportion is an internal interaction. For example,
3/2 does not have the quantity 3" in it. 3/2 is much less than 3, and different. n 3/2 the quantity
three does not exist; rather it is 3 to 2.
. . .the ratios of mixtures are expressed by the relation of numbers, and not simply by numbers; e.g., it is 3
to 2, not (3)(2). (9 * , . #!# ! # * , + . !A, ; 2 7 '
+ 71 (Metaph xiv-6, 1092b30-32).
The ingredients are only the material of fine or coarse, viscous or brittle, hard or soft, and
other differentia from () hot/cold, fluid/dry. Each mixture-body is defined by its own more
complex ratio. Each is a new thing, not a combination.
- 90 -
Book , Endnote 74. On Many Touch Contrarieties
Of course modern science also finds that molecules act differently than the constituent
atoms alone would. What is really different is how Aristotle thinks. For him the simpler things
do not explain the resulting complexities.
Aristotle's view of mixture is brought home when he says that the elements alone have no
taste and no smell (443a11); only mixtures do. f the mixture consisted of elementary particles,
it would have no taste or smell since they do not. Aristotle does not define the complex by the
simpler. f he did, he would not have said that we don't know what underlies all touch qualities.
He would have said that hot/cold fluid/dry is what underlies the other tangible qualities.
'5. On <ama
The word simultaneously is not a correct translation of hama here, and in many other
places. Rather, man and shield are hit together0 !hama".
Hamlyn is wrong to translate hama as "simultaneously" on his pages 39, 41 twice, and
similar issues arise as well on pages 46, 46-47, 48, 49 twice). Aristotle carefully defines the
word hama as meaning "together" (Physics V-3 and V-1, De!en (-6, 323a3) and Meta ).
Aristotle regularly argues that a defined time is determined only by two solid, delimited bodies
touching each other, and that only their touch determines a definite place, and that this
togetherness defines a definite unit of time. Aristotle always derives the unity of a moment of
time. Defined moments don't exist in advance, so that one could just assume them, as one
does in saying simultaneously.
Aristotle does not say that the contact through the shield takes no time. He does not say
that the man is hit at the same instant as the shield is hit. Quite the contrary, Aristotle's point
is that the contact travels. He says that the impact would travel through the shield even more
*uickly if the shield were an attached medium. Even more quickly shows that this travel
takes time.
- 91 -
Book , Endnote 75. On Hama
'&. On Soli. E Touchable 5o.ies
n De !en and Cor Aristotle says that solid bodies are mixtures of all four contraries. He
calls the elements simple bodies, but they are not bodies strictly speaking, or not corporeal
bodies which are solid, i.e., cohere (De Sensu V, 445a23). Air, water, and fire are not solid, of
course, and dry earth is a powder (335a1). A powder holds no shape of its own. n nature the
elements are not at but only near the extremes (330b23). Pure elements do not hold a shape.
Only a mixture can be a solid body that holds its own shape. So the flesh must be a mixture.
Another reason the touch-medium has to be solid, is because air and water are each
made of only two of the four tangible qualities (air = hot and fluid, water = cold and fluid). 'ir or
water could not take on the proportion of all four tangible *ualities of bodies. Such a
proportion could not travel in them.
The solidity which Western classical physics assumed in matter or bodies is for Aristotle
a result of interaction. A mixture is the product of the hot and cold continuing to act on the fluid
and dry within any solid body. When they stop being active, the body no longer coheres; it
becomes fluid or totally dry and comes apart.
For Aristotle, matter is not something solid that just lies there, filling time and space. For
him, nothing is just there. Everything that exists is a result of an interaction which continues
inside the thing. How the four qualities continue to act on each other explains how something
remains a solid body that holds its own shape.
What can touch something else must have distinct limits or surfaces. Only solid bodies
have distinct limits, and only those can possibly touch (Physics V-3, De Sensu --- and De !en
and Cor -6). 3hat makes something be a body is also what enables it to touch another
body0 and this is also what the touch(sense senses0 and what enables it to touch.
So he says that the organ of touch is the most corporeal (swmatwdestaton) of all the
sense organs "Parts o An, , 647a20).
''. On 1e.ium an. 1ean an. 5roa. 1ean
Aristotle uses these three terms: mean, medium, and broad mean (, %56,
/% ) throughout. They run through his works like a spine from De !en and Cor 334b8-31
(see quotation below) through our spot here in -11, through the use of mesotes in -7
- 92 -
Book , Endnote 77. On Medium and Mean and Broad Mean
(431a12 and 19), to the Ethics (especially at the start of Book V where all three words appear),
and on into the Politics concerning justice and also 1295a.31- b5, as well as where Aristotle
says that the law is the mean (1287b4). But the English reader has to be alerted to this
continuity in Aristotle's works, since these same Greek words are translated differently in
different contexts. The three concepts are closely tied to the idea of proportion which is so
central throughout Aristotle's works. Proportions are separable from that of which they are the
proportions, like recipes and melodies.
All other proportions (in our case, of the four qualities) can be expressed in terms of the
deviation from their mean. A mean (meson, #) becomes to each extreme in turn the other
extreme. )he flesh is at the mean of all bodily compositions. But the sense is a mesotetos
(#0), a broad mean, not the exact mean but rather a range (424a4-7).
Mesotes (#0) has very pervasive functions in the De Anima since it is where the
five senses terminate together, where the common sensibles arise, as well as memory,
imagination, and pleasuring and paining, desire and action. n -7 (431a16-20) Aristotle
says that the five senses move to one last thing, (3 2 9#) _,) a single mean (
/%). n -2 and -7 Aristotle explains how this active, jointly sensitive touch-mean also
performs a central role in thinking.
Mesotes (#0) is variously translated as broad mean, sensitive mean, active
mean, a sort of mean, being in a mean condition). t is a range.
Here is the quotation from De !en ' Cor, where the three concepts apply to mixtures:
Neither their matter nor the contraries actually exist, but an intermediate (%5) (De !en -7 334b12)
...flesh and bones and such come from these, the hot becoming cold, and the cold hot
when they approach the mean () for here they are neither one thing nor the other, and the
mean (#) is many (), and not indivisible. Similarly dry and fluid and such produce
flesh and bone and the rest in the middle range (: /%%) (De !en -7, 334b25-30).
This middle range is a very interesting concept.
- 93 -
Book , Endnote 77. On Medium and Mean and Broad Mean
The flesh is at the exact mean, Aristotle thinks, but bones and tendons are also within
the range of the mean. n its application to sense, the term denotes the range within which the
sense-proportion is not violated, not pained.
How does Aristotle imagine a body's composition-ratio as separable from the body? The
basic idea is again the fact that a ratio or proportion can be separated. To see this in the case
of hot/cold, we can think about our own thermometer. Suppose it measures the temperature of
water in a bowl at 25 degrees Centigrade. This means the water is a quarter of the way from
freezing to boiling. The thermometer measures only this ratio: three times as far from boiling
as from freezing. This is a ratio of boiling to freezing but these two constituents of the ratio are
not actually present. The thermometer measures neither the hot nor the cold but only the
ratio (1/3) between them. Similarly, Aristotle thinks the flesh can have the hot/cold ratio without
the heat and the cold.
With flesh as the mean, Aristotle has built perception into nature. This not only includes
animals as part of nature, but more intimately: All solid bodies are the perceptible hot, cold,
fluid, and dry mixed in proportions defined by their deviation from the flesh.
'8. On 6ogos
Here the word principle does not help us to grasp how a thing's form can be taken on
by a sense organ. Nor does it explain why the principle in the organ is destroyed if the sound
or the light is too strong. Here the translation of logos needs to be proportion. But the
reading of the sense as a proportion does not depend on the use of the word logos. Aristotle
makes this reading clear throughout the chapter.
)he sense is a logos. Aristotle likens the sense to the power of a lyre to play any
tune due to the tuning proportions of its strings. He also tells us that this is why too strong a
motion destroys the proportions. f the movement is too violent for the sense-organ, its proportion (,) is
destroyed - and we just said that this is what sensing is - ,ust as the consonance (#"%) and pitch of the strings
are destroyed when they are struck too violently 424a28-31).
n -2 he argues the same relation in the other direction: because we can hear a chord
which is a proportion, therefore hearing must be a proportion. Again he follows this with that is
why excessive sensations are destructive (-2, 426a27-b7).
- 94 -
Book , Endnote 78. On Logos
n -4, 416a17 Aristotle says that fire burns as long as there is fuel, but living things have
a logos i.e., a proportion that stops their growth at their mature size. Logos appears twice
there; Hamlyn once says proportion and once principle.
n our chapter, between 424a25 and 33 logos appears three times (424a25, 28, 32)
and must be translated proportion or ratio each time. Although Hamlyn usually prefers the
vague word principle, here fortunately he cannot even try to say since the object is a principle,
the sense must also be a principle.
Yes, logos has many uses not only proportion. We must include "saying,"
"explaining," "accounting for," and "defining," because all are implicit in its use. We must keep
them together even in the forms "legei" and "legetai" ("says" or "asserts") which can also mean
the activity of proportioning0 as when the thermometer says 50 degrees (compare -2
26b20). Where "logos" and "legei" appear, it must at least be tried out, whether the text around
it suddenly makes sense with "proportion" (or ratio) or often with "proportioning. Here anything
but proportion would hide the argument.
n every language a word has a cluster of connotations. One cannot divide such a
cluster into a fixed set of separable meanings. So it is impossible to decide on one. The
whole cluster crosses with each context, and works there as it can, to produce the meaning that
happens. The reader cannot learn the word's use unless the translator uses the same English
word in all contexts. But this is almost impossible with logos.
Hamlyn does very well by using an L subscript to the many English words he
sometimes uses for logos. But "principle" is better used to translate the word "arche" (source,
origin). Hamlyn does consistently render "arche" as "first principle." But the Latin word
principle is too vague to help one understand the text. Here it makes the whole argument
vague. The word sounds like a deus ex machina, which invites a common misreading according
to which Aristotle names something a principle to cover up what he cannot explain. (We sleep
due to a dormitive principle, someone famously joked.) Principle does not explain, but
proportion does explain how a form is possible apart from its matter. This lays the ground for
the role of proportions in -2, -4, and -7. (See also ENDNOTE 64 on form.)
But we do also need the additional meaning of logos since when Aristotle says the
sense is a proportion he means not just a set of mathematical relationships but an active what
it is.
- 95 -
Book , Endnote 78. On Logos
'/. On "istheterion4
Versions of the word sensing:
24a17 katholou aistheseos (universal assertions about all sense)
!" . . . #!4#
aisthesis esti to dektikon (the sense is the receiver)
ton aistheton eidon (of the sensible form)
24a25 aistheterion (the sense organ) is that by means
of which (w) there is such a dynamis.
24a27 aisthanomenon the tool of sense is a megethos
14a5 aisthanometha, -2 that by which we sense.
Compare "kinoumenon" -10 33b17 the ball-joint body-tool of motion.
Compare 418a.16 )# kechrwsmenon, colored thing, -6.
Aristotle usually says, as he does in -2, that "the means" (the moving cause) is dual,
either the soul alone or soul and body. The distinction between organ and sense-power is that
- 96 -
Book , Endnote 79. On Aistheterion:
t needs to be clear that sensing is an activity, not a proportion but an active
proportioning. The sense is a proportion in the organ which is its instrument.
- 97 -
Book , Endnote 79. On Aistheterion: