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Aristotle and Plato on God as Nous and as the Good Author(s): Stephen Menn Source: The Review of Metaphysics,

Vol. 45, No. 3 (Mar., 1992), pp. 543-573 Published by: Philosophy Education Society Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20129216 . Accessed: 04/03/2014 13:24
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ARISTOTLEAND PLATO ON GOD AS NOUS AND AS THE GOOD1


STEPHEN MENN

I
as the first unmoved his doctrine of god presents -Aristotle mover as the crown of his metaphysics, and thus of his entire theo an retical He it considers achieve philosophy. obviously important ment. Yet to interpre the doctrine has been peculiarly resistant

tation.
theology: unmoved. conclusion

It is difficult
certainly The proof and not

to know where
his has clearly versa. proof been How

to break
that developed did this

in to Aristotle's
must sake be for the of the to

not with

the first mover

vice

conclusion

occur

Aristotle,

and why did he want


promising approach the doctrines of his is a rough some divine scholarly

it to be true?
has been to compare Aristotle's and especially with predecessors, consensus that there is something unmoved source of motion,

The most with theology Plato. There

Platonic
believed but for

about Aristotle's
that

doctrine of God: not that Plato himself


being is the first and the arguments and modifying it, to to Plato's position.

in constructing that Aristotle, this doctrine was Plato's it, taking deliberately position a reformed as an alternative Platonism present Werner mover Jaeger

that Aristotle's doctrine of God as unmoved thought an to in Aristotle's semi-Platonist stage belonged early and that this doctrine from discussions in the thought, emerged von to Hans Arnim the that the doc Academy. thought, contrary, trine belonged ting up a school to a later of Aristotle's life, when period in competition with the Academy. They he was both set agree,

"Plato on God as paper is a sequel to my monograph, present in the Journal Monograph of Philosophy of theHistory (forthcoming Iwould like to thank Charles Series), but is intended to stand on its own. on the present paper. for helpful comments Brittain and Joseph di Filippo from Greek are my own. All translations Nous"
Review Metaphysics of Metaphysics 45 (March 1992): 543-573. Copyright ? 1992 by the Review of

1 The

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544
however, ification alternative cisms had that Aristotle's of Plato's doctrine

STEPHEN MENN
from a process of mod emerged it as his that Aristotle presented which his own and others' criti

and position, to a Platonic theology

undermined.2 obvious, however, which "Platonic Aristotle's theology" that Aristotle's suggested Forms has there as su been that

It is not theology God was

should in some

to. Jaeger be compared a for way replacement but in Laws

the Platonic

prasensible with Plato's

of knowledge; objects of soul discussion

the usual 10. and

comparison Plato argues that if (as he the first mover This

from every motion proceeds an infinite movers of regress moved source by itself of motion and rather Plato brute than

a mover,

is impossible, something with soul, one and have

assumes) must be

by identifies

else. and

yond human the motions As Friedrich

souls,

some bodies, others

or more thus seen,

self-moving thinks that, be divine souls supply he the universe. is starting

of the heavenly Solmsen and

govern Aristotle

with

this argument

in Physics

8, but is modifying

it: as Aristotle
because else.3 it need Aristotle

need not be self-moved, out, the first mover points not be moved at all in order to move something with Plato that agrees every actually object which other every moves Thus mover or-several moved must ultimately self-mover decomposes the other, and a second transforms into an argument souls divine be moved

by an a he but that argues self-mover, by into a first unmoved that component that is moved the first. component by is moved first one un

Aristotle

for a self-moved Plato's argument for an unmoved first mover. Plato's are thus replaced bodies. by the one-or-several

movers

Although the argument

of the heavenly this approach of Physics

obviously and 8, although

says

something it has yielded

right about some results,

2 Werner Jaeger, Aristotle: Fundamentals of the History of his Devel trans. Richard Robinson Press, 1948), chs. 6 opment, (Oxford: Clarendon von Arnim, Die Entstehung der Gotteslehre des Aristoteles and 8; Hans inWien, Vienna, der Akademie der Wissenschaften 1931). (Sitzungsberichte see W. K. C. Guthrie, "The Development For an account of the controversy, 27 (1933): 162-71; and I and II, Classical Quarterly of Aristotle's Theology," 28 (1934): 90-8. 3 in Friedrich "The Unmoved Mover" Ar See the chapter Solmsen, World istotle's System (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, of the Physical that really matters Solmsen says that "the only antecedent 1960), 222-49. own doctrine of the Platonic is clearly the movement for his [Aristotle's] world-soul" (p. 247).

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


I think doctrine parison it is not of God, in Plato. an adequate for understanding approach it is taking the wrong and I think in Plato What point of comparison Aristotle's

545

of com point we find plau

sible depends on how we describe


cussing describe

the being which Aristotle

is dis

enough will tell us about

in Metaphysics if we passages: 12.7, 9, 10, and parallel as the "unmoved this being then it seems natural mover," see as a movers. to it of Plato's modification self-moved This Aristotle on unmoved movers, but, for two reasons, are relational

itwill not tell us anything


12.7, 9,10. descriptions satisfies them. When First, which "unmoved do not

essential
mover" indicate are

about the object ofMetaphysics


or "first mover" the just are essence too many and modifies unmoved of the thing which movers. unmoved Plato's movers argument and not

Aristotle, in Laws 10, he

Second, in Physics concludes

there

8, criticizes that souls of Plato's

self-movers. movers

Thus

instead

(souls divine, of unmoved movers, argument

of self-moved large plurality or a Aristotle has human, brute), large plurality some one or many each initiating causal chains. to the initiator of motion is sufficient to

The

from motion

get to souls, but it is not sufficient to get to a single first principle


"on which Aristotle heaven and nature depend" in Physics Even is seeking. he turns away from the argument about this first principle, an infinite of movers, and uses a quite different regress argument about the need for a single eternal the infinite regulating principle series doctrine unmoved of unmoved movers principle we must (Physics 8.6). To understand to his general Aristotle's doctrine of of the first which is what (1072bl3-14), to Aristotle wishes 8, when

discover

of the movers), conception essence or of not for this relational specific settling principle, general an I will this has been done correctly, Once argue, descriptions.4 or von or to Arnim's will similar Solmsen's approach Jaeger's yield a much deeper and more precise understanding of what Aristotle is

(as opposed Aristotle's identify

doing in his theology.


names Aristotle may begin by asking what gives or names unlike "unmoved mover" "first which, principle, We 4 to his first principle,"

In what is called nous souls and (b) latter are not is a notorious avoid pulously

follows Iwill be concerned only with the first principle (which and the Good), not with other unmoved movers, that is, (a) the movers of the nonequatorial celestial motions. These called "soul," and they are also not called nous; their status on which I have some views, but which I will scru problem, in this paper.

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546
will be names the name of the essence.5 Occasionally or somewhat are not For Aristotle more

STEPHEN MENN
to this applies the often, adjective but they have too Aristotle puts no

being "divine" little

"god" (theos), names These (theios). content to be really useful.

relational, this reason

weight
so are pians theoi first

on them: the first principle

is a god or something

divine, but

the Olympians, the planets, and Heracles. Even if the Olym do not actually the fact that such beings would be called exist, shows that theos does not convey about the anything precise Two names are that do convey something about and the nous.6 than very are are

principle. essence of the names or

These "god" wide at least

might "unmoved

principle seem

good to convey because

(agathon, no more these the rational

tagathon) the essence about too seem soul, to have then and Ethics

extensions: as many goods. Ethics

mover," if nous can mean of them

there there

as there

are human

even more Eudemian Nonetheless, and nous "the also Good" uses

As Aristotle 1.8,

says

beings, inNicomachean in all takes Now

1.6 and

it is easy to be names as nous the to name Plato

is predicated "good" to show that Aristotle of the essence of God.

of the both Plato

categories. "the Good" too and takes Plato to the

name

of the highest a (different) god, says in the Philebus and

divine the

principle; source of order "all

world. physical that nous is king

that

the wise and

for us of heaven

earth"

(28c6-8),

agree this nous

is identical with
paper to's to show doctrines

the demiurge
as

of the Timaeus.1
over, the first

I will

try in this
Pla of nous and

how Aristotle of the Good

takes

criticizes, divine principle,

and modifies

5 I am using a common idiom: some names of God are theological names of his essence, while or of his others are names of his attributes acts directed to other things. In Islam (the tradition I am most familiar it is most often thought that "God," "Truth," and "necessary with) being" are names of the essence; that "Living," and "Knowing," "Powerful," are names of the attributes; and that "Creator," "Willing" "Lord," "Life of the acts. It is more difficult and more giver," and so on are names to know what God is like than to know what He does, and it is valuable to know what He is (simply the yet more difficult and valuable learning of what names, of course, does not automatically convey knowledge they signify). leave the word nous untranslated; I discuss 61 will further on what its English be. might equivalent 7 I have written at length on this subject in "Plato on God as Nous," I will draw in some of what follows. from which As I argue there, Plato as a real being, intends the demiurge of the Timaeus identical with the nous of the Philebus and of Laws 12; some things may be said about him but this does not make him a "mythical character." mythically,

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


as an inferior divine principle, After this try and how he presents initial as his alternative

547

to Plato's
both I will nous turn

theology his own doctrine of a divine principle which


and the Good. since I will some name to show remarks an easier Aristotle to nous, nous, allows how

is

on the Good, but approach; connects nous

in discussing

with

the Good.

II
"The Good" Metaphysics 12.10: is claimed as a name for God at the beginning of

in which way the universe the good We must possesses investigate as something and itself-by-itself and the best, whether separate [ke ti kai auto kath' hauto], or as [the universe's ch?rismenon own] order. For the good [to eu: whatever like an army? Or rather, in both ways, is responsible for the army's being as it should be] is in the order and is also the general, and more so [mallon] the latter: for he is not good on account of him. of the order, but the order is good on account (1075all-15) That the order of an of the universe is, although (like the order a sense in is something is good, the good stronger (mallon) army) the of the itself The uni general army). separate existing by (like that and the good, and this means it possesses is good because primarily it possesses first the good as a separately existing principle, as a consequence, that it is ordered well. When secondarily, asks he is "something whether the good is obviously and self-consciously there is some one first separate things was right. As are, in a weaker The phrase rest sense, in which and itself separate Plato's terms, using through is good; saying this affirmation is ini and he Good-itself

verse

Aristotle

by-itself," to ask whether which that other Plato

tially made
no real

looks tentative, but this is typical of Aristotle


the of the chapter bears

and implies
out, Aristotle

hesitation.

is firmly committed
itself, and Speusippus, ples," whereas (1075a36-7). Metaphysics treating each thing, the

to identifying
not

the first principle

as the Good

is especially who "does in fact Aristotle 1.2, which and

to defend this identification eager against even make good and evil [to be] princi "in all things the good is most of all a principle" is here had said only carrying that wisdom and the best that out should "this the be program the science good of of

for-the-sake-of-which, universally,

is the (982b6-7).

in all nature"

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548
At this point it is important of the Good, not elsewhere entities to avert

STEPHEN MENN
a misunderstanding. One

might
Platonic doctrine.

think that when Aristotle,


separation he Does separate

in Metaphysics
he

12.10, endorses the


usual terms and

is going his own against in general criticize Plato themselves-by-themselves,

for positing

existing

does he not (inNicomachean Ethics 1.6 and Eudemian Ethics 1.8) apply this critique specifically to Plato's positing of a Good-itself?
The answer things cannot is no on both counts. Aristotle and criticizes Plato which for sep arating thinks (for example, exist apart from 1.8 Aristotle this phrase animals numbers) the conditions of matter; Aristotle but he does

not think this applies to the good.8


Eudemian Ethics but of the good," is not

InNicomachean
Plato's

Ethics

1.6 and

criticizes

positing

of an "Idea

to "Good equivalent necessarily at least, Aristotle In the Eudemian Ethics itself." passage, sharply two between these Aristotle expressions. distinguishes begins Eu 1.8 by asking "the best" demian Ethics about which he (to arist?n),

immediately
as inMetaphysics being

identifies with "the Good-itself"


12.10 "the he asks good, that about

(auto to agathon)
kai He to arist?n, explains others

(just
kai that

epexegetic: and

to agathon is, the best"). the cause

"the Good-itself"
among their goods,

means

"that to which
its presence Ethics

it belongs both to be first


to the of There are, however, this Good-itself is clear that [i.e.,

to be by

being good" (Eudemian 1217b4-5).9 about what Aristotle says, three different opinions two of which he and the third: is, accepts rejects neither (i) the Idea of the good, nor (ii) the

"It

common

character

8 1218a34 that the arguments Ethics Aristotle does say at Eudemian he has given against a Form of the Good constitute aporiai against a Good can solve these aporiai if he can exhibit itself, and so they do; but Aristotle some other Good-itself which is not the Form of the Good, and which is As far as I know, the Form of the Good. immune to the arguments against doubts about a Good there are no other passages where Aristotle expresses that denies evil exists itself. Metaphysics para ta pragmata 9.9, strikingly, no such judgment while making about good. (1051al7-18), 9 of Plato's cri These criteria for the auto to agathon are reminiscent 289d7-8 We teria for the auto to kalon at Hippias (and 289d2-4): Major must give in answer "what is the kalon thing, through which also all other to them." it becomes and appear kala when present things are adorned are to for auto kalon either the because candidates they rejected Hippias's are not perfectly in some respect), or because kala (and so are aischra they In Plato, it seems, in which they are present. fail to make kalon something be auto toX without universal X being an abstracted might something use of this pos that Aristotle makes ness; so it should not be surprising sibility.

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD the goodness


we are seeking.

549

immanent equally in all good things] is the Good-itself


. . rather, (iii) the for-the-sake-of-which is the best

and the cause of the [goods] below it and the first of all [goods], so that this would be the Good-itself" Plato's mistake (1218b7-12).
was not in positing a good-itself, nor in making this separate, but

in identifying
cause.

it with assumes

the Idea of the good and not with (doubtless unfairly)

the final

Aristotle
if there were

that an Idea of the good,

were be simply the result "if someone to one, would an make the common character separate" (1218a9) by positing common "eternal and instantiation of the character separate"

(1218al2-13).
both versal because terms

Aristotle

objects

that there is no Idea of the good,


because Ideas. even Even univocal if there uni were

is equivocal, and "good" do not have corresponding

an Idea of the good, Aristotle

claims

that this would


good it will

not be the
and thing, not satisfy

one more because it would be merely Good-itself, "it will be no more good for being Thus eternal."10

the criteria of being the best of all things and the source of dimin ished goodness to everything else. Aristotle justifies this claim by
noting that "that which is white for many days is no more white

than that which is white for one day" (Eudemian Ethics 1218al3 14; cf. Nicomachean Ethics 1096b4-5). This is a deliberate parody
of Plato's than remark mixed in the Philebus white" more that "a small As Plato pure white recognizes is whiter that we a great (53b4-5).

cannot discover
familiar discover extended most good,

the most good (or the most white)

by making

the

good (or white) the most good or even

so also Plato cannot spatially extended, the familiar by making good more temporally eternal. Aristotle's is to discover the proposal

not by separating and eternalizing the common character, but by finding that for the sake of which the other goods are valued, as exercise is valued for the sake of health. If there is some one

ultimate final cause, itwill satisfy the criteria of being the best and
the to the other goods. of goodness At this stage, I do not want to investigate there is some one final cause these satisfying cause more criteria. deeply My whether point is

simply that Aristotle

distinguishes

between what

a "Good-itself"

10 Nicomachean Ethics 1096b3-4. A parallel has apparently passage out of the manuscripts of Eudemian Ethics dropped 1.8; rather than try to reconstruct Ethics it, I just cite the Nicomachean parallel.

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550
must Aristotle positing (mallon be and what joins of an Idea agathon) be good of an an "Idea of the good" would for a Good-itself search The Good-itself things, be

STEPHEN MENN
if there were one; his good not

Plato's

while must and

of the good. than the other

rejecting be more this means

good

merely
must

that it must

be quantitatively
sense,

more
the

valuable,
other

but that
become

it

in a stronger

since

things

good through
existence existence only

it and with
Idea

reference
since

to it. Aristotle
is actually could

thinks that the


with the of the good If there is a good because

of the good were

of a Good-itself, all other

there

incompatible be an Idea

if it and

Good-itself, goodness ness is a pros hen equivocal, we made that "good" above, many

good goods must be a pros hen

univocally. equivocal. to answer

Because the essence,

it is possible name cannot the divine

objection

are good, but not in besides God are also good?they things same sense that God is good. God is the only thing that is good the God is good. in which in the sense of "good" This does not totle conceives

how Aris get us very far toward understanding we have not described this special of God, because sense of goodness In Nicom which is predicated only of one being. in is Ethics and that there 1.6 Eudemian achean Ethics 1.8, proving no Idea of the good because is not univocal, Aristotle gives goodness a list of different ways in which goodness is said:

Good

For being is said in many ways, and in as many ways as being. means sometimes substance, elsewhere) (as has been distinguished and being-moved, sometimes quality, quantity or time, and also moving nous and God [ho and the good is in each of these cases, in substance nous kai ho theos], in quality in due measure, the just, in quantity as So and in motion time opportunity, teaching being taught. just so neither is the is not some one thing in all these instances, being Ethics 1096a23 cf. Nicomachean 1217b26-34; good. (Eudemian Ethics

29)
Neither being nor goodness, to this however, is a merely it is also the will same not chance equivocal: in the other

being is said primarily


by reference

of substance or of what a thing is, and then,


sense, follow surely is indeed derive predicated derive a substance pattern: its goodness from and hen, justice from a relation

primary

will Goodness categories. essence in its is good which time. if goodness will

having a good quality or from being in the right place at the right
Rather, the due measure predicated their pros ultimately goodness

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


to what derstand stand natural, more in substance.11 It is, however, is good can be good in its essence how a substance it can have since what the justice as a good accessible difficult than

551
to un

to under is only

how

being To illustrate ho nous stance, kai

they how ho

ordinarily are, but only a substance This

this difficulty quality; are not substances accidents which

theos.

by having can be essentially seems to exhaust what

good, what

good by are good.12 Aristotle gives is good in sub To un

as due measure

exhausts

is good

in quantity. what it means

derstand how the first principle


the primary first principle sense, we must first to be nous.

is the Good-itself,
understand

or the Good
for

in
the

Ill In the phrase ho nous kai ho theos of Eudemian


and

Ethics

1217b31,

1096a24 the parallel ho theos kai ho nous of Nicomachean Ethics two names for the same entity 25, the kai is epexegetic, connecting commentators two rather than entities. Some have tried to take

It may be objected that Nicomachean Ethics 1096b27ff suggests that I think both must be true. rather than pros hen. "good" is said by analogy, The program of showing how all good things are good by reference to the in the concluding sentences substantial Good is realized of the Eudemian as the to Ethics: God is the final cause hou, the for-the-sake-of-which and all other things are good because of their relation to attain-which, that they have their goodness God. Aristotle does not mean, however, to something else which is intrinsically only extrinsically, by contributing seems to believe this only for what Aristotle is good in relational good: is the good in the category of pros ti;Nicomachean categories (to chr?simon or quantity, not Ethics for what is good in quality thus not for 1096a26), to the case health or the virtues. The case of goodness may be compared of health, which is predicated of a man and a horse, predicated analogically both pros hen and analog pros hen of an animal and a diet, but predicated The heart or the liver, like the ically of an animal and a heart or a liver. in contributing to the health of the animal; unlike the diet, has its health It is true that the health of a heart is to diet, it contributes intrinsically. a heart as the health of an animal is to an animal (that is, it is the proper sort of that of the matter of the thing functioning thing, occurring when to the form). is in proper subordination It is not true in any serious sense that the health of a diet is to a diet as the health of an animal is to the 12 The scholastic that all beings are good insofar as they are doctrine, and Boethius), and beings, derives from the neo-Platonists (via Augustine is incorrect as an interpretation of Aristotle.
animal.

11

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552
nous here as the human can be good Ethics goods. or ho theos but this mind, or bad according listed were here

STEPHEN MENN
is hopeless. A human mind, to the qualities it possesses,

like a body, comachean substantial

such as "justice"

(Eudemian Ethics
1096a25), If nous

1217b32) or "the virtues"

(Ni

as qualitative than rather the human mind, it could not pos

sibly be called a substantial


ho theos kai

good.
must

In fact a phrase
have been

like ho nous kai


way of

ho nous

a standard

referring to the first principle. We find ho theos kai ho nous at Politics 1287a28; ho nous kai ho theos in Theophrastus's Metaphysics
to agathon in Aristotle's kai ho nous 7b22-23; The Epicurean in Cicero's De Natura Deorum Metaphysics 1.13.33 says 1075bll. that Ar

istotle, in book 3 of On Philosophy,


as gods, "attributes nous. In addition,

while

also naming other things

a Greek to mens," all divinity surely translating the only surviving of Aristotle's On fragment nous or even either that "ho theos is says something Prayer beyond ac nous tou ti where kai Aristotle epekeina presumably [? nou],"13

cepts the former view himself


(epekeina tou nou would recall

and attributes
the description

the latter to Plato


of the Good epekeina

13 is quoted by Simplicius, The fragment In De C?elo 485,21-22. Some leave out the word kai, but nothing much hangs on this. There manuscripts seems to be no reason to doubt its authenticity; other ancient writers men of the tion the On Prayer, but nobody quotes from it. The authenticity not the fact that it is does what Sim say fragment greatly supported by to recognize wants Aristotle it to say: Simplicius something plicius wants line 20; cf. the context, line 16ff). (Simplicius, "beyond nous and ousia" All Aristotle will say, however, is that some people think God is nous and some people think there is a higher god beyond nous, and that which of for the particular is right does not matter of the these parties argument in the Laws, like Plato On Prayer. arguing, (Aristotle was presumably and sacrifices, and that the that the gods cannot be bribed by prayers to the gods rather than to is to assimilate ourselves function of prayer to us.) is certainly But Simplicius their attitude change right that Ar tou nou is a deliberate to Plato's epekeina reference istotle's phrase epekeina F. Cherniss, tes ousias (against Harold [Aristotle's Criticism of Plato and the Academy Johns Hopkins Press, (Baltimore: 1944), 592 and 609] who wants nous here to mean the human mind, and the thing epekeina tou nou an to be the divine no?sis no?se?s). is unusual word: it Epekeina quite occurs only three times in Plato: twice in the Republic and once in the The only time in Plato's writings there spelled ep' ekeina. that Phaedo, it occurs, as here, without is in the Republic's the article, of description occurs four more times in Aristotle, never The word apparently the Good. sense. in a metaphysical Even apart from the fact that the content fits? candidate for a highest god superior to nous that is, that the only plausible to identify is the Platonic Good, which Aristotle (against Plato) wishes with notes?Aristotle's language would inevitably recall the Platonic phrase.

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


at Republic 509b9). that nous was a standard way t?s ousias From these texts and others principle,

553
it is clear which

of naming

one divine

Aristotle
When sense two

(although not everyone) held to be the highest


names each given together, ho theos kai ho nous means are serves Imean

principle.
the the [not

to confirm

of the other:

and ho nous "nous, gods of the state but] nous"; I mean human mind God." the but] [not what the first principle is by saying tries to express Aristotle it is nous. his conception of the essence of that So to understand this principle, does we must understand the meaning that of the word nous,

"God, kai ho theos means

in the sense inwhich Aristotle


Aristotle nous among not mean even others,

applies this word to the first principle.


one instance is simply of God and highest instance. God is also cannot refer to of ousia, but Aristotle

to say

the first

the first

and highest

instance

the first principle as h? ousia kai ho theos. God must be nous in such a way that God is the only being which can be called nous in
that sense of the word. It is of course also true that God is the only that

being which
good;

can be called good in the special sense inwhich God is


explains this sense of goodness by saying

but Aristotle

this is the sense inwhich nous is said to be good.


nous

So it seems that

to signify, exclu the word could be used without qualification a of other word have divine certain course, would, being (the sively, out nicely This is brought in the open in other contexts). meanings sentences 12.9: of ing Metaphysics some aporiai. For The doctrine of nous [ta peri ton noun] involves are evident to this seems to be the most divine of the things which in order to be such [sc. most us; but how it [nous] would be disposed involves some difficulties. (1074bl5-17) divine] Ross thought means; translates involves but the first certain sentence and not as "the nature of the divine

the word

problems," "divine" does

this

is indeed what

Aristotle in

correspond

to anything

Ross's translation might suggest that thought is just something God has, or at least, if God is thought, that there could be other thoughts which are not the divine thought. In fact Aristotle
ton noun ta peri word for any additional by itself, without a as out scientific certain call it "noetics," marking study, divinity, nous. the of the named divine Aristotle being namely, study by a being assumes at least called nous, that his audience recognizes takes

the Greek.

by this point

in the argument,

and that this is the highest

being

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554

STEPHEN MENN

He also assumes, conceive. that they they can distinctly however, on not yet have will reached how further it is to be de agreement so to he address this further It is as scribed, proceeds question. means nous sumed that God. throughout exclusively What nous, then does nous mean so that there and should so that be so that it should a So far delicate be something substantial good, I have avoided just one it should be with for nous, Translators they are often Gram good and

self-evidently qualities? it is a very have

divine, not just something a translation giving the word the word, means. and

generally to split forced

question at a been

as to what loss with

it up

into many from often

different the verb means, verb

nous is derived matically, as "to think," but which intuit mined

English noein, which more precisely, if, however, noein, noun this nous:

words.14

can be as broad or to perceive we have deter is not to enough nous sometimes noei something, related nous as

something intellectually.15 sense the relevant of the the meaning which what noein of the

Even

determine denotes but very to the

derived

the action often verb

takes

it denotes in some when

place is not an action, other way. We it denotes

when

someone but

something render may

or "intuition" "thought" in other is more difficult nous that on these nous occasions the

denotes

an action; but translation we render like many If, translators, as "mind" or "intellect," we are suggesting us in which the rational soul or thing noei, cases. But that in fact, it does, nous although and the trans You but it

the rational of the soul. part or faculty can have this sense, it is fairly infrequent lations have been "mind" and "intellect" and would I each have

seriously a mind, and we have together we to say that be extremely unusual have

misleading. two minds, two nouses.16

14 in passages where Aristotle is using nous as a name of God, Even the word at least as "reason," and "mind"? Ross translates "thought," use "intellect" not. sometimes Other writers sometimes and capitalized, in nontheological senses, we find all of these plus "intuition," "intelligence"; 15 in the Sun passage This is the sense of noein presupposed of the as nous in is in where is the soul the and again in the opsis body; Republic, an is the highest Line passage, where no?sis kind of cognition, Divided of intelligible immediate beings. apprehension 16 is so rare that it is unclear whether The plural the classical nomi I know of only one occurrence native would have been noi or noes. of nous in the plural before the imperial period, Aristophanes frag. 471 Edmonds, it doesn't mean "minds." Aris and there it is in the accusative?and
"comprehension," "sense," "attention," and other terms.

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


When each more nous does not than denote the sense an action "rational it has soul." two other

555
senses, nous

common

Sometimes or

is the internal object which or plan; this sense is presupposed or attention turn one's thought einai often, thinks tini, to be in accord nous is what

someone

intention noei, his thought to in the idioms noun prosechein, noun toward and kata something, someone's desires possesses or plan. when he Most acts or

with

however,

someone

or virtue of rationality, the habit rationally, sense is presupposed with This onymous phron?sis. or acquire noun to echein and noun possess ktasthai, or become sense in be Nous this should rational. "reason" as "mind." I have before meant abundant in a separate argued nous who made Aristotle nous as a virtue, that evidence not Plato or "intelligence"; it is seriously misleading

syn roughly in the idioms reason, translated to translate to be as it

that the philosophers monograph17 a divine principle the cosmos ruling nous in the sense of "mind." There is meant nous in this sense. I have also

argued nous as a virtue

that Plato's

predecessors, when they made

Anaxagoras, especially nous a principle. Plato

also meant declares

in the Philebus
heaven and Anaxagoras, Presocratics agreeing with

that "all the wise agree that nous is king for us of


suggest orderer

earth"

"The wise" would (28c6-8). immediately as making nous in the Phaedo described the and

(diakosm?n) of all things (97cl-2).


(notably Empedocles Plato Anaxagoras.

But Plato also interprets other


Diogenes himself, of Apollonia) as he hopes insofar as to

is defending himself the charge that, although he has against tophanes made fun of Euripides, in his own work. he imitates Euripides Aristoph anes admits to making use of Euripides' aphoristic style, but says, "I make tous nous agoraious less than he does." Nous here are something like content of his verses as opposed moral opinions, the intellectual Euripides' to the material to their style. in Euripides According printed frag. 1114 nous is Euripidean, Nauck doubted the by Nauck), phrase agoraios (but If so, we may well owe our like "vulgar." something agoraios meaning one pre-imperial plural of nous to an Aristophanic parody of Euripidean cite a nominative diction. Liddell-Scott-Jones (A Greek Lexicon) plural noes from Philo 1.86, but I cannot find it there. A search of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae yields no nominative plurals before Plotinus, who is split between noes and noi 17 In addition to the evidence "Plato on God as Nous." there Menn, Laertius's "He asserted cited, note Diogenes report of Euclid of Megara: that the good is one thing, called by many names: for sometimes it is called nous and others names"; Diogenes sometimes God, sometimes phron?sis, 2.106. Laertius

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556
be wise about corporeal nature, tries to display to confirm nous

STEPHEN MENN
as the governor

of the physical world.


and Protarchus digress

In the Philebus
into cosmology certain

itself (28c8-30e8), Socrates


their predecessors' who thinkers, taken up the it with a theo

doctrine

(noun panta diakosmein

[28e3]).

In addition, the Athenian


recent have

in Laws 12 says that Stranger must and his colleagues be Plato

more

at the Academy,

old doctrine
within

that "nous is the orderer [diakekosm?k?s] of all that is


(967b5-6), and have supplemented

the heaven"

ry of celestial souls. This is just what Plato had done, not only in the Philebus, but especially in the Timaeus: he gave a detailed hy
pothetical account of how nous may [Timaeus have ordered using the physical celestial world souls as (diakosm?n its instruments. . . . ouranon 37d5-6])

My point here is that nous is not identified with mind or rational


soul souls orderer in any of these dialogues, and and in the Laws Timaeus;18 world is instead is clearly from distinguished the nous that is the cause and the virtue of reason. Thus

of the physical

the sages of the Philebus


that

say equivalently
nous

that nous is king (28c7);

"a marvelous and phron?sis coordinating governs" (28d8 or a cause that there is and and years "ordering 9); coordinating seasons and months, which would most be called and rightly sophia nous" and Nous is clearly identical (30c5-7). a virtue. Although they are clearly or be present nor in anything does it mean with Plato and phron?sis says that nous soul (Philebus does not sophia, cannot 30c9

come-to-be

without

10; Timaeus
itself

30b3; Sophist 249a4-8),

this does not mean


that nous

that nous is

exist by soul; at Philebus in separation Thus the passage from souls. 30c9 itself 10 says that "sophia and nous could never come to be without soul," to nous in exactly the same sense and this principle that it applies applies souls, (Plato or to sophia. that these of course Plato virtues that he is not saying do not exist the virtues that that sophia and nous from and are souls them can in separation exist separately except

a rational

believes

selves-by-themselves); in sophia participate

is saying or nous.

nothing

a soul

18 The Laws distinguishes the doctrine of soul from the doctrine of nous at 966d6ff, and speaks of a soul "taking nous as its companion" 897bl creates souls. of the Timaeus 2; the demiurge

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD Plato makes


to which 6), or that As I have have quiring Timaeus, resemble he soul nous" and alone

557 by saying that "the being

the point equivalently

to acquire is soul" it belongs 46d5 nous, (Timaeus can nous in have soul except nothing 249a4-8). (Sophist these for the phrases "to acquire and being The nous" and "to ac

noted, already are idiomatic

to make itself, wishes as possible; in him as much him or participate a soul, because he recognizes endows the world with can possess Plato that attributes or participate in Reason to his predecessors, governs that the the cosmos; (Timaeus

possessing is Reason who

becoming of reason. virtue

reasonable, of the demiurge a world will which this that is why only a

30a2-cl).

doctrine

nous

the including Anaxagoras, 12 he tells us but in Laws

that these same philosophers


did not recognize soul was

then got into difficulty because


bodies were or

they

that ensouled, heavenly to of assertions Plato's that only (The point prior body. to show that, in nous is precisely if we are to soul can participate out Anaxagoras's of showing how nous governs the carry project on reliance mechanical cosmos, we must causes, Anaxagoras's reject instead assign a cosmic role that to believe take Anaxagoras a is cosmic rational soul, some cosmic soul. rational somehow governing the to souls.) Plato does not Clearly the nous which the cosmos governs that it is a virtue possessed by and

and

or even

It is just a virtue, existing cosmos. I have argued that

by itself, Plato is here

Anaxagoras interpreting Anaxagoras analyzes predi correctly.19 as "to share cates like "to be hot" or "to be gold[en]" in, or possess a portion a within of the hot," or "to possess within oneself oneself portion broken whose bodies. it may possess of gold," where "the up into little bits and portions may be present the predicate hot" and "gold" signify vast bodies distributed the universe, throughout or lesser degrees to greater in other as "to be reasonable" is expressed,

Similarly, or "to in nous" be in quite Greek, by "to share ordinary a portion within oneself of nous" The virtue of nous, like

gold or the hot, is a vast body distributed throughout the universe, by the presence of which animal and cosmic bodies (rather than
souls) which come Plato, souls to behave of course, "share in a rationally ordered believes that nous is an in" in some quite different way. incorporeal than way substance by having

19 See Menn,

"Plato

on God

as Nous,"

ch. 5.

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558 bits of it physically


on the nature from Anaxagoras are, and on what

STEPHEN MENN inside them. Plato's difference from Anaxagoras

is just a part of his general of nous, however, difference on what, or for example, the hot-itself gold-itself in them. it means to participate Both Plato and

in their different that nous believe ways, is, that Anaxagoras, (that noun someone he is behaving he which when possesses echei, when comes a which to be present is self-existent substance reasonably) in other "all Plato the cosmos. When and so governs things, nous nous or nous that and the wise agree sophia, [or says that and phro

n?sis]

is king of heaven
to his

and earth,"

it is this opinion which


he is himself

he is

ascribing Aristotle model. declaring heavens,

predecessors, endorsing.20 the same Plato's takes following path, apparently like line with "all the wise" in into falls Aristotle, Plato, is king of heaven the and earth, that nous ruling directly in turn govern sublunar like which Aristotle, things. Plato, Anaxagoras, for proposing as is present, to those as against more materi narrowly as a principle: "When someone so also as the in nature, in animals nous

and which

begins by praising alist philosophers, said that nous

cause of order [kosmos] and all orderliness


sober him" man in contrast who Here had (Metaphysics 984bl5-18).21 assertion panta

[taxis], he seemed like a


spoken at random before seizes this as like Plato, and takes

on Anaxagoras's

Aristotle, diekosm?se nous,

was for Anaxagoras's whole Anaxagoras philosophy. programmatic an on his predecessors, Aristotle both by positing thinks, improving cause cause cause sort the of of efficient coming-to-be (a [984bl2], where his predecessors had posited whence motion only [984b21-22])

seem strange to posit an abstraction It may for someone of this as a divinity, but of course the Greeks and sometimes recognized, in Aristophanes' temples to, many divinized abstractions. Euripides, and Aristophanes is 892, prays to a god called sunesis, Frogs "prudence," a rather than for comic fact pur distorting reporting probably funny just at the end of his speech Against Ctesiphon, prays to "earth poses; Aeschines, the and sun and virtue and sunesis and paideia by which we distinguish So there is no obstacle to a virtue being a god. noble from the base." 21 is making Aristotle to render this sentence It is difficult exactly. a kind of pun in saying that Anaxagoras's spoke "at random" predecessors a choice between making nous and phron?sis Plato had demanded (eik?[i]). or consigning it to "the power of irrationality of the universe, the governor 28d6-7. Philebus and randomness" (t?n tou alogou kai eik?(i) dunamin); to reason, spoke of the universe in ascribing the governance Anaxagoras, and random material in citing only irrational his predecessors, rationally; kind built
causes, spoke at random.

20

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


material causes, and also by positing a cause

559
of order, that is, of ta (tou eu kai kal?s nous fulfills the

and beautifully arranged" "things' being well men cf. b21-22). Anaxagoras's echein) (984bll-12; motion functions and of causing both of causing proper good even if they move toward motion, but nous, it is nous, just because all orderliness." Aristotle thing Thus unlike thus takes to nous is to cause order. disorder is "the Other rather cause

is order, but what can cause also things than toward order, and of [cosmic] order

as Empedocles'

nous Anaxagoras's since Empedocles philia, be evil) said to have made "if

to be much said

the

same have

(or should

said [985a4-5]) that philia


Empedocles Anaxagoras, Aristotle these clearly may the

is the cause of goods and neikos of evils.


the indeed good (and also, thing of nous a principle, concludes as rational the that [a single

which

is] the cause of all goods


thus causes not but posit here are good

is the Good-itself
"those

[auto tagathon]"
who speak

(985a9-10). or philia philia produce ating

virtues effects?), the universe.23 throughout

and Nous good" (988b8-9).22 souls these always (why should or principles of goodness oper

In parallel texts at Metaphysics 1075M-11 and 1091b8-12, Empedo are explicitly cles and Anaxagoras named and yoked together. 23 1.2 that Anaxagoras Aristotle does say in De Anima identified nous fails to convince even himself. "is not and soul; but Aristotle Anaxagoras 404bl. He "seems to say that soul and clear" on the subject; De Anima
nous are different . . . but he uses them as a single nature"; 405al3-15.

22

is trying to find what Anaxagoras says about soul; it looks as if at all on the subject in Anaxagoras, has found nothing and is to be found in the extant fragments). guessing nothing (there is certainly more or less identified nous and soul is The argument that Anaxagoras to the same principle that "he assigns both knowing and moving [kinein], when he says that nous moved 405al7-18. the All"; De Anima Nous is so Anaxagoras of knowing, must have the principle and soul of kinein, Aristotle identified soul and nous. gives a fuller version of the argument at 404bl-6: is less clear about [soul and nous]. For he says "Anaxagoras inmany places that nous is the cause [to aition] of [what is done] beautifully but elsewhere he says that this [touton] is soul, for he says and rightly, in all living things both great and small, both noble that this is present But nous in the sense of phron?sis and ignoble. [ho ge kata phron?sin in all living things; legomenos nous] does not seem to be present similarly not even in all men." This passage shows a great deal both about what found in Anaxagoras and about the presuppositions Aristotle with which The key point to note is that the antecedent Aristotle the text. approached ton noun, not the neuter the masculine of touton in 404b3 is unambiguously so as to suggest to aition translation the issue Oxford the fudges (the Aristotle Aristotle

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560
Aristotle through criticizes

STEPHEN MENN
for his program of explanation Anaxagoras praises nous and the good. of course, Aristotle, like Plato, Then, own to out for his for carry program, failing Anaxagoras

"making no use" of nous (Metaphysics 985al7; cf. Phaedo


falling back on material causes: uses nous

98b9) and
as a device

"Anaxagoras for producing the cosmos, and whenever he is at a loss to [m?chane] cause then he for should be what say necessary, something [aitia] in nous, but otherwise he assigns rather than nous drags anything as a cause for the things which come to be" (985al8-21).24 Connected

often says that nous is the cause of what Anaxagoras opposite construal). and rightly, that is, he is using nous in the proper sense, is done beautifully to mean a virtue. But then, Aristotle he seems to turn around complains, even in and use nous in the sense of "soul": he says that nous is present worms not true of "nous in the sense of and the like, and this is certainly a, virtue which even most human beings don't have. Really, phron?sis," one thing by nous meant is it clear that Anaxagoras however, quite it was present in various concentrations and that he thought throughout, not everywhere, in different although parts of the universe, subjecting never means of rational control. Nous each of them to varying degrees said that there was a small amount of pure ratio soul, and if Anaxagoras not be expurgated. If Anaxagoras this should did say in worms, nality somewhere that nous and soul are the same thing, then he meant what meant when he said (frag. 4) that air is both soul of Apollonia Diogenes of one and the same prin that the presence and no?sis to animals, namely, and intelligence argues from what (Diogenes ciple causes both vital motion Plato says, in a not very serious context if you remove the air). happens that Anaxagoras made "nous and soul order and hold (Cratylus 400a8ff), identified [echein] the nature of all other things," implying that Anaxagoras nous and soul. with diakosmein But here nous is associated (as usual), with echein. This association is used to argue that and soul is associated There is probably the word psuch? is short for phusech?, "nature-holding." behind this at all (Plato has taken the Anaxagorean nothing genuinely and put in the words psuch?, usual catch phrase noun panta diakosmein, to for psuch?). If and the insinuate proposed etymology echein, phusis is responsible there is, then the point is that one and the same substance the order into things and for holding both for introducing things together, of nous, and the latter of soul. function former being a characteristic 24 uses nous as the tragedians use is that Anaxagoras The implication a deus ex machina: This is what Plato says whenever they are at a loss. this to what and he there compares do (Cratylus 425d5-6), the tragedians a philosopher in a god to explain the first be tempted to do, bringing might in at Plato does not seem to use this comparison of names. imposition course of of the substance Aristotle's however, though tacking Anaxagoras, on the Socrates' echoes the Phaedo. judgment (Plato compares complaint to the pronouncements of a deus ex machina at folly of human pursuits but this seems to be an unrelated the end of a tragedy, Clitophon 407a6-8, like the Clitophon comparison may also be implied Something comparison. at Sophist 216c2ff, esp. c5-6.)

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


with though qua this also is the that Anaxagoras charge as the good, nous or philia do not say that but rather and

561
al Empedocles, it a cause do not make

they posit since good, "they the sake

to-be for

of these,

either is or comes anything that they are the sources of

motion" (988b9-ll). Aristotle echoes the disappointment


who that duce that like "would never have that

of Socrates

in the Phaedo,

while thought saying [Anaxagoras], have been ordered intro by nous, would [the heavenly bodies] was that for them other it best any except explanation [aitia] be as they are" So Aristotle, (Phaedo 98a6-bl). they should to carry out Anaxagoras's Plato undertakes in the Timaeus,

program order

than Anaxagoras himself had done, explaining better the causes of the physical world from nous, without material citing as anything more nous adapts than the sunaitia which for its pur and without abandoning the program of explanation through the best. Aristotle, existing like Anaxagoras and Plato, substance which is the ultimate to the nous physical world: Aristotle posits nous as a separately cause of motion, order, and for praises Anaxagoras

poses,

goodness making master which merely

for only thus can it move and unmixed, and impassible Nous exists the world 256b24-27). (Physics itself-by-itself, means it is separate all that from above the things which have nous: there is not the least suggestion Aristotle anywhere insists in

Aristotle
which

that the first principle


have nous.25 On

is a soul, that is, the sort of thing


the contrary, that

would

25 I should note one controversial To avert confusion, I thesis which I do not take it to imply, and take my claim to imply, and another which I do not believe to imply that Aristotle to be true. I do mean which did not identify the first principle, nous, with a soul at any stage in his career. to find this identification Von Arnim's in the fragments of the attempts De Philosophia, and in parts of the De C?elo, are at best unsupported and von Arnim's reasons often directly contradicted Furthermore, by the texts. for finding this position plausible (to show Aristotle gradually moving away from Platonism) collapse once we realize that Plato's world-governing nous is not a soul. On the other hand, I do not mean to imply that Aristotle, at any stage in his career, thought that the heavenly bodies did not have the first principle. souls; it is just that these souls are not identical with Aristotle in the De Philosophia and the De C?elo that the clearly asserts bodies have souls; De C?elo 2.1, which has been taken to say that heavenly of the kind, and Metaphysics they do not have souls, says nothing 12, by It would, that they have souls. saying that the heavens desire, presupposes to reject the for Aristotle in the historical have been bizarre context,

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562
its ousia He is even is nous, willing that is, that that nous is what it is and is no?sis,

STEPHEN MENN
not what to show it has. unam

to say

its essence

biguously
should nous,

that the first principle

is not a psychic
or,

faculty, which
if in a sense it is the no?sis

be said to have strictly (not to be) nous, at any rate has no?sis. The first principle

is rather

itself which a psychic faculty might


22, 28-9).26 We clusion Aristotle may have difficulty, however,

have (cf.Metaphysics

1074bl7

con in accepting the apparent as for Plato, of nous it is the virtue that for Aristotle, (which in its without Nicomachean nature, recognizes, discussing

Ethics

6.6) which

is the first principle.


is a single

Nous,

in the sense in which

it is the principle, think that Aristotle might separately virtues existing in this way, but

and one substance; existing separately as being does not regard the virtues such of course, the substances. does Plato, regard this is because of his of Forms. Just theory in separate Forms? or in the Hot-itself are virtuous in Justice-itself, does by partic rational

as things have other predicates or three hot or golden being or the Three-itself?so Gold-itself ipating

by participating by participating also they

in the virtues?just by participating in Reason-itself. Aristotle, by participating at least not if they are taken lieve in Forms, he rejects Plato's

of explaining way are hot or gold or three that things through participating or or Gold-itself Hot-itself Three-itself, existing arately

not be however, to exist separately, and denies Aristotle predication. in a sep so he should

doctrine that the heavenly bodies were ensouled?a doctrine which was at or reactionary the time not in any way irrational (as it is now, or was when Thomas Taylor held it), and which was rejected only by Epicurus, who rejected the science of astronomy it. The view that Ar along with seems to stem (i) from a misguided istotle did reject this doctrine attempt common to make Aristotle scientific agree with modern sense; and (ii) of seeing how Aristotle from the difficulty could maintain both that nous causes the celestial and that a soul distinct from nous causes rotations, rotations. the celestial Aristotle has no more difficulty maintaining these two propositions, than he does that the soul of the however, maintaining causes the production artisan of the artifact, and that the art causes the of the artifact. production 26 that the I cannot pursue the point here, it should be evident While nous of De to the psychic nous of De Anima 3.5, the cause of energeia Anima 3.4, is nous in the strict sense, that is, God. I hope that my comments not directly in what follows on Aristotle's concept of God as nous, although the Alexandrist will help to make the De Anima, theological addressing 3.5 more and plausible. of De Anima intelligible interpretation

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


also deny that existing people are intelligent through participating

563
in a sep

arately it is also "it

Intelligence-itself.

I think this is in fact a misleading


a misleading that from is evident

picture of Aristotle

(perhaps

as for Plato, For Aristotle, of Plato). picture is some and unmoved eternal there substance (Metaphysics in deliberately and Aristotle 1073a3-5), as "some terms Platonic

separated is willing thing tainly arately

the sensibles" this

to describe and many

separated rejects and

itself-by-itself" Platonic claims for

itself-by-itself,"

cer Aristotle (1075al2-13). of the type "The X exists sep "There is a Hot-itself, example,

from the many Gold-itself, Three-itself, existing things separately are hot, gold, which to reject all be concerned three"; but he cannot claims the claim that of this type, since (as we have seen) he accepts from is a Good-itself the many there separately existing things a general are good. to Aristotle Thus to ascribe which it is a mistake concern attitude which to avoid toward is being but the Platonic separation separated. to avoid of predicates. Aristotle's separation on nature of the the predicate depends concern Aristotle's is not to avoid general to divine, immaterial substances

separation, matter. erly

applying

predicates which are in fact applicable only to things bound up with


Aristotle assimilating frequently incorruptible that they the charges the Platonists to corruptible lacking they are with things do this because, improp He things.

polemically, with acquaintance scribe only these ones

implies,

separate substances, in terms of the things which down-here, things know. I will cite two texts: they simply key

forced

any genuine to de are the

in many places, but what is most [The theory of forms] has difficulties absurd is to say that there are natures beyond those which are within the heaven, but to say that these are the same as the sensibles, except that the former are eternal and the latter are corruptible. For they and horse-itself and health-itself, and say that there is a man-himself close to those who said that there were nothing else, doing something for neither did those people gods, but in human form [anthrdpoeideis]: other than eternal men, nor do [the poets] make [the gods] anything the forms anything these people make other than [the Platonists] eternal sensibles. 997b5-12) (Metaphysics Those who speak of Forms in one way speak rightly by separating but in another way not rightly, them, if indeed these are substances; because is a Form. And the reason they say that the one-over-many is that they cannot tell what the substances of this kind are, the in ones beyond the individuals so they make and sensibles: corruptible these the same in species the corruptibles (for [or form, eidos] with these we know), man-himself and horse-itself, adding to the sensibles

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564
the word

STEPHEN MENN

"itself." But even ifwe had never seen the stars, nonetheless there would still be eternal substances (I deem) beyond those we knew; so also in the present case, even if we cannot tell what they are, it is still doubtless that there should be some. necessary (Metaphysics 1040b27-1041a3)27 It Aristotle is clear from these to adopt his Platonic less than the and from many that passages, others, as his own the Platonic search for sep

is willing

arate

intelligible
to accuse

substances,

and within
companions real object

the context of this joint


of being of their too ready to settle

search, for something accept turns Homer,

a sensible against Hesiod,

that search, is, to as a substance. Aristotle thing disguised separate which Plato the criticisms Plato had used against and others for their does not always is a separately divine X existing a lesser degree: the many X's become Xin of divine there anthropomorphic This things. or otherwise

unworthy representations to deny lead Aristotle itself, by relation on matter,

that

to which

it depends on whether X
depends

is the sort of predicate which


it is, like "good," the sort

essentially
of predicate

or whether

which would also apply to immaterial

things, differently
rejects, or Idea assumes

but in the
the we Idea

sense. Aristotle strongest possible always that the separate X-itself is the Form claim to the Good, Aristotle have seen with respect of X

however, of X. As that the

to believe, there were such a thing) (if, as we have no reason an eternal instantiation of the would be merely existing separately no more is which is white for "that and many X; days predicate

white

than that which

is white

for one day" (Eudemian Ethics


X, there is a separate X-itself,

1218al3-14).

If, for a given

predicate

27 "Even if we had never seen the is particularly This passage biting. from the cave." (Aristotle "even if we had never emerged stars" means a cave a in transmitted the version of fragment by Cicero allegory, gives stresses the stars as the supreme Deorum at De Natura 2.27.95, which are cut off.) the cave-dwellers Ar from which object of contemplation is suggesting that the Platonists, istotle they have recognized although that we are living in a cave in the sensible world, have only fooled them out: in fact they "have selves into thinking they have found a passageway never seen the stars" and are still in the cave, although they have come to that some of the things they have seen down here are really the believe In the context is of Metaphysics eternal up there. 7, Aristotle objects Even though we have not managed this as a piece of consolation: offering immaterial to see the "stars" (separate substances) by looking for Forms, no doubt there are such substances, and we may be able to find another claims to do in leads to them. This is what Aristotle way which Metaphysics
12.

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


this must X's are, be X and in a higher so we cannot and more primary inherent way than the

565
other

is, for example, or Wisdom-itself, these must be just or wise, but they certainly more must be (not merely than quantitatively) just and more wise or or than human and wise human wise beings, just just qualities or actions. if there is indeed a Justice-itself, be an Thus it cannot Idea of Justice. If there were a separate it is hard to imagine what Horse-itself, an immortal that in the be except horse, is, an Idea of horse sense in which Aristotle understands "Idea." We might, debunking a Horse in of course, that the of is horse Idea different and say it could higher Aristotle sense than that in which and ordinary sensible horses that are horses. not very plausibly, however, mean ac at all by this, that we would have no genuine anything no thus and the with, genuine conception of, quaintance allegedly sense of horseness which Horse higher applies only to the eternal charges, itself. From Aristotle's an eternal "prudent," we would

simply which

by abstracting are X. So if there

acquire out the X-ness

or communicate

of it knowledge in the ordinary things a separate Justice-itself

discovering and "just" beings, arate

of view, there of is a better chance point or Prudence-itself. Justice-itself To be sure, as

signify existence

of human they are ordinarily predicated are even less capable and qualities of sep qualities, a a If there like horse. substance than is material

or Prudence-itself, to these would have Justice-itself is a separate we if is Yet it seek these but substances. be not qualities only or as essence in and of the prudent prudence just things justice of quality; the category and there that we are stuck within people for Justice-itself. of looking is another and more way promising The moral and intellectual virtues for and are, Aristotle, hexeis, or states, not merely this means that they are habits but also that they are possessions, that they consist in having something. A per

son is just by having justice, intelligent by having nous, a geometer


geometry, by possessing or diagrammata.2S theorems or by possessing This analysis particular geometrical of the virtues does not

28 For Aristotle's Origins of Aristotle's Philosophy, Theaetetus distinguish

see my article "The as havings, of virtues analysis and Dunamis," Ancient Concept of Energeia: Energeia from Aristotle takes this Plato's forthcoming. analysis and Euthydemus, both of which, using different terminology, some object, such as a piece between of having merely

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566
presuppose mind described any particular Aristotle theory allows of what a wide the

STEPHEN MENN
are that the objects to be of relations variety "Fis to Fin in X" or some way to according

possesses.

(chr?sthai) are just through whatever having kata) Y. We justice, we are some if turns out it that relation be: just through justice may will be Justice this substance to some separate of having substance, we are on to enabled exercise itself. the If, contrary, only justice (energein through a relation then there will

"Fbelongs that enables

"JThas F" by the phrase to X"): in each case, Xis Jf to use or exercise

(or, equivalently, related stably

Y or act

to something from the conditions of inseparable a not be Justice-itself. matter, separate In fact, Aristotle thinks that some virtues exist separately and he thinks that only nous exists others do not; or rather, separately, and from that virtues which But are not even matter.29 enough principle Aristotle of the virtues, Aristotle can to nous are all inseparable equivalent if only one virtue exists this separately, was not committed to any that Aristotle that the virtues cannot exist apart from

is still general virtues. ration

to show implying does but

the souls (that is, the forms of living bodies) which


not, rather in principle, subjects of nous reject it to a critical

possess

these
sepa

the Platonic

examination

which yields different results for different virtues.


how allow the virtue to exist

Instead of asking
apart (for there

is nothing
thinks of matter. concern that

intrinsically
the other I will not

problematic
cannot this

in this), we should ask why he


exist

virtues

is simply as agreeing with all will, things cite

explore to eliminate Plato

apart from the conditions in depth, here since my question an objection to interpreting Aristotle that than the nous a soul it does which orders I or a mind. not precisely

is the virtue

and Anaxagoras of reason, rather which,

however,

one passage

although

and actually using it. As I show in the article cited, this dis knowledge, is the starting and using tinction between point for Aristotle's having such as the Pro In early works hexis and energeia. between distinction in later works he where Aristotle says chr?sis, "use," frequently trepticus, would say energeia. 29 This does not necessarily imply that there is only one separately turn out to be a generic virtue virtue, since nous might including existing I suspect that this will turn out to explain several distinct specific virtues. of the nonequatorial celestial motions: the status of the movers they are enable the celestial souls to move virtues which the arts or intellectual I will not pursue this point here, however, and their respective spheres. it can be assumed that nous is a single of this paper for the remainder specific virtue.

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


formulate exist totle's istotle's or precisely does separately, critical critical review review resolve the question whether to show the connection separation of the the virtues between virtues

567
can Aris and Ar of sensible

help of Plato's

separation As Metaphysics 997b5-12 thinks that shows, Aristotle an eternal or Horse-itself to posit Man-himself is to give an an or theriomorphic of a divine The description thropomorphic entity. tradition Aristotle his anti-anthropomorphic gives starting point substances. for criticizing of separation: assertions IfXdepends of matter of and generable (especially corruptible on the conditions matter), to men then X

of Plato's

of the forms

should not be predicated


to exist but separately. less obviously, also, This

of a divine being, and X should not be said


clearly principle applies to some of the virtues: and horses,

We have supposed that the gods are most of all blessed and happy; so what kind of practical action is it fitting to attribute to them? Just actions? contracts and returning They would seem ridiculous, making and the like. Brave to fearful deposits actions, submitting things and accepting it is noble? Generous actions? To danger because whom will they give? It is absurd if they too are to have money or of the kind. And temperate actions, what would they be? something The praise is vulgar, for they do not have bad appetites. If we ex amine, all these things seem to be about actions which are petty and of the gods. Yet everyone has supposed that they live, and unworthy so that they act: surely they are not asleep like Endymion. But if someone is alive and practical action is taken away, and still more is left to him except contemplation? So the productive action, what would be contemplative activity of God, distinguished by blessedness, Ethics (Nicomachean activity. 1178b8-22, my emphasis) This intellectual passage virtue alone exists does not commit to thinking that of the independently things Aristotle

itself-by-itself, arts about that

which
moral way. ments, a thing, So

participate
virtues Through it was must and

in it; it does commit him to thinking


the productive all the debates for granted itself most just, do not exist the Forms separately or their if there

that the
in this replace is such

taken be

be most good. if the gods cannot cannot be just, Justice-itself be a god, and this means that it cannot exist from matter. Our passage separately seems to leave open the case of theo from the Nicomachean Ethics retical virtue: perhaps against and it exists this), some but just by itself (certainly we have seen no arguments or more gods individual the virtue is shared perhaps by one as an human without by beings existing from these many But it is clear from participants.

Justice-itself, as a Good-itself must

apart

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568
other itself. different any given Aristotelian There texts that intellectual virtue does

STEPHEN MENN
itself-by a plurality of intellectual is, of course, virtues, knowing will not of For the all and these. possess gods objects, if V is possessed virtue V, however, by some god G, at exist

least if G is divine in the strictest sense, being purely immaterial and not merely everlasting like the heavenly bodies, then V must
exist itself by itself. For an immaterial not being simply is pure have no dunamis: consequently, G does energeia, the virtue with V, in

the sense
dunamis we the

in which
to act

a human being has V (which implies having a


to V). Instead, to avoid the implication that sense

according cited

of potentiality, G must
have already substance or essence

itself be the activity of V. Thus in the passage


from Metaphysics of the first 12.9, Aristotle principle is nous, argues in the

of no?sis: If it [nous] intellectually-perceives in it would be [noei] nothing, what It would be as if it were asleep. of worship? But if it does worthy over it (for the else is master and something intellectually-perceive, it is is not no?sis but dunamis), which it would not be the substance for what to it through best substance: is valuable intellec belongs it would acquire value from some tually-perceiving [sc. and therefore the thing it perceives, and so this must be more thing else, namely to hypothesis]. valuable, contrary (1074bl7-21) Aristotle both the possibility outside it. He that nous-itself noei noth

rejects

ing, and the possibility


to energeia by something that its substance sibility at the problem posed nous is to be described The god is not

that it noei as a dunamis which


is no?sis. accepts This is the only way

is brought
pos to solve

the remaining

of the chapter, of how the beginning namely, in such a way that it will be most divine. a which intellectual has but simply being virtue,

rather he is the intellectual

virtue existing

itself-by-itself.30

This

30 Note that God (nous) is identified with the Good, which is the object on the ground and the goal of his productive of his knowledge activity, is somehow the same thing as health"; Metaphysics that "the art of medicine not to a doctor, but to the medical art 1075bl0. God is here compared, A few lines further down itself. says that views (1075b20ff) Aristotle those of Anaxagoras, other than his (for example, Empedocles, Plato) are to wisdom and to the forced to admit "that there is something contrary asserts most valuable while Aristotle himself that "there is knowledge," to the First"; 1075b21-22. Aristotle's is clear contrary meaning nothing are God himself, not knowledge" enough: "Wisdom and the most valuable of God. had ad (as Ross tries to make out) our knowledge Empedocles

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


in itself, is not a hexis or dunamis, considered virtue, we can (at best) The god just is this energeia, while as a hexis, us to be from dunamis brought allowing outside something It is important the virtue we have what very same the the ourselves. to see that the virtue in: when the god is is the same we intellectually-perceive

569
but an energeia. have the virtue to energeia by as

or participate

god perceives same intellectual science god

through possess

specified it in a stronger possesses way, it; we possess by being a nonidentity since the virtue relation, by perceiving it, is the same as the object we perceive, the god: namely,

we possess the god himself), the (namely, virtue which the god possesses, that is, the same content. is the The difference that by it we

In some cases the knowledge is the is the essence and the knowledge the theoretical the logos [sciences] So where the nooumenon and the it will which do not have matter, will be one with the nooumenon. is not maintaining knower is the same

object: in the productive [arts] the substance without the matter; in is both the object and the no?sis. nous are not different, in things be the same thing, and the no?sis (Metaphysics thesis 1075a2-5) that an ordinary hu He is main

Aristotle man

the bizarre as the object

of knowledge.

taining that the knowledge is the same as the object of knowledge (without its matter, if it has any), and that if the knowledge exists
separately agrees with tuous, and itself will be most Aristotle knowledge knowing. that the self-subsisting Plato virtue is itself most vir a to that human become lesser beings virtuous, degree, the

by participating
mitted

in this.

Aristotle

disagrees

about which

virtues

a contrary to philia, namely, had argued in neikos, and Aristotle a 984b32ff that Anaxagoras should have admitted Metaphysics logically to nous in order to explain the existence of things contrary to the contrary Plato contrasts the soul "which takes nous as its companion" and good. the soul "which is conjoined with anoia" and produces good works with evil works as if nous and anoia were two contrary Forms; Laws produces 897bl-4. Aristotle does not have to admit that his nous has a contrary, it is not a formal or efficient but a final cause, and there is no final because cause of evil works qua evil, as there is of good works qua good. Eis to enantion at 1075b23-4 should be retained: the point is that an to the highest would be contrary to a con contrary ignorance knowledge Aristotle trary, not that it would be about a contrary. gets a reductio ad if there were an ignorance absurdum: to nous, then nous would contrary but "all contraries itself be a contrary; have a matter, and these things are in potentiality" so nous would not be pure energeia. If (1075b22-23), were right, there would be no argument. Ross's translation

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570
exist many they out throwing separately, of the intellectual virtues presuppose matter (like the arts and

STEPHEN MENN
the moral virtues and that or

as well, knowing

on the ground always the essence of snubness)

potentiality

(like discursive

science).

Again, Aristotle

denies that

a separately is the Idea of knowledge, because existing knowledge are such natures or this too would involve "If there potentiality: as the dialecticians substances describe the Ideas as being, there will more more much than Knowledge-itself and something knowing than Motion, for these [ordinary of knowledge moved instances are more and motion] and those activities, [the Ideas] are [merely] be for these" (Metaphysics in its own right, be related Idea of knowledge to anything in particular. it as an absurd conclusion that Knowledge-itself 1050b34-1051a2). and the relational For an Idea can

powers would

not be changing not in itself Aristotle

takes

should not itself be most knowing; and so, avoiding


Ideas, he tries to exhibit because knowing of knowing knowledge, Knowledge altering anything potentiality. trine, however, as a separate
universe.

the doctrine of
which is more be the activity

than we,

a separate it is more

Knowledge-itself It must activity. namely we participate in knowing. to avoid the the

something

namely this is what Plato's which doctrine would These which substance,

in particular, When itself. we share

of highest object in a separate Aristotle is here

in order on

depend alterations is that and

to the gods attributing or on conditions of matter core exists in the of the doc

do not virtue, is the

the change the best virtue, cause of order

by itself sensible

IV

It is clear the separate

from virtue

what

has

been

said

that Aristotle's to Plato's

doctrine

of

nous-itse\f

is related

doctrine

of nous Good agrees be rejects of X

in much itself that cause the would not tries

the same way is related of these

that Aristotle's doctrine can of

doctrine

of the separate Aristotle and

to Plato's things

the Good.

each

they are not dependent claim that the X-itself be no more contribute to describe X than

exist separate on the conditions of X, X's

itself-by-itself, He of matter. the Form because

is the Form corruptible

because and

are,

it would Aristotle a way that

to the X-ness of other causally or nous-itself, the Good-itself,

things. in such

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


it is most knowledge Aristotle separately offers nous," Form

571

or most or of goodness and the source good, knowing, to other is not yet clear, however, is why What things. are the same A thinks that nous and the Good thing. be good, but it is not ob virtue would existing certainly

vious that it would be the Good-itself;


the alternative, "God is either nous seems to have asserted and Plato of the Good, turn

the fragment

of On Prayer

or something even beyond the that the highest God,

modifications

nous. is something How do Aristotle's beyond the Good and nous into the same thing? I cannot

fully answer

this question

here, but I will

try to sketch some key


of other things.

in the development of Aristotle's points Both the Good and nous are posited nous seems to be an efficient

argument. as causes

The good should be the final cause (as inEudemian Ethics


inMetaphysics axagoras since nous does what from the Phaedo,

1.8), while

cause account of An (as in Aristotle's causes are two but these 1), linked, closely As we learn it does for the sake of the good. was he that abandoning that best his own goal of ex said it was as they were things were for them to be so. The

planation for some Timaeus what not nous think

through reason other

Anaxagoras nous when than

to fulfill Anaxagoras's that program, attempts showing it does for the best; but Aristotle does does at each stage the defects has fully corrected of Anaxagoras's that Plato Plato wants the

physics.

because the latter is Reason demiurge, to overcome the disorderly motion of itself, by persuasion (peitho) or constraint are the good, not by violence which char (bia, ananke), some rather of the "wandering In fact, though, acteristic cause." of and the works demiurge's once Plato even says are clearly accomplished that the demiurge by brute force, fits something

explicitly

together by violence

(sunarmott?n bid [i]) (Timaeus 35a8). Aristotle


to its appropriate to free it from de presuppose not merely of nous's that to prune activity, of to it

in a manner to describe is trying nous's causality nature both as nous and as pure energeia, and are anthropomorphic or which which scriptions contains away all God's dunamis. more This process leads Aristotle descriptions more Plato's violent

obviously

but to whittle
that

down the complex cosmotheology


is Aristotle's If nous own much is pure energeia,

of the Timaeus until


austere it cannot doctrine now begin

is left

causality.31

31 Cherniss

and others

have

asked why Aristotle

does not mention

the

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572 act after a period of inactivity


preexisting also cannot chaos), nor can

STEPHEN MENN (as if it had created the world out of


effects which last only for a

it produce

finite time (as if it intervened directly among sublunar bodies).


act on bodies their resistance in such by a way that it would a soul moves The only its body). an efficient cause, Aristotle thinks, causes or intellection the sation such without the heaven itself affected

It

a way that it would be reciprocally a moves a body), or in when body (as be carried along by their motion (as when remaining is the way act of way that that nous can be an object of sen or intellection, of is

sensation

causes the soul affected. So nous eternally being to contemplate of because the soul the heaven and it,

always

thinking

this constant
motion sublunar

object,

it imitates

its constancy

by

producing in turn govern causal chain

a constant

which

the

in the heavens; and the celestial motions one is This things. certainly important nous with Timaeus recognizes connecting

to remain it is the only chain which Aristotle the world-order; allows nous as as consistent with the characterization of pure energeia. to insist, like Anaxagoras Aristotle continues and Plato, that or an cause source nous For him, however, is of motion. efficient nous moves causes as of thought But if nous and of desire. only as an object as of desire, and the object of rational the object desire on the part of a soul which is perfectly rational it partic (because a in nous), then nous is the Good; for this is what ipates perfectly would agree presumably the Good, and that it has this He would this, how explain is itself the Good, but that nous is what participates For Aristotle, are the same the same in nous however, knows the Plato

soul would desire. rational perfectly a soul rational desires that perfectly in nous. desire right by participating ever, by not that saying of the Good, also desires) the Good of medicine nous so the and that

Knowledge (and thus

Good. the Good is somehow

of Knowledge we say, the art

"For as thing: as health" thing

(Metaphysics

1075b9-10).

even conjectures that Aristotle Cherniss of the Timaeus; may demiurge own view) that Plato did not take in Cherniss's have thought (wrongly, as anything more than a myth; Aristotle's Criticism the demiurge of Plato But the truth is that Aristotle 610. and the Academy says a great deal name "demiurge," not by the relational of the Timaeus, about the demiurge name nous; Aristotle the demiurge, fails to criticize but by the essential in he believes but because to take him seriously, he refuses not because of course he does not believe many of the stories Plato tells him, although about this god.

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ARISTOTLE AND PLATO ON GOD


By reduces the reducing the Good-itself causality to nous, of nous to final with

573

Aristotle causality, the Good dispensing mysterious nous and ousia, as the formal cause which Plato had posited, beyond to nous and to other the to of goodness Good things. By reducing a cause. is Aristotle shows how the Good nous, Aristotle complains inMetaphysics is a principle, cause] of goodness, it causes. "do not say how the Good predecessors or as mover end [final cause] whether [efficient or as form" a cause it Plato had made formal (1075a38-bl). his as or of unity, in other and so no better than what things, not to this is the the Good-itself. proper causality Clearly and Empedocles, Aristotle the Good with says, identified and they were of motion, had given right; but then they used nous and lost its connection with up entirely on showing how or philia the final the Good a final 12.10 that

Anaxagoras nous or philia,

only as a source cause. Speusippus but that

could be a principle.
showing of nous

Aristotle,

by identifying
of motion

the Good with nous,


just by being

is a source

cause, thinks that he has shown how the Good-itself


cause

is the first

is the source and of goodness to other the world-order, of the Good which is not a separate Form There would be things. cause of goodness to other things, but the separate the formal virtue of Reason-itself is the final cause for the sake of which the souls both good Plato of the heavens as they a separate are and of virtuous In this human sense beings Aristotle not perform such

works that

perform. Good-itself

is a paradigm,

agrees with as a Form, but

as the goal or model


the world-order,

in imitation of which all good things, including


produced.

Princeton

University

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