• Wayfarer
    15.7k
    According to Gerson, for Aristotle the “surviving” or “transcending” part of man is a type of impersonal intelligence. Gerson’s interpretation sounds reasonable enough to me.Apollodorus

    A question that might be considered is whether 'survival' and 'transcendence' entail the same kind of state. 'Survival' seems to imply persistence of some elements, whereas 'transcendence' might imply an aspect of the self that is not subject to the vicissitudes of being born and dying. That latter interpretation is something found widely in various forms of the perennial philosophies.

    Excellent quotes by the way.

    By way of a footnote, even though Christian theology appropriated many of Plotinus’ philosophical views in support of its own, it always distinguished between the supposedly impersonal union with the One described by Plotinus (henosis) and the divine union of Christ (kenosis).
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    Aristotle also says that the universe is created by an Intellect in conjunction with Nature:Apollodorus

    Aristotle's conception, a divine mind thinking on thinking, as the source of eternal circular motion, and the cause of heaven and earth, is demonstrably incorrect. This ought to cast doubt on his entire conception of divinity, the proposed highest good, the way that order is imposed, etc..

    Plato did not make this same mistake, saying only that "the good" is the highest, and that a divinity caused the order in the universe. But you can see that Plato has a gap between "the good" as something passive, and the act itself which moves to bring into reality, the good, which is order. So Plato only avoids the problem because he didn't go far enough to properly attempt a solution. Aristotle excelled in demonstrating that the actual is necessarily prior to the passive potential, in the absolute sense.

    And this is where Plotinus failed, he assigned to "the One" the nature of absolute, pure, potential, in the Platonic tradition. But he also said that the One is responsible as cause, of the manifestation of everything else. And this directly contradicts Aristotle's demonstration, showing that a pure potential cannot actualize anything. We can conclude that both Aristotle and Plotinus failed in resolving the problem raised by Plato, though Aristotle gives us better direction. But I don't think it is the direction which you have chosen to take from Aristotle.
  • Paine
    497
    By way of a footnote, even though Christian theology appropriated many of Plotinus’ philosophical views in support of its own, it always distinguished between the supposedly impersonal union with the One described by Plotinus (henosis) and the divine union of Christ (kenosis).Wayfarer

    If there is a distinction to be made between "impersonal union" and what the Christian view proposes, what is to be made of Gerson's reference to a 'disembodied person?'
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    It's a deep question, and I've only read snippets of Gerson. When I encountered it was in studying comparative religion, and readings about Christian mysticism - notably Dean Inge and Evelyn Underhill. Inge was a leading Christian Platonist around the early 20th century, an old-school classics scholar and popular exponent of classical mysticism. I think it was in his writings that I encountered the purported distinction between Plotinus' depiction of mystical union, and how it differed from the Christian account. Plotinus' mysticism was said to be impersonal, the invidual literally surrendering or loosing his/her identity in merging with the Absolute, whereas in Christianity it is supposed that personal identity is retained. But, those readings were decades ago and I would have to revisit them to brush up on the arcane details. You can find Inge's lectures on mysticism here.

    (It's also worth noting that the supposedly 'impersonal' nature of enlightenment in Buddhism was frequently employed in Christian polemics against that religion, even by Pope John Paul II in his somewhat controversial depiction of Buddhism in Crossing the Threshhold of Hope.)
  • Raymond
    815
    Reason, rationality, the power of abstract thought, is unique to humans. It is through that power that humans grasp the essence or forms of things, though in a limited way (except, as noted, for 'the blessed' who see in a way that the rest of us don't.)Wayfarer

    So are unreason, irrationality, and concrete thought. Why isn't it through that power we grasp the essence of things?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    Plotinus' mysticism was said to be impersonal, the invidual literally surrendering or loosing his/her identity in merging with the Absolute, whereas in Christianity it is supposed that personal identity is retained.Wayfarer

    I believe it was Paul who really pushed onto Christianity the idea of personal resurrection. It's in his letters or something like that, I can't remember now. But Paul (Saul) was Jewish, and was appealing to the ancient Jewish traditions for acceptance, so the more modern Greek science based principles might have been neglected by him.

    Paul also strongly promoted the idea that Jesus was Son of God, rather than Son of Man as Jesus professed. It was only through this twist that the crucifixion of Jesus, by the Jews could be justified. This was the way which was revealed to Saul, as to how to produce consistency, unification between Christians and Jews, ending the continued conflict between them. He could propose both, that Jesus claimed to be Son of God, thereby justifying the crucifixion, and also that Jesus actually was Son of God, thereby supporting the Christian sect. Paul obviously had a great influence on the course of Christianity by conceiving of this unity between the Jewish and the Christians.

    But we must remember that Paul was preaching to Jewish people, and so was influenced to say what they needed to hear, to produce acceptance of Christianity. This made Christianity the 'higher' religion, because it had the Son of God as its leader. But Christianity itself suffered by being overwhelmed with the ancient Jewish traditions, some of which it was trying to distance itself from. The result of the merger was that the Jewish religion seized power through application of its existing structure, taking the name from the Christians, while the 'true' Christians lost the capacity to dispel unacceptable ideology So a large portion of the more "true" Christians ('true' at that time, prior to The Church defining 'true Christian') retreated into the mysticism provided for by Greek philosophy. You can see how Augustine comes from the mystical side, rather than the structured religious (Jewish) side.
  • Paine
    497
    This was the way which was revealed to Saul, as to how to produce consistency, unification between Christians and Jews, ending the continued conflict between them.Metaphysician Undercover

    That should read as the beginning of the conflict between them. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews was an eviction notice.

    So a large portion of the more "true" Christians ('true' at that time, prior to The Church defining 'true Christian') retreated into the mysticism provided for by Greek philosophy. You can see how Augustine comes from the mystical side, rather than the structured religious (Jewish) side.Metaphysician Undercover

    There was plenty of mysticism around for all involved. Greek philosophy, it should be remembered, also provided a vision of a natural order that the Christian vision divided into separate realms. Augustine forged a third product from the legacies of the Greek and Jewish world, claiming ascendency over both. The City of God is a masterpiece of appropriation.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    Gerson is a scholar whose focus has long been on Plotinus and your description of 'Platonism' is very close to his view. Gerson used the expression "disembodied self." There is source for that expression in Plotinus. I am not aware of a source for that language about self in Plato. Perhaps Gerson throws some light upon that topic somewhere.Paine

    Gerson doesn't focus just on Plotinus, though he does refer extensively to him. This is (1) because Plotinus was the first to attempt to systematize Plato and (2) because Plotinus, like other Platonists, sometimes uses Aristotle to interpret Plato - and for very good reasons given that Aristotle was Plato's pupil for twenty years!

    As shown in my previous post, Aristotle's framework is largely Platonic, which refutes the modern scholarly perception of Aristotle as an "anti-Platonist". I am quoting Gerson because he does a good job in exposing the flaws in the consensus perception and because I believe that any objective inquiry into the authentic teachings of Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient authors ought to begin by first eliminating the propaganda and disinformation.

    Plato may not have a technical term for "disembodied self" but he does use phrases like "soul itself by itself", Aristotle speaks of "separable nous", etc. And since that soul (psyche) or (nous) – the terms are often used interchangeably - is said to be man's "true self", both by Plato and Aristotle, I think it is legitimate to refer to it as "disembodied self".

    Gerson attempts to answer questions such as whether the surviving element is personal or impersonal, etc. in Knowing Persons: A Study in Plato.

    To begin with, what is certain is that both Plato and Aristotle posit an immaterial, eternal entity that (1) forms part of embodied man’s person, (2) is man’s true self, and (3) survives the death of the physical body.

    Among questions that still need to be settled is (1) how impersonal this surviving self is and (2) what is its exact relation to other such selves.

    In other words, (1) does the surviving self retain any traces of “personality” such as memory and emotion, and (2) does it continue to exist as a separate unit or does it merge with other such selves or with a higher principle or entity?

    In order to throw some light on this, we need to start from the stated assumption that this immaterial and immortal self, the nous, is a form of intelligence that has certain capacities or powers, such as consciousness, happiness, will-power, knowledge and action.

    At the very least, as a live entity, the nous has the capacities to know and to act. Certainly, for Plato true knowledge is possible only in a disembodied state. This makes the disembodied nous a knower by definition.

    As Gerson says:

    Though idiosyncratic subjective content does appear in his [Plato’s] treatment of embodied subjectivity, it does not belong in the disembodied ideal. But then we must naturally ask in what sense there is truly identity between the embodied person and that person’s disembodied ideal state. Once again, Plato’s answer is to be found in his account of knowledge as constitutive of that ideal state … For Plato the ideal person is a knower, the subject of the highest form of cognition. That this form of cognition is apparently attributable only to disembodied persons is of the utmost importance. For from this it follows that the achievement of any embodied person is bound to fall short of the ideal (Knowing Persons, pp. 10-11).

    This seems to be Aristotle’s position too. Not only because Aristotle’s framework is largely Platonic, but also if we consider the prevalent view at the time.

    The general view in Ancient Greek religion was that part of a person’s embodied soul did indeed survive death, but that there was a big difference between different souls’ postmortem existence. Whilst ordinary souls lived a shadowy life in the darker recesses of the underworld (Hades), those who had distinguished themselves through extraordinary actions or knowledge, such as heroes and wise men led a happy and bright existence in the sunlit Isles of the Blessed (or Elysian Fields).

    Knowledge and action, the very powers of the embodied self that determine its fate, are the same powers that define it once death has separated it from the physical body. Plato defines death as the separation of soul (nous) from body (Phaedo 67d ff). And at the level of separation from body, i.e., disembodied, intelligible existence, knowledge is a form of action and action is a form of knowledge.

    Knowledge is the key to happiness both in this life and the next. Hence the emphasis both Plato and Aristotle place on knowledge and, in particular, self-knowledge, i.e., knowledge of one’s true identity as self-conscious (self-aware or self-reflexive) intelligence endowed with the powers of knowledge, action, and the rest.

    As Gerson says, for Plato “self-knowledge consists in the recognition of one’s true identity as a subject of thought” and “even while embodied, our lives are all about being knowers”.

    Obviously, those who have attained a state of self-knowledge, self-recognition, or self-realization, will experience a state not only of knowledge, but also of supreme happiness as unhappiness is merely the awareness of not being oneself. This is why Plato describes death for the self-realized philosopher not only as separation from body but also as a state of “release” (lysis). Indeed, he defines the practice of philosophy itself as “release and parting of soul from body”:

    Socrates: And doesn’t purification turn out to be the very thing we were recently talking about in our discussion [at 64d-66a], namely parting the soul from the body as much as possible and habituating it to assembling and gathering itself from every part of the body, alone by itself, and to living alone by itself as far as it can, both now and afterwards, released from the body as if from fetters?
    Simmias: Certainly.
    Socrates: So is it this that is named “death”: release and parting of soul from body?
    Simmias: Yes, entirely so.
    Socrates: Right, and it is those who really love wisdom who are always particularly eager – or rather, who alone are always eager – to release it, and philosophers’ practice is just that, release and parting of soul from body.
    Simmias: It seems so.
    Socrates: In that case, Simmias, those who truly love wisdom are in reality practicing dying, and being dead is least fearful to them of all people (Phaedo 67c-e).

    As Gerson observes, Plato here uses the ambiguity between metaphorical and literal dying to make a point that is central to his teaching:

    How would someone come to be persuaded that literal dying is the separation of the soul and the body in the way that the argument [Socrates’ Cyclical Argument] assumes? Perhaps by the discovery of the identity of the soul and person that is metaphorically dying to the body. Even if it is not Plato’s main intention that the logos presented to the reader serves that discovery by leading him to reflect on his own identity, it does function in that way. For the belief that the death of my body is not the death of me is substantially the same as the belief that my body, though it be mine, is not me either (pp. 64-65).

    Being oneself and being free from unhappiness are inextricably connected as is suggested, for example, by the happiness experienced in the state of deep sleep when the subject is completely free from worries and thoughts related to things other than itself.

    Another way of testing this is to identify ourselves in thought with that in us that is “immortal, eternal, unaffected, perfect (i.e., not lacking anything), divine, and free”. The mere thought of it tends to result in a state of enhanced peace and happiness. Clearly, if this is the case when our consciousness is still overwhelmingly dominated by the physical surroundings, body, emotions, and thoughts, it will be even more the case when our consciousness is dominated by an actual awareness of ourselves as the immortal, unaffected, perfect, divine, and free intelligence or nous that is our true self.

    But what happens in the case of those who fail to attain self-knowledge or correct self-identification?

    Gerson says:

    One way Plato answers this question is with a doctrine of punitive reincarnation. It is, in a universe ruled by a good Demiurge, too grotesque to suppose that the wicked are ultimately no worse off than the just. But another way suggests itself too. If there is no knowing without self-reflexivity – if one cannot know without knowing that one knows – then the status of one who did not self-reflexively know would be like a non-conscious repository of knowledge. He would be a non-person, roughly analogous to the way that someone in a chronic vegetative state might be characterized as a non-person, though he be alive, none the less (p. 279)

    In sum, as in embodied life, everything in disembodied life, including happiness, revolves on the degree of self-identification with one’s true or ideal self. While this leads to higher states of experience, self-identification with things other than one’s true self lead to the opposite result and may involve repeated embodied life.

    Aristotle criticizes the Pythagorean claim that a soul can transmigrate into random bodies, but it is far from clear that he rejects reincarnation itself, stating only that “as a craft must employ the right tools, so the soul must employ the right body” (De Anima 407b23). As reincarnation was a fairly widespread belief in philosophical circles at the time (which is why it appears in Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato), it seems likely that he accepted (or at least was not opposed to) some forms of the theory.

    A question that might be considered is whether 'survival' and 'transcendence' entail the same kind of state. 'Survival' seems to imply persistence of some elements, whereas 'transcendence' might imply an aspect of the self that is not subject to the vicissitudes of being born and dying. That latter interpretation is something found widely in various forms of the perennial philosophies.Wayfarer

    Correct. And if an element has the capacity to survive, the same element might also have the capacity to transcend. The only difference being that ‘survival’ comes naturally, while ‘transcendence’ is something that needs to be learned or recognized. Plato refers to this when he emphasizes the need to detach oneself not only from the physical body, but also from sense-perceptions, desires, and feelings, and avoid attributing reality to them:

    Now the soul of the true philosopher is not opposed to its release and that is why it refrains from pleasures, desires, pains and fears as much as it can: it reckons that when someone experiences intense pleasure, pain, fear or desire, they do not only inflict on him minor injuries, for example, falling ill or wasting money because of his desires, but that they inflict on him the greatest and most extreme of all evils, without it even appearing in his reckoning, namely that the soul, when it experiences intense pleasure or pain at something, is forced to believe at that moment that whatever particularly gives rise to that feeling is most self-evidently real, when it is not so (Phaedo 83b-c).

    Though Plato here uses the word ‘soul’ (psyche), it is clear that when the self has detached itself from body, sense-perception, desires, and feelings, what is left is the rational ‘intellect’ or nous.

    In any case, should a certain degree of detachment or ‘transcendence’ be not achieved, on the model of a just universe, this might render repeated embodied existence necessary. And if the transcendence process leads the self further and further away from what is not self, it is entirely conceivable that the final stage consists in some form of unity or union with a Higher Intelligence in which the individual self is itself transcended to give way to Ultimate Reality.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    Augustine forged a third product from the legacies of the Greek and Jewish world, claiming ascendency over both. The City of God is a masterpiece of appropriation.Paine

    Correct. We mustn't forget that the Jewish world itself did not remain uninfluenced by Greek thought, culture, and language, which is why the OT was translated into Greek for Greek-speaking Jews and the NT was written in Greek for everyone who spoke Greek (i.e., the majority) in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    That should read as the beginning of the conflict between them. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews was an eviction notice.Paine

    It's not the beginning of the conflict because Saul was already engaged in the persecution of the followers of Jesus, stoning them to death. The conflict began before Jesus was crucified, and his crucifixion was a part of that conflict. Paul acted to end that conflict by declaring to the Jews, of whom he was one, that Jesus is in fact the Son of God.

    Certainly, for Plato true knowledge is possible only in a disembodied state.Apollodorus

    There is another way to interpret this. The way I've been suggesting throughout this thread. And that is that human knowledge is necessarily deficient. The human being, as a soul united to a body, has a deficient form of knowledge, as the result of being united to a body. That is the interpretation which Aquinas gives us.

    Knowledge and action, the very powers of the embodied self that determine its fate, are the same powers that define it once death has separated it from the physical body.Apollodorus

    This is inconsistent. If only a disembodied soul can obtain "true" knowledge, then the knowledge which a human being, with a material body, has, is distinctly different from the knowledge of a disembodied soul. So it's inconsistent to say that the embodied powers are " the same powers that define it once death has separated it".
  • Paine
    497
    Aristotle criticizes the Pythagorean claim that a soul can transmigrate into random bodies, but it is far from clear that he rejects reincarnation itself, stating only that “as a craft must employ the right tools, so the soul must employ the right body” (De Anima 407b23). As reincarnation was a fairly widespread belief in philosophical circles at the time (which is why it appears in Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato), it seems likely that he accepted (or at least was not opposed to) some forms of the theory.Apollodorus

    In the citations I put forward on this topic here so far, Aristotle shows himself clearly interested in framing the question of mortality/immortality in the context of his own understanding of how causality works in the cosmos. He agrees with Plato (and others) on many observations but also works to see the agreements in terms he insists are better than his predecessors. Your citation of De Anima 407b is a good example of that practice because he is not directly challenging the Pythagorean idea of reincarnation there but the conditions necessary for it to be applicable:

    The view we have just been examining, in company with most theories about the soul, involves the following absurdity: they all join the soul to a body, or place it in a body, without any specification of the reason for their union, or of the bodily conditions required for it. Yet such explanation can scarcely be omitted; for some community of nature is presupposed by the fact that the one acts and the other is acted upon, the one moves and the other is moved; interaction always implies a special nature in the two ingredients. All, however, that these thinkers do is to describe the specific characteristics of the soul; they do not try to determine anything about the body which is to contain it, as if it were possible, as in the Pythagorean myths, that any soul could be clothed by any body--- an absurd view, for each body seems to have a form and shape of its own. It is absurd as to say that the art of carpentry could embody itself in flutes; each art must use its tools, each soul its body. — De Anima 407a, 14, translated by J.A. Smith

    Putting the matter that way means that Aristotle is not invested in naming every instance of the shortcomings of other thinkers. He is very interested in the borders of the eternal and mortal but demands that a particular order of logic and a lived experience of the world be brought into the discussion.

    Plotinus' mysticism was said to be impersonal, the individual literally surrendering or loosing his/her identity in merging with the Absolute, whereas in Christianity it is supposed that personal identity is retained.Wayfarer

    How this issue relates to Aristotle is perhaps indicated here:

    The case of the mind is different; it seems to be an independent substance implanted within the soul and to be incapable of being destroyed. If it could be destroyed at all, it would be under the blunting influence of old age. What really happens in respect of mind in old age is, however, exactly parallel to what happens in the case of the sense organs; if the old man could recover the proper kind of eye, he would see just as well as the young man. The incapacity 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 the activity of mind or intellectual apprehension declines only through the decay of some other inward part; mind itself is impassible. Thinking, loving, and hating are affections not of mind but of that which has mind, in so far as it has it. That is why, when the vehicle decays, memory and love cease; they were activities not of mind, but of the composite which has perished; mind is, no doubt, something more divine and impassable. That the soul cannot be moved is therefore clear from what we have said, and if it cannot be moved at all, manifestly it cannot be moved by itself. — De Anima, 408b, 18, translated by J. A. Smith
  • ajar
    65

    As far as the Aristotle quote goes, it's at least as plausible to talk about dogtricks being a 'substance' independent of the dogs that learn and eventually forget how to do these tricks. Dogs come and go, but a dog-culture of tricks remains, assuming no interruption of cultural transmission or the canine dog.

    Similarly you can think of dancers and dances. An old body can lose its moves, but usually there's a young replacement body to keep the dance from dying, since the dancers can't be saved.
  • Paine
    497

    It is one thing to grasp the idea through skills living beyond a given generation but another to see how it applies to the very principle through which one understands themselves to be alive. Reproduce that.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k

    That's the passage Appolodorus brought up earlier. The idea of the mind as an independent substance implanted in the soul is very doubtful. And, at this point, Aristotle is discussing in what way the soul moves, and in what way it might be moved. The last line, "that the soul cannot be moved is therefore clear from what we have said", seems to dismiss the idea of the mind being an independent substance implanted in the soul, which moves it.
  • ajar
    65
    It is one thing to grasp the idea through skills living beyond a given generation but another to see how it applies to the very principle through which one understands themselves to be alive. Reproduce that.Paine

    It's not clear that 'principle through which one understands' isn't just some fancy word for the ability to learning. Will you grant an immortal substance to rats? Do direction-dancing bees get a piece?
  • Paine
    497
    The last line, "that the soul cannot be moved is therefore clear from what we have said", seems to dismiss the idea of the mind being an independent substance implanted in the soul, which moves it.Metaphysician Undercover

    That part of the argument relates to the overarching context of the passage which concerns how the cosmic status of the Soul relates to what is possible for particular individuals. In that regard, the concluding remark is not a qualification of the statements just made but the reverse. The limits of what is possible for composite beings informs the way universal principles work on the level of causes within the cosmos.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    In that regard, the concluding remark is not a qualification of the statements just made but the reverse.Paine

    Yes, that is the way that the overall passage, and the concluding remark seem to fit into context of BK1 in general. But the remark is made at the end of that description of the relationship between mind and soul, and this description is oddly inserted into a discussion about how the soul can be the actual cause of movement, but it cannot itself be moved. Prior to your quoted passage, in Ch3, you'll see a discussion of Plato's Timaeus, and the idea of the soul being, or causing, a circular motion.

    What is at question is how does the soul move the body. Aristotle gives Plato's account from the Timaeus, of harmonic numbers, and a bending of the straight line into circles. What I quote here is the end of the paragraph where Aristotle gives Plato's account, and the beginning of the next, where he proceeds to dismiss it. Pay particular attention to how he drives a wedge between "soul" as referring to the whole, and "mind".

    All this [Plato's account] implies that the movements of the soul are identified with the local movement of the heavens.

    Now, in the first place, it is a mistake to say that the soul is a spatial magnitude. It is evident that Plato means the soul of the whole to be like the sort of soul which is called mind --- not like the sensitive or desiderative soul, for the movements of neither of these are circular. Now mind is one and continuous in the sense that the process of thinking is so, and thinking is identical with the thoughts which are its parts; these have a serial unity like that of number, not a unity like that of a spatial magnitude. Hence mind cannot have that kind of unity either; mind is either without parts or is continuous in some other way than that which characterizes a spatial magnitude. How indeed, if it were a spatial magnitude, could it possibly think? Will it think with any one indifferently of its parts? In this case, the 'part' must be understood either in the sense of a spatial magnitude or in the sense of a point (if a point can be called a part of a spatial magnitude). If we accept the latter alternative, the points being infinite in number, obviously the mind can never traverse them; if the former the mind must think the same thing over and over again, indeed an infinite number of times (whereas it is manifestly possible to think a thing once only).
    — On the Soul. 407a

    Notice here that Aristotle has rejected Plato's description of the soul, as being like a "mind". Furthermore, he has rejected the whole idea of an eternal "mind" as fundamentally incoherent. To support the continuity required by the concept of "mind", the mind must either traverse an infinity of points, or think the same thing an infinite number of times. Both, as stated here, are impossible, therefore the concept of "mind" as such a continuity is incoherent. But he proceeds to discuss the possibility of mind thinking the same thing forever, as a type of circular movement, and demonstrates how this is not consistent with a description of actual thinking.

    Therefore, I think that we can conclude that the closing sentence of the paragraph you quoted, is referring us back to the prior page, and this prior discussion of "mind". And, we can see that Aristotle is working to produce a concept of "soul" which is distinct from that earlier Greek concept of "mind", that he has found to be incoherent. The problem is exposed as describing the "mind", or the "soul" using spatial terms. Notice in the quoted passage that "serial unity" implies a temporal order, as the suggested replacement for "spatial magnitude".

    The limits of what is possible for composite beings informs the way universal principles work on the level of causes within the cosmos.Paine

    So I believe that the reversal you propose here is quite mistaken. The difference between the knowledge which a material human being has, and the knowledge which a divine independent, separate soul is said to have, is the difference between universal forms, and particular forms. The human intellect, being deficient as united to a material body, understands through the means of universal forms. But the reality of the universe is that it exists as particulars. This marks the deficiency of the human intellect, the failure to grasp the accidentals which are proper to the uniqueness of the particulars of the universe. Aquinas proposed separate intellects, God and the angels, which being immaterial, and independent of matter, may apprehend the Forms of the particulars, complete with accidentals. He even proposed a temporal concept, "aeviternal", which serves as an intermediary between eternal and temporal, allowing for an actuality which moves the material world without itself being moved by the material world.

    Therefore it is not as you suggest, "universal principles", which act as causes within the cosmos. "Universal principles" is the means by which the human intellect, a deficient intellect, being united to a material body, understands the cosmos. The true immaterial causes within the cosmos are, each and every one of them, unique and particular, and this is why each and every thing is unique and particular. And the human intellect understanding through universal forms lies trapped within this deficiency in its capacity to understand.
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    Putting the matter that way means that Aristotle is not invested in naming every instance of the shortcomings of other thinkers. He is very interested in the borders of the eternal and mortal but demands that a particular order of logic and a lived experience of the world be brought into the discussion.Paine

    Sure. My point though was that he does not seem to reject the idea of reincarnation as such. Reincarnation was not a minor detail in the philosophical discourse of the time and it was closely linked to Plato's theories of immortality and the Forms expounded in the dialogues that were being discussed in the Academy. Had Aristotle rejected it, he would have done so explicitly.

    This is inconsistent. If only a disembodied soul can obtain "true" knowledge, then the knowledge which a human being, with a material body, has, is distinctly different from the knowledge of a disembodied soul. So it's inconsistent to say that the embodied powers are " the same powers that define it once death has separated it".Metaphysician Undercover

    The stated powers the nous has in the embodied state are the same powers it has in the disembodied state. The difference consists in the wider range those same powers can find application in the disembodied state, resulting in more accurate or "true" knowledge.

    This is precisely why the body-mind compound is referred to as a "prison" or "tomb", as it prevents the nous from utilizing its powers to their full potential. For the same reason, separation from body-mind is referred to as "release" or "liberation" - which obviously implies release and liberation of the power to know and other powers already belonging to the released or liberated nous:

    The lovers of knowledge perceive that when philosophy first takes possession of their soul it is entirely fastened and welded to the body and is compelled to regard realities through the body as through prison bars, not with its own unhindered vision (Phaedo 82d-e).

    Otherwise said, once the power to know has been released from the restrictions or prison of embodied existence, it is able to know truly.

    There is no "inconsistency" in this at all.
  • Raymond
    815
    The lovers of knowledge perceive that when philosophy first takes possession of their soul it is entirely fastened and welded to the body and is compelled to regard realities through the body as through prison bars, not with its own unhindered vision (Phaedo 82d-e).

    Doesn't this imply the homunculus behind the bodily prison bars? Isn't the noun then searching behind bars too?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    The stated powers the nous has in the embodied state are the same powers it has in the disembodied state. The difference consists in the wider range those same powers can find application in the disembodied state, resulting in more accurate or "true" knowledge.

    This is precisely why the body-mind compound is referred to as a "prison" or "tomb", as it prevents the nous from utilizing its powers to their full potential. For the same reason, separation from body-mind is referred to as "release" or "liberation" - which obviously implies release and liberation of the power to know and other powers already belonging to the released or liberated nous:
    Apollodorus

    The realistic interpretation is the one offered to us by Aquinas. A separate, independent, immaterial intellect, (a divine intellect), has a superior knowledge which is completely different from the knowledge of the human intellect, which is tainted by the human intellect's dependence on the material body.

    There is no "inconsistency" in this at all.Apollodorus

    There is inconsistency in saying that the intellectual power which is united with a material body, is "the same power" as the intellectual power which is immaterial, independent, separate, and not united with a material body. That's like saying that the "form" which a material object has, which is united to that material object, making it what it is, as the unique and particular material object which it is, is the same "form" which is separate from the material object, existing in the mind of the knower. Notice that these two senses of "form" are distinguished from one another by the accidentals of material existence. The material object has a "form" as a particular, and within the human mind is a "form" as a universal. A particular is not the same as a universal, therefore we cannot say that they are "the same".
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k


    Well, you seem to have some kind of fixation with Aquinas. The reality, of course, is that Aquinas is a Christian who is trying hard to put his own spin on Classical authors. Plato and Aristotle are not Christians. There may be similarities, but their systems are NOT the same as Christianity. IMO it is delusional and dishonest to claim otherwise.

    And no, there is no inconsistency in saying that the powers of disembodied nous are the same as those of embodied nous.

    As you can see for yourself, the powers I was referring to are consciousness, happiness, will-power, knowledge and action:

    we need to start from the stated assumption that this immaterial and immortal self, the nous, is a form of intelligence that has certain capacities or powers, such as consciousness, happiness, will-power, knowledge and action.Apollodorus

    It is absurd to claim that embodied nous does not have these powers and only acquires them on becoming disembodied. If this were the case, (1) man wouldn't be human and not even alive, and (2) the analogy of the entombed or imprisoned soul would be nonsense and no one would speak of "release" and "liberation" as there would be nothing to release or liberate .... :smile:
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.9k
    Well, you seem to have some kind of fixation with Aquinas. The reality, of course, is that Aquinas is a Christian who is trying hard to put his own spin on Classical authors. Plato and Aristotle are not Christians. There may be similarities, but their systems are NOT the same as Christianity. IMO it is delusional and dishonest to claim otherwise.Apollodorus

    Aquinas offers what I believe to be by far the most comprehensive interpretation of Aristotle, and possibly Plato as well, with comparison to numerous other ancient philosophers. He makes Gerson appear to be speaking from an introductory level of education. I'm sorry for being blunt, but it's rather obvious, and your comment implies that you do not notice this.

    And no, there is no inconsistency in saying that the powers of disembodied nous are the same as those of embodied nous.Apollodorus

    You might assert this as many times as you like, but until you address the arguments, your assertions have no significance, impose no influence, and bear no fruit.

    It is absurd to claim that embodied nous does not have these powers and only acquires them on becoming disembodied. If this were the case, (1) man wouldn't be human and not even alive, and (2) the analogy of the entombed or imprisoned soul would be nonsense and no one would speak of "release" and "liberation" as there would be nothing to release or liberate .... :smile:Apollodorus

    What you have stated there, are the features of the embodied intellect, "consciousness, happiness, will-power, knowledge and action". What is absurd is to say that an immaterial existence, eternal and immutable, has these same features.
  • Agent Smith
    4.4k
    If idealism is true, and the universe is simply a series of thoughts in an as of yet unknown mind, is science still objective?
  • Apollodorus
    3.3k
    Aquinas offers what I believe to be by far the most comprehensive interpretation of Aristotle, and possibly Plato as well, with comparison to numerous other ancient philosophers. He makes Gerson appear to be speaking from an introductory level of education. I'm sorry for being blunt, but it's rather obvious, and your comment implies that you do not notice this.Metaphysician Undercover

    Of course you believe Aquinas to be "by far the most comprehensive interpretation of Aristotle and Plato". Hardly anyone here could have failed to notice your uncritical commitment to everything that Aquinas says.

    However, something doesn't become fact just because you believe it. That's why Plato draws a clear distinction between belief and knowledge.

    And it's got nothing to do with Gerson. It is simply a matter of reading the original texts as they are, without putting a spin on them or dismissing whole chapters for being "inconsistent" with the reader's preconceived ideas.

    Your comments seem to imply that you are denying some basic and generally acknowledged facts. A person’s power of optic perception or sight, for example, may operate differently in different surroundings. In a prison cell, one might see some light through a small window, but outside the cell one will see the direct sun light and even its source (the sun) itself, together with all the objects it illuminates: the sky, the earth, the sea, and everything else under the sun.

    Hence Plato’s Analogy of the Cave. The power of sight does not become a different power. What changes is its range and the object of sight which is seen “truly”, i.e., as it is in the real world outside the cave.

    The same applies to the power of knowledge. The human nous according to Plato begins by having power of knowledge by means of which it has knowledge of higher realities such as Ideas or Forms. Next, it assumes embodied form which restricts its power of knowledge and range of things it knows. Finally, on escaping embodied existence, it can deploy its natural powers to their full extent. Hence Plato’s Recollection Argument and the tomb or prison analogy:

    The mind of the philosopher only has wings, for he is always, so far as he is able, in communion through memory with those things the communion with which causes God to be divine … every soul of man has by the law of nature beheld the realities, but it is not easy for all souls to gain from earthly things a recollection of those realities … Now in the earthly copies of Justice and Temperance and the other Ideas which are precious to souls there is no light, but only a few, approaching the images through the darkling organs of sense, behold in them the nature of that which they imitate, and these few do this with difficulty. But at that former time they saw Beauty shining in brightness, when, with a blessed company—we following in the train of Zeus, and others in that of some other God—they saw the blessed sight and vision and were initiated into that which is rightly called the most blessed of mysteries, which we celebrated in a state of perfection, when we were without experience of the evils which awaited us in the time to come, being permitted as initiates to the sight of perfect and simple and calm and happy apparitions, which we saw in the pure light, being ourselves pure and not entombed in this which we carry about with us and call the body, in which we are imprisoned like an oyster in its shell … (Phaedrus 249c-250c).

    Obviously, if the soul or nous has knowledge prior to embodied existence, it must also have consciousness of that knowledge, otherwise it could have no recollection of it.

    It follows that the powers of consciousness, knowledge, etc. are features of the nous whether embodied or not, exactly as described by Plato. Bringing Aquinas into it doesn't change anything about what the text says. Not only that, but if you deny to disembodied nous basic powers like consciousness and knowledge, you deny its very existence and your position becomes no better than that of the materialists.
  • Paine
    497
    Notice here that Aristotle has rejected Plato's description of the soul, as being like a "mind". Furthermore, he has rejected the whole idea of an eternal "mind" as fundamentally incoherent.Metaphysician Undercover

    There is a distinction being made here between nous and the psyche. To infer that is for the purpose of rejecting "the whole idea of an eternal "mind" as fundamentally incoherent" runs into the fundamental problem that Aristotle keeps referring to precisely that idea throughout his writings. The psyche is the active principle in living beings. Some forms of life are capable of intellect. Since that active element is said to be separable and eternal, Aristotle asks whether the inquiry of the psyche is for the "student of nature" or the "dialectician." At 403b he tries to sort out the overlapping areas of concern by saying:

    The properties which are not separable, but which are not treated as such and such a body but in abstraction, are the concern of the mathematician. Those which are treated as separable are the concern of the 'first philosopher.' — translated by D.W. Hamlyn

    So I believe that the reversal you propose here is quite mistaken. The difference between the knowledge which a material human being has, and the knowledge which a divine independent, separate soul is said to have, is the difference between universal forms, and particular forms.Metaphysician Undercover

    I am not proposing a reversal of a property but observing the role of the statement in Aristotle's argument. The passage I quoted at 408b starts with "The case of the mind is different." What it is different from is the argument that started at 408a30 which distinguishes the soul from the vehicle it is in. The vehicle can move in space but that is not the soul that is moving. Regarding the experience of man, the lack of motion of the soul is put thusly:

    Yet to say that is the soul which is angry is as inexact as it would be to say that is the soul that weaves webs of builds houses. It is doubtless better to avoid saying the soul pities, learns or thinks, and rather say that it is the man who does this with his soul. What we mean is not that the movement is in the soul but that sometimes it terminates in the soul and sometimes starts from it, sensation e.g. coming from without inwards, and reminiscence starting from the soul and terminating with the movements, actual or residual, in the sense organs.
    The case of the mind is different....
    — 408b10, translated by J.A Smith

    The sharp contrast between saying the nous is self-moving while the psyche is not, places the problem squarely in the wheelhouse of first philosophy while also not trespassing the causal formula Aristotle demands for 'combined' beings. The latter is the language which one can use to describe beings that "exist as particulars." That was the purpose of my previous entries of Aristotle, to point to the need to separate talk about combined beings from other ways to talk about Forms and Entities.

    On the level of the cosmic order as a whole, the way that neither nous nor psyche can be made entirely the part of the other is recognized as a problem in the narrative of the Timaeus but not resolved there. Aristotle does not explain it away somewhere.

    With the above distinctions applied to what 'universal principles' might mean, I don't understand your last paragraph. It seems to me that you are blowing past boundaries Aristotle went to great effort to put in place. He is trying to make the question harder for us, not easier.
  • Jack Cummins
    4.1k

    Do you really believe that idealism is true. I thought that you were a physicalist. I am definitely not a materialist. Generally, I think that the relationship between mind and body is complex, and I do have some sympathy with non dualism. However, I do find that my thinking on the matter fluctuates and where I think that mind is the main source of everything. I definitely find Eastern philosophy helpful, although from what I gather there is dispute over mind and matter in Buddhism.

    Within esoteric thinking there is a tradition of seeing mind as more real. Plato's idea of the Forms suggests that ideas exist beyond the physical world. Also, the physicist, David Bohm, considered that beyond the physical world, the explicate order, there is the implicate order, which is a bit like the idea of Plato's forms. From what I have read of science, it seems that it does come up with clear answers about whether the body or mind are more real. Physics, which is like the master of the physical sciences because other sciences are lead by it, seems to be about models and interpretations and it does seem that the metaphysical imagination comes into play in the process of theories being developed initially.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k

    Previously in this thread I referred to a passage in a standard textbook on Aquinas, which I felt provided a pithy description of the meaning of hylomorphism in Thomist-Aristotelian philosophy. It was dismissed out-of-hand as 'wrong'. I asked a few more questions, but then decided not to engage further with this contributor. FWIW.
  • Wayfarer
    15.7k
    I definitely find Eastern philosophy helpful, although from what I gather there is dispute over mind and matter in Buddhism.Jack Cummins

    As you're an avid reader, check this out.
  • Jack Cummins
    4.1k

    Thanks, I had a quick read through of the article and it is very interesting so I will probably read it again more slowly. I definitely like the term cognitive narcissism, because I think that it is applicable to the fascinating with psychology.

    My main understanding of Eastern metaphysics was based on Hinduism which I did a term module on when I was a student and it was based on Theravada Buddhism. I am also influenced by Rudolf Steiner some theosophy and have read books by Benjamin Creme. Have you read anything by Creme, he has some extraordinary ideas, but I have attended workshops on transmission meditation. This was the meditation which he developed and even though I am not sure that it really involves channeling down energies from the Masters, I found it to be the best form of meditation I have come across.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.