Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Aristotle's De Anima

I won't really have much to say about philosophical issues this summer. I continue to read about Heidegger and Scheler. I continue to place them in tension with each other, but such a continued effort is now on hold. I am doing my reading for the preliminary examination in my PhD. I only take one test, and this is it. Likewise, my PhD program is historically-oriented. I read the really big books of Western philosophy and try to get a hold over what the arguments are (or a basic exposition of the view).

Right now, I am reading Aristotle's De Anima. I cannot stand it. You would think that a self-professed phenomenologist would love the discussion of consciousness, the capacities of the soul so described. Yet, the only thing that matters here is Aristotle's invention of intentionality. "The sense must be percipient of itself" (III: pt. 2, lines 17). I take little else from this book. I can't stand hearing about Aristotle solving the nature of light in one paragraph. I don't know. Perhaps, I am being too impatient and not exercising the demanding philosophical patience with this text.

I also wonder about Aristotle's definition of life. His definition of life is that it is a composite between self-nutrition and growth. A phenomenological conception of life is that it strives towards the world, and in my conception, this striving has no structure other than the production of the same type of its own kind. Unlike Nietzsche, however, I do not think this striving includes within it an exercise of domination over others indifferently that results in injury and harm. Certainly, if there is no overriding structure to this striving, then it can result in a will-to-power, but the striving might take on other forms like perhaps a will-to-love.


Aristizzle said...

Hello. Well, keep in mind that Aristotle is not working from within an epoche. He's not bracketing certain assumptions, though he is good at letting the things present themselves. The reason he approaches life from the point of the nutritive capacity is because he sees all other life activities as dependent upon the nutritive. And living things (i.e., plants) can have nutritive capacity without perception or intellection, but there is no perception or thinking (for mortals at any rate) without nutritive capacity (again, no bracketing so consciousness is not first for Aristotle). Now is metabolic activity directly given to consciousness? Nope. It's not like Husserl spends a lot of time talking about digestion! I wouldn't go too far attributing intentionality in the Husserlian sense to Aristotle either as awareness of perception belongs to animals that lack speech. Also, constitution of objects by consciousness would trouble Aristotle deeply (Aristotle rather supposes that the things in-form us). Oh, well, you're being foprced to read De anima for a test so don't blame yourself for being uninterested in it. You may find later in life that you will be called back to it more willingly. Good luck, I'm sure you'll pass.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

Thank you for responding, Aristizzle.

The comment really addresses Brentano's appropriation of intentionality, and how "the mind becomes all things."