GREEK PHILOSOPHY - II.
Psychology: Its General Character and Place among the Sciences
Aristotle's work on the soul is the earliest of the distinct systematic
treatises on the subject, and is based on a careful review of all previous
theories as well as a profound special knowledge of the subject. He takes the
general position that psychology is a part of the science of physical nature,
because the "feelings of the soul are inseparable from the physical substratum
of animal life"; and yet, also, that it is of a transcendental character, since
there are clear cases of "states" that ""are peculiar to the soul alone,"
e.g., thought. Both the purely materialistic
and the purely transcendental theories of the soul are therefore treated by him as onesided;
and his investigations are both empirical and speculative in character. Regarding
the place of psychology among the sciences he says: "The
acquisition of knowledge is, we conceive, always something high and
honorable: but one form of knowledge is superior to another either in virtue of
the self-contained simplicity of its truths or by the greater dignity and wondrousness of its contents; and on both these grounds the investigation of
the soul might with justice claim a foremost place, and, besides, the knowledge
of it is thought to have important bearings on truth generally and especially on
nature: for soul is, as it were, a prime factor in animal existence(1).
Body and Soul
Life is a process of nutrition, growth, and decay(2). Where this
process goes on, there is organic being; and where there is organic being,
there is soul. Soul (the principle of motion) may be defined as the entelechy,
or perfection, of organic bodily existence. It is not itself,
however, bodily, or material; it has not magnitude nor parts ; nor is it subject
to motion. If it possessed magnitude, there would be no thought, for thought is
a unit and may be exercised once for all, whereas the parts of a thing are
repetitions of one another47. Since the soul is not a magnitude, is not spatial
except only "incidentally," i.e., as related to body, it does not move itself
(topically, or in place), and
is not capable of being moved by anything outside itself(3). It is even better not
to say that the soul sympathizes or thinks or learns, but that man does so by
means of the soul(4). But the soul, though not "movable," is the cause of
motion, and operates in and through the body as a whole and in its
parts, developing it and using it as an instrument.Just by virtue of the
unity of the soul, and of its power over the body, is the body an
organism, the soul being the entelechy of the body, the form that gives
intelligible existence to the body, which is "matter".
Body and soul are, then, one, as form and matter are one. The soul is,
indeed, dependent upon the body, but only in so far as the body is a condition
to its activity, and a condition, too, to which the soul, as being form, is
prior(5). The soul, in short, is the efficient, formal, and final cause of the body(6).
But the soul is more than the mere entelechy of the body. One part of it, we
shall see, is separable from the body, and has no single and separate
correlative in the body.
Parts, or Faculties, of the Soul
The faculties (δυνάμεις) of the soul are
those of nutrition (θρεπτικόν), which includes generation, or reproduction(7), of
sense-perception (αίσθηικόν), of desire, or volition (όρετικόν), of
locomotion (κινητικόν), and of intellect (διανοητικόν),
which embraces understanding and reason. The last-named faculty is separable
from the body, and is peculiar to the soul of man. (Animals have all the other
faculties except, in some cases, that of locomotion. Plants have only the
nutritive soul.) These faculties are related one to another as successive stages
in a developing life, the higher involving the lower (man contains within himself
the life of the plant and the animal(8). By means of the nutritive (reproductive)
function the (universal) soul gives itself outward permanence, i.e., though the
individual dies, the species survives. Thus the form has actuality. In
sense-perception, the form (not the matter) of objects is preserved, to be
transmuted by the higher faculties of the soul(9). Desire and locomotion give
external reality to conceptions. Reason is the faculty of form purified of all
sensuous or quasi-sensuous matter. The primary seat and organ of sensation is
the heart, the brain acting merely as a regulator of the heart's action. But
perceptions of sense are gained through five special organs (the organs of the
five well-known senses), a general faculty of sense through which such
impressions (e.g., number, figure, size) as are not given through any one
particular organ alone but by all in common, are received, and the power of
inference(10). The sense of touch underlies the other four, contact through a medium
being necessary to render the possible object of sensation really
such(11). Of the five senses hearing has the most of reason in it. In perception
by inference, or "incidental perception," we learn of sensuous attributes by reasoning from
concomitant, or accompanying, attributes. In sense-perception is apprehended not
the mere individual but what is universal(12), since sense receives the form of
objects without the matter of them. Springing immediately out of the sense-faculty
are phantasy (φαντασία), or imagination, and simple memory
is perception sublated and given a quasi-permanence and independence but
weakened. Memory, also, is a permanent, or relatively permanent state of the
soul, resulting from the lodging of impressions produced in sense and the
imagination : it is consequently an image of previous states of the soul(13).
Necessary to memory is the idea or reflection (involving the presence of the
purely active faculty of the mind, reason) that the idea before the mind has
previously been before it. Repetition of an impression may be spontaneous or
volitional : in the former case it is an act of pure memory; in the latter, of
recollection so-called (άνάμνη
τις). In this act the mind moves from one idea
to another connected with it through the implicit idea of similarity, contrast,
or contiguity, so recalling the idea sought(14). Such an act has in it a larger
degree of spontaneity than simple memory, imagination, or sense-perception,
though even sense is not mere receptivity. The activity of soul as primarily
spontaneous is reason. That there is such a faculty appears from the fact that
there must be a distinct power that perceives the essential nature
of things, a power different from that which perceives things themselves, a
power, e.g., that perceives the essential nature of flesh different from that
which perceives flesh itself: in short, a power that perceives and judges of
form apart from matter. Now this faculty is no doubt "unmixed" (as Anaxagoras
asserted) with the body or with things; it must, however, if it be anything more
than a bare potentiality, be capable of having an object, and must, therefore,
have in it, or be related to, an element of passivity like sense, though
different in degree and somewhat in kind. There must, in other words, be a kind
of passive reason, related to the active as matter is related to creative mind
in the external world. The ideas of reason are potentially in the passive reason
and are brought into actuality by the power of active reason, just as potential
color is made into actual color by the power of light. Now that the ideas thus
made actual by active reason are ideas of objects is manifest from the fact of
the unity of reason in man with the reason in the external world, and from the
fact, also, that in sense-perception there must be a unity of subject and object
as a condition of there being any communication between subject and object,
— receptivity presupposing community of nature(15). In regard, further, to the nature
of the relations of the active and passive reason, Aristotle says that the
passive reason (which it would seem can be nothing more nor less than the ensemble
of all the powers of the mind beneath pure eternal reason) is perishable and can
"think nothing without the support of the creative intellect," whereas the
active is immortal and eternal, and eternally thinks(16). Now the ideas of active reason viewed merely as
possible objects of reason, or possible forms of
its functioning, constitute science (έπιστήμη). The actual employment of
these, or functioning with them, is speculation (θεωρεϊν)(17). As
the perfection, or
entelechy, of the soul's activities, reason presupposes the activities of sense,
imagination, simple memory, and recollection, and is immanent and implicit in these. (Passive memory is thus the middle term between reason and the phenomenal
real world.) This explains why it is that the special senses, and the common, or
general, sense, still more, apprehend not mere individuals but qualities in
individuals, and that imagination, simple memory, and recollection have a
permanent element in them: that, in short, no operation of the mind is purely
passive and relative (irrational), but all partake more or less of the
spontaneity and absoluteness of pure reason. The mind has knowledge even in
sense-perception. The reason that is in the world is perceived by the reason in the soul. The essences of things it knows absolutely, for they are the objects,
as they are the creations only of reason. Active reason, however, is, according
to Aristotle, entirely separable from the body, and eternal. Immortality for
the finite individual, consequently, is not a necessary postulate of the
Aristotelian psychology. The appetitive and locomotive faculties of the soul are related to the others through the feelings of pleasure and pain.
perception, conception, or thought awakens a feeling of pleasure or of pain
which involves the "judgment" that the object of the perception, thought, or
conception is good or evil, and to be
desired or avoided accordingly. (This "judgment" is entirely analogous to the
judgment in the purely intellectual sphere, that a thing is true or false.) The
desire or aversion thus aroused produces in the heart, which is the seat of sensation, feeling, and motion, a certain degree
of warmth, which, if sufficient,
is followed by bodily motion, external action. In animals the stimulating cause
of desire or aversion may be only a dull perception ; in man it is also, and
most characteristically, an idea of reason(18).
(1) De Anima, Bk. I. ch. 1. (See Aristotle's Psychology in
Greek and English, with Introd. and Notes by Edwin Wallace, etc.)
(2) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. I.
(3) De Anima, Bk. I. chs. 2 and 3. (See also ch. 5.)
(4) lbid., Bk. I. ch. 4.
(5) The existence of the soul in the body is, in other words, a stage in
its process of self-realization. We can as well say that the body is in
(6) De Anima, Bk. II. ch. 4.
(7) Ibid., Bk. II., ch. 3. That the nutrition is a function of
the soul follows from the principle that whatever exhibits an idea or an
end belongs not to matter but to form. De Anima, Bk. II. ch. 4.
(8) See what was said above on the Socratic Natural Theology, p. 55.
(9) De Anima, Bk. II ch. 12
(10) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. 6.
(11) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. 7.
(12) Posterior Analytics, Bk. II. ch. 19. Hence the possibility of
induction. See above, p. 128. See below, p. 146.
(13) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. 19, and De Memoria, I.
(14) De Memoria, 2.
(15) De Anima, Bk. III. chs. 4 and 5.
(16) Ibid., Bk. III. ch. 5.
(17) De Anima, Bk. II. ch. I.
(18) De Anima, Bk. III. chs. 10, 11, etc.