Bob Nichols's Reviews > De Anima

De Anima by Aristotle
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's review
Aug 09, 2009

did not like it
Read in August, 2009

De Anima is soul and soul is life and its capacity for self-movement. It stands in contrast to inorganic matter that is moved but does not move itself. Aristotle breaks down the soul into the nutritive faculty, sense perception, intellect and desire. These components of soul are arranged hierarchically so that plants are limited to the nutritive faculty, and animals are largely limited to the nutritive faculty and sense perception. Only humans have intellect and desire (intentional movement toward object). Despite contemporary criticism of Aristotle's biology, Aristotle's delineation is not a bad start to a biological science that was only beginning in the 4th century BCE. Aristotle's outline of the soul complements and supports his views in the Ethics and Politics. Only humans look at objects and deliberate whether or not to act. Desire is not an internal impulse, but an intellectual willing. We act - we desire to act - only after reason tells us it's o.k. In this way, humans become something quite separate from and special in relation to other life forms who do not consciously reason. What Aristotle misses is why we care to want one object or objective over another. In a way, his soul misses the more basic motivation force. Acting begins with internal need that prompts action to seek an object or to defend against an object. Mind performs a significant role in regulating action, but that action is in service of some internal need. In this way, humans are really no different than all life forms. The soul of man is really the soul of life. This book is a bit of a slog as is the translator's very long introduction.
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