Alexander of Aphrodisias and John Philoponus: Two commentators on Aristotle’s Theory of Intellect
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When discussing Aristotle’s psychological writings we invariably run the risk of anachronism if we are to assume his is a search for a philosophy of mind. Though the texts discuss the nature of the soul and its capacities, it is not obvious that they articulate a theory of mind as we know it. In the course of the De Anima, Aristotle takes psychology to be the branch of science which investigates the soul and its properties, a position that Shields points out may strike modern readers as odd. Shields highlights how in comparison with the modern discipline of psychology, Aristotle’s psychology is broad in scope, devoting attention to the question of life itself. Aristotle thinks of the soul as a general principle of life, with the result that Aristotelian psychology studies all living beings, not just those he regards as having minds, namely human beings. In this way Aristotelian psychology is demarcated in quite a different way from that studied by contemporary psychologists. Whilst the latter focuses on consciousness and intentional states, Aristotle’s is a theory concerned with providing an account of the life activities of plants and animals, alongside those of humans.