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The Science of the Soul

The Science of the Soul: The Commentary Tradition on Aristotle's De anima, c. 1260-c. 1360

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    The Science of the Soul
    Book Description:

    The transformation of the science of the soul between 1260 and 1360 Aristotle's highly influential work on the soul, entitled De anima, formed part of the core curriculum of medieval universities and was discussed intensively. It covers a range of topics in philosophical psychology, such as the relationship between mind and body and the nature of abstract thought. However, there is a key difference in scope between the socalled ‘science of the soul', based on Aristotle, and modern philosophical psychology. This book starts from a basic premise accepted by all medieval commentators, namely that the science of the soul studies not just human beings but all living beings. As such, its methodology and approach must also apply to plants and animals. The Science of the Soul discusses how philosophers, from Thomas Aquinas to Pierre d'Ailly, dealt with the difficult task of giving a unified account of life and traces the various stages in the transformation of the science of the soul between 1260 and 1360. The emerging picture is that of a gradual disruption of the unified approach to the soul, which will ultimately lead to the emergence of psychology as a separate discipline.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-078-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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    (pp. 1-14)

    I cannot think of a more fitting way to begin this book than by quoting this passage from Augustine. With the support of an authority of such stature, devoting a study in the history of philosophy to the soul seems to need little justification. Augustine’s words are, indeed, apt to describe the situation in the period under discussion in this book, the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. After studying the commentary tradition on Aristotle’sDe anima— the most obvious place to look for philosophical discussions on the soul in that period —, Augustine’s remark no longer seems to be...

    (pp. 15-44)

    In this chapter I will provide an overview of a few of the more important discussions that can be found in the commentaries on theDe anima. This will help to prepare for the more detailed discussions in the coming chapters. At the same time, it will give me the opportunity to introduce a selection of the most important literature. My aim is not to give a complete account of either the secondary literature or the controversies found in the commentaries, which would be impossible, but rather to identify some key topics, most of which will be treated in much...

    (pp. 45-122)

    In order to understand how medieval philosophers looked at thescientia de animawe should first examine the questions which they explicitly devoted to its status. Most commentaries on book I of theDe animacontain a number of questions that discuss methodological aspects, the most important of which are:

    1. Is thescientia de animareally a science? And if so, what is its place in the general framework of the sciences? More precisely, does it fall under natural philosophy or is it a part of metaphysics?¹

    2. What is its subject matter? More specifically, is it the soul or the...

    (pp. 123-208)

    The first doctrinal aspect of Aristotle’sDe animathat any commentator has to come to grips with is Aristotle’s famous definition of the soul: ‘the soul is the first act of a natural organic body having life in potency’,¹ which was rendered into Latin as ‘anima est actus primus corporis physici organici vitam habentis in potentia.’² Most commentators devoted several questions to their discussion of this definition, beginning with its most general aspects and working towards the details. In Brito, for example, the discussion takes up the first five questions of his commentary on book II, beginning with the question...

    (pp. 209-300)

    Aquinas approvingly paraphrases Aristotle when he writes that defining the soul — as Aristotle had done in the beginning of book II of theDe anima— amounts to nothing more than to giving a sketchy, preliminary description of it:

    Deinde epilogando colligit que dicta sunt et dicit quod secundum predicta determinatum est de anima et posita est anime descriptiofiguraliter, quasi extrinsece et superficialiter et incomplete. Complebitur enim determinatio de anima quando pertinget usque ad intima ut determinetur natura uniuscuiusque partis ipsius anime.¹

    Next, by way of conclusion, he SdB> sums up what has been said; and...

    (pp. 301-306)

    In the introduction, I claimed that it is better to say thatscientia de animatransformed than to say that it changed. In this concluding chapter I want to bring together what I think were some of the most important transformations in the periodc. 1260–c. 1360. In doing so, I will also take up the question of the relation between the methodological and the doctrinal parts of the commentaries.

    In the fourteenth century, two philosophers in particular influenced theDe animatradition in ways that have not been noted before, namely Radulphus Brito and William Ockham. Brito made...

    (pp. 327-328)