Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In Book III, Chapter 5 of his De Anima , in the midst of his account of the faculty of thought, Aristotle concludes that there are, in some sense, two minds required for thinking, one which 'becomes all things', and another which 'makes all things'. The second of these--commonly called the "active intellect"--has always been a source of puzzlement for interpreters, on two fronts: (1) How does this entity 'make' things, i.e. what does it do , in relation to the potential or "passive" intellect, by way of producing the ideas in the latter? and (2) What is the metaphysical status of the active intellect? In particular, can Aristotle's description of this mind as "eternal and immortal" be reconciled with his accounts, elsewhere, of the nature and function of eternal beings? In this dissertation, with the help of related passages in other works, I unravel the details and implications of Aristotle's remarkably terse and economical discussion of the active intellect. Further, I show how we can, and why we must, re-interpret the most important aspect of Aristotle's metaphysics--his theory of the divine beings, the "unmoved movers"--in light of what we learn from De Anima III.5. Aristotle is seen to have solved an essential epistemological problem, namely how we initially form the ideas or 'concepts' about which we think, in a manner which brings his psychology into direct contact with his theory of being. In the process, he implies a view of the power of human reason that is both ennobling and humbling.
Jonescu, Daren, "Human thinking and the active intellect in Aristotle" (2000). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2631.