published on April 15, 2014
Now and Then
One of the most highly debated passages in Aristotle is his doctrine of the nous poiētikos of de Anima III.5. The interpretations of its precise nature and operation that were given by ancient and medieval commentators abound also today. With few exceptions, however, present-day interpretations disagree with the ancients and others on the logic of the passage. In particular, while most ancient and medieval commentators agree that there are three intellects or intellectual powers on scene in the passage, most contemporary interpreters assume that there are only two, identifying the pathētikos nous at the end of III.5 with the intellect described in III.4. In this paper I argue that this assumption is wrong, and that although the text is underdetermined in several ways, it is not so in this respect. The text, taken with other relevant passages, demands that the pathētikos nous be different from the intellect described in III.4.