Volume 14, 2008
Overcoming an Anaxagorian Conception of Noûs by a Metaphysical Theory of the Best Possible
From Socrates to Aquinas
This paper intends to show that our reception of Plato’s criticism of Anaxagoras’ philosophy of mind (noûs) is mediated by Thomas Aquinas’ conception of freedom. The Socratic-Platonic Metaphysical theory of mind as essentially connected to the best is transformed by Aristotle into a theory of the intelligence which, in its acting, necessarily records the possibility of performing the opposites or contraries. Therefore, ‘the (Platonic) best’ is now specifically understood as ‘the best possible’. Within this Metaphysical conception, Aquinas distinguishes two levels (which are also to be found in ‘freedom’). In the first or more superfical one
–here called ‘horizontal’–, the mind chooses to perform the best possible or not, that is, it can fulfill the science which is within the mind itself or not. In the second or more radical one –here called ‘vertical’–, the mind has to perform a reflexive act, by means of which it chooses willing or not its necessary possibility of performing the science that the mind possesses.