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On Aristotle on the Soul 2.7-12 by John Philoponus


On Aristotle on the Soul 2.7-12 by John Philoponus

Until the launch of this series over ten years ago, the 15,000 volumes of the ancient Greek commentators on Aristotle, written mainly between 200 and 600 AD, constituted the largest corpus of extant Greek philosophical writings not translated into English or other European languages. Over 30 volumes have now appeared in the series, which is planned in some 60 volumes altogether. In this, one of the most original ancient texts on sense perception, Philoponus, the sixth century AD commentator on Aristotle, considers how far perceptual processes are incorporeal. Colour affects us in the same way as light which, passing through a stained glass window, affects the air, but colours only the masonry beyond. Sounds and smells are somewhat more physical, travelling most of the way to us with a moving block of air, but not quite all the way. Only the organ of touch takes on the tangible qualities perceived, because reception of sensible qualities in perception is cognitive, not physical. Neither light nor the action of colour involves the travel of bodies. Our capacities for psychological activity do not follow, nor result from, the chemistry of our bodies, but merely supervene on that. On the other hand, Philoponus shows knowledge of the sensory nerves, and he believes that thought and anger both warm us. This is used elsewhere to show how we can tell someone else's state of mind.

About the Author

William Charlton was formerly head of the Philosophy Department at the University of Edinburgh.

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Book Info

Publication date

24th June 2005


John Philoponus

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Bristol Classical Press an imprint of Duckworth Overlook


192 pages


Western philosophy: Ancient, to c 500



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