Philosophy 290-3

Spring 2016

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-3 Graduate Seminar: Aristotle on perception and phantasia Corcilius Th 2-4 234 Moses

Aristotle’s theory of science crucially relies on the assumption that sense perception provides us with a reliable cognitive grasp of particular physical objects, i.e. ordinary middle sized 3-D objects such as chairs, tables, dogs, people, mountains, and so on. However, in his zoological account of sense perception in the De Anima Aristotle almost gives the impression as if he was more interested in modally specific sense perception and its causal ancestry than in the perception of objects. How does he arrive from the affection of peripheral sense organs by external objects to the perception of objects? And what exactly is the perception of objects for Aristotle? In this seminar we will examine these questions, approaching his account of sense perception at first as a part of his natural philosophy. Thus, after a very brief historical survey of earlier theories, we will start with some of the basics of his (qualitative) metaphysics of nature insofar as they are relevant for our purposes, most importantly his account of motion / change as the common actuality of the active and passive relata of change, and his idea of the perceptual soul as a principle of change. Hopefully, this will give us a sense of what he might have thought the task of a theory of perception consist in. We will then examine his account of sense perception proper, proceeding roughly along the following stages: perception and affection / the capacity – approach to perception / the material basis of perception / different kinds of ‘objects’ of perception / the individuation of the senses / perceptual discrimination and basic perceptual content / perceptual awareness as the presence of the perceptual form in the perceiver / object perception/ the roles of the imagination in perception. Here are some (short) passages for a preparatory reading for the first few sessions: (1) De Anima I 2-5 (the discussion of the predecessors on the soul), (2) Physics III 1-3 (the definition of motion / change, or process, kinêsis), (3) De Anima II 1-4 (the most common definition of the soul, and the so-called causal definition of the soul via the powers of the soul), (4) De Anima II 5 (general introduction into the treatment of the power of perception, remarks on the relation between process and perception), (5) Physics VII 2-3 (further remarks on the relation between processes and perception, and the relation between processes and forms and states).

Requirements: Phil. 161 or equivalent.