Philosophy, Psychology and Humanities Web Site

Diccionario filosófico
Voltaire. Complete edition.


Diccionario de Filosofía

Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


 A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms  Francis Garden


Biografías y semblanzas  Biographical references and lives of philosophers.


Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset


History of Philosophy Summaries


Historia de la Filosofía

Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises... 


Historia de la Filosofía

Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes


Historia de la Filosofía

 Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González


Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres

 Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos



Introductory Paragraph

Early Ionic Natural Philosophers

The Pythagoreans

The Eleatics


Later Natural Philosophers

General Character of the First Period in the History of Greek Philosophy

The Sophist


The Followers of Socrates

The Lesser Socratics

Plato. Life. Works

Plato. Philosophy

The Disciples of Plato

The Old Academy

Aristotle: Life and works

Aristotle: Theory of Knowledge

Aristotle: Metaphysics

Aristotle: Physics

Aristotle: Psychology

Aristotle: Practical Philosophy

Aristotle: Rhetoric and Poetic

Aristotle: Sources

Aristotle: Unity of Plato and Aristotle

Aristotle: result

The Peripatetic School

Three Leading Post-Aristotelian Schools

The Stoics and Stoicism

The Epicureans and Epicureanism

The Sceptics

The Common Ground of the Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics

Philosophy in Rome: Eclecticism

The Later Peripatetics

The Later Academics

The Later Stoics

General Character of the Second Period

Standpoint and Schools of the Third and Latest Period of Greek Philosophy

Jewish-Alexandrian School


The Eclectic Platonist

Neo-Platonism. Plotinus

Neo-Platonism. Porphyry. Jamblichus

Neo-Platonism. Proclus




B. C. BURT (1852-1915) - Table of contents                        




§ 14 - Aristotle

Psychology: Its General Character and Place among the Sciences

Aristotle's work on the soul is the earliest of the distinct systematic treatises on the subject, and is based on a careful review of all previous theories as well as a profound special knowledge of the subject. He takes the general position that psychology is a part of the science of physical nature, because the "feelings of the soul are inseparable from the physical substratum of animal life"; and yet, also, that it is of a transcendental character, since there are clear cases of "states" that ""are peculiar to the soul alone," e.g., thought. Both the purely materialistic and the purely transcendental theories of the soul are therefore treated by him as onesided; and his investigations are both empirical and speculative in character.  Regarding the place of psychology among the sciences he says: "The acquisition of knowledge is, we conceive, always something high and honorable: but one form of knowledge is superior to another either in virtue of the self-contained simplicity of its truths or by the greater dignity and wondrousness of its contents; and on both these grounds the investigation of the soul might with justice claim a foremost place, and, besides, the knowledge of it is thought to have important bearings on truth generally and especially on nature: for soul is, as it were, a prime factor in animal existence(1).

Body and Soul

Life is a process of nutrition, growth, and decay(2). Where this process goes on, there is organic being; and where there is organic being, there is soul. Soul (the principle of motion) may be defined as the entelechy, or perfection, of organic bodily existence. It is not itself, however, bodily, or material; it has not magnitude nor parts ; nor is it subject to motion. If it possessed magnitude, there would be no thought, for thought is a unit and may be exercised once for all, whereas the parts of a thing are repetitions of one another47. Since the soul is not a magnitude, is not spatial except only "incidentally," i.e., as related to body, it does not move itself (topically, or in place), and is not capable of being moved by anything outside itself(3). It is even better not to say that the soul sympathizes or thinks or learns, but that man does so by means of the soul(4). But the soul, though not "movable," is the cause of motion, and operates in and through the body as a whole and in its parts, developing it and using it as an instrument.Just by virtue of the unity of the soul, and of its power over the body, is the body an organism, the soul being the entelechy of the body, the form that gives intelligible existence to the body, which is "matter".


Body and soul are, then, one, as form and matter are one. The soul is, indeed, dependent upon the body, but only in so far as the body is a condition to its activity, and a condition, too, to which the soul, as being form, is prior(5). The soul, in short, is the efficient, formal, and final cause of the body(6). But the soul is more than the mere entelechy of the body. One part of it, we shall see, is separable from the body, and has no single and separate correlative in the body. 

Parts, or Faculties, of the Soul

The faculties (δυνάμεις) of the soul are those of nutrition (θρεπτικόν), which includes generation, or reproduction(7), of sense-perception (αίσθηικόν), of desire, or volition (όρετικόν), of locomotion (κινητικόν), and of intellect (διανοητικόν), which embraces understanding and reason. The last-named faculty is separable from the body, and is peculiar to the soul of man. (Animals have all the other faculties except, in some cases, that of locomotion. Plants have only the nutritive soul.) These faculties are related one to another as successive stages in a developing life, the higher involving the lower (man contains within himself the life of the plant and the animal(8). By means of the nutritive (reproductive) function the (universal) soul gives itself outward permanence, i.e., though the individual dies, the species survives. Thus the form has actuality. In sense-perception, the form (not the matter) of objects is preserved, to be transmuted by the higher faculties of the soul(9). Desire and locomotion give external reality to conceptions. Reason is the faculty of form purified of all sensuous or quasi-sensuous matter. The primary seat and organ of sensation is the heart, the brain acting merely as a regulator of the heart's action. But perceptions of sense are gained through five special organs (the organs of the five well-known senses), a general faculty of sense through which such impressions (e.g., number, figure, size) as are not given through any one particular organ alone but by all in common, are received, and the power of inference(10). The sense of touch underlies the other four, contact through a medium being necessary to render the possible object of sensation really such(11). Of the five senses hearing has the most of reason in it. In perception by inference, or "incidental perception," we learn of sensuous attributes by reasoning from concomitant, or accompanying, attributes. In sense-perception is apprehended not the mere individual but what is universal(12), since sense receives the form of objects without the matter of them. Springing immediately out of the sense-faculty are phantasy (φαντασία), or imagination, and simple memory (μνήμη). Phantasy is perception sublated and given a quasi-permanence and independence but weakened. Memory, also, is a permanent, or relatively permanent state of the soul, resulting from the lodging of impressions produced in sense and the imagination : it is consequently an image of previous states of the soul(13). Necessary to memory is the idea or reflection (involving the presence of the purely active faculty of the mind, reason) that the idea before the mind has previously been before it. Repetition of an impression may be spontaneous or volitional : in the former case it is an act of pure memory; in the latter, of recollection so-called (άνάμνη τις). In this act the mind moves from one idea to another connected with it through the implicit idea of similarity, contrast, or contiguity, so recalling the idea sought(14). Such an act has in it a larger degree of spontaneity than simple memory, imagination, or sense-perception, though even sense is not mere receptivity. The activity of soul as primarily spontaneous is reason. That there is such a faculty appears from the fact that there must be a distinct power that perceives the essential nature of things, a power different from that which perceives things themselves, a power, e.g., that perceives the essential nature of flesh different from that which perceives flesh itself: in short, a power that perceives and judges of form apart from matter. Now this faculty is no doubt "unmixed" (as Anaxagoras asserted) with the body or with things; it must, however, if it be anything more than a bare potentiality, be capable of having an object, and must, therefore, have in it, or be related to, an element of passivity like sense, though different in degree and somewhat in kind. There must, in other words, be a kind of passive reason, related to the active as matter is related to creative mind in the external world. The ideas of reason are potentially in the passive reason and are brought into actuality by the power of active reason, just as potential color is made into actual color by the power of light. Now that the ideas thus made actual by active reason are ideas of objects is manifest from the fact of the unity of reason in man with the reason in the external world, and from the fact, also, that in sense-perception there must be a unity of subject and object as a condition of there being any communication between subject and object, — receptivity presupposing community of nature(15). In regard, further, to the nature of the relations of the active and passive reason, Aristotle says that the passive reason (which it would seem can be nothing more nor less than the ensemble of all the powers of the mind beneath pure eternal reason) is perishable and can "think nothing without the support of the creative intellect," whereas the active is immortal and eternal, and eternally thinks(16). Now the ideas of active reason viewed merely as possible objects of reason, or possible forms of its functioning, constitute science (έπιστήμη). The actual employment of these, or functioning with them, is speculation (θεωρεϊν)(17). As the perfection, or entelechy, of the soul's activities, reason presupposes the activities of sense, imagination, simple memory, and recollection, and is immanent and implicit in these. (Passive memory is thus the middle term between reason and the phenomenal real world.) This explains why it is that the special senses, and the common, or general, sense, still more, apprehend not mere individuals but qualities in individuals, and that imagination, simple memory, and recollection have a permanent element in them: that, in short, no operation of the mind is purely passive and relative (irrational), but all partake more or less of the spontaneity and absoluteness of pure reason. The mind has knowledge even in sense-perception. The reason that is in the world is perceived by the reason in the soul. The essences of things it knows absolutely, for they are the objects, as they are the creations only of reason. Active reason, however, is, according to Aristotle, entirely separable from the body, and eternal. Immortality for the finite individual, consequently, is not a necessary postulate of the Aristotelian psychology. The appetitive and locomotive faculties of the soul are related to the others through the feelings of pleasure and pain. Every perception, conception, or thought awakens a feeling of pleasure or of pain which involves the "judgment" that the object of the perception, thought, or conception is good or evil, and to be desired or avoided accordingly. (This "judgment" is entirely analogous to the judgment in the purely intellectual sphere, that a thing is true or false.) The desire or aversion thus aroused produces in the heart, which is the seat of sensation, feeling, and motion, a certain degree of warmth, which, if sufficient, is followed by bodily motion, external action. In animals the stimulating cause of desire or aversion may be only a dull perception ; in man it is also, and most characteristically, an idea of reason(18).


(1) De Anima, Bk. I. ch. 1. (See Aristotle's Psychology in Greek and English, with Introd. and Notes by Edwin Wallace, etc.)

(2) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. I.

(3) De Anima, Bk. I. chs. 2 and 3. (See also ch. 5.)

(4) lbid.,  Bk. I. ch. 4.

(5) The existence of the soul in the body is, in other words, a stage in its process of self-realization. We can as well say that the body is in the soul.

(6) De Anima, Bk. II. ch. 4.

(7) Ibid., Bk. II., ch. 3. That the nutrition is a function of the soul follows from the principle that whatever exhibits an idea or an end belongs not to matter but to form. De Anima, Bk. II. ch. 4.

(8) See what was said above on the Socratic Natural Theology, p. 55.

(9) De Anima, Bk. II ch. 12

(10) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. 6.

(11) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. 7.

(12) Posterior Analytics, Bk. II. ch. 19. Hence the possibility of induction. See above, p. 128. See below, p. 146.

(13) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. 19, and De Memoria, I.

(14) De Memoria, 2.

(15) De Anima, Bk. III. chs. 4 and 5.

(16) Ibid., Bk. III. ch. 5.

(17) De Anima, Bk. II. ch. I.

(18) De Anima, Bk. III. chs. 10, 11, etc.



  © TORRE DE BABEL EDICIONES - Edition: Isabel Blanco  - Legal notice and privacy policy