February 7, 2009

Philo of Alexandria

Wisdom is the art of arts, and although it seems to vary with its materials it must be recognized that its true form never changes. This is evident to those with sharp eyes, but not those who incline to the stuff surrounding [wisdom's] essence, seeing only the character stamped on it by the particular craft. The sculptor Phidias made statues out of bronze, ivory, gold and other materials besides, and in all of these he left the mark of his one same art, by which the craftsman's authorship was recognizable to connoissseur and layman alike. Art, which represents nature, also emulates nature's habit of re-using the same mold, as in the case of twins when it imprints two likenesses differing only in slight details: a perfected art outlines the same forms and fills them in alike no matter how many different materials it takes up. And so its products are siblings, twins and the closest possible kin to one another.

On Drunkenness XXII.88-90


Leibniz on perception

One is obliged to confess that perception and what depends on it are inexplicable by mechanical reasons, i.e. in terms of forms and movements. Let's imagine a machine whose structure permits it to think and feel and have perceptions, and go on to enlarge it in our minds, maintaining its proportions, until one could go inside it as into a mill. This being posited, on a visit to its interior one would find nothing but parts pushing against one another, and nothing to explain how perception works. And so it is in the simple substance, and not the composite (i.e. the machine) that we must seek it out. Indeed, perceptions and their alterations are all we find in simple substances. In these alone consist all internal actions of simple substances.

Monadology §17

February 6, 2009

Stoic roundup

"So much for the Peripatetics. The beliefs of the Stoics remain to be discussed. These men call their criterion of truth 'apprehensive imagination.' Once we have learned what this was to them, and on what points their concepts differ, we will understand what this imagination is.

"According to them, imagination is the striking of an imprint in the soul. On this point they were divided from the outset. Cleanthes took 'imprint' [literally] to mean a combination of ridges and indentations, such as result from the stamp of signet-rings in wax. Chrysippus however found such a notion absurd. To begin with, he says, thinking simultaneously of a triangular figure and a rectangular one would require the imaginative organ to take on different outlines at the same time, simultaneously assuming the shape of a triangle and a rectangle or a circle, which is absurd. Furthermore, when many imaginings arise in us at the same time, the soul would be seized by a multitude of outlines, which is less persuasive still. So he understood Zeno's use of 'imprint' to mean an 'alteration,' rendering the formula: 'Imagination is an alteration in the soul.' The absurdity is removed, if a single organ is to take on a multitude of alterations when many imaginings arise in us at the same time, just like the air: when many people are speaking at the same time it receives untold different blows at once, and sustains many alterations. The ruling element beset by elaborate imaginings will undergo something analogous to this."

"For when we call a man the composite of a soul and a body, or death the separation of soul from body, we are speaking in particular of the [soul's] ruling element. Likewise, whenever we make choices by virtue of their benefits to the soul, the body and its accessories, it is not the entire soul we are reflecting on but its ruling part, to which affections and benefits accrue. And so when Zeno says that 'Imagination is the striking of an imprint in the soul,' we are not to understand not the entire soul but a part of it, and to render the formula as 'Imagination is an alteration of the ruling element.' But even when it's put this way objections remain, for impulse, agreement and apprehension are alterations of the ruling part, and are not the same as imaginations. Whereas imagination is essentially a passive disposition of ours, the former are active faculties. So it's a bad definition, prescribed for too many different cases. It's like when someone defines 'man' by saying 'Man is a rational animal': the meaning of 'man' is unsoundly adumbrated, since a god is also alive and rational. Thus whoever deems imagination to be 'an alteration of the ruling element' goes wrong, since this no more describes it than any of the motions listed here.

"In answer to an objection like this, Stoics revert to 'implications,' saying it is necessary to understand that 'by a passive faculty' is additionally meant. For just as the definition of eros as 'the urge to create a close relationship' implies 'with youths in bloom' (even though this is not stated explicitly, given that no one feels eros for old men past their prime), they say that to define imagination as 'an alteration of the ruling element' implies an alteration resulting from a passive faculty, and not an active one. But not even by these means do their beliefs escape reproach."

Sextus Empiricus, Against Logicians I.227-31, 234-40

February 4, 2009

Peripatetic roundup

"Seeing that the nature of all things falls into one of two categories (sensible and intelligible, as I was saying), the schools of Aristotle and Theophrastus and the Peripatetics generally acknowledged two criteria for truth: sense for the sensible, and intellect for the intelligible. According to Theophrastus, what is 'manifest' can belong to either category. As a criterion, perception obeys no logic and is not subject to proof, and though it appears prior to intellect in temporal order, intellect has priority over it in terms of its capacity. The sense is stirred by what is sensible, and in the soul of higher animals (such as are capable of movement of their own) another movement is produced from it, in proportion to its clarity with respect to sense. This movement they identify with memory and imagination. Memory is of an affection to the sense, and imagination is of the sensible object which caused the sense to be affected. And so they speak of this kind of movement by analogy to a footprint. Just as the footprint is produced by and from some thing -- by the pressure of a foot, but from some person, let's say Dion -- so too is the above-mentioned movement of the soul produced by some such affection of the sense, and from something quite like the object of sense, to which it retains a certain similarity.

"Furthermore, this movement which can be called memory and imagination includes a third movement after these. This is 'rational imagination,' which is left up to our judgment and follows our choice. This very movement is spoken of as thought, and it is spoken of as mind -- as when for example someone, on encountering Dion, is affected by a sensation and turns away, and by the affection of his sense some image is engendered in his mind (which we earlier called memory, and said it was like a footprint), and from this same image he willfully draws up and fashions a phantásma, such as the category "man." The Peripatetic school of philosophers observe a distinction in this movement of the soul, dividing it into thought and intellect: thought when it is potential, and intellect when it is actualized. For when the soul is capable of fashioning (i.e. is of a nature to do so), it is called thought; and when it is actually engaged in doing so it is called intellect.

"Now from the intellect and thinking arise comprehension, knowledge and art. For thinking is sometimes about individual forms, and sometimes it is about individuals and classes together. The act of making connections between phantásmata of the intellect and gathering individual cases under universal headings is called comprehension, and the final result of all this gathering and classifying are knowledge and art -- knowledge being precise and inerrant, art not so much."

Sextus Empiricus, Against Logicians I.217-24

February 3, 2009

Jean Pépin on Sentence 16

hai noēseis ouk áneu phantasías

"This is Aristotle's celebrated thesis, more or less as formulated in On the Soul III.7 and again in the short treatise On Memory and Recollection. The passages in question are:
(1) oudépote noeî áneu phantásmatos hē psychē (On the Soul 431a)
(2) Tà mèn oûn eídē tò noētikòn en toîs phantásmasi noeî (On the Soul 431b)
(3) noeîn ouk éstin áneu phantásmatos (On Memory 449b-50a)
One could of course mention other passages, among them On the Soul III.8: 'Speculative thought is necessarily applied to some mental image. For mental images are just like objects of sense, except that they are without matter' (432a). Noēmata are not the same as phantásmata, but they cannot exist without them."

"Of the above formulations, (1) and (3) make it clear that the phántasma is necessary for the intellect to function, but they do not say strictly whether it comes first. (2) on the other hand -- 'As for the forms, the intellectual faculty thinks of these in images' -- gives us to understand that phantásmata are not only necessary for operations of the intellect, but exist prior to them."

Commentary in Porphyre / Sentences, ed. by Luc Brisson
(Paris: Vrin, 2005), vol. 2, 447-8