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