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Aristotle's Psychology


We turn now to Aristotle's psychology. We must give a brief sketch of
it in order to establish the fact that the Aristotelian and the
monophysite science of the soul labour under the same defect. It is a
radical defect, namely, the almost complete absence of the conception
of personality. The principle of Aristotle's psychology, like that of
his metaphysic, is the concept of form and matter. The soul of man
comes under the general ontological law. All existence is divisible
into grades, the lower grade being the matter whose form is constituted
by the next highest grade. Thus there is a graduated scale of being,
starting from pure matter and rising to pure form. The inorganic is
matter for the vegetable kingdom, the vegetable kingdom for the animal
kingdom; the nutritive process is material for the sensitive, and the
sensitive for the cognitive. Man is an epitome of these processes.
The various parts of his nature are arranged in an ascending scale;
form is the only cohesive force. The animal soul is the form of the
body, born with it, growing with it, dying with it; the two are one in
the closest union conceivable. Besides the soul of the body, there is,
says Aristotle, a soul of the soul. This is reason, essentially
different from animal and sensitive soul. It is not connected with
organic function. It is pure intellectual principle. It is
immaterial, immortal, the divine element in man. This reason is not a
bare unity. As it appears in human experience, it is not full-grown.
Potentially it contains all the categories, but the potentiality must
be actualised. Consequently reason subdivides into active and passive
intellect. The action of the former on the latter, and the response of
the latter to the former, constitute the development of the mind, the
education of the truth that is potentially present from the beginning.

This hierarchy of immaterial entities contains nothing corresponding to
our idea of personality. There is in it no principle that is both
individual and immortal. Aristotle allows immortality only to the
universal reason. The psychic elements are condemned to perish with
the body. There is no hope for the parts of the soul which are most
intimately connected with the individual's experience.

Monophysite Christology shares this fundamental defect. The
monophysite thinker attempted to express the union of two natures
within one experience. But his psychology, not containing the notion
of personality, could furnish no principle of synthesis. An agent in
the background of life, to combine the multiplicity of experience, is a
sine qua non of a sound Christology. Personality was to the
monophysites a terra incognita; and it was in large measure their
devotion to Aristotle's system that made them deaf to the teaching of
the catholic church.

Next: Intellectualism And Mysticism Complementary Systems

Previous: Aristotle's Criticism Of Dualism A Weapon In The Hands Of The Monophysites

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