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 u
der 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.