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active intellect

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


M etaphysics, philosophy of mind, ancient G reek philosophy, medieval philosophy Aristotle claimed in De Anima III, 5 that, as with anything else, one can draw a distinction between form and matter and between actuality and potentiality within the soul. The formal and actual aspect of the soul is active intellect, and the material and potential aspect of the soul is passive intellect. Passive intellect amounts to ordinary apprehension that is receptive of the sensible and intelligible forms of objects. This kind of knowing is only potential. Passive intellect will perish at the death of an individual. Active intellect is the agent that brings the passive intellect's potential knowledge of objects to actuality. Active intellect is separable, unmixed, and impassable. The distinction between active and passive intellect and the nature and function of active intellect are ambiguous in Aristotle's writings and gave rise to many debates among commentators in the later Hellenistic and medieval periods and in contemporary Aristotelian scholarship as well. Controversial questions include: Is the distinction between active and passive intellect realized only within the human soul, or does active intellect exist outside human beings? Is active reason identical with God as described in the Metaphysics ? If active intellect is entirely independent of body, how can we reconcile ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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