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AQUINAS AS A COMMENTATOR ON DE ANIMA 3.5 JAMES T. H. MARTIN St. John's University Jamaica, New York DOES ST. THOMAS AQUINAS in his commentary on De Anima 3.5 provide an acceptable gloss on Aristotle 's cryptic remarks about active mind? That is, can one accept .that what Aquinas says about active mind is what Aristotle meant but for some reason did not say? Many modern commentators, among them Franz Brentano, Marcel de Corte, Paul Siwek, and Francisco Peccorino, appear to think so and present an interpretation of active mind which agrees substantially with what Aquinas says in his Sententia Libri De Anima (Sent.).1 i Senteiitia Libri De Anima, opera omnia iussu Leonis XIII P.M. edita (Paris: Vrin, for the Leonine Commission, 1984). While he does criticize St. Thomas Aquinas for some statements which " seem to betray a certain lack of clarity concerning the nature of active intellect,'' Franz Brentano awards the first place among earlier commentators on Aristotle's doctrine of active mind to Aquinas : " Indeed, I am not sure whether I should not say that he correctly grasped Aristotle's entire doctrine" (The Psychology of Aristotle: In Particular His Doctrine of Active Intellect, ed. and trans. Rolf George [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977], p. 155). De Corte holds that the originality of his study consists entirely in combining " all the technical means refined by modern criticism and which the thirteenth century did not have at its disposition " with the " Thomist interpretation of the Aristotelian theory of intelligence," an interpretation with which de Corte agrees, and which he presents as a necessary correction of the errors of modern commentators, who are "more or less instilled with an unconscious Averroism which radically vitiates their power of understanding" (La doctrine de l'intelligence chez Aristote [Paris: Vrin, 1934], p. 2). Siwek notes that "many of St. Thomas's explanations of Aristotelian psychology are altogether consonant with our own explanations,'' and warns his readers against undervaluing Aquinas's views (Aristotelis Tractatus de Anima Graece et Latine, editit, versione latina auxit, commentario illustravit [Rome: Desclee & C.i, 1965], p. 30). Peccorini com621 622 JAMES T. H. MARTIN Aristotle's text is concerned with two minds, "a mind which is such as matter by becoming all things, and another which is such as an active principle by making all things" (430a14-15). What are these minds, and what do they do? The central elements of Aquinas's exegesis of De Anima 3.5 consist in his answers to these questions. He holds that these two minds are " parts or potencies of the soul " (Sent. 3.4. 126). The role of passive mind, the "mind which is such as matter," is to apprehend the intelligible object (Sent. 3.4. 101-2), while that of active mind, the mind " which is such as an active principle by making all things," is to abstract the intelligibles (Sent. 3.4. 103-4), a role which he explains in this way: Active mind makes those things intelligible in act which previously were intelligible in potency. It does this by abstracting them from matter, for in this way they are intelligible in act, as has been said. Aristotle was led to posit an active mind to exclude the opinion of Plato, who held that the natures of sensible things are separated from matter and actually intelligible. Thus for Plato it was not necessary to posit an active mind. But because Aristotle holds that the natures of sensible things are in matter and not actually intelligible, it was necessary that he posit a certain intellect to abstract them from matter and so make them actually intelligible. (Sent. 3.4 50-63) Active mind on Aquinas's reading makes the potentially intelligible forms of sensible things actually intelligible, and in this way these sensible things become objects of thought. If one accepts this role for active mind, one is forced to accept as well, I think, that active mind is part of the soul rather than something separate from the knowing human subject. Aquinas argues this point at length in his commentary on De Anima 3.5. If thinking , the action of the passive mind, is in fact...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 621-640
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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