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Headword: Φαντασία
Adler number: phi,84
Translated headword: appearance, imagination, fantasy, presentation, representation
Vetting Status: high
The faculties of the soul [of irrational animals are] cognitive and vital and appetitive;[1] imagination and perception [are cognitive faculties]. But they differ from each other, because perception refers to the external object, whereas imagination contains its knowledge within [the knower himself]. And while perception knows only what is present (that is, that external object which it apprehends), imagination, receiving from perception the imprints of the perceptible things[2] remodels them in itself. Hence Aristotle also calls it [i.e. imagination] 'passive intellect'[3] -- 'intellect' insofar as it contains what is known within, and apprehends with a simple act of apprehension, like that [other intellect].[4] [Imagination] is 'passive' because it exists accompanied by imprints and [does] not [operate] without forms.[5] And it was named 'fantasy' as if it were a sort of phaostasia, i.e. something related to light.[6] For imagination is the state of the objects which have appeared, since the things which have appeared from outside stand in it. And each of them is related to particulars, for it knows what is white, but certainly not everything that is white. There is a difference, since while one [imagination] knows the external object, the other [perception] [knows] the internal. Imagination also receives the imprints of the 5 senses, but each of the senses knows only its proper sensation.[7]
Greek Original:
Φαντασία: γνωστικαὶ καὶ ζωτικαὶ καὶ ὀρεκτικαὶ δυνάμεις τῆς ψυχῆς: φαντασία καὶ αἴσθησις. διαφέρουσι δὲ ἀλλήλων, ὅτι ἡ μὲν αἴσθησις πρὸς τὸ ἐκτὸς ἀποτείνεται, ἡ δὲ φαντασία ἔνδον ἔχει τὴν γνῶσιν. καὶ ἡ μὲν αἴσθησις τὸ παρὸν μόνον καὶ οὗ ἀντιλαμβάνεται ἔξωθεν τοῦτο οἶδεν, ἡ δὲ φαντασία παρὰ τῆς αἰσθήσεως λαβοῦσα τῶν αἰσθητῶν τοὺς τύπους ἐν ἑαυτῇ τούτους ἀναπλάττει: ὅθεν καὶ παθητικὸν νοῦν Ἀριστοτέλης αὐτὴν καλεῖ, νοῦν μὲν ὡς ἔνδον ἔχουσαν τὸ γνωστὸν καὶ ἁπλῇ προσβολῇ, ὥσπερ ἐκεῖνος, ἐπιβάλλουσαν: παθητικὸν δέ, διότι μετὰ τύπων, καὶ οὐκ ἀσχηματίστως. ἐκλήθη δὲ φαντασία, οἱονεὶ φαοστασία τις οὖσα: φαντασία γάρ ἐστιν ἡ τῶν φανθέντων στάσις: ἵστησι γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ τὰ ἔξω φανέντα. ἑκατέρα δὲ αὐτῶν περὶ μερικὰ ἀποτείνεται: τὸ γὰρ λευκὸν οἶδεν, οὐ μὴν πᾶν λευκόν. διαφέρει δέ, ὅτι ἡ μὲν τὸ ἔξω, ἡ δὲ τὸ ἐντὸς οἶδε. καὶ ἡ μὲν φαντασία τῶν ε# αἰσθήσεων δέχεται τοὺς τύπους, ἑκάστη δὲ τῶν αἰσθήσεων μόνον τὸ ἴδιον αἰσθητὸν γινώσκει.
This entry is taken (with minor variations) from John Philoponus, Commentary on Aristotle's De anima 5.34-6.10. See also beta 437, whose continuation this text is.
[1] In Philoponus’ text it is clear that these faculties of the soul are 'irrational faculties' (see 5.34). In fact, both appearance (φαντασία ) and perception (αἴσθησις ) are, according to Aristotle (Met. 980a21-b27), common to both human beings and irrational animals.
[2] Aristotle defines imagination as 'a movement (or change: κίνησις ) produced by a perception (or sensation: αἴσθησις ) in actuality' (De anima 429a1-2; De insomniis 459a17-18). See also De anima 428b11-16, where it is pretty clear that, since imagination is a sort of movement that cannot be produced without sensation, and since the movement is produced by a sensation in actuality (and this movement must be similar to sensation), imagination cannot exist without sensation, neither can it exist in things lacking sensation.
[3] For the well-known distinction between passive and active intellect, see Aristotle, De anima 3.5. Perhaps in this context Philoponus is not specifically making reference to the mentioned distinction, but to the fact that, in accordance with Aristotle (De anima 3.4), the part of the soul by means of which the soul knows and thinks (φρονεῖ ) -- what he calls 'intellect' (νοῦς ), De anima 429a17; 22-23 –- is nothing actually before it starts thinking (429a24). That is what should be understood by 'passive intellect' in this context. Now Aristotle also clarifies that the impassivity of the intellect must not be identified with the impassivity of the sense-perception (αἴσθησις ): while the sense loses its power to perceive if the sensible thing has been too intense, the intellect, when it has been thinking intensely, is not less but more capable of thinking of inferior things. And the reason for this is that the faculty of perception, Aristotle goes on to argue, depends upon the body, while intellect is separable (De anima429b3-5).
[4] Probably he is making reference to the active intellect which, in being impassive and substantially actuality, acts upon what is passive (De anima 430a17-19).
[5] For Aristotle the mind or intellect is something simple and impassive, so it is somehow potentially all the objects of thought. By contrast, in actuality the mind is none of them until it starts thinking. On the other hand, insofar as thinking is analogous to perceiving (429a13-14), it will be acted upon by the object of thought. This part of the soul is passive, but able to receive the form and, eventually, it is potentially like the form, though not identical with it (De anima 429a15-b24).
[6] See Aristotle, De anima 429a2-4, where he reminds us of the fact that, since sight is the main sense (Met. 980a2-6), the name 'imagination' or 'appearance' (φαντασία ) derives from 'light' (φάος ), because without light nothing can be seen, and so nothing can appear, either.
[7] This refers to the well-known distinction between proper (or peculiar) and common sensible (or perceptible; see De anima 418a7-25). This is Aristotle’s definition of an ἴδιον αἰσθητόν : "I call 'peculiar' what cannot be perceived by another sense, and that about which it is not possible to be deceived; for instance, sight in respect of color, hearing in respect of sound, taste in respect of flavor" (418a11-13).
D.W. Hamlyn, Aristotle. De anima. Books II and III, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1993
M. Nussbaum, A. Rorty, Essays on Aristotle’s De anima, Oxford 1992
Keywords: definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; philosophy
Translated by: Marcelo Boeri on 19 June 2003@12:49:06.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (internal rearrangement; cosmetics) on 20 June 2003@04:21:03.
Catharine Roth (betacode cosmeticule) on 4 April 2008@15:59:00.
Catharine Roth (tweaked translation) on 22 February 2011@01:12:10.
Catharine Roth (more tweaks, status) on 5 July 2011@22:55:54.
David Whitehead (tweaks) on 4 December 2013@06:16:06.


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