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Plato and Aristotle on Body and Soul Lecture at Willamette U. in #SalemOR

Dr. Stasinos V. Stavrianeas
Lecturer in Philosophy

University of Patras (Greece)

April 24, 2015 from 4:15-5:30 PM

Willameette University / Eaton Hall, room 209

Professor Stasinos Stavrianeas

Aristotle’s account of the relation between body and soul as a unity between matter and form, is often described as a via media between Platonic dualism and pre-Socratic versions of materialism. In certain respects this picture distorts the contrast between the two conceptions. First, Plato, especially in later dialogues, suggests that the soul shares a number of features with material bodies. What is distinctive of the Platonic conception of the soul is not its immateriality, but rather its being a self-moving entity responsible for initiating bodily movement. Second, Aristotle can be read as holding a moderate dualist position: the soul is an immaterial substance, dependent on the body but not constituted by it. If so then the contrast between the Platonic and the Aristotelian conceptions of the soul as related to the body turns not on the immateriality of the former, but rather on the way it is supposed to control and get affected by bodily movement in general. I explore how Plato’s effort to explain this interaction leads to a conception of the soul that involves material characteristics, and, secondly, how Aristotle’s effort to disentangle the soul from any material characteristics can be made sensible within his physics. I also review the Platonic and the Aristotelian hierarchical taxonomy of living beings (their views on scala naturae), illustrating their divergent motivations in explaining how the soul relates to the body.

Co-sponsored by Willamette University’s Department of Philosophy.

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