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Themistius on the Intellect: Peripatetic Arguments for a Platonic Solution?

The CEU Campus
Thursday, March 16, 2017, 11:00 am – 12:40 pm

Themistius is well-known for the bold theory of human intellect presented in his paraphrase of Aristotle’s De anima. Human soul is composite but immortal, depends on a divine intellect, but is at the same time supported by a mortal intellect that depends on the body. Is this view a species of Platonism, or Aristotelianism, harmonisation, or mere eclecticism?

In this talk I would like to leave this labelling behind and invite you to follow the sequence of Themistius’ argument. We shall see that before Themistius launches his theory of intellect at the end of his work, he has primed us for acceptance by his special treatment of a series of genuinely Aristotelian topics that would routinely come up in any commentary on De anima – e.g. efficient causation, analogies between soul and intellect, and the physics of light. It is remarkable how these passages taken together turn out to support an original view of human intellect. Even if it sounds Platonic, the arguments are Aristotelian. Perhaps the two traditions are not so far apart after all …