ABSTRACT. Aristotle held that the intellect (nous) has no organ, a view that appears to be in conflict with some of his other principles and, in particular, with his naturalism. It is argued in this paper that, in order to save the greatest number of his doctrines, Aristotle postulated the distinction between active and passive intellects, their separateness from the body, and the imperishability of the active intellect. While the active intellect is the form of thought—its actuality—the passive intellect is its (non-physical) “matter”—its potentiality. The passive intellect thus corresponds to the missing organ of thought. This Aristotelian strategy allowed Aristotle to preserve his most important naturalistic principles while maintaining at the same time an immaterialist doctrine of nous. I also argue that Aristotle’s conception of the nature of thinking and of natural body led him to the thesis that the intellect has no organ. pp. 14–29

Keywords: active intellect, passive intellect, organ of thought, potentiality, actuality, naturalistic doctrines


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Lehigh University


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