Origin of the Metaphysics of the Living: From Plato to De Anima 2.5

Juan Andrés Mercado

Summary: 1. Introduction. 2. The Platonic texts. 2.1. Clitophon. 2.2. Euthydemus. 2.3. Theaetetus. 2.4. Philebus. 3. Aristotle's Protrepticus. 4. The distinctions in De anima 2.5. 4.1. The conditionings of contemporary readings: functionalism. 4.2. The course of Book II of De Anima. 4.3. De Anima 416 b32-418 a6: sensation as alteration. 4.4. The types of potency and act. 4.5. The divisions of “undergoing”: 417 b3-16. 5. Concluding Observations.

Abstract: This study is developed in three stages beyond the introduction and concluding observations: the first stage is a collection of passages from Clitophon, Philebus, Euthydemus, and Theaetetus, in which the attempt is made to explain the diversity of acts in the exercise of human faculties in view of the “good life.” In the second stage, we will analyze fr. 14 of Protrepticus and will discover both the parallelisms with Platonic works and the Stagirite's original developments. The most important novelties concern the creation of a general language, with which to refer to the activities of the soul, based on act and potency, and the analogical application of terms to describe the very different realities among them. In the third part, the fundamental passages from Book II from De anima are studied in order to arrive at Chapter 5’s distinctions on alteration and passion in light of the discoveries concerning the different states of activities in living beings. Given the richness and complexity of the texts in the third part, a way of exposition was chosen so as to compare the principal ideas. We wanted, however, to make reference to the recent debates regarding the questions at hand (the functionalism of Nussbaum-Putnam; the debate between Sorabji and Burnyeat; Heinaman) to underline the importance of a more open interpretation of the foundations of a metaphysics of the living, which is capable of understanding their development as growth towards one’s perfection.

Keywords: Plato, Aristotle, act, potency, psychology, personal development, actualization, emergence.