Perception and Hylomorphism: Receptive Activity of Senses in Aristotle’s De Anima, II,5
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This paper is meant as a contribution to recent scholarly debate on the literal, non-literal and analogical reading of Aristotle’s assertion in DA II,12 that perception consists of “receiving forms without matter”. It focuses on Myles Burnyeat’s interpretation of DA II,5 and of the notion alloiōsis tis. I discuss several attempts to disprove the non-literalist argument that in this chapter Aristotle defines a new concept of (“extraordinary”) alteration, which is not bound to any “ordinary” alteration in the way in which form is bound to matter. In general terms I formulate an objection to the literalist presumption (shared by some of those who suggest an “analogical” reading) that perception is a hylomorphic change. There are, apparently, in Aristotle’s sublunary world of natural composites changes that cannot be analysed into form and matter. I give some reasons for believing that perception ranks among these changes. If this reconstruction is true to Aristotle’s position, then in DA II,5 he offers his most refined characterization of the peculiar place that perception as a receptive activity occupies in the natural world.
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