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Buttaci, Jonathan A. (2016) THINKING FORMS IN IMAGES: ARISTOTLE ON INTELLECTUAL CAPACITIES, ACTIVITIES, AND VIRTUES. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Aristotle’s active intellect has been a subject of much interpretive controversy over the centuries. Some have said it is the divine mind, others a god-like power of the human soul. Most begin by asking what the active intellect is; instead, I first ask what it does. Upon a close reading of de Anima III.5, I conclude that the active intellect activates or actualizes potentially intelligible objects, making them to be actually or actively intelligible for thinking. Accordingly, on my view, the active intellect is not responsible for initiating particular episodes of thinking for an individual, nor is it responsible for the intelligibility of the world in general. Rather, as I go on to argue, the active intellect plays a distinctive role in learning and discovery by making intelligible objects available for individual knowers. To understand this role more precisely, I consider Aristotle’s idea that we learn by doing: not only do we become builders by building and brave by doing brave things, but we also get knowledge of triangles by thinking about triangles. In my investigation into his account of intellectual learning I draw on the Posterior Analytics and Metaphysics. I conclude that Aristotle distinguishes two sorts of intellectual activity when students are learning about triangles: they think about specific proofs in order to gradually grasp them, but they can also manipulate diagrams to discover proofs not yet considered, perhaps by drawing parallel lines or bisecting angles. This latter activity, by which students search for and uncover intelligible content in perceptual particulars, is the distinctive function of the active intellect. It is productive, then, like light, which does not create the color of things but rather reveals colored things as they already are. In doing so, however, the active intellect does not act as some intellectual spotlight, but rather as the familiar capacity to explore and move about one’s world, a capacity to inquire that is shared by the toddler and the scientist alike. The active intellect therefore directs our perceptual engagement in inquiry, so that we may hunt down, discover, and consider the correct intelligible forms in the images.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Buttaci, Jonathan A.jbuttaci@gmail.comJAB267
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairLennox,
Committee CoChairMcDowell,
Committee MemberAllen,
Committee MemberInglis,
Committee MemberKelsey,
Date: 25 September 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 June 2016
Approval Date: 25 September 2016
Submission Date: 16 July 2016
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 285
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Aristotle, de Anima, Posterior Analytics, intellect, active intellect, learning, teaching, discovery
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2016 01:35
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2017 05:15


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