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Aristotle - De Anima - Perceptions and the soul

Identifier

015000

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

A description of the experience

Wikipedia

Aristotle's psychology, given in his treatise On the Soul (peri psyche, often known by its Latin title De Anima), posits three kinds of soul ("psyches"): the vegetative soul, the sensitive soul, and the rational soul. Humans have a rational soul. This kind of soul is capable of the same powers as the other kinds: Like the vegetative soul it can grow and nourish itself; like the sensitive soul it can experience sensations and move locally. The unique part of the human, rational soul is its ability to receive forms of other things and compare them.

According to Aristotle, perception is the ability to hold a perceived experience in your mind and to have the ability to distinguish between the internal "appearance" and an occurrence in the past.  In other words, a perception is a mental record (phantasm) in which Aristotle defines in De Anima, as an appearance which is imprinted on the part of the body that forms a perception. Aristotle believed an "imprint" becomes impressed on a semi-fluid bodily organ that undergoes several changes in order to make a perception.

[Note that this has fascinating implications as Aristotle is actually saying that perceptions are stored in fluids – water]

The mental picture imprinted on the bodily organ is the final product of the entire process of sense perception. It does not matter if the experience was seen or heard, every experience ends up as a mental image in perception.

Aristotle uses the word "perception" for two basic abilities. First, the actual retaining of the experience in the mnemonic "imprint" that can develop from sensation. Second, the intellectual anxiety that comes with the "imprint" due to being impressed at a particular time and processing specific contents. Therefore, perception is of the past, prediction is of the future, and sensation is of the present. The retrieval of our "imprints" cannot be performed suddenly. A transitional channel is needed and located in our past experiences, both for our previous experience and present experience.

The source of the experience

Aristotle

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