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Dividing an Apple

The Nutritive Soul and Soul Parts in Alexander of Aphrodisias

From the book Nutrition and Nutritive Soul in Aristotle and Aristotelianism

  • Gweltaz Guyomarc’h


The nutritive soul provides a relevant test case to examine Alexander of Aphrodisias’ conception of the parts of the soul, since it appears in Alexander’s De anima along with methodological considerations, especially an analogy with the division of an apple. I examine here the unity of the powers of the soul, focusing especially on the case of the vegetative soul. If the division of soul parts and soul powers is neither local, nor numerical, what is it? I put forward three correlated hypotheses: 1) Even if there is no lexical distinction in Alexander between “powers of the soul” and “parts of the soul”, Alexander nonetheless comes up with criteria which distinguish a soul power from a soul part, or from a soul of its own. The difference between his position and Aristotle’s is found chiefly in Alexander’s effort to clarify these criteria. 2) As will become clear in the case of the vegetative soul, even the powers that do constitute a soul or a soul part (vegetative/animal/human) are objectively distinct (in a sense that remains to be clarified) and are not simply the result of a change in perspective. 3) The main criterion by which one can account for the organization and the unification of soul parts is the teleological criterion.

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