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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 7, 2015

Philoponus’ Neoplatonic Interpretation of Aristotle’s Psychology

Koenraad Verrycken
From the journal Apeiron


The paper tries to demonstrate that in his Commentary on Aristotle’s de Anima Philoponus develops a comprehensive Neoplatonic approach to Aristotle’s psychology. This means that he makes Aristotle a supporter of a coherent set of Neoplatonic positions in the area of psychology. First of all, Philoponus attributes Plato’s definition of soul as the self-moving principle to Aristotle as well. He further ascribes to Aristotle the conviction that the human rational soul is both ungenerated and immortal, and even the belief in an astral body as the vehicle of the rational soul. According to Philoponus, Aristotle also accepts Plato’s theory of innate Ideas and the Neoplatonic doctrine of the presence of the Ideas as creative logoi in the divine Intellect. This last element shows that Philoponus’ interpretation of Aristotle’s psychology and his master Ammonius’ Neoplatonic, emanationist interpretation of Aristotle’s theology are complementary. Both interpretations or rather distortions of Aristotle’s philosophy are part of an Alexandrian exegetical policy which consistently tries to harmonize Aristotle with Plato as much as possible, and to interpret Aristotle’s criticism of Plato as directed not against the real but only the apparent meaning of Plato’s words. This policy served the purpose of giving the pagan Neoplatonism of Ammonius and the early Philoponus a broader basis of authority in its opposition to Christianity.

Published Online: 2015-10-7
Published in Print: 2015-10-1

© 2015 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston