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The Physiology of Phantasmata in Aristotle: between Sensation and Digestion

Claire Bubb
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  • Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, 15 E 84th St, New York, NY 10028, USA
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Published Online: 2018-10-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2018-0015


In this article, I foreground the physiology of phantasia in Aristotle, which has been comparatively understudied. In the first section, I offer a new interpretation of the relationship between aisthēmata (sense perceptions) and phantasmata, based on passages in the De Anima and the Parva Naturalia, and for a nuanced understanding of their respective substrates in the body, which I argue to be connate pneuma and blood. In the second section, I draw out the ramifications of this physiological presence of phantasmata in the blood and compare the integration of phantasmata into a person or animal’s experiential history with the process of digestion. Both processes, I contend, require internalization of foreign elements as well as their optimal organization; more strikingly, both processes occur in the same substance, in the same location, and, perhaps, at the same time.

Keywords: Aristotle; phantasia; sensation; digestion; dreams


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Published Online: 2018-10-16

Citation Information: Apeiron, ISSN (Online) 2156-7093, ISSN (Print) 0003-6390, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2018-0015.

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