Aristotle on Knowledge and the Sense of Touch

Journal of Philosophical Research 26:655-680 (2001)
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Abstract

This paper on Aristotle’s De Amilla attempts to understand the treatise as a unified whole---a unity, it may be argued, that is only as problematic as is the unity of the soul of which it speaks. Aristotle’s treatise on the soul must strike its reader as being all too perplexing, and the subject of touch in particular seems to arouse such perplexity. But Aristotle would have it that “in our inquiry into the soul, in going forward, we must be thoroughly perplexed” (403b20). Touch, as a locus of perplexity in the De Amina, thus seems to provoke the kind of forward motion that leads to the human soul’s knowledge of itself. As such a locus of perplexity, I hope to show, the discussion of touch serves as a thread that provides the seams needed to tie the text together as an integrated whole. By focusing on Aristotle’s account of the faculty of touch, I believe I have come close to capturing the essence of what Aristotle means by entelecheia. Soul understood as an entelecheia amounts to the location of the soul’s highest possibilities in the activity of learning rather than knowing. Aristotle is much more Socratic than he might at first appear.

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Michael Golluber
Saint John's College

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