Aristotle/On the Soul: discussion group

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Computer generated image of Aristotle
by Kolja Mendler

Welcome to the Discussion group for On the Soul by Aristotle.

Content summary[edit]

Panpsychism is still a popular world view among people who have not taken a skeptical approach to the idea that all living organisms have a common feature: mind. Aristotle studied many types of living things and observed that they display different types of sensory and cognitive abilities. Aristotle noted that both plants and animals obtain what they need for growth and reproduction but only animals have a sense of touch, the simplest kind of perception. Aristotle was concerned with making the distinction between those animals that can feel pleasure and pain and those that cannot. Some animals have complex abilities for memory and the control of their behavior. In the case of humans, our memories allow us to produce rational thought processes and have what we experience as a mind.


This learning project offers learning activities to explore the classical Greek understanding of the mind.

Concepts to learn include: how modern concepts of the mind arose from earlier ideas.

Learning materials[edit]

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  • read the book (see the previous section of this page)
  • discuss the book (see the next section of this page)
  • etc.


Did Aristotle use the word "soul"? Why do some translators translate "De Anima" as "On the Soul"?
(Greek - Peri Psyche, Latin - De Anima, English - all of the following have been suggested for translations of "psyche": "soul," "spirit," "principle of life," and "mind"). "Psyche", "Thumos", and "Pneuma" are all terms that may be translated as "soul" in different authors and contexts. However, the Greek "psyche," the Latin "anima" and the English "soul" have always been regarded as cognates; likewise for "pneuma," "spiritus," and "spirit". In Aristotle, "Psyche" is not well translated as "mind". This is so for two reasons. It is neither identical with the brain nor the thing that thinks ("Nous" is translated as "Mind" in this latter sense). The soul is either the structure or the thing that provides structure to the living thing.

What are the main topics for the three parts of "De Anima"?

Did Aristotle have a modern conceptualization of the human mind? What passages from his book support your view?

Additional Readings[edit]


Additional helpful readings include other Wikiversity pages found at: Category:Philosophy of Mind

Active participants[edit]

Active participants in this Learning Group

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Learning Project Summary[edit]