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Definition in Greek Philosophy$
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David Charles

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199564453

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199564453.001.0001

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The Ancient Commentators on Concept Formation

The Ancient Commentators on Concept Formation

(p.424) 11 The Ancient Commentators on Concept Formation
Definition in Greek Philosophy

Richard Sorabji (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

How did the ancient commentators understand Aristotle's account of concept formation in Posterior Analytics 2.19? They focus on his re-statement at 100a14. They do not agree with the interpretation in this chapter of his first statement at 100a3ff (but then neither do many contemporaries). The chapter considers the commentators' views on these texts in which they saw perception as passing on information about universals to be worked on by reason, imagination (surprisingly), or nous, understood as one or more of the three kinds of intellect that they detect in On the Soul 3.5. Their view preserves Aristotle's wish to offer an empirical alternative to Plato's account of concept formation as recollection of concepts known before birth. They differ on whether Aristotle's account can be squared with Plato's. Some went to the length of saying that Aristotle believed in Plato's recollected concepts; some said that Neoplatonists should believe in both types of concept; some that Aristotle was simply wrong to postulate concepts based on perception. Certainly, they thought that empirically based concepts could not be processed and improved, unless one had recollected concepts to guide one. This chapter investigates these disagreements and their bases in conflicting views of the role of perception and intellect.

Keywords:   concept formation, imagination, intellect, reason, theory of recollection

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