There are two of import facets of Aristotle’s history of perceptual experience worth adverting at the beginning. First, Aristotle’s general epistemology, including his theory of perceptual experience, is grounded in his overall metaphysics ( i.e. , his theory of being “as such” ) . Second, Aristotle is a realist when it comes to metaphysics and epistemology. The basic place of a realist holds that there are bing things external to the head of a apprehender. It is upon these two cardinal truths that one can outdo come to understand Aristotle’s history of perceptual experience. Without appreciating these facets of Aristotle’s idea, his theory of perceptual experience will look alien at worst and ungrounded at best.
There is no manner to see Aristotle’s theory of perceptual experience without giving an equal account of his metaphysics underlying perceptual experience. First, there are things known and there are apprehenders. Those existences in the existence with heads are the apprehenders. Those things without heads can non be apprehenders, but they can be things known, or objects of cognition. But, a cardinal inquiry is instantly raised by the modern head when these few facts of Aristotle are introduced. When person perceives something, is he comprehending the thing as it is in itself ( i.e. , as it is independent of his head adding anything to it ) or is he comprehending the thing as it is to him peculiarly? That is, can a adult male know things-in-themselves, or can he merely cognize things-to-him? For illustration, let’s say that Mary looks at a chair. One would state that she sees the chair. But, this is merely our common manner of mentioning to this experience. Possibly Mary merelybelievesthat she sees the chair when in actuality what she perceives in her head is simply a transcript or image of the chair. Possibly her head is everlastingly cut off from comprehending things as they are in themselves and merely has entree to sense-data or representations of the existent things in the universe. But, of class, this is the basic place of idealism and is capable to reasonably strong unfavorable judgment, non the least of which is the job of cognizingwhetherone has in one’s head a mere transcript of existent things if one ne’er accesses the existent things to cognize that the transcript is non the existent. There can be no comparison and contrast between the representation of the existent thing and the existent thing if one merely of all time accesses the representation of the thing.
It seems that one of the strengths of Aristotle’s place is that he is able to make what his predecessors had failed to make. Namely, he provides and equal history of what seem to be irrefutable facts of our experience of world. Thingss in the universe of experience alteration. There are two facts which are summed up in this one proposition. ( 1 ) A something, any given peculiar something, ( 2 ) alterations over clip. The “something” we may mention to as substance. A substance is the most basic kernel of any finite existing thing, which exists by virtuousness of itself, and non in another thing ( e.g. , in a head ) . Aristotle’s robust metaphysics of substances with the go toing form/matter ( hylomorphic ) composing of all physical substances is at its nucleus an effort to account for our experiences. If it might be best described in footings of rules, the two basic rules of altering things are form and affair.
The simplest manner to believe of these two classs may be rendered therefore. The “form” of a thing is its ‘whatness.’ It is in virtuousness of this rule of signifier that a thing iswhatit is. It is a rule of finding or actuality of things. The affair, on the other manus, is something’s potency. ( As should go obvious in this treatment here, affair is non mentioning to something’smateriality. In other words, the word “matter” is non here being used in simply the modern-day scientific sense. ) Matter is the rule harmonizing to which things alteration. When you talk about the signifier of something ( say, a tree ) you are speaking aboutwhatit is. But, if we talk about the affair of it, we are speaking about its instantiation in world ;thatit isthistree. So, a signifier makes something into what it fundamentally is ; state, a magnolia tree. But, say there are two magnolia trees beside each other. Are they the same exact magnolia corner? Without the rule of affair, one would hold to state yes. So, the signifier would be that which differentiates things harmonizing to what they are ( e.g. , a Canis familiaris vs. a tree ) . But, the affair of a being in world is that which distinguishes two things of the same signifier ( i.e. ,thisadult male as opposed tothatadult male ) .
So, as to the inquiry of cognizing things, one must take Aristotle’s initial metaphysical basis laid here and use it to the cognizing substance ( e.g. , a human ) and the thing known ( e.g. , a tree ) . If something seems obvious in the full dealing of comprehending something it is this: neither the knower nor the thing known seem to undergo any significant alteration in the procedure of perceptual experience. That is, there does non look to be any manner in which a adult male becomes a tree when he perceives it. Nor does the tree seem to discontinue to be a tree and go something else when it is perceived. If neither is altered in the procedure of perceptual experience, there must be something by which a apprehender may cognize a thing with this deficiency of change of the two. The necessary thing required for this operation is an object’s signifier.
As the signifier is the facet of a thing which makes itwhatit is ( e.g. , a tree’s “treeness” ) , and nonthatit is, it is likely deserving indicating out that this facet is immaterial, harmonizing to Aristotle. It is by virtuousness of this signifier being immaterial that the signifier itself is known by the apprehender. In other words, an object being perceived as a magnolia tree is perceived as such because its signifier delineates that it is a magnolia tree that is being beheld. So, the signifier is non a transcript or representation of the magnolia tree, since the signifier of a thing iswhatit is.
InDe Anima( book II, chapter XII.424a.16-24 ) Aristotle gives his celebrated illustration of the signet ring, which seems helpful as an analogy. He notes,
It must be taken as a general regulation that all esthesis is the receiving of signifiers without affair, as wax receives a seal without the Fe or gold of the signet-ring. It receives an imprint of the gold or bronze, but nonasgold or bronze. Similarly the sense of any sense-object is acted upon by a thing holding coloring material or spirit or sound ; non, nevertheless, in regard of what each is called as a peculiar thing, but in so far as each has a certain quality and harmonizing to its informing rule.
So, the imprint of the ring on the wax constitutes the giving of a signifier, and of class, the pealing itself maintains its ain ownership of the signifier of the signet ring. So the insignia on the wax isofficiallythe same as the 1 on the pealing itself, butmateriallydifferent. Just so, it is the same with the head. Though the signifier of the magnolia in the pace is the same as the 1 he perceives, the difference between the signifier in external world and in a man’s head is the material difference between the two.
Finally, there are some of import and related corollaries of this procedure, which ought to be mentioned here. First, there is a cardinal individuality which takes topographic point between the apprehender and the thing known in perceptual experience. After all, since it is the signifier which enters the head of the apprehender, and the signifier is what the thing is, so what the thingisis both in the head of the apprehender and in the thing in world. But, the being of the magnolia tree in world differs from the tree in a man’s head because the signifier of the tree in the universe is united withitsaffair to organize the truly bing tree in the universe. The signifier of the tree is united with the head, which is itself immaterial, in the lone manner in which it may inform and go united with an immaterial substance like a head ; viz. , it is unitedimmateriallywith the head. The head does non have the signifier of the tree asitssignifier but simply as the signifier of the thing inrhenium supernumerary. In this reasonably extended manner Aristotle is able to account for how we truly know things external to us.
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