Mind and light

Aristotle shows mind is nothing actual before it thinks. This makes it like light, which is a wave that is not something actual before its waving. In the same way that there is no aether waiting in the dark to be quickened into brightness there is no mind waiting dormant and inactive before thought.

But should we take the example of light as an insight into Aristotle’s account of mind or a critique of it? Both he and the tradition that followed from him took this description of mind as setting it apart from physical things, but the likeness between mind and light argues against taking A’s description as so setting it apart. But this line of reasoning has less truth in it than the alternative for a couple of reasons:

1.) Aristotle is not opposing mind to physical things as physical but to physical things as cognitive, i.e. to sense organs and the grand structure of the central nervous system, and the example of light keeps this opposition intact.

2.) While actual light is the act of whatever is apt to be light, actual mind is the act of what is is apt to be something else. Mind is intrinsically made actual by its object or by another as other while light is intrinsically actual by nothing outside of itself. The comparison between mind and light shows that what Aristotle discovered as obtaining objectively about mind also obtains subjectively among any physical subject without mass that by nature moves at the speed of light.

This allows light to function as an analogous referent midway between the physical and the spiritual. Like the spiritual it is nothing actual before it thinks, but it differs from the spiritual in that it is only itself and not intrinsically all things or being as such.

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