Aristotle’s interaction problem

After arguing that nous is not a physical organ, Aristotle objects that his account requires both that

a.) Nous is acted upon by physical objects.

b.) Nous is apathes and so unable to be acted upon.

His response is that (a) doesn’t contradict (b) but entails it since the way nous receives physical objects rules out its being physical.

Because all human knowledge falls under the principle of contradiction, nous receives physical objects as beings, but being is not finite. Since nothing finite as such could receive a non-finite, the kind of receptivity that nous has rules out having any finite structure.

Since they make knowledge of both the physical and the non-physical possible, physical objects as known are beings in a more general sense than physical beings. This arises because the physical is known by abstraction, i.e. by thinking of one thing and not another, and so it is the same object in which we know the physical and non-physical. Anything intrinsic to the physical: being concrete, being finite, etc can be abstracted by nous, giving us, for example, the abstract, the mathematical, the formal, the infinite, the absolute etc. Nous thus experiences the physical as both what it is and what it is not and so cannot encounter the physical in a categorical or finite way.





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