Aristotelian forms: Form, soul, and mind

Octavian Gheorghe Gabor, Purdue University


This project tackles the question of whether Aristotle considers form to be peculiar to each particular being or to be identical for all members of a species. I focus on the form of natural beings, so soul. Contrary to the general opinion in Aristotelian scholarship, I believe that both species form and particular form are at work at the same time, as the first actuality and the second actuality respectively of a natural being. The first chapter establishes the historical frame within which we can discuss Aristotle’s philosophy. His work is a development not of Platonic dualism, but rather of an understanding of humans as psychosomatic unities. The second chapter reevaluates Aristotle’s views about form and soul. After rejecting both mereologist and conceptualist perspectives, I show that form and matter are correlative: an actual particular being and a potential particular being respectively. The emphasis here is on the way in which a particular is. A particular-being-actually-the-kind-of-particular-it-is is the species psychē. Once we understand psychē as actuality, as the entelecheia of an already organized body, we can see that the question about particular/species souls is to some extent misleading. As it has traditionally been asked, the question presupposes a clear separation between the two options and requires an “either… or” answer. That is, form cannot be exclusively associated with a particular and also be associated with all particulars. But in the framework that I establish in the second chapter, we can see that form can be both. A particular is both a member of a species and a particular at the same time. One cannot be without the other. As first entelecheia, a particular body is in the same way all the other particulars of the same species are. Granted that they are not born with malformations, all humans have the powers characteristic to their species. It is in the different actualizations of these powers that particulars are different. These sets of second actualities I call particular forms. In the last chapter, I provide an account of nous that avoids a dualist interpretation of Aristotle. Nous is the actuality of psychē. I take it that this means that being-a-human, so an entelecheia, is pure potentiality for a radicality different kind of existence—that of the immortals. Human psychē is then potential nous. In other words, humans are the kind of beings that can lead here, on earth, divine lives.




Curd, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Classical Studies

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