Sentencia libri De anima
Commentary on Aristotle’s On the Soul
De dignitate, utilitate ac difficultate eius scientiae; veterum opiniones expenduntur; de unitate animae
Opinions about the Soul
Dignitatem, utilitatem, ordinem, ac difficultatem huius scientiae ad alias ostendit
Importance and difficulty of studying the soul
Bonorum et honorabilium noticiam opinantes, magis autem alteram altera aut secundum certitudinem aut ex eo quod meliorum quidem et mirabiliorum est, propter utraque haec animae historiam rationabiliter utique in primis ponemus.
Holding as we do that knowledge is a good and honorable thing, yet that some kinds of knowledge are more so than others, either because they are more certain or because they deal with subjects more excellent and wonderful, we naturally give a primary place, for both these reasons, to an enquiry about the soul.
Videtur autem et ad veritatem omnem cognitio ipsius multum proficere, maxime autem ad naturam. Est enim tanquam principium animalium.
Indeed an acquaintance with the soul would seem to help much in acquiring all truth, especially about the natural world; for it is, as it were, the principle of living things.
Inquirimus autem considerare et cognoscere naturamque ipsius et substantiam, postea quaecumque accidunt circa ipsam, quorum aliae proprie passiones videntur, aliae autem propter ipsam communes et animalibus inesse.
We seek then to consider and understand, first, its nature and essence, then whatever qualities belong to it. Of these, some seem to be proper to the soul alone, others to be shared in common and to exist in animate beings on account of it.
Omnino autem et penitus difficillimorum est accipere aliquam fidem de ipsa. Cum enim sit communis quaestio multis aliis, dico autem ea quae circa substantiam et ea quae quid est, fortassis alicui videbitur una quaedam methodus esse de omnibus de quibus volumus cognoscere substantiam, sicut et eorum quae secundum accidens propriorum demonstrationem. Quare quaerendum utique erit methodum istam.
To ascertain, however, anything reliable about it is one of the most difficult of undertakings. Such an enquiry being common to many topics—I mean, an enquiry into the essence, and what each thing is—it might seem to some that one definite procedure were available for all things of which we wished to know the essence; as there is demonstration for the accidental properties of things. So we should have to discover what is this one method.
Si autem non est una quaedam et communis methodus de eo quod quid est, amplius difficilius fit negotiari. Oportebit enim accipere circa unumquodque quis modus, cum manifestum fuerit utrum demonstratio aliqua sit, aut divisio, aut etiam aliqua alia methodus. Adhuc multas habet dubitationes et errores, ex quibus oportet quaerere; alia enim aliorum principia, sicut numerorum et planorum.
But if there is no one method for determining what an essence is, our enquiry becomes decidedly more difficult, and we shall have to find a procedure for each case in particular. If, on the other hand, it is clear that either demonstration, or division, or some such process is to be employed, there are still many queries and uncertainties to which answers must be found. For the principles in different subject matters are different, for instance in the case of numbers and surfaces.
Primum autem fortassis necessarium est dividere in quo generum et quid sit, dico autem utrum hoc aliquid et substantia sit, aut qualitas, aut quantitas, aut etiam quoddam aliud divisorum praedicamentorum. Adhuc autem utrum eorum quae in potentia sunt, an magis endelichia quaedam sit; differt enim non aliquid parvum. Considerandum autem et si partibilis sit, aut inpartibilis, et utrum sit similis speciei omnis anima an non? Si autem non similis speciei, utrum specie differant aut genere?
Perhaps the first thing needed is to divide off the genus of the subject and to say what sort of thing it is—I mean, whether it be a particular thing or substance, or a quality, or quantity, or any other of the different categories. Further, whether it is among things in potency or is an actuality—no insignificant distinction. Again, whether it is divisible or indivisible, and whether every soul is of the same sort or no: and if not, whether they differ specifically or generically.
Nunc quidem enim dicentes et quaerentes de anima, de humana solum videntur intendere. Formidandum autem quatinus non lateat utrum una ratio ipsius est, sicut animalis, aut secundum unumquodque altera, ut equi, canis, hominis deique, animal autem universale aut nihil est aut posterius. Similiter autem et si aliquod commune aliud praedicetur.
Indeed those who at present talk of and discuss the soul seem to deal only with the human soul. One must be careful not to leave unexplored the question whether there is a single definition of it, as of ‘animal’ in general, or a different one for each [of its kinds]: as, say, for horse, dog, man or god. Now ‘animal’ as a universal is nothing real, or is secondary; and we must say the same of any other general predicate.
Amplius autem si non multae animae, sed partes, utrum oportet quaerere prius totam animam aut partes. Difficile autem et harum determinare quales apte nate sint altere ab invicem esse, et utrum partes oportet quaerere prius aut opera ipsarum, ut intelligere aut intellectivum, et sentire aut sensitivum. Similiter autem et in aliis.
Further, if there are not many souls, but only many parts of a single one, we must ask whether one ought to look first at the whole or the parts. It is difficult to see what parts are by nature diverse from one another, and whether one ought to look first at the parts or their functions, for instance at the act of understanding or at the intellective power, at the act of sensing or at the sensitive faculty; and likewise in other instances.
Si autem opera prius, iterum utique dubitabit aliquis si obiecta horum prius quaerendum, sicut sensibile sensitivo et intelligibile intellectivo.
But if one is to examine first the operations, it might be asked whether one should not first enquire about their objects, as, in the sensitive function, the thing sensed; and in the intellectual, the thing intelligible.
Videtur autem non solum quod quid est cognoscere utile esse ad cognoscendum causas accidentium substantiis, sicut in mathematicis quid rectum et quid obliquum et quid linea et planum ad cognoscendum quot rectis trianguli anguli sunt aequales. Sed e converso accidentia conferunt magnam partem ad cognoscendum quod quid est. Cum enim habeamus tradere secundum phantasiam de accidentibus aut omnibus aut pluribus, tunc et de substantia habebimus aliquid dicere optime. Omnis enim demonstrationis principium est quod quid est. Quare secundum quascumque diffinitiones non contingit accidentia cognoscere, sed neque imaginari de ipsis facile, manifestum quod dialecticae dictae sunt et vanae omnes.
Now, it seems that not only does knowledge of the essence help one to understand the causes of the accidents of any substance (as in mathematics to know what is the straight and the curved, and what is a line and what a plane enables one to discover the number of right angles to which those of a triangle are equal) but, conversely, accidental qualities contribute much to knowing what a thing essentially is. When we can give an account of such qualities (some or all) according to appearances, then we shall have material for dealing as well as possible with the essence. The principle of every demonstration is what a thing is. Hence, whatsoever definitions do not afford us a knowledge of accidents, or even a fair conjecture about them, are obviously vain and sophistical.
1. Bonorum et honorabilium, etc. Sicut Philosophus docet in XI De animalibus, in quolibet genere rerum necesse est prius considerare communia, [et seorsum] et postea propria unicuique illius generis (quem quidem modum Aristoteles servat in philosophia prima: in Metaphysicae enim primo tractat et considerat communia entis in quantum ens, postea vero considerat propria unicuique enti), cuius ratio est, quia nisi hoc fieret, idem diceretur frequenter. Rerum autem animatarum omnium quoddam genus est et ideo in consideratione rerum animatarum oportet primo considerare ea quae sunt communia omnibus animatis, postmodum vero illa quae propria sunt cuilibet rei animatae. Commune autem omnibus rebus animatis est anima; in hoc enim omnia animata conveniunt. Ad tradendum igitur scientiam de rebus animatis, necessarium fuit primo tradere scientiam de anima tamquam communem eis. Aristoteles ergo volens tradere scientiam de ipsis rebus animatis, primo tradit scientiam de anima, postmodum vero determinat de propriis singulis animatis in sequentibus libris.
1. Holding as we do that knowledge (402a1). In studying any class of things, it is first of all necessary, as the Philosopher says in Parts of Animals, to consider separately what is common to the class as a whole, and afterwards what is proper to particular members of the class. Such is Aristotle’s method in first philosophy; for at the beginning of the Metaphysics he investigates the common properties of being as such, and only then does he go on to the particular kinds of being. The reason for this procedure is that it saves frequent repetition. Now living beings taken all together form a certain class of being; hence in studying them the first thing to do is to consider what living things have in common, and afterwards what each has peculiar to itself. What they have in common is a life-principle or soul; in this they are all alike. In conveying knowledge, therefore, about living things one must first convey it about the soul as that which is common to them all. Thus when Aristotle sets out to treat of living things, he begins with the soul; after which, in subsequent books, he defines the properties of particular living beings.
2. In tractatu autem de anima quem habemus prae manibus, primo ponit prooemium, in quo facit tria quae necessaria sunt in quolibet prooemio. Qui enim facit prooemium tria intendit: primo enim ut reddat benevolum, secundo ut reddat docilem, tertio ut reddat attentum; benevolum quidem reddit ostendendo utilitatem scientiae; docilem, promittendo ordinem et distinctionem tractatus; attentum, attestando difficultatem tractatus. Quae quidem tria Aristoteles facit in prooemio huius tractatus:
2. In the present treatise on the soul we find, first, an introduction: in which the author does the three things that should be done in any introduction. For in writing an introduction one has three objects in view: first, to gain the reader’s good will; second, to dispose him to learn; third, to win his attention. The first object one achieves by showing the reader the value of the knowledge in question; the second by explaining the plan and divisions of the treatise; the third by warning him of its difficulties. And all this Aristotle does here.
primo enim ostendit dignitatem huius scientiae;
First, he points out the high value of the science he is introducing.
secundo vero ordinem huius tractatus, quid sit scilicet et qualiter sit tractandum de anima, ibi: inquirimus autem;
Second, at we seek then, he explains the plan of the treatise.
tertio vero ostendit difficultatem huius scientiae, ibi: omnino autem et penitus difficillimorum etc.
Third, at to ascertain anything reliable, he warns of its difficulty.
Circa primum duo facit:
Under the first point he explains,
primo enim ostendit dignitatem huius scientiae;
first, the dignity of this science,
secundo utilitatem eius, ibi: videtur autem et ad veritatem etc.
and then, at indeed, an acquaintance, its utility.
3. Circa primum sciendum est quod omnis scientia bona est, et non solum bona, verum etiam honorabilis, nihilominus tamen in hoc una scientia superexcedit aliam. Quod autem omnis scientia sit bona, patet, quia bonum rei est illud secundum quod res habet esse perfectum, hoc enim unaquaeque res quaerit et desiderat; cum igitur scientia sit perfectio hominis in quantum homo, scientia est bonum hominis. Inter bona autem quaedam sunt laudabilia, illa scilicet quae sunt in ordine ad finem aliquem, laudamus enim bonum equum quia bene currit, quaedam vero sunt et honorabilia, illa scilicet quae sunt propter se ipsa, honoramus enim fines. In scientiis autem quaedam sunt practicae et quaedam speculativae, et hae differunt quia practicae sunt propter opus, speculativae vero propter se ipsas; et ideo scientiae speculativae et bonae sunt et honorabiles sunt, practicae vero laudabiles tantum. Omnis ergo scientia speculativa bona est et honorabilis,
3. As regards, then, the said dignity we should note that, while all knowledge is good and even honorable, one science can surpass another in this respect. All knowledge is obviously good because the good of anything is that which belongs to the fullness of being which all things seek after and desire; and man as man reaches fullness of being through knowledge. Now of good things some are just valuable, namely, those which are useful in view of some end—as we value a good horse because it runs well; while other good things are also honorable: namely, those that exist for their own sake; for we give honor to ends, not means. Of the sciences some are practical, others speculative; the difference being that the former are for the sake of some work to be done, while the latter arc for their own sake. The speculative sciences are therefore honorable as well as good, but the practical are only valuable. Every speculative science is both good and honorable.
4. sed in ipsis scientiis speculativis invenitur gradus quantum ad bonitatem et honorabilitatem; scientia namque omnis ex actu laudatur, omnis autem actus laudatur ex duobus, ex obiecto et ex qualitate seu modo; sicut aedificare est melius quam facere lectum, quia obiectum aedificationis est melius lecto, in eodem autem respectu eiusdem rei, ipsa qualitas gradum quemdam facit, quia quanto modus aedificii est melior, tanto melius est aedificium. Sic ergo si consideretur scientia seu actus eius ex obiecto, patet quod illa scientia est nobilior quae est meliorum et honorabiliorum; si vero consideretur ex qualitate seu modo, sic illa est nobilior quae est certior. Sic ergo dicitur una scientia [magis] nobilior altera aut quia est meliorum et honorabiliorum, aut quia est magis certa.
4. Yet even among the speculative sciences there are degrees of goodness and honorableness. Every science is valued first of all as a kind of activity, and the worth of any activity is reckoned in two ways: from its object and from its mode or quality. Thus building is a better activity than bed-making because its object is better. But where the activities are the same in kind, and result in the same thing, the quality alone makes a difference; if a building is better built it will be a better building. Considering then science, or its activity, from the point of view of the object, that science is nobler which is concerned with better and nobler things; but from the point of view of mode or quality, the nobler science is that which is more certain. One science, then, is reckoned nobler than another, either because it concerns better and nobler objects or because it is more certain.
5. Sed hoc est in quibusdam scientiis diversum, quia aliquae sunt magis certae aliis et tamen sunt de rebus minus honorabilibus, alique vero sunt de rebus magis honorabilibus et melioribus et tamen sunt minus certe. Nihilominus tamen illa est melior quae de rebus melioribus et honorabilioribus est. Cuius ratio est quia, sicut dicit Philosophus in libro XI De animalibus, magis concupiscimus scire modicum de rebus honorabilioribus et altissimis, etiam si topice, id est probabiliter, illud sciamus, quam scire multum et per certitudinem de rebus minus nobilibus. Hoc enim habet nobilitatem ex se et ex sua substantia, illud vero ex modo et qualitate.
5. Now there is this difference between sciences, that some excel in certainty and yet are concerned with inferior objects, while others with more honorable and better objects are nevertheless less certain. All the same, that science is the better which is about better and more honorable things; because, as the Philosopher observes in Parts of Animals, we have a greater desire for even a little knowledge of noble and exalted things—even for a conjectural and probable sort of knowledge—than for a great and certain knowledge of inferior things. For the former is noble in itself and essential, but the latter only through its quality or mode.
6. Haec autem scientia, scilicet de anima, utrumque habet, quia et certa est (hoc enim quilibet experitur in se ipso, quod scilicet habeat animam et quod anima vivificet) et quia est nobiliorum (anima enim est nobilior inter inferiores creaturas).
6. Now this science of the soul has both merits. It has certainty; for everyone knows by experience that he has a soul which is his life-principle. Also it has a high degree of nobility; for among lower things the soul has a special nobility.
Et hoc est quod dicit: nos opinantes notitiam, id est scientiam, omnem esse bonorum, id est de numero bonorum, et honorabilium;
This is what Aristotle means here when he says, holding as we do that knowledge (402a1), that is, speculative science, is good and honorable.
sed altera scientia est magis bona et honorabilis altera; aut ex eo quod meliorum: illorum scilicet quae sunt in sua natura bona; et mirabiliorum, id est illorum quorum causa ignoratur; propter utraque haec, id est haec duo praedicta; animae historiam:
And one science is better and nobler than another because it is about more excellent things, that is, things that are good in themselves, and more wonderful things, that is, things whose cause is unknown. For both these reasons, he goes on to say, we give a primary place to an inquiry about the soul.
dicit historiam, quia in quadam summa tractat de anima, non perveniendo ad finalem inquisitionem omnium quae pertinent ad ipsam animam in hoc tractatu; in primis: hoc si accipiatur quantum ad totam scientiam naturalem, non dicit ordinem sed dignitatem; si vero ad scientiam de rebus animatis tantum, sic ly in primis dicit ordinem.
He uses the term inquiry because he is going to discuss the soul in a general way, without attempting, in this treatise, a thorough examination of all its properties. As to the words a primary place, if they are taken as applying to the whole of natural science, then they refer to superiority in dignity and not to priority in order; but if they refer to the science of living things only, they mean priority of order.
7. Consequenter cum dicit: videtur autem etc., reddit auditorem benevolum ex utilitate huius scientiae, dicens quod cognitio de anima videtur multum proficere ad omnem veritatem quae traditur in aliis scientiis. Ad omnes enim partes philosophiae insignes dat occasiones.
7. Then, at indeed an acquaintance (402a4), he gains the reader’s good will by showing the utility of this science. Knowledge of the soul, he says, would seem to be very useful in all the other sciences. It can be of considerable service to all parts of philosophy.
Quia si ad philosophiam primam attendamus, non possumus devenire in cognitionem divinorum et altissimarum causarum nisi per ea quae ex virtute intellectus primo acquirimus.
In first philosophy, it is impossible to attain knowledge of the divine and highest causes except through what we can acquire by actualizing our intellectual power.
Si vero attendatur quantum ad moralem, non possumus perfecte ad scientiam moralem pervenire nisi sciamus potentias animae; et inde est quod Philosophus in Ethicis attribuit quaslibet virtutes diversis potentiis animae. Ad naturalem vero, quia magna pars naturalium est habens animam et ipsa anima est fons et principium omnis motus in rebus animatis. Est enim anima tamquam principium animalium. Ly tamquam non ponitur similitudinarie, sed expressive.
Again, as regards moral philosophy: we cannot master the science of morals unless we know the powers of the soul; thus in the Ethics the Philosopher assigns the virtues to the different powers. So, too, it is useful for the natural scientist, because many of the things he studies are animate things, all of whose movements originate in the soul: for the soul is, as it were, the principle of living things. The phrase as it were does not express a comparison; it is descriptive.
8. Consequenter cum dicit: inquirimus autem considerare etc., ostendit ordinem huius tractatus, dicens quod intendimus considerare et cognoscere quid sit anima seu naturam ipsius et substantiam, et postea quaecumque accidunt circa ipsam, id est passiones eius; et in hoc est quaedam diversitas quia quaedam videntur passiones animae tantum, sicut intelligentia et speculatio, quaedam vero propter ipsam animam inesse videntur communes animalibus, sicut delectatio et tristitia, sensus et phantasia.
8. Next, at we seek then (402a7), he states the plan of his treatise, saying that we are to consider, that is, by way of outward symptoms, and to understand, that is, by way of demonstration, what the soul really is in its nature and essence; and then whatever qualities belong to it, that is, its passions. But in the latter a diversity appears: for while some of the soul’s passions, such as understanding and speculative knowledge, seem to belong to the soul alone, others, such as pleasure and pain, the senses and imagination, though they depend on some soul or other, seem to be common to all animals.
9. Consequenter cum dicit: omnino autem et penitus difficillimorum etc., ostendit difficultatem huius tractatus, et hoc quantum ad duo: primo quantum ad cognoscendum substantiam animae; secundo quantum ad cognoscendum accidentia seu proprias passiones. Quantum autem ad primum ostendit duplicem difficultatem:
9. Then at to ascertain (402a10), he introduces the difficulty of this study; and this from two points of view. It is hard, first, to know the essence of the soul, and second, to know its accidents or proper passions. As to the essence, there is a double difficulty:
et primo quantum ad modum definiendi ipsam animam;
first, as to how it ought to be defined,