Sonia Kamińska

On the several senses of nous in Brentano: the philosophy of mind in Franz Brentano´s Aristotelian works

In De Anima III 5 Aristotle introduces the “second intellect”, “agent intellect” or – in Greek – nous poietikos. It is called “active” in contrast to the intellect introduced in De Anima III 4, which is passive or receptive and therefore called nous pathetikos. The function (ergon) of nous pathetikos also known as nous dynamei consists in receiving forms delivered by senses and thus enabling the cognitive process. And what does the “second intellect” do? There has been a long-running difficulty in defining the specific function of nous poietikos, since Aristotle´s description of the higher part of intellectual soul is rather vague and mysterious. Many commentators made use of this ambiguity and introduced their own interpretations of Aristotle´s nous. Franz Brentano, presumably following Thomas Aquinas, claims that nous poietikos is a part of every individual human mechanism of thought and thus everybody has his or her active intellect at one´s disposal. This intellect, according to Brentano, is responsible for the actualization of the potentiality (nous pathetikos), i.e. for the fulfilment of human thinking and thus achieving bios theoretikos, happiness, God´s provision and individual immortality. In my paper I would like to address Brentano’s conception of the mental from a historical perspective and present his interpretation of Aristotle´s nous and nous poietikos: how they make up the intellectual soul; their role in human life and their contribution in constituting the relationship between humans and Deity. I will try to examine whether Franz Brentano was wrong or right in his interpretation of Aristotle. Was he faithful to Aristotle or was he influenced by the Christian philosophy (especially St. Thomas, but also: Friedrich Adolph Trendelenburg and Franz Jakob Clemens)? I will concentrate on the following issues: I will start with the concept of the divine seed (theion sperma) as introduced by Brentano in Aristotle and his Worldview. Is the divine seed nous or nous poietikos? Is it divine due to its origin or because of its telos? I will analyse the definition of human being: animal rationale as an animal equipped with the divine intellect (divine seed). I am going to show that this definition not only distinguishes us from the animal kingdom, but also emphasizes our kinship with the Deity (see Brentano´s term: Gottesverwandschaft). Then I will move to the incarnation of the intellectual soul, Aristotle´s embryology and animation theory. I will try to prove that Franz Brentano (in Aristotle and his Worldview) overemphasizes God´s role in the generation of human beings and that his conception of God is different from Aristotle´s (Brentano´s God is a person and Aristotle´s God is Nous). In my opinion Aristotle was a traducianist when it comes to vegetative and sensitive soul and can be interpreted as a creationist only with respect to the intellectual one, but in a limited sense (De Generatione Animalium II 3, De Anima III 4, De Anima III 5). This will bring us to another important issue: the construction and division of the soul into three ´parts´ (vegetative, sensitive and intellectual); I will concentrate on Brentano´s theory of Zwischenglieder meaning the ´quasi levels´ between the three basic ones present in Aristotle and his Worldview and in the Psychology of Aristotle. I will claim that by introducing the Zwischenglieder Franz Brentano was able to overcome the inconsistency in St. Thomas´ theory. According to St. Thomas the lower part of the soul has to be annihilated if the higher one is to appear. Franz Brentano shows that there is a kind of continuum and that the particular souls are not to be conceived separately.

I will subsequently move to Weisheit achieved by the exercise of nous (poietikos), i.e. the kind of wisdom that guarantees bios theoretikos. The comparison of human wisdom with God´s wisdom shall show us to what extent can a human being be divine. Here I will also describe the issue of human divinity as a consequence of exercising intellectual soul and try to answer the question whether Brentano´s wiseman is more like the philosophers from Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics (Book X) or more like the saint from the Christian paradigm. Finally, I will try to answer the following question: what happens to the intellectual soul after the death of the body? Is it immortal as a whole or maybe only nous poietikos survives, because nous dynamei is mixed with the body and perishes alongside the decomposing corpse? What does Aristotle mean when he says that nous is separate (choristos) on one hand and mixed with the body on the other (see: De Anima, III 4, III 5)? Does Aristotle speak of individual immortality or is it Brentano´s idea? I will shortly present Brentano´s theory of afterlife and contrast it with Aristotle´s concept of immortality. What if Brentano was wrong and Aristotle didn´t mean the individual immortality, but the immortality of the species? That makes (I) the modern, ´deflationary´ theories of nous poietikos plausible. There no longer is a need for nous poietikos to be a part of the individual mechanism of thought if it does not have to serve as a sine qua non condition of individual immortality. By ´deflationary´ I understand these theories that identify nous poietikos not with a being in our heads, but with a body of knowledge or a reservoir of noetic acts (see: God, the Divine and <<Nous>> in relation to <<De Anima>> by P. Macfarlane and Ron Polansky); (II) the same concerns the theories that identify nous poietikos with God and are inspired by Alexander of Aphrodisias (see: What does the Maker Mind Make? by Aryeh Kosman, Aristotle´s Two Intellects: a Modest Proposal by Victor Caston). This will show that there exists an intersection between Franz Brentano and the modern philosophy of mind as well.

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